Culture

Virginia School District Develops New ‘Anti-Racist’ Curriculum Shaped by Southern Poverty Law Center

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Teachers in Virginia's largest school district have developed a new "anti-racist" and "culturally responsible" curriculum that will be available to students as early as this fall.

Social studies teachers from Fairfax County collaborated with other Virginia public school teachers to revamp their history curriculum, using a framework from Teaching Tolerance, the educational arm of the liberal nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center. The new curriculum encourages students to "examine materials, events, and institutions critically attending to power, position, and bias" and will be available for use in 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 11th-grade classrooms.

Colleen Eddy, Fairfax County Public Schools social studies coordinator, said the new curriculum addresses the "overrepresentation of white and Eurocentric history" and the lack of "diverse perspectives" in education. Eddy singled out the district's U.S. history courses in particular, for which she says African-American history "deserves a truer and fuller account."

Teaching Tolerance’s list of "Essential Knowledge" for third through fifth grade students includes teaching that "the United States was founded on protecting the interests of white, Christian men who owned property." It also says slavery was foundational to the growth of the U.S. economy and the country’s founding documents were created to protect the institution of slavery.

Southern Poverty Law Center, known for including conservative organizations on its list of "hate groups," created Teaching Tolerance to promote "anti-bias" and "social justice" education in classrooms.

Virginia’s social studies curriculum is due to be revised in 2022 and is currently being reviewed by Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D.) commission on African American History Education.