Editor’s Note: Fairfax County School Board Hunter Mill District Member Ms. Melanie Meren submitted comments to VDOE Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee regarding VDOE History and Social Science Standards of Learning Review. In this memo, Ms. Meren clearly outlined the changes needed for VDOE history and social science curriculum. We applaud Ms. Meren for shake-spearing this initiative for the FCPS community.

 

Attn: Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee Chairs and Members
From: Melanie Kadlic Meren, Fairfax County School Board Member, Hunter Mill District
Date: May 14, 2021

Re: VDOE History and Social Science Standards of Learning Review

The community that I represent consists of generations of diverse voices and stories that are not
adequately documented nor explored in the current Virginia History and Social Science Standards of
Learning and Curriculum. Following are recommendations born from constituent input. Please consider
these holistically throughout the revision process for the Standards and Curriculum. Thank you.

Expand and deepen students’ knowledge of cultural groups other than that of White/Eurocentric
settlers and Americans. The most frequent and earnest comment suggested for improving the standards
is to increase the representation of other groups vital to America’s history, development, and progress.
Center standards around a common goal of telling a fuller, more inclusive history that brings us back to
our collective humanity. Highlighting certain populations in a monthly observance should give way to
weaving together the totality of the American story throughout the school year, every year.

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Explore opportunities to connect curriculum on world cultures to several academic requirements and
skills taught during K-3: fine motor skills, early literacy, etc.

Standards should guide learning about populations who have had significant experiences and impact
in America. Furthermore, include their origin stories – what led them to arrive in America; their
challenges and successful contributions in America; and the course of their time in America, from arrival
through the present day. Most frequently suggested populations for inclusion in standards are: Asian
Americans, Arab Americans, South and Central Americans, people with disabilities, women, persons who
are LGBTQIA+. Ensure that the diversity within, and complexity of, these population groups are noted
and expanded upon.

Reframe the African American and Indigenous Peoples’ experiences in the US. When the standards do
focus on populations other than that of the White/Eurocentric, too often such populations are reduced
to their oppression and are rooted in the genesis of America as something that happened and stays in
the past. This most frequently includes African American and Native American populations. In contrast,
both groups thrived prior to interacting with White colonialists, persevered through White-imposted
strife, and have a distinct culture with contributions that have shaped America and continue to do so.
Specifically, defining the African American experience primarily by slavery and the civil rights movement
is inaccurate and incomplete. Similarly, framing Native Americans as a culture of the past is untrue.

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Make room for intentional engagement with current events. Students need facilitated discussions to
grapple with and make meaning of history and the present. This should be woven into learning and not
an add on. Consider how current events may impact students’ relationships with their cultures, and
consequently their peers (e.g. Asian American students report feelings of not wanting to be associated
with China, particularly since the start of the pandemic). Suggested standard: Students will participate in
facilitated discussions about current events involving racial and social justice.

Reduce time spent on Colonial America to allow for more time learning about the experiences,
challenges, and contributions of more immigrants and Americans, through the modern day. The
frequency and depth of Colonial America eclipses other topics in American history of which students
need to be familiar and at least have an introductory knowledge.

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Modernize historical icons. The examples of individuals and movements that brought change to America
or advocated for civil rights and marginalized peoples should be modernized. Example: Helen Keller is
the often-used example of a Deafblind person achieving success; however, many more have succeeded
since with this and other disabilities – including Virginians!

Other content recommendations:
● Explore Asian Americans’ experiences during government policies and rhetoric: Chinese
Exclusion Act (and contrast this to contributions of Chinese Americans, i.e. building the
transcontinental railroad), Japanese Internment; the Vietnam War; response to Covid.● Make sure the curriculum is physically accessible for those with different abilities.
● Examine any gaps between “What we intend?” vs. “What actually happened?”
● Include: effective March 16, 2021, individuals in Virginia are eligible to have their rights restored
after being released from incarceration.
● View Melanie Meren’s submitted comments to VA Dept of Education on social studies standards
on 3/1/21: https://bit.ly/2Qnzhl0.

The views expressed herein represent the views of the undersigned and are not an official position of the FCPS School Board.
Melanie Meren | Fairfax County School Board, Hunter Mill District

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