STATEMENT: Virginia Superintendent Report on “Inherently Divisive Concepts”

February 25, 2022

Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction and highly-partisan operative Jillian Balow released an interim report on actions taken by the Department of Education to eliminate “inherently divisive concepts” from Virginia’s public schools, per Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 1. This initiative, as demonstrated in the Wason poll released earlier this week, is wildly unpopular amongst Virginians.

Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “With the appointment of Jillian Balow, Governor Youngkin had hired his general for the war to erase any history that might be perceived by white students or parents as forcing them to feel inferior. But, after decades of being told that I was inferior for my race, for my gender, for the way I look–and children in my community facing that same treatment–I am sincerely appalled at and fearful of what these reforms will mean for the next generation. Students who won’t learn the absolutely devastating outcomes of American slavery, the Holocaust, and other times in world history when ignorance paved the way to destruction of entire cultures and communities. As Winston Churchill once said, “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’”

Chair of the Education and Health Committee, Senator Louise Lucas said: “Governor Youngkin seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what an ‘inherently divisive concept’ is. The actions of his Department of Education are cruelly tearing away every attempt at promoting equity and healing division, instead replacing those initiatives with whitewashed history and fake news. He is being inherently divisive with these actions.

“Whatever you call it, an ‘inherently divisive concept’ or something else, it’s all the same thing–denying my history, my family’s history, my community’s history, and Virginia’s history. Rescinding policies that prioritize equity leaves equity behind; it doesn’t promote it. Not talking about our differences doesn’t erase our differences; it promotes division.”

Chair of the Public Education Subcommittee, Senator Ghazala Hashmi said: “When Governor Youngkin offered his Executive Order 1, and when bills banning ‘inherently divisive concepts’ were presented in my Subcommittee, I asked one simple question: ‘what is an inherently divisive concept?’ No one seemed to have a succinct answer to that question.

“Now, we have found out what that means to Governor Youngkin: eliminating state programs aimed at promoting equity, tools that school divisions can use to ensure fair treatment and education of all students, and any instruction that may mention a culture, race, religion, or worldview that is different from his own. Imposing his narrow and privileged views on Virginia’s children may play well to the extreme, right-wing base, but most Virginians overwhelmingly understand that addressing the need for equitable opportunities in education creates strong, safe, and thriving communities.”