New Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signaled his commitment to extreme conservativism with a slate of executive orders passed quickly after his inauguration. During his inauguration, he seemed to strike a civil and even bipartisan tone, but a slew of executive orders released by the new governor says otherwise.
Immediately after taking office, Youngkin issued 11 executive orders with the first two items on the list a ban on the teaching of critical race theory in schools and mask mandates.
This can’t be shrugged off as simply ignorant people not wanting the “real history” to be told. Allowing the showdown around critical race theory to persist unchecked would be a mistake. The wide interpretation of what is considered “divisive” and the continued false narrative of a niche legal concept being taught in k-12 classrooms need to be addressed.
Racial justice and equity advocates continue to debunk anti-CRT rhetoric and stress the importance of inclusive history. The Virginia-based Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax has hosted a series called “Teaching Truth: Putting Students First,” which featured a teach-in Saturday commemorating Rev. Marting Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
The conservative obsession with critical race theory and efforts like the 1619 Project is not about improving educational opportunities and limiting “divisiveness.” Across the country, book bans and curriculum restrictions represent a backward trend focused on protecting the fragile feelings of white people coming to terms with what it means to be in the minority in the next few decades.
Other executive orders focus on restoring “integrity and confidence in the Parole Board of the Commonwealth of Virginia” and creating the position of chief transformation officer to “make government work for Virginians.” He also insisted he was working hard to restore public trust.
Republicans like Youngkin are quick to claim their commitment to restoring the “public trust.” But people like Youngkin always fail to acknowledge their role in undermining the public’s trust. By actively engaging in political disinformation about critical race theory and public education, Youngkin fed into a faux outrage campaign that has caused a lot of chaos around the country.
You can’t “remove politics from the classroom” by playing dirty politics with the curriculum and school governance.
Virginia Republicans captured leadership statewide and in the House of Delegates, with Democrats retaining a narrow majority in the Senate. Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said the caucus looked forward to working with Youngkin’s administration but drew a firm line on progress made over the past two years.
“Let me be clear, Senate Democrats have no intention rolling back two years of tremendous progress for all Virginians — not only a select few,” Locke said. “We have made significant progress in getting Virginians insured through Medicaid expansion and other initiatives, and have strengthened our workforce through worker protections and education pipelines. We have worked hard toward a government in which every Virginia is treated with fairness and respect, and are not about to capitulate the hard-earned rights we have been able to afford so many across the Commonwealth.”
In the past two years, Virginia has become a model of criminal justice reforms, including becoming the first southern state to ban the death penalty, marijuana legalization and voting rights. Virginia also ranks high in public education, suggesting educational opportunity in the state is already “excellent.”