The Virginia Department of Education is requiring public school teachers to incorporate lessons explaining social justice theories to five-year-old kindergarten students as early as this fall.
Loudoun County — a suburb of Washington, D.C., and the richest county in the U.S. — has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) education branch Teaching Tolerance to develop a new curriculum that will rework history and social studies classes to place an emphasis on slavery.
"Sugarcoating or ignoring slavery until later grades makes students more upset by or even resistant to true stories about American history. Long before we teach algebra, we teach its component parts," the curriculum reads. "We should structure history instruction the same way."
The curriculum also encourages schools to create opportunities for K-2 students to learn about "activism and action civics."
"Students should study examples of role models from the past and present, and ask themselves, ‘how can I make a difference?'" the new guidelines say. "These conversations [about slavery] should lead into discussions about current injustices — particularly those that continue to disenfranchise and oppress the descendants of enslaved people — and possibilities for activism and reform."
One Loudoun County teacher said the administration's determination to push racial issues on five-year-olds is politically driven. The teacher said she has never had to teach about slavery to lower grades in elementary school.
"Our standards were always [to] teach about famous Americans, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., people like that. But, it was all very general and the bigger picture, we highlighted their accomplishments," the teacher said.
Parents are also upset that social justice would be taught so explicitly within the public elementary school system. One father said the "SPLC is pushing Marxist ideology."
"They're really pushing those concepts of ‘revolution' and ‘dismantling the system' that we have," the father said. "So rather than everyone coming together and building something great together, it's about destroying what's been built."
When asked how the SPLC curriculum was funded and whether it would be required across the state, the Virginia Department of Education deflected. The SPLC also declined to respond.