Local Commentary

Delegate Kaye Kory’s Richmond Report

The whipped-up outcry on public education seemed to definitely turn the tide in November’s election. Between the ‘outrage’ about a parent’s involvement in a child’s education and the near-hysteria about critical race theory, public education became the hottest campaign issue in the gubernatorial campaigns.

I completely object to this false narrative. As a former Fairfax County School Board member and the mother of three Fairfax County Public Schools graduates, I know the myriad opportunities to become involved open to families of FCPS students. I also know that families can reach out to school staff about any concern they may have. FCPS schools have open doors to parents. Decrying critical race theory is more difficult to debunk. I believe that many of those raising their voices against critical race theory were responding to dog-whistle politics and couldn’t describe exactly what they were battling against. Many teachers view critical race theory as a synonym for true history that is not slanted in any way. I do have experience with a “true history” history curriculum through my long support of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program of studies. In IB history classes, history is taught with a world view and allows the student to see simultaneous history happenings as they have unfolded around the world. I have never heard a complaint about teaching history with this multiple focus, not as a parent of an IB Diploma candidate, nor as a School Board member. In fact, I regret that my public school history education was not taught from this worldwide perspective. How can any parent object to history lessons based upon actual facts and presented with clear reliance upon those facts?

Because public education has suffered from the campaign-speech exaggerations and from the estrangement of many students from their schools because of Covid-19, it is easy to besmirch and malign the classroom experience. It is also easy for political candidates to exploit that estrangement through frequently repeated falsehoods and insults and threats to teachers, administrators and elected School Board members. Coming back to a rational discourse about public education after this purposely divisive and, yes, successful statewide campaign will not be easy. I encourage Virginians to use this painful and mud-slinging campaign as an opportunity to examine our public education system for a variety of points of view. The first step in this attempt to return to normalcy should be hearing the mud thrown against the system clearly, and looking to define real problems in the mud. Ignoring the campaign hype that we have all experienced in the past several months would be a mistake. We can learn from the effectiveness of dog-whistle politics and look deeper at the roots of the dissatisfaction which the dog-whistles exploited. Long-term problems surfaced in the political campaigns. We must take a deep breath and work to bring public education back to the public— with reforms and increased resources. We must stand behind our teachers and give them the resources and encouragement to teach in this difficult and angry time. This will not be easy, but we owe our children and our children’s children— the legacy of these times can either be more anger and divisiveness or a step into a future in which we work as a commonwealth to build the public education experience we all want our children to have.

Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at DelKKory@house.virginia.gov.