Virginia Lowers English Standards and Requirements For Students

A draft of new English Language Arts standards for Virginia High School students is drawing fire. The recently approved document by Virginia’s Department of Education reportedly fails students.

One of the outspoken opponents of the new standards document is Mark Bauerlein, a professor emeritus at Emory University and editor at First Things magazine.

In an opinion piece published in The Federalist, Bauerlein argued that educators who lower academic expectations and do not expose young people to the classics do a disservice to youth.

Dr. Phil McGraw expressed similar sentiments in a recent interview with The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro. McGraw argued that parents and educators should heighten rather than lower academic expectations.

McGraw noted that most students do not read at grade level and that most graduating seniors need help reading the instructions on a prescription label. “Forget trying to diagram a sentence,” Dr. Phil said, noting that “students can’t even read a sentence.”

Pointing to how progressive ideology negatively impacts the education system, McGraw said: “They spend so much time on pronouns—how about teachers spend time teaching students what a pronoun is before focusing on what pronoun they want to use.”

Bauerlein expressed similar concerns, writing: “We have highfalutin talk of ‘multimodal literacies’ and ‘media messages,’ but nothing on Hawthorne or Robert Frost. Students are asked to acquire ‘the ability to problem solve and collaborate in and across teams,’ not to memorize and recite classic poems and speeches.”

The former professor brushes away criticisms that studying the classics is somehow racist because many were written in Europe by White males.

Bauerlein wrote: “Multiculturalists didn’t like the tradition because it was overly male and Eurocentric, while business-type conservatives preferred PowerPoint over Hamlet. From the ’80s onward, they won. Literature dropped out, and it will remain that way as these Virginia standards move forward.”

He argues that educational achievement is in decline, and cites “the loss of a meaningful, stabilizing past” and living in a “world without roots or foundations” as things that contribute to the problem.

Literary critic Matthew Arnold agrees, noting that youth who read the classics find the experience yields a “steadying and composing effect upon their judgment.”

The proposed changes follow Virginia’s Department of Education’s 2022 changes in history and social studies standards. At that time, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wanted to ensure students were receiving a balanced, pro-America education.

One of his first acts as governor was to sign an executive order ending “the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory,” and raising “academic standards.” ABC affiliate WRIC reported critics alleged the changes were “politically motivated” and amounted to state leaders “meddling with academic curriculum.”