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Left-wing VCU professors upset GOP gov. wants to review ‘racial literacy’ curriculum

‘Our governor does not have expertise [or] knowledge in these areas’

Academics at Virginia Commonwealth University aren’t happy that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to review the school’s “racial literacy” curriculum before it becomes a requirement for new students.

Similar to what transpired at other campuses, the VCU Undergraduate Curriculum Committee created a “racial literacy” requirement in response to the murder of George Floyd. It was slated to begin last fall.

However, the university put the kibosh on the mandatory aspect, noting it did not have “enough instructors to provide qualifying courses to the incoming 5,000 freshmen and transfer students.”

Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos noted courses such as “Introduction to Race and Racism in the United States” and “Reading Race” were still available to students, but they were optional.

But the VCU student newspaper reported last month that “after years of petitioning” the “racial literacy” requirement is back on the table, possibly for this fall.

It seems the school’s “racial literacy” working group has created 15 new courses in addition to the two mentioned. According to an update from late October, preliminary course titles include “Justice and Equity in Visual Arts and Education,” “Leadership in the ‘New Demography’: Immigration Theory and Politics,” and “Representations of Race in Cinema.”

(Another that’s still under development notes “students watch select episodes of Star Trek, then meet in class as groups to discuss racial literacy concepts in light of each episode.” I’m curious if “NuTrek” — shows like “Discovery,” “Strange New Worlds” and “Picard” — will be a main focus as they’re considered by many longtime Trek fans to be ridiculously woke/PC.)

Regarding Gov. Youngkin’s course review request, some at VCU reportedly “were thrown for a loop.”

Kristin Reed, an assistant professor in VCU’s Focused Inquiry program, said Youngkin’s review is an “unprecedented intervention” and accused the governor of creating a “climate of fear and abuse.”

“We have faculty at VCU who are specialists in racial justice history, the sociology of race and racism, the psychology of race and racism … and to my knowledge, our governor does not have expertise [or] knowledge in these areas,” Reed said. “So it’s very hard to assess what he might be looking for, other than political [reasons].”

MORE: Grants at Drexel U. fund ‘racial literacy’ for pre-kindergarten teachers

reedReed (pictured) doesn’t appear to be a “specialist in racial justice history,” etc. either — her PhD is in comparative literature with interests in poetry, text and visual arts.

And Amy Rector, the director of VCU’s World Studies program who co-chaired the group that developed the “racial literacy” courses, specializes in “early human evolution in eastern and southern Africa” and “identifying and analyzing fossil mammal communities.”

The only academic mentioned in the linked news stories with a background seemingly relevant to “racial literacy” is Ana Edwards of the Dept. of African-American Studies. But even so, while her masters is in history (she doesn’t have a PhD), her undergraduate degree is in “visual arts” with assorted grad courses in “painting and drawing.”

Not that this matters much, mind you. Look at what we’ve gotten from supposed “racial literacy” experts so far. And my former school district once loosed “racial literacy experts” upon teachers and paras for “racial literacy” training, but they were just fellow teachers and school counselors who had gained their “expertise” at a single weekend seminar.

(For what it’s worth, Youngkin has two bachelors degrees — managerial studies and mechanical engineering — as well as an MBA from Harvard.)

Youngkin’s office told a local news outlet it “has heard concerns from members of the board of visitors, parents, and students across the commonwealth regarding core curriculum mandates that are a thinly veiled attempt to incorporate the progressive left’s groupthink.”

It added “Virginia’s public institutions should be teaching our students how to think, not what to think and not advancing ideological conformity.”

Does anyone believe Reed would be fair and balanced in her approach to “racial literacy”? The pinned tweet on her X account states “VCU students have led the way in demanding justice for Palestine and a city council resolution for a ceasefire! If you haven’t already done so, email your council rep and let them know you support a permanent, immediate ceasefire.”

There’s more posts (and retweets) of similar material, as well as those pertaining to other far-left causes. Rector’s and Edwards’ social media, while not as overtly political as Reed’s, also are far-left.

All of which make Youngkin’s concerns quite valid.

Look, you want to spew your progressive propaganda in your classroom? Academic freedom, such that it is, essentially allows it. But it doesn’t allow you to force students to listen to it.

If you want “racial literacy” courses, fine — but make ’em electives. If they prove to be different from the usual racial academic swill (highly unlikely), students will continue take them.

But, alas, dogmatists don’t like freedom.

MORE: ‘Distinguished scholar’ lectures U. Washington crowd on whites’ ‘racial illiteracy’

IMAGES: HomeArt/Shutterstock.com; VCU

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.