Governor Glenn Youngkin is an intriguing choice as Virginia Tech’s 2022 commencement speaker. Certainly, his business background and prowess leading Republicans to statewide victory in this blue-leaning Commonwealth suggest a more than worthy resume.
In fact, every Virginia governor since 1990 has delivered the commencement address at Tech in their freshman year. It’s a long-standing tradition, independent of party or politics.
But one can’t help but wonder: Will Youngkin take the opportunity to condemn the teaching of “dividing concepts” in Virginia Tech classrooms? Surely this is a place where prospective teachers-in-training might actually, depending on the electives they choose, hear the term “critical race theory.”
His efforts definitely run counter to an August 2021 statement released by Tech’s faculty senate. It reads in part: “Laws that restrict the examination of slavery and racism and their impact on contemporary society are particularly troubling for what they reveal about our failure to set aside political differences in the interest in academic, educational, and social advancement, because it is impossible to honestly consider the history and nature of the United States without asking uncomfortable questions about how race has shaped and continues to shape our society. Some topics should cause discomfort and even challenge deeply held beliefs.
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The statement protested eight states’ decisions to pass laws that “limit the way in which topics such as discrimination, oppression and prejudice can be taught.” The Youngkin administration is trying to get Virginia to join these states. Perhaps when speaking to faculty, staff, and students at Tech, Youngkin can explain why he sees his choice as a necessary step for Virginia.
We’re not trying to encourage the governor to actually do these things. But if he doesn’t, doesn’t that suggest that maybe his attempts to ban the “teaching” of “dividing concepts” in elementary school classrooms are adding up? all to a sham, a cynical performance put together to appease ideological segments of his voter base?
An explanation of the choices one makes to walk the tightrope of political appeasement could make for a fascinating and even educational talk.