Virginia’s public school program was born 152 yrs ago this thirty day period.
“Be it enacted by the Normal Assembly that there shall be proven and managed in this point out a uniform technique of general public faculties,” reads the act accepted on July 11, 1870. “The general public absolutely free school method shall be administered by the pursuing authorities, to wit: a Board of Schooling, a Superintendent of General public Instruction, county superintendents of universities, and district faculty trustees.”
The occasion provides an prospect to revisit the story of Virginia’s initially superintendent of community instruction, William Henry Ruffner, who also was the architect of the general public school process. The act handed by the Typical Assembly in 1870 was based on his proposals.
Ruffner (1824-1908) has been known as “the Horace Mann of the South,” a reference to the Massachusetts law firm and legislator who was our younger nation’s very first major advocate for general public instruction. (It should be observed that he is not the only historic figure from the American South to bear that label. The “Horace Mann of Virginia” is most likely much more suitable, and just about not possible to dispute.)
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Ruffner was a Lexington native, pastor and educator whose lifetime story intersects with Washington and Lee College, Virginia Tech, Longwood University and Roanoke School. He fiercely campaigned for the routine maintenance and survival of totally free public universities, against critics who observed them as an pointless burden on the state’s funds.
A Union supporter who even so served in the property guard when Virginia seceded to come to be part of the Confederacy, Ruffner was not an instance of enlightened pondering on the defining issue of his age: the ownership of enslaved persons.
A slave owner himself, he contended that the establishment wanted to occur to an conclude, but for financial causes, not moral types. Ruffner regretably was a believer in the innate superiority of the white race and a proponent of “colonization” — a university of considered that believed no cost African People should emigrate to Africa rather than continue being in the state.
A flawed winner of equal education and learning
Contrary to quite a few of his white contemporaries, Ruffner considered cost-free and enslaved Black People should really be educated. He ran Sunday faculties for African Americans in pre-Civil War Virginia. This observe was at odds with the establishment, even though he mentioned he only was offering oral instruction (point out law forbade the instructing of looking at to enslaved persons).
His views may possibly have been affected by his father, Henry Ruffner, who when was president of Washington School (now Washington and Lee) but resigned immediately after stirring controversy by authoring a paper advocating for the gradual emancipation of slaves in western Virginia.
The community college program William Ruffner developed was segregated by race, resulting in African American users of the Typical Assembly to vote versus it in protest. Ruffner argued tensions would operate way too high if colleges had been integrated, while he thought that someday, there would be no prejudice in between the races.
Nevertheless different but equivalent in the end proved a failure in exercise, Ruffner at minimum experienced a objective of equal schooling for white and Black college students, and he founded different summertime institutes for instruction white and Black academics.
Ruffner was a tireless advocate for totally free general public faculty, frequently defending it against critics who viewed as it a waste of condition income, and who disapproved of educating Black college students. While the General Assembly changed Ruffner in 1882, the establishment he designed endured and developed.
Just after a transient stint instructing at Roanoke Faculty, Ruffner finished his vocation as principal of the Condition Woman Ordinary College in Farmville, a teacher instruction college for white gals produced in 1884. Ruffner prolonged had termed for the institution of these a college, even though the legislature first thwarted these ambitions. This Farmville faculty finally became Longwood University.
Listed here is a historical determine with own flaws and wrongheaded sights whose legacy however persists with each and every college bus experience and elevated hand in a grade faculty classroom. The fruits of his vision continue on to advantage the commonwealth’s people lengthy following his loss of life.
Is Ruffner’s story ‘divisive’?
In 2022, Virginia’s superintendent of general public instruction article is occupied by Jillian Balow, an import from Wyoming by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Her principal qualification seems to be a worldview compatible with Youngkin’s pledge to close the educating of “divisive concepts.” In observe, this seems to search for to muzzle any dialogue of race and discrimination, earlier and current, in Virginia lecture rooms.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative nonprofit committed to advertising and marketing educational excellence, has positions that align with Youngkin’s, such as advocacy for constitution faculties. The institute released a report titled, “The Condition of Point out Requirements for Civics and U.S. Background in 2021.”
The introduction commences, “Is The us a racist state? Or the finest nation on earth? Or both of those or neither or some of each individual? For the sake of our children’s education and learning … we have to have a more considerate and well balanced setting up point for the entire discussion — a single that leaves place for nuance, mutual knowing, and hope for the potential.”
Very little to argue with there. The nonpartisan report went on to consider K-12 benchmarks for historical past and civics in each individual point out. Virginia been given a quality of “B-as well as,” primarily amounting to “good but wants improvement in a several distinct places.”
Wyoming, where by Balow had served as Superintendent of Public Instruction given that 2014, gained an “F” quality. The state’s “civics and U.S. History requirements are insufficient, failing to offer even a essential outline of necessary content,” the report reads.
We hope this is not an omen. It would be a travesty to see Virginia’s specifications of education and learning downgraded to appease ideological dogma, whether or not those people sights appear from correct or left.
A person just can’t assistance but speculate: What would be deemed appropriate really should a teacher choose to share the multifaceted historical past of William Henry Ruffner in the classroom? Would college students be permitted to think about the complete particular person?
— Tailored from The Roanoke Times