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Youngkin's education secretary pick gives insight into the administration's priorities

Steve Helber/AP
Virginia Education Secretary-designate, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, gestures during an event at the Capitol Thursday Jan. 27, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Education was a top issue on the campaign trail last year, especially how schools address the issue of race. It's now at the top of the agenda for the new administration in Richmond.

The phrase “critical race theory” is perhaps as divisive as it is elusive. It actually has a formal academic definition, but that was largely beside the point on the campaign trail. Now that there’s a new administration taking over in Richmond, the governor's pick for education secretary — Aimee Guidera — is giving members of the General Assembly a better picture of what the new governor wants to ban from the classroom.

"We're talking about inappropriate things like privilege walks, privilege Bingo, putting children into situations where they're playing as the victim and a supremacist," Guidera says. "Those are completely inappropriate ideas."

Senator Ghazala Hashmi is a Democrat from Richmond, and she acknowledges that recognizing privilege around race or gender can be uncomfortable. But she says schools play an important role in teaching students to be critical.

"To engage with challenging ideas, which is in fact the purpose of education is to challenge us and to make sure that we are made uncomfortable," Hashmi says.

Guidera was the first cabinet pick announced by the governor, a signal of the importance her role is expected to play in the new administration.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.