With First Set of Appointments, VA Gov. Youngkin Shows He's Serious About Taking on Critical Race Theory


Every official with executive powers — presidents and governors, specifically — will usually sign a series of “day one” executive orders and actions, most of which aligns with their campaign rhetoric. Some will turn out to kickstart meaningful change, others (most, if we’re to be frank) will be all mouth, no teeth.

Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin got elected, in part, on the battle over wokeness in the public school system and the creeping influence of critical race theory into curricula across the commonwealth. One of his day-one executive orders: Get CRT out of the classroom. The appointments he’s made in the days hence are a positive sign he means business.

That’s good, because it’ll take quite a bit of work to undo what woke school districts and boards have done. Here at The Western Journal, we extensively covered the battle over the soul of public education in Virginia that happened throughout 2021 — and we’ll continue to cover it as liberal school districts try to circumvent Youngkin’s agenda. You can help us bring Virginia — and America — the truth by subscribing.

That said, whoever wants to get around Youngkin’s agenda is going to have a tough time doing so. Of the nine executive orders and two executive directives he signed on day one, at the top was a “promise to restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.”

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Two days before his inauguration on Saturday, Youngkin tapped two prominent critics of critical race theory for leadership roles in the Virginia Department of Education, Fox News reported.

Jillian Balow, Wyoming’s state superintendent for public instruction for seven years, joined Youngkin’s team at the Virginia DOE. Elizabeth Schultz, meanwhile, was a former Fairfax County School Board member and a senior fellow with Parents Defending Education, a prominent education group which aims to “reclaim our schools from activists promoting harmful agendas.”

“Jillian and Elizabeth are going to be crucial in helping Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera restore excellence in education,” Youngkin said Thursday. “Under my direction, they will get to work on ensuring our schools remain safely open, ban critical race theory and political agendas from our classrooms, and rebuild our crumbling schools.”

Should critical race theory be taken out of the classroom?

Then on Thursday, Youngkin announced he was naming CRT critic Angela Sailor to head the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office. In addition, he appointed her the Commonwealth Chief Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion Officer.

She was most recently vice president of The Feulner Institute at The Heritage Foundation, chief of staff to Heritage’s President Kay Coles James and public member of the Senior Foreign Service Selection Board for the U.S. State Department, although she’s had 20 years experience in both the public and private sectors.

“Angela Sailor’s experience in government, nonprofits and the private sector will guide us as we ensure that the government is working for all Virginians across our diverse Commonwealth, especially when it comes to economic opportunity for all Virginians,” Youngkin said in a news release, adding that he was introducing legislation to change the name of the office to the Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion Office, excising the word “equity.”

All three women have impressive anti-CRT bona fides.

According to the Virginia Mercury, during her time as Wyoming’s superintendent of public instruction, Balow supported a bill that required public schools to publish what instructional materials they were using, saying it would help prevent “the indoctrination found in the critical race theory curriculum that has been pushed by the far-left and has found its way into some classrooms.”

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“K-12 classrooms are not an appropriate forum for radical political theory such as CRT,” she said.

She opposed a proposal from President Joe Biden’s administration that would teach “racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse perspectives” with materials like the controversial, CRT-tastic “1619 Project.” Balow called it “an alarming move toward federal overreach into district curriculum and should be rebuked across party lines,” adding that, “The draft rule is an attempt to normalize teaching controversial and politically trendy theories about America’s history.”

“When it comes to politics in the classroom, I’ve made my position crystal clear that partisan politics and radical theories should not be forced upon our children,” Balow said Thursday when she announced her resignation from her position in Wyoming.

Schultz, meanwhile, attacked CRT in a June 2021 Op-Ed in the Fairfax Times: “Critical Race Theory (CRT) pushes the distorted concept that the most important thing about a person is their race, separating it above the person as an individual,” she wrote. “It divides people by those who are ‘minoritized’ and those who are ‘privileged’ and ‘oppressors,’ advancing Marxist ideology that, by default, all interactions are derived from racism, our history and nation is built on racism, and all inequities are, yes, ascribed to racism. The color of one’s skin defines whether they are racist, not their beliefs or actions.”

Sailor, who is black, also wrote a scathing Op-Ed for conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation in July of 2021, calling CRT “the textbook definition of racism” and saying “far too many families are reporting that children as young as five years old are being taught that America’s culture and institutions are rigged to help whites succeed, that they are victimizers if they’re white, and doomed to failure if they’re Black.”

She also lambasted the word “equity” in the piece, noting that a “characteristic of CRT is that it pushes equity instead of equality. Nothing under heaven has the power to guarantee equal outcomes. Policies that insist on this impossible goal will inevitably result in discriminatory practices.”

Putting people like this in positions where they can affect the implementation of critical race theory — and reverse the damage where it’s been implemented — goes beyond executive orders. Balow has experience with exposing and extirpating divisive political pedagogy from public school classrooms. Schultz has extensive experience with the problem at a local level. Sailor comes with an impressive résumé and the right mindset.

It’s early days, mind you, and things can easily go south when a red governor encounters the reality of a blue-ish state. As a New Jersey Republican, I’m familiar with the high hopes that attended the governorships of Christine Todd Whitman and Chris Christie. Now, Garden State conservatives speak their names in the same intonation they use for curse words. (Which, by the way, we’re known to deploy. Frequently.)

That said, these are rapid moves in a promising direction for Youngkin. It’ll take more than a few appointments, but it’s easy to like what one sees so far.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture