How to think or what to think? – the culture wars come to K-12 schools

By James C. Sherlock

I was challenged after my last posting to give examples of the capture of the most prominent educational schools by critical theory activism.  

Critical theories of education posit that educational systems are either complicit in oppression or that these systems are a powerful mechanism for ensuring that social inequality persists.  Under either interpretation, there must be a plan for emancipatory action (what they deem “praxis” – the practical application of a theory) through education.  

I took 61 pages of notes of examples among the “top 15” education schools before I realized that I was working to defend myself against the charge of “accusing” them of something of which it turns out they are profoundly proud.  

It is clear from pressing past the home pages of those schools and drilling down into the course descriptions, the writings of the instructors of those courses and the course reading assigned that many are deeply committed to critical theory. 

In this essay, I will demonstrate how critical theory has left the campuses of the education schools and made its way into America’s largest teachers union and many American K-12 classrooms.  

We will start with a first-hand account from a parent in New York City.  Then we will take a brief tour of the National Education Association’s positions that reflect critical theory.   

Finally, we will examine the widespread negative effects of the American “histories” written by Howard Zinn of Boston University.

Reading this, you will appreciate the role of school boards as a breakwater against this threat more than you ever did.  

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Brace Yourself for a Zero-Carbon Electric Grid

Mike Tidwell

The defeat of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is just one battle in the ongoing war against fossil fuels in Virginia. Consider these statements in a column published by Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, in the Virginia Mercury:

It’s no longer enough to say you support wind and solar power. You must be AGAINST fossil fuels. By supporting fracked gas, Democrats have been enablers to Republicans and companies like Dominion Energy who have allowed the destructive fossil fuel era to last much longer than it should have — here and worldwide. …

The mantra for the Democratic Party – and for Republicans when they one day wake up – should be this: No new fossil fuel projects of any kind, anywhere. Period. Stop all the proposed pipelines everywhere. Keep dirty energy in the ground. And rapidly tear down the existing monuments to that bygone era – the drilling towers, the power plants, the compressor stations.

In the historic aftermath of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancellation, Virginia should adopt a statutory moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure. This is the next step for a state now moving — albeit belatedly — in the right direction.

Tidwell is not an outlier. He reflects the thinking of the environmentalist mainstream in Virginia. The goal is to achieve a 100% zero-carbon energy grid in Virginia by 2050.  Continue reading

The New Regency, Better than the Old Regency… But Not the Best It Could Be

Rendering of outdoor plaza proposed for the new Regency Mall. Source: Baskervill

by James A. Bacon

The most important urban redevelopment project in Henrico County is taking place at the old Regency Mall, once a typical suburban mall anchored by department stores, surrounded by acres of asphalt, and disconnected from the shopping centers and neighborhoods around it. Once upon a time, the idea of driving to the mall and then strolling around in air-conditioned comfort was deemed the pinnacle of suburban living. But the Macy’s, and Sears, and many chain stores are all gone.

Five years ago, The Rebkee Co., purchased the parcels for the mall and out buildings for a total of $18.4 million with plans to execute a drastic overhaul. Until very recently, the only signs of change were reconstruction of streets accessing the mall and the addition of several stand-alone chain restaurants such as Panera, Chipotle, First Watch, and Starbucks on the periphery. There was no sign that the new owners had any intention to incorporate any element of walkable urbanism. I wrote off the project as a dumpster drive of a project consisting of buying the property at distress prices and generating quick, low-risk returns… in other words, business as usual that would blow an opportunity to create anything resembling urban living in Henrico.

But I may have been wrong. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Rebkee is undertaking a makeover of the mall as a mixed-use facility combining 320 apartments, entertainment, and some retail. Continue reading

Coping with COVID on Campus

by James A. Bacon

In a growing movement, more than 900 college and university professors across Virginia have signed a petition demanding the right to decide whether to teach classes this fall in person or online.

Faculty members also insisted they be allowed to improve all instructional plans for returning to campus, and that adequate safety measure put in place to protect all members of the university community from COVID-19.

The petition comes at a time that university administrators and boards of trustees across Virginia are wrestling with how to resume classes in the fall semester. Last month Governor Ralph Northam issued guidance for reopening higher-ed institutions that cover face coverings, physical distancing in classrooms, limiting visitors to campus, restricting occupancy of shared spaces, and staggering the use of dining facilities.

Among other initiatives, Virginia Tech has developed a comprehensive testing, tracing, and case-management plan. All students will be asked to self-quarantine and wear a face covering for 14 days before arriving on campus. They will be “strongly encouraged” to take a COVID-19 test within five days prior to returning. Continue reading

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

By Peter Galuszka

Back in the winter of 2015, Craig Vanderhoef, a former Navy captain, got a disturbing surprise in his mailbox at his retirement home near Afton in Nelson County. A letter from Dominion Resources noted that it wanted to survey his land for a new 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline.

On two occasions, he wrote the utility telling them no. Then he got another surprise. A sheriff’s deputy knocked on his door to serve him with papers notifying him that Dominion was suing him to get access to his property.

In short order, about 240 Virginia landowners were on notice that they too might be sued for Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The county sheriff was notified that he, too, was being sued, although it was an error.

Thus, the stage was set for one of the nastiest environmental and property rights battles in Old Dominion history.

It centered around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run from Harrison County, W.Va. across the rugged Appalachians, down through some of the most peacefully bucolic land in the Virginia., to Union Hill, a mostly African-American community in Buckingham county and on into North Carolina, running through the Tar Heel state’s mostly African-American concentration along its northeastern border with Virginia. Continue reading

Our Cell Phones Are Still Off-Limits to Robocalls

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Here is a follow-up on a previous post.  The Supreme Court handed down a decision today that will probably be lost in the coverage of its other decision released today, the one about “faithless” Presidential electors. Nevertheless, the decision in that other case, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, inc., saves us all some aggravation.

Current federal law prohibits robocalls to cell phones, except calls made exclusively to collect a federal debt. The association representing political consultants sued, arguing that the prohibition violated the First Amendment right of its members. In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that the law violated the First Amendment, but the political consultants did not get what they wanted. The Court’s ultimate decision was unanimous, but the Justices were remarkably split all over the place about the reasons for the outcome. There were four separate opinions filed. Continue reading

The Truth about George Washington’s Choppers

What survives of George Washington’s denture.

There’s a new meme about George Washington’s teeth circulating on cable television — I’ve heard it twice in the past couple of days. It once was commonly held that Virginia’s most famous son had a mouth full of wooden teeth. But recent archival research indicates that he wore dentures made of carved hippopotamus ivory — and slaves’ teeth.

Wow. Sounds horrible. What an evil slave owner. I can just imagine him riding around his plantation looking for slaves with fine sets of teeth. “I’ll take one of his, and a couple of his.” Tear down the statues. While we’re re-naming the Redskins, let’s rename Washington, D.C.!

The truth, of course, is more complicated than our imaginations. The main source of evidence about the origins of Washington’s dentures is an entry in a  1784 Mount Vernon ledger book noting, “By cash pd Negroes for 9 Teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoire (aka La Mayeur).” This Lemoire probably was Washington’s dentist, Jean Le Mayeur. Continue reading

Existential Angst at a University Named After a Confederate General and a Slaveholder


by James A. Bacon

The culture wars are raging undiminished at Washington & Lee University, where the university community is struggling over the name of an institution honoring a former Civil War general and a slaveholder. On June 23, President Will Dudley laid out his administration’s priorities to promote diversity and inclusion. Building on the university’s success in recruiting “domestic students of color” — up 50% since 2016 — an increasing tenure-track hires of “faculty of color” —  by 45% over the past four years, he has laid out a new slew of initiatives.

You can read his full letter here. Meanwhile, more than 100 W&L professors called last week for dropping Lee from the university’s name.

What you can’t read on the W&L website is the response of many W&L alumni. Some of those responses are circulating in email chains. I reproduce four of them here for the benefit of those who might not otherwise see them.

Response from Kazimierz J. Herchold, Class of ’68

Subject: A Binary Choice
Dear President Dudley and Washington & Lee Trustees:

With respect, you and the Board completely misunderstand the situation which confronts you. Based on your latest memorandum, you believe that a series of concessions, appeals to civility and rational discussion, as well as pay offs involving faculty hires and financial giveaways to students of color, will somehow defuse the looming conflagration. Continue reading

Time to Buy a Gun?

by James A. Bacon

I’ve never owned a gun. The last time I shot a rifle, using a 22 for target practice, was about 55 years ago when I was a kid. Guns always made me nervous. I don’t hunt — I don’t like killing animals. Besides, I felt I was far more likely to accidentally shoot my foot off than ever need a weapon for self defense. Now I’m reconsidering.

Apparently, a lot of other Virginians are, too. Virginia gun sales set a record in June, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Estimated firearms sales, based on mandatory criminal background checks, reached 81,204. That’s a 157% increase over the number of transactions in June last year.

Much of the traffic is driven by gun owners stocking up on more weaponry. But Joshua Jennings, owner of Guns, Gear & Ammo in the Danville-Martinsville area estimates that one in ten are first-time buyers. “We’ve had some unusual buys, and what I mean by that is buyers who ordinarily would not statistically be likely to enter a gun store.”

“Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund the police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing,” Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Associated Press. “Americans are right to be concerned about their personal safety.” Continue reading

Northam Administration Targets American Flag

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s official.

Virginia is run by virtue-signaling morons.

Their purpose is clear: They want to kowtow to the lawless elements in society.

From paroling murderers to applauding massive protests during lockdowns, the Northam administration has shown little interest in law and order and less in protecting public property.

On Friday these government knob turners ordered an American flag removed from a state construction site for fear that rioters would be triggered by the sight of the stars and stripes.

Seems Northam’s factotums caught sight of a large American flag flying from the crane on a building project near the Capitol and panicked. These Democrats knew one thing: That flag had to go.

Screw Independence Day. Who wants to upset the local criminals?

Here’s how The Hill reported on Richmond’s ship of fools:

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Civil War Statues… Slaveholder Statues… the Flag

This Washington Post story needs no commentary. It speaks for itself.

RICHMOND — Construction workers erecting a new office building for Virginia lawmakers unfurled an enormous American flag on the structure this week, just in time for the Fourth of July. But hours after the flag went up, state officials ordered it removed, calling the banner a “safety risk” and potential “target” for demonstrators.

Protesters have taken to the city’s streets — including the Capitol Square corner where the 15-story future General Assembly building is rising — to decry police brutality and racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in late May. While largely peaceful, the marches have turned violent at times, with protesters tearing down tall metal fencing at that corner and injuring Capitol Police with bottles and other objects.

“Over the past month we’ve seen buildings and structures around Capitol Square vandalized and flags, dumpsters, a bus and other items set ablaze during demonstrations around the city,” Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the Department of General Services, said in an email Friday. “When we saw the flag, we were concerned that it could become a target so we told the contractor to remove it.”

OK, I changed my mind. Maybe this does need some commentary…. Continue reading

Virginia’s Latest Folly – Offshore Wind Power

Crews install turbine foundations for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. Image source: Energy News Network

by David Wojick

Dominion Energy is planning to begin construction on 2,600 MW of offshore wind generating capacity within the next few years. The wind farm planned off the cost of Virginia Beach would be the largest offshore project in the United States. We are talking about something like 220 giant windmills, embedded in the ocean floor and sticking hundreds of feet into the air above the water. They will be on the order of one and a half times taller than the Washington Monument, which is really tall.

Two features make this offshore wind plan a folly — too little wind and too much wind. Let’s look at too little wind first.

The proposed site is around 30 miles offshore of the giant Norfolk naval complex. Sites are usually much closer in than this, but maybe the Navy told them to keep their distance. Or perhaps they are out beyond the very busy shipping lanes. Every ship from Central and South America, or the southeast U.S., headed for ports from Baltimore north to Canada, passes through this area. This in itself is a concern but not one we are looking at now.

The problem is that this area frequently gets periods of a week or more when the wind is too low to generate any power. These are winds of 10 mph or less. Normal wind turbines require sustained wind of 33 mph or more to generate full power. Some new models with giant blades can do full power at just 23 mph. But neither generates much of anything at 10 mph. It is not a matter of no wind; low wind is enough. Continue reading

The COVID Surge — Virginia Hangs Tight

by Verhaal Kenner

As of July 1st, Virginia is now in “Phase III” reopening as our state’s COVID cases seem to be almost holding mostly steady despite record daily infections in a few hot spots such as Hampton Roads. Phase III means the reopening of non-essential retail and restaurants (with six-foot table spacing). The complete  set of guidelines, found here, covers everything thing from camp grounds and beaches to racetracks and shooting ranges.

According to CNN three days ago, Virginia was one of only 13 states not experiencing a significant surge in COVID cases.  The worst hot spot was a bar in East Lansing linked to 152 cases in the last week.

Nationally, the country just broke a record 55,000 new cases in one day; that’s a growth of over 90% within about two weeks. Even with a slew of renewed lockdowns and mask regulations, the trend means it will likely take many weeks to get back to where we were a month ago.

I’m impressed that Virginians seem to be largely acting responsibly and following practical guidelines. There are about 650 new cases a day in Virginia and with a population of about 8.5 million, it’s under the 10 per 100,000 threshold that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are seeking to use as a standard for requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days. Continue reading

Dominion Scraps the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Breaking news: Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have announced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty. The cost of the project had escalated from $5 billion to $8 billion, and, despite winning a victory in the United States Supreme Court, the power companies still have no certainty of gaining all the needed regulatory approvals.

Said Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell, II, and Duke CEO Lynn J. Good in a joint statement:

We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For almost six years we have worked diligently and invested billions of dollars to complete the project and deliver the much-needed infrastructure to our customers and communities. Throughout we have engaged extensively with and incorporated feedback from local communities, labor and industrial leaders, government and permitting agencies, environmental interests and social justice organizations. … This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.

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Educating the Educators in Social Justice Dogma

Virginia Commonwealth University campus

by James A. Bacon

I’ve been thinking about Jim Sherlock’s recent post, “Marxist Critical Theory and Education,” in which he asserts, “Marxist critical theory ideologues have taken over the Graduate Schools of Education.” In the post he explores the disturbing implications of the claim, but does not provide the evidence behind it. I would not be surprised in the slightest if the statement were true, particularly in the nation’s so-called “elite” institutions — the more elite the institution, the more leftist its orientation.

But I want to see the proof. As publisher of a Virginia blog, I want to know if schools and colleges of education here in Virginia have been taken over by leftist ideologues. I want to know the degree to which the next generation of Virginia teachers are being indoctrinated in leftist dogma.

What follows is an admittedly cursory survey based upon a scan of education school websites. I invite readers to dig deeper and contribute via comments or op-eds.

My quick, superficial finding is that most Virginia’s schools of education incorporate a commitment to inclusiveness, diversity and social justice to some degree. But they vary in the extent to which they seek to indoctrinate these values in their students. The Virginia Commonwealth University appears to be the most overtly ideological, explicitly committing itself to “eradicating structural and systemic racism.” At the other extreme, the emphasis at Virginia’s two historically black public universities appears to be educating students to become productive citizens, not to transform society. Continue reading