by James C. Sherlock
Updated Dec 2, 5:34 PM.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Clearly, parents have not done so successfully. The Left has.
For a dramatic lesson in what the young have learned about America at enormous public and private expense, please see the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics Harvard Youth Poll Fall 2021 Top Trends and Takeaways, published yesterday. The poll of more than 2,000 18- to 29-year-olds was taken between October 26 and November 8 of this year.
Some poll results:
A majority (52%) of young Americans believe that our democracy is either “in trouble,” or “failing.”
More than half (51%) of young Americans report having felt down, depressed, and hopeless — and 25% have had thoughts of self-harm — at least several times in the last two weeks.
American Exceptionalism is a highly divisive issue among young Americans; less than one-third believe that “America is the greatest country in the world.”
In a Spring poll taken March 9-22, 2021, young people were much more hopeful. In fact, their rate of loss of hope in the last seven months could reasonably be called a crash.
Harvard has been doing this survey twice a year for 46 years. The results are not surprising. However, they will serve as a perfect Rorschach test for one’s political beliefs.
The Left will find them encouraging; the rest of us will not. Continue reading
Ken Cuccinelli. Photo credit: USA Today
by Bruce Majors
Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2013, spoke to a breakfast of conservative activists Wednesday, and expressed glee about Terry McAuliffe’s election loss.
“Terry beat me by two and a half percent in 2013, and Glenn Youngkin beat him by two and a half percent this year,” Cuccinelli said. “When I ran against McAuliffe he had no record, having never held office, and he hid, making the minimal amount of campaign appearances. He was the fresh face. This time his opponent Glenn Youngkin was the fresh face, and McAuliffe spent the campaign whining that he was releasing hundreds of pages of White Papers, but no one paid any attention. Except journalists, who are Democrats, but even they fact checked McAuliffe and said he was lying about his record.”
Cuccinelli’s most interesting remarks were in reply to a question from an Arlington first responder, who wanted to know what Governor Youngkin or the Virginia GOP would be doing about county vaccine mandates for government employees. Continue reading
Pre-Omicron: Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia. Source: Virginia Department of Health
by James A. Bacon
The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has set foot (perhaps I should say set its little viral spikes) in California, and it is only a matter of days (perhaps hours) before it arrives in Virginia. How worried should we be?
Some will dismiss the virus as nothing special, nothing to divert us from business as usual — the virus is said to have mild symptoms, after all. Others will engage in non-stop fear porn — we don’t know what we don’t know about the variant! Most of us, I suspect, will take a wait-and-see attitude before either blowing it off and putting ourselves at unnecessary risk or subjecting ourselves to another round of economy-wrecking, school-debilitating government mandates.
Personally, I incline toward the former response. The virus isn’t going away; it will continue mutating, and we have to learn to live with it just as we live with the flu. Maintaining a permanent regime of shutdowns and restrictions has massive unintended consequences, from medical procedures foregone to increased social isolation, depression, substance abuse and suicide; from supply-side disruptions to a massive and unsustainable run-up in the federal debt. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
He could barely contain his glee. He was positively giddy.
I’m talking about White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci who held a press conference yesterday to declare that the long-awaited moment had arrived: We had our first confirmed case of the Covid omicron variant.
Now the government has an excuse — however flimsy — to institute more arbitrary rules and extend others all while quietly nudging governors to crack down on civil liberties just in time for the holidays. Continue reading
The Virginia Index of Consumer Sentiment published by Roanoke College.
For commentary on the graph, see The Roanoke Star.
by James C. Sherlock
Americans are at one another’s throats over critical race theory in schools.
The debate is skewed and the rage fueled by completely different understandings of the terms of reference — the actual objections to CRT in education.
Those objections have been misstated routinely by the legacy national newspapers and the education press. The misleading articles make it into most national newspapers these days with the collapse of regional reporting. And the misinformation they spread has made it into these pages.
Education Week, in a surprise change of pace for that journal, published on November 15 an opinion piece by Rick Hess titled “Media Coverage of Critical Race Theory Misses the Mark.”
Based upon a detailed study of a year’s worth of press reports, Hess finds that the national legacy media and the education press have largely and purposely ignored the core objections to CRT in schools.
Instead they have misled the public with a selective and progressive-friendly, but inaccurate definition of the terms of the debate. Continue reading
Mia Love to Speak at UVa. Mia Love, the first Black Republican woman elected to Congress, will deliver a speech at the University of Virginia tomorrow, addressing the topic, “Preserving the American Tradition.” Love’s address is the second in a series of events bringing outside conservative voices to UVa sponsored by The Jefferson Council. For details, click here.
Police shortages not just for big cities. The City of Lynchburg Police Department has 28 open positions, and recruiting new officers is difficult. In 2010, the department saw between 1,500 and 2,000 applicants. Last year, it had only 342 applicants. “Officers are just getting into a profession that they don’t feel like they’re valued in a lot of times, unfortunately,” Police Chief Ryan Zuidema told WSET News. As a consequence, response times to 911 calls are slower, he said. Part of the problem is that Lynchburg police tend to be younger and have less experience. Another is that mental health calls are taking officers off the streets. “On any given night or any given day, we have multiple police officers sitting at the hospital with mental health patients, and those officers are not available to respond to calls for service.”
Another one bites the dust. The Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals has turned down requests from two solar energy companies to convert hundreds of acres near the community of Axton into solar farms, according to The Martinsville Bulletin. Henry County’s solar ordinance calls for no more than 2.5% of the land area within a five-mile radius to be devoted to solar, and one solar farm already operates in the Axton area. “Solar energy is here, and it’s the future, but Axton doesn’t need to be the epicenter of it,” said zoning director Lee Clark. Solar projects are being approved in Virginia, but arguably not enough to meet the requirements of the Virginia Clean Energy Act to decarbonize Virginia’s electric grid by 2050.
After freezing tuition (but not room, board or fees) this academic year, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors is considering raising tuition and fees between 3.5% and 4.9% for the 2022-23 academic year and the year after that, reports The Daily Progress.
The Board had considered a 3.1% boost in tuition last year, but deferred the rate increase out of concern that the COVID pandemic had created financial hardship for many students. Meanwhile, in the past year there has been a spike in inflation-driven operating costs such as utilities and faculty/staff salaries.
Offsetting inflation, UVa saw a 49% return on its investment portfolio last year, boosting the size of its endowment to $14.5 billion. It might be difficult justifying a significant tuition hike after adding $4 billion to $5 billion to its endowment.
Between tuition, fees, room and board, the estimated cost for an in-state undergraduate student to attend UVa this year is about $34,560. The cost is about $70,000 for out-of-state students.
Is Charlottesville ungovernable? In the latest example of revolving-door leadership in the People’s Republic of Charlottesville, Marc Woolley has withdrawn from his appointment as interim city manager just a day prior to his start date. According to the Daily Progress, Woolley had faced questions from the newspaper about his resignation from two previous jobs and multiple lawsuits in which he was named when working in other states. Woolley’s withdrawal, notes the newspaper, follows the departure of five city managers in three years. It’s bad news when a city can’t hang onto a city manager. It’s downright dysfunctional when a city can’t even appoint an interim city manager.
Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out. As the Northam administration winds down, Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni has left his post to take a job managing the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article published today emphasizes Qarni’s efforts to “solve modern-day school segregation,” particularly his efforts to “diversify” the state’s 19 elite Governor’s Schools. “Former Secretary Qarni has served Virginia’s students well, and I am proud of the work we have done together to support public education and raise teacher pay,” said Governor Ralph Northam.
Neither Northam nor the RTD took note of the fact that under Qarni’s leadership, Virginia schools experienced among the lowest rates of in-person learning among the 5o states during the COVID epidemic, that Virginia students saw unprecedented drops in the Standards of Learning test scores, or that the gap between Asian/White and Black/Hispanic test scores got worse during his tenure.
by Kerry Dougherty
On a balmy spring Friday night last March — the 26th to be exact — the Virginia Beach resort strip was packed with young people as an orgy of violence exploded. By the time the gunfire stopped and the crowds were dispersed, 10 people had been shot. Two were dead. And scores of gun casings were retrieved from the area around 19th Street.
A brief special grand jury report, released to the public yesterday, described the scene as one of “chaos” and a “war zone.”
The jurors concluded that a police officer who shot and killed Donovan Lynch during the melee acted in self-defense.
Cue the anti-cop outrage. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
The boards of visitors of the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities have been taking some hits on these pages. To read these posts, one would come to the conclusion that the boards of visitors are comprised of mediocre “woke” personalities who have few leadership or business skills. One correspondent of Jim Bacon’s even charged that these institutions have “second rate boards” composed of “political hacks, ideologues, and rabid sports fans.”
My curiosity was aroused. Who were these people on these boards? I decided to look at the composition of the boards of visitors of the two institutions that have been most in BR’s crosshairs: the University of Virginia and Virginia Military Institute. Continue reading
Source: VCU Chapter, American Association of University Professors
by James A. Bacon
Virginia Commonwealth University is deploying the revenue from tuition increases to expand administrative staff rather than hire more tenure-track faculty and improve the educational experience of its students, charges the VCU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in a just-released paper, “A Report on the Administrative Structure at Virginia Commonwealth University.”
Between fiscal 2019 and 2020, VCU increased salary outlays for management employees by $10.5 million, or 13.6%, according to data contained in the report. Over the same period, tuition revenue increased $13.1 million, or 3.8%. In other words, higher payroll for management amounted to 80% of the new revenue raised from the tuition increase that year.
“As an institution, VCU is responding to the crisis in higher education in the least effective way possible — hiring more and more administrators and non-instructional employees — rather than investing in the core, intertwined missions of education and research,” concludes the paper, which will be presented as written comments to the VCU Board of Visitors next month. Continue reading
Artist rendering of interior of proposed VCU Arts and Innovation Building
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Those of us at the state Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) who worked closely with the capital budget used to marvel at the submissions from higher ed institutions. It did not matter how much had been approved and funded in the recent past; each year there were more and bigger requests. One of my colleagues summed it up succinctly: “For higher ed, there will never be enough.”
It seems that the upcoming budget year will not be an exception. The four-year institutions of higher learning have submitted budget requests to the Governor for capital projects with an estimated cost of over $3.6 billion.
Not too many years ago, a project costing $100 million or more was unusual. There are 12 projects on the current request list that have estimated costs of more than $100 million. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin selects cabinet members and other key members of his administration, he has more pressing concerns to occupy his attention at this moment than replacing members on Virginia’s public university boards whose terms don’t expire until June 30. But as soon as he has the opportunity to do so, he needs to give serious thought to the criteria he will use to select these new board members.
I argued recently that Youngkin should look for individuals willing to support academic freedom and oppose the excesses of the “social justice” movement in Virginia’s system of higher education. He needs pugnacious advocates willing to endure controversy, hostility and ostracism to change campus cultures that are evolving into intellectual monocultures harmful to free inquiry, free speech, and free expression.
Since posting that column, I have received feedback that I thought was worth sharing from a prominent board member of a Virginia university. He made the case that Virginia has a system in place to take some of the politics out of the selection process. With the caveat that colleges and universities have become so politicized that appointing “non-political” board members itself has the political implication of maintaining the status quo, I think my correspondent has a point. Enthusiasm for reforming a decadent academic culture is not, in and of itself, sufficient to qualify someone for a board seat. Continue reading
Rates of infection per 100,000 (Jan. 17 through Nov. 20, 2021. Source: Virginia Department of Health
The Virginia Department of Health is now publishing a graph that compares the COVID-19 infection rate by vaccination status. The graph above, based on 2021 data, shows that unvaccinated people have confirmed COVID-19 infections at a rate 4.6 times that of fully vaccinated people and 2.2 times that of partially vaccinated people. Continue reading