Contextualization in Talbot County, Md.

By DJ Rippert

The Talbot Boys. As the debate over contextualizing history rages in Virginia there is an example of historical contextualization from Easton, Md., the issue started, as they often do, with a Confederate statue. In this case the issue surrounds “The Talbot Boys” statue which has stood at the entrance to the Talbot County Courthouse since 1916. As described by The Smithsonian, “A young soldier stands with a C.S.A. flag on his left side, holding it with both hands. The flag curls behind him, covering his back. He wears a broad-rimmed hat and an open shirt. The youth is meant to represent youthful courage and enthusiasm as portrayed in Longfellow’s poem “Excelsior.” The statue is mounted atop an inscribed pedestal, which is atop a base with plaques. A brass box containing the names of contributors was placed in the base.”

Honest observers would naturally ask several questions. First, why a Confederate statue in Maryland? Maryland was a slaveholding border state during the Civil War and never seceded. Maryland’s Eastern Shore was a hotbed of Confederate sympathy in the Old Line State but for every Talbot County boy who fought for the Confederacy two fought for the Union. There is no statue honoring Union soldiers from Talbot County at the Courthouse. Second question —  why erect the statue in 1916 … 51 years after the end of the Civil War? Continue reading

Alumni to UVa: Enough Is Enough

by James A. Bacon

The debate over “contextualizing” the Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia itself needs some context. Viewed in isolation, the idea of adding a plaque to the Jefferson statue alluding to his flaws as a slaveholder as well as to his political and intellectual achievements should not be a cause of great consternation. Jefferson was not a saint. To my mind, acknowledging his human frailties makes his accomplishments all the more vivid.

But the Board of Visitors’ resolution earlier this month to contextualize the statue was not an isolated incident. The vote followed a long train of developments in which the university has sunk ever deeper into the quicksand of the left-wing interpretation of race, race relations, and the legitimacy of this country’s institutions. For many alumni, I suspect, the statue issue is simply the last straw.

After supinely tolerating the destructive, leftward drift in rhetoric and burgeoning signs of the cancel culture while dutifully handing over their money like good little alumni, many UVa grads have run out of patience. As Thomas M. Neale wrote in a letter to university authorities, “Enough is enough. Where does this end?”

The answer is that the leftward drift does not end until it meets resistance. For years, university leadership has responded mainly to internal constituencies, which are overwhelmingly left wing and steeped in social-justice ideology. The parents who pay the ever-escalating bills are not organized and have no power. Alumni are equally unorganized. Like a company union, UVa’s alumni association is a captive organization that functions as the administration’s alumni-propaganda arm. But the appearance of “Fuck UVA” signs on the Lawn and the decision to contextualize the statue — verbiage to be determined — were the sparks that lit the accumulated detritus that exploded into a forest fire. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Governors

Pam Northam

by Kerry Dougherty

Every once in a while we get a delicious example of agenda-driven news coverage.

Last week, for instance.

On Thursday, headlines across the country gloated over news that Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons and his wife, Teresa had tested positive for COVID-19. Here, have a peek:

CNN: This Republican Governor Refused A Mask Mandate. Then He Got Covid.

AP: Missouri Governor, Opponent of Mandatory Masks, Has Covid-19.

Washington Post: Missouri’s Governor Has Refused to Mandate Masks. Now He Tested Positive…

Dripping with schadenfreude, aren’t they? Although they didn’t dare say it, the message clearly was, “We hope he dies. Would serve him right.”

Fast forward one day and these same media outlets learned that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife, Pam, had tested positive for COVID-19. Did those headlines point out that he is part of the mask mandate crowd? Continue reading

UVa Leadership Justifies Contextualizing Jefferson Statue

The University of Virginia administration and Board of Visitors is caught in the crossfire as alumni push back against the radicalization of the university and denigration of its founder Thomas Jefferson. In the previous post, I published a letter written by Thomas M. Neale and co-signed by 200 others condemning the Board of Visitors resolution to “contextualize” the Jefferson state on the UVa grounds.

Rector James B. Murray Jr., and President James E. Ryan wrote the following letter in response, which I offer with minor edits. — JAB

The actions recommended by the administration and taken by the Board have been years in the making. In response to growing interest from our students, faculty, and community, the University has for some time now been addressing more fully its history and the life of Thomas Jefferson. Our work has been similar to the efforts of Monticello, more fully portraying Mr. Jefferson’s life to provide a complete picture of his (many) accomplishments, as well as his shortcomings, and to make these facts available to a larger audience. Continue reading

End Self-Flagellation, Urge UVa Alumni

The social-justice war has been unfolding at a furious pace at the University of Virginia. Earlier this month, UVa alumni Bert Ellis wrote a widely disseminated email decrying the posting on the door of a 4th year student of her room on the lawn a sign saying “Fuck UVa.” When the administration declined to act to take down the sign — indeed, when it assigned monitors to prevent anyone else from taking it down — Ellis called essentially for alumni defunding of the university. Before long, several more “Fuck UVa” signs appeared on Lawn doors. Not long afterwards, the Board of Visitors adopted a resolution calling for the university to “contextualize” the statue of founder Thomas Jefferson on the grounds that he had been a slaveholder “to tell the broader story about his contributions to the University, the nation, and the world, as well as contradictory writings and actions that were an integral part of his life and work.”

About a week ago, 200 alumni signed a letter written by Thomas M. Neale, class of ’74 and a founding partner of Murray Hill Associates, responding to the decision to contextualize the statute resolution. With minor edits, I present that letter here. — JAB

Many universities across America are renaming endowments, removing statues, and eradicating the names of prominent alumni/ae and benefactors whose names adorn university buildings and academic departments. The men and women whose names are being removed do not meet the ethical criteria or societal norms of our 21st century culture according to the Faculty, Administrative leadership, and governing Boards of these universities. In short, these decisions are made, and judgments decreed, based upon revisionist historical analyses rather than the ethical norms and moral tenets that were prevalent during these men and women’s lifetimes. Continue reading

How Well is VDH Managing COVID-19 Outbreaks?

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Health data is now equipped with extensive testing capacity and a small army of contact tracers to squelch outbreaks of COVID-19 in Virginia. Recent data regarding the number of outbreaks raises questions about how well VDH is doing its job.

One concern is the validity of the data that VDH is acting upon. The total number of outbreaks reported by VDH over the course of the epidemic hit 1,010 by the end of day, September 25. The dashboard indicates 23 outbreaks in colleges and universities, accounting for 1,736 cases. But that’s only half the number of cases reported on the dashboard of just four universities in jus the past couple of months.

James Madison University reports 1,474 cases from July 1 to now, including self-reported cases since August 17. UVA’s dashboard  reports 648 cases. Virginia Tech’s dashboard shows 940 cases, and VCU reports 257. Those stats include faculty, staff and contract employees, but only a small number: 58 faculty/staff at UVa and 15 employees at Tech. And they don’t include confirmed cases from Virginia’s 65 other nonprofit colleges, community colleges and universities.

The discrepancy between what VDH is reporting and the universities are reporting raises the question of how well VDH is keeping up with the data… which raises an even bigger question of how well VDH is managing the outbreaks. Continue reading

Implement “Joyful Learning” in Virginia’s Poorest Performing Elementary Schools

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

I wrote in a previous post of the astonishing record of New York City’s Success Academies in achieving the highest scores in the state of New York on that state’s standardized tests with some of the most economically disadvantaged students.  

I write this time with the great news that there is absolutely no impediment to implementing the Success Academy model in Virginia schools.

I will also offer a very straightforward way to get there.

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COVID Shutdown Shocker: People Losing their Jobs More Likely to Experience Depression

by James A. Bacon

People who are out of work and/or facing financial difficulties are significantly more likely to suffer depression than others, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey for August 19-31. That’s hardly a breath-taking conclusion. But thanks to the survey, we have extensive data on the extent to which economic insecurity is impacting mental health during the COVID shutdown.

In Virginia, according to the survey data, young adults are more likely than their elders to feel “have little interest or pleasure in doing things” nearly every day — 9.4% of Virginia 18-to-29-year-olds compared to 0.6% in the 70-to-79 age bracket.

There was little difference in responses between males and females, or between households with and without children. While there were differences between racial/ethnic groups, the variability was relatively narrow and largely explainable by socioeconomic status. (Asians were the main outlier; they were twice as likely to report being depressed as whites and blacks.) Continue reading

Joyful Learning

Eva Moskowitz

by James C. Sherlock

Many of our readers have expressed dismay about the future of Virginia’s schools, some coming to the conclusion that there is no hope. Some others contend that because poor kids haven’t learned over the past three decades, that they can’t learn. Or that some poor kids can learn, just not poor black kids. Or whatever.

Education “leaders” in Virginia contend we must lower the standards to meet the kids, not raise those kids to meet the standards.

Virginia’s Secretary of Education’s stated position is that we must do away with achievement tests to mask deficiency in actual learning and rely instead on aptitude tests, which he admits are not available, to find talented children of color.

Secretary Atif Qarni then insists we put them in advanced classes and schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology regardless of their inability to demonstrate that they have mastered the preparation necessary to succeed there.

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Changing the Rules for Absentee Ballots

by Emilio Jaksetic

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing to disregard and nullify the statutory requirement that absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before the date of the election.  This proposed administrative action makes a mockery of Virginia election law and is an appalling assault on the rule of law.

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing a rule (1VAC20-70-20. “Material omissions from absentee ballots”) that includes the following provision:

F. The [absentee] ballot shall not be rendered invalid based on a missing or illegible postmark if the ballot is received by the general registrar’s office by noon on the third day after the election pursuant to § 24.2-709 of the Code of Virginia but the return envelope does not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible.”

On the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall page, the State Board of Elections posted an explanation of its proposed action, and has the nerve to state “The new subsection (F) clarifies that a missing postmark is an immaterial omission . . . .”

Clarification?  Nonsense. The proposed change is contrary to the plain language of the relevant Virginia Code provision. Continue reading

Kendi’s Brand of “Anti-Racism” is Unconstitutional

Ibram X. Kendi

by Hans Bader

The Fairfax County Public Schools paid $20,000 to an advocate of racial discrimination against whites, for a 45 minute speech on “anti-racism.” They also are paying bus drivers to drive empty school buses, even as schools operate online. Fairfax County has 1.1 million residents, and runs the largest school system in Virginia.

Its schools told the Daily Wire that Ibram X. Kendi, who advocates discrimination, was invited last month “to speak to school leaders about his book, ‘How to Be an Antiracist,’ as part of the school division’s work to develop a caring culture.”

As the Daily Wire notes, “Under Kendi’s ideology, discriminating against others on the basis of race is a meritorious idea, so long as it is producing racial equity (i.e., anti-racist). Kendi explains this ideology in ‘How to Be an Antiracist,’ his 2019 best-selling book.”

As Kendi puts it, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Continue reading

Northam Bit by the Bug

Governor Ralph Northam and his wife Pam have contracted the COVID-19 virus, the Governor’s Office announced this morning. The virus apparently was transmitted by a member of the Governor’s official residence staff, “who works closely within the couple’s living quarters.”

The Governor and First Lady, who will self-isolate for ten days, are working with state and local health authorities to trace their close contacts. The Executive Mansion and Patrick Henry office building are closed for deep cleaning this morning.

“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious,” Northam said. “We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this seriously

First question: Did Northam take COVID-19 seriously? He was caught mingling maskless with the public at Virginia Beach this summer. Now he has caught the virus from a member of his residence staff. Did the staff member follow the protocols that Northam’s executive orders require of others? Or did the virus slip past the best of precautions?  Continue reading

Fairfax County Tax Dollars at Work

by Asra Q. Nomani

One Thursday morning, in early August, author Ibram Kendi tucked Apple AirPods into his ears and nestled into his seat in front of a camera to chat online in an “exclusive” “conversation” with principals, teachers and staff of Fairfax County Public Schools. An hour later, he was done, and laudatory messages rolled over Twitter, quoting Kendi on “systemic racism,” “the cradle of racism” and “inequity.”

As I reported yesterday in a new column at Quillette, coauthored with attorney Glenn Miller, the price tag for the one-hour call over the Zoom teleconferencing platform? A whopping $20,000, or about $333.33 per minute.

To Fairfax County Public School parents such as Miller and me, paying so much money for a virtual “conversation” is particularly galling considering the fact that Fairfax County Public Schools eliminated the position of outreach coordinator to underrepresented minorities seeking to attend the high school — Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — that our sons attend. In the wake of this failure, we wrote that Fairfax County is forcing through the bureaucracy a lottery system that earns a resounding “F” from community members, including parents, students and alumni.

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The Philosophical Tug of War in K-12 Education – 1988 to Present

E.D. Hirsch. Image: BARBARA KELLEY Wall Street Journal

by James C. Sherlock

Others in this space and I have been asking readers to confront what we oppose: critical theory in education, a Marxist-based philosophy that in its execution is designed to tear down the American culture and start over. We see that philosophy today personified in critical race theory and state-directed intrusions in its favor.

To try to provide historical perspective to some of those discussions, I will offer a brief survey of proponents of a more constructive path for K-12 education, directed specifically to improve the performance of poor minority children.  

The ones I have selected feature the work of, Richard Rorty,  E. D. Hirsch Jr. and Naomi Schaefer Riley. Drs. Rorty and Hirsch were professors at the University of Virginia. 

Dr. Hirsch and Ms. Riley are not exactly what you expect.    

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Herring Substitutes Emotion for Logic in Price-Gouging Case

Face masks? You want face masks? Have we got face masks.

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined 30 other state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a federal appeals court to support the right of states to enforce price-gouging regulations against Amazon retailers.

National and local emergencies, such as the COVID-19 epidemic, create shortages of essential items, says a press release from Herring’s office today. State price gouging laws are necessary to ensure that goods can be “fairly allocated” among residents and prevent “bad actors” from profiting from the shortages.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how unscrupulous some businesses will be in taking advantage of a situation like a public health crisis to try and make more money,” said Herring. “It is critical that each state has the ability to protect its consumers and enforce its own price gouging laws during emergencies to make sure all consumers have the same access to essential goods.”

Nobody likes price gougers. Everyone reacts with disgust toward profiteers who exploit the insecurity and suffering of others in a time of crisis to make a quick buck. The only people worse than price gougers are… the people who would sve us from price gougers. Continue reading