Category Archives: Children and families

The Lies in “Hillbilly Elegy”

By Peter Galuszka

A 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a former Ohio resident, drew praise from conservatives for its laud of self-reliance and disciple and criticism from others for its long string of debunked clichés about people from the Central Appalachians.

The book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was held up as being a great explainer as to why so many in the White lower classes voted for Trump.

Vance exalts the strength of self-discipline, family values and hard work. He complains that when he worked as a store clerk he resented it when people on welfare had cell phones but Vance couldn’t afford one. He ended up going to Yale Law School.

Vance also spends a lot of time complaining about his dysfunctional family including a nasty grandmother, a mother constantly stoned on alcohol and opioids and lots of divorce – in other words the “social rot” of the hillbilly lifestyle he so disdains.

His tie to Appalachia is a bit thin. He grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati but spent summers in Jackson in the mountains of East Kentucky.

Now director and child actor Ron Howard has made a feel-good movie from the book that stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. It is getting lousy reviews. Continue reading

The Pick-Your-Expert Game, Virginia Schools Division

by James C. Sherlock

Danica Roem

A story  by Dana Goldstein published in the New York Times on June 30, 2020, illustrates America’s new favorite parlor game: Pick your expert.  

This essay is hereby entered in the Virginia schools division of the bigger game. Ms. Goldstein wrote:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has a reputation as conservative and cautious, which is what you would expect from an organization devoted to protecting children’s health. But this week, the academy made a splash with advice about reopening schools that appears to be somewhat at odds with what administrators are hearing from some federal and state health officials.”

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, have advised that remote learning is the safest option. But the (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines strongly recommend that students be “physically present in school” as much as possible, and emphasize that there are major health, social and educational risks to keeping children at home.”

Later, there was a government-directed shotgun wedding of the two opinions, but the core AAP recommendation remains. So like every other argument, confirmation bias proved determinative in how various interests chose their “experts.” Continue reading

Black Georgia Professor, UVa Ed School Teachers Conference Keynoter, Trashes Brown v. Board and Offers Return to Segregated Schools

Dr. Bettina Love

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love (2019)

Reviewed by James C. Sherlock

Background and Introduction

I became interested in reviewing this book when I watched Dr. Bettina Love, as Associate Professor of Education at the University of Georgia, speak at a seminar for Virginia K-12 teachers sponsored by the Education School at the University of Virginia.

I did that as part of personal research into the radicalization of my alma mater.

I found her presentation to be pretty radical to my old white ears. I decided to read her book.

This review, like the one that will follow of Dr. Sowell’s book, “Charter Schools and their Enemies,” focuses on the actual words of the author, not the views of the reviewer. I will give each their say.

Because her views are likely to be highly controversial, this review will be longer that it otherwise might to ensure I allow the reader full opportunity to hear her.

She has been featured multiple times in Education Week, and has been a recent speaker at the University of Texas, Duke, and the University of Houston as well as C-Span, the City Club of Cleveland, Women’s Voices and advocate.com. She has provided commentary for NPR, the Guardian and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Yet I find no review of her book by any major newspaper of magazine.

She needed an editor. The book is very disorganized and peripatetic. It is thus very hard to read. No editor is credited and none is apparent.

But no editor would have curbed the venom coming out of the author’s pen. Continue reading

Virginia’s Worst Public Schools and Districts for Black Children

by James C. Sherlock

I have competed a study of Virginia’s worst-performing schools in the education of black children.  The results presented in this essay represent a scandal of the first order and demand explanations, both from the school boards and the Virginia Department of Education.

In my next post I will review two books by prominent black academics with polar opposite views on what to do about it. But this is about the abject failure of many of Virginia’s schools to educate black students.

Continue reading

Virginia Needs to Stop Playing Politics with School Reopenings

by DJ Rippert

Politics over science. Michael Hartney is a national fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and an assistant professor of political science at Boston College. He and a collaborator have studied school reopening decisions across the United States looking for factors that correlate with the seemingly arbitrary differences in school reopening policies from one school system to the next. His conclusion is that the politics of the community and the strength of the teachers’ unions play a far greater role in reopening decisions than any application of science. As Hartney writes in an Newsweek op-ed piece, “Education policymakers should consider public health indicators like the number of COVID cases, deaths and the acuteness of the pandemic’s spread in a given community when deciding when and how much to reopen schools. But such factors have not driven decision-making. Instead, it is partisanship and the power of the teachers’ unions that have largely determined which schools opened and how much they opened.”

Facts are stubborn things. Hartley’s analysis seems thorough. He studied nearly 10,000 school districts. The correlation between political attitude and school reopening policies appears to be real. As Hartley writes, “Even when comparing schools in counties that experienced very similar case rates, partisanship best predicted whether schools opened. For example, counties that voted 60 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016 were nearly 20 percentage points less likely to hold in-person classes than counties that backed Donald Trump to the same degree.” A look at Virginia’s reopening map shows a notable east – west division between the 68 school divisions that are fully remote and the 64 divisions that have some level of generalized in-person teaching. Continue reading

Elmer Gantry In Lynchburg

Jerry Falwell, Jr., and wife Becki

By Peter Galuszka

The resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr. amid a series of scandals may have a strong impact in Virginia where his late father built an extraordinary, ultra-conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg that later became highly politicized lightning rod supporting President Donald Trump.

Falwell has been caught up in a number of controversies including limiting speech on campus, going after The New York Times for trespassing when it reported he insisted that student ignore wearing anti-viral pandemic masks and so on.

What happened with Falwell Jr is as  an American story as apple pie topped with a Cross. It might have some straight out of the pages of Elmer Gantry.

After touting strict school policies that forbid students from drinking alcohol, watching “R”-rated movies or engaging in pre-marital sex, Falwell was pictured aboard a NASCAR mogul’s yacht half dressed with a semi-clad, pregnant woman who was said to be his wife Becki’s assistant. Falwell was holding a wine glass with a liquid in it but Falwell said it wasn’t wine.

Shortly afterwards, he gave an interview to the right-leaning Washington Examiner stating that his wife had been involved with a multi-year sexual affair with Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami Beach pool boy whom Falwell funded to set up a hostel business. Continue reading

Reform K-12 Education to Increase Diversity in Virginia’s Colleges — and in Life

by James C. Sherlock

Much is appropriately made of the relative lack of diversity in Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities. Some trace that exclusively to racial discrimination. My research indicates it may also reflect the educational disadvantages of being poor.  

Here I will offer a path to begin to fix both.

I have researched and written a good bit about the wide variations in K-12 student SOL pass rates among Virginia’s poorest school districts. See Rev 1 Reading and Math Virginia 2018-2019 SOL results by State and Division by Subject by Subgroup.

Some students, parents and school districts in Virginia’s poorest communities exhibit extraordinary success in those standardized tests across all races and among economically disadvantaged students. That success is measured not against other poor districts, but among districts statewide.  

Continue reading

Virginia Educational Reform – Place, Class, Race — Or All Three?

by James C. Sherlock

I am an optimist by nature. Optimism wins elections, and optimism can bring about democratic change.  

Governments at their most basic level are created by people to protect themselves from outsiders and to minimize conflicts within their own ranks. From a condo association to Congress, that is a core role.   

I believe that representative government is the only form of democracy that scales and the form most likely to protect the weak. I believe in the rule of law and in traditions and institutions as stabilizing forces. I defend the individual rights embedded in our constitution.

I believe our republic needs to help Americans ensure they and theirs are secure in the basic necessities of life and their are children educated. Call me a class theorist. People of good character can and do get in fierce arguments about what constitute the basic necessities of life and whether assistance should be couched as a helping hand or a new bill of rights.  

I believe that self reliance is a core value of America. So is compassion. I support a policy of writing checks to help the disadvantaged in a crisis, but long-term policies that help them pull themselves up. There is dignity in that. People need dignity.

I oppose a distorted rationalism that seeks to put every responsibility on government and a rationalist government that inevitably settles on picking favorites and attacking religion. 

I regret the cascading failure of the regional newspapers as perhaps the biggest internal threat to representative government in my lifetime.

On June 17, 2020 in Areo magazine , Gabriel Scorgie wrote: Continue reading

Systemic Racism? What’s That?

By Peter Galuszka

At Bacon’s Rebellion there’s a constant, grating mantra debunking the concept that the U.S. has a serious problem with “Institutional” or “Systemic” Racism.

Slavery? Jim Crow? Irrelevant! We’re treated to commentary after commentary that Blacks just need to try harder. They are lazy. They do not support family values. They get too much wasted money in school spending and health care. Their constant abuse by law enforcement is imaginary. Black Lives Matters is a hateful, racist movement. BLM jeopardizes our values. Students interested in the movement were not “indoctrinated” enough. It’s bad enough if it comes up in public schools, but let BLM come up at a toney private institution in a wealthy, mostly White suburb, then it is a blood libel against every private school headmaster in the country.

For a partial list of blog postings with ideas, please see the URLs at the end of this column.

Ok. So what? Well, this morning I saw a small story in The Washington Post that shocked me since it went right to the heart of Institutional and/or Systemic Racism. If you still don’t believe it exists, read on. Continue reading

Back to School?

by James C. Sherlock

Remote learning leaves behind the poorest children. Please check the map above for a state near you.

They Are Coming For Your Family, Your Strip Malls

Sen. Amanda Chase with sidearm

By Peter Galuszka

State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield County, has always played the clown.

The conservative politician grabbed attention a year or so back when she addressed a meeting at the General Assembly wearing a revolver in a holster on her hip. She’s also feuded with the county Republican Party and was defrocked.

Now Chase is striking again by spreading fears of ANTIFA attacks on mostly white and middle class suburban areas. She says the loosely organized far left group is targeting strip malls at Meadowdale and Hancock Village in Chesterfield County and in Hanover County at Mechanicsville.

She said that members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun lobby, would be patrolling some of these areas.

A few problems here:

Chase said her source for source for the ANTIFA tip was Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz. Contacted by the Chesterfield Observer, Katz said he was not her source. “At no time did I share any active criminal intelligence with her,” Katz told the Observer. Continue reading

The Shutdown and Unintended Consequences

Public policy during the COVID-19 epidemic has focused relentlessly on the number of virus infections, hospitalizations and death. Given that monomaniacal, media-driven fixation, other metrics of social health and well have been largely ignored in the debate over how rapidly to return the county back to something resembling normal.

Some obvious predictions: The shutdown will increase the prevalence of mental health issues like anxiety and depression, substance abuse, lapses among those trying to recover from addiction, domestic abuse, child abuse, and suicides. There tend to be long reporting lags — months, even years — with the relevant data sets so we can’t measure the impact of emergency measures in real time. And if policy makers can’t measure the impacts, they tend to act as if these things are not happening at all.

These are national numbers but I report them as a possible indicator of what might be happening in Virginia. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline, by the end of March, there was a 22% increase in the number of calls coming from people younger than 18.

As National Public Radio reports: Continue reading

Thank God for Medicaid Expansion

By Peter Galuszka

For years after the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” made millions of federal dollars available for states to expand Medicaid health coverage, Virginia Republicans steadfastly blocked Virginia from using the money.

Led by former House Speaker Bill Howell and Sen. Tommy Norment, the GOP claimed that expanding Medicaid to nearly 400,000 people would be too expensive and would blow out state funding.

This skinflint approach was finally put to rest after Democrat Ralph Northam became governor in 2018, foreshadowing a Democratic sweep of the General Assembly in elections last year.

Thank God the Democrats prevailed.

Virginia’s formerly robust economy has been shattered by the COVID 19 pandemic. Last week, some 110,000 Virginians filed for unemployment support. It was 46,277 the week before.

Who covers them is an open question but many would qualify for Medicaid. Expansion has boosted lower-income Virginians so that they may be able to better ride out the pandemic. Continue reading

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Bringing Addicted Babies into the World Should Be a Crime

by James A. Bacon

When social breakdown, a drug epidemic and failed government institutions converge, this is what you get: babies like Charlee Ford (seen at left) born with opioids and marijuana in her system and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. After birth, her lungs failed for nine minutes before doctors revived her. In her short, tortured lifetime, she suffered from severe seizures. She died at an age of four months.

Graphic credit: Roanoke Times

The surging use and abuse of opioids and other illegal drugs such as methamphetamines is associated with a horrifying increase in the number of Virginia babies born addicted to drugs. Worse, these babies are usually born into totally dysfunctional families. Mothers and fathers are themselves are likely to be substance abusers, which puts the babies at high risk of abuse and neglect. Meanwhile, child protective services in Virginia are uneven in quality — some local programs, one might say, are as bureaucratically dysfunctional as the families they serve.

The Roanoke Times tells the tragic story here.  The focus is on Rockbridge County in the Shenandoah Valley. But similar stories can be found all around the state. It’s a long story but worth the investment in time.

Bacon’s bottom line: Maybe the Roanoke Times article hit me harder today than it would have previously because this weekend I visited my month-old grandson for the first time and cradled the tiny, helpless little creature in my arms. He is a lucky one, blessed by two loving, hyper-conscientious parents who will take very good care of him. Many babies are not so fortunate. Charlee’s story prompts several thoughts…. Continue reading