Category Archives: Culture wars

Two News Organizations Report on the Youngkin Administration Initiative to Improve K-12 Outcomes

by James C. Sherlock

I submit for your review two articles about the report of the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, “Our Commitment to Virginians”.

The first is by Sarah Rankin of the Associated Press.

The other is by Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post.

Both review the same report.  Both are presented as news not opinion.

That report promises broad attempts to improve the education of all Virginia public school children. I suggest that is what we employ a Superintendent of Public Instruction to do.

Read both stories and the report in question. Make the effort a Rorschach test.

What do you see?

Judge Finds Probable Cause Two Smutty Books Are Obscene For Minors

by Kerry Dougherty

Get ready. Any minute now, local lefties will have their hair on fire. They’ll be screaming about book banning and censorship.

They will be wrong.

Circuit Court Judge Pamela Baskerville’s finding Wednesday that there is probable cause that two books available in Virginia Beach Public Schools are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors” hardly amounts to book banning. It means children shouldn’t have access to the novels without parental approval.

Baskerville is a retired judge from Petersburg who was brought in to hear the case after Virginia Beach Circuit Court judges recused themselves.

The books in question, “Gender Queer, A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe and, “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas are sexually explicit and entirely inappropriate for young kids. Anyone who’s glanced at them can see that.

The fact that a judge agrees is a win. Continue reading

A Seat at the Table — State and Local Advisory Boards in Virginia Need Ideological Balance

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

One of the opportunities offered by investigative journalism that is denied to the average citizen is to observe appointed government advisory boards in action.

It has been enlightening, but almost always disappointing. The way the members of appointed boards are generally selected in Virginia is an artifact of a political spoils system.

Take education. Action boards such as the state Board of Education and local school boards have tended to appoint one-sided advisory panels and, unsurprisingly, get one-sided advice as a single option for public policy.

Minority ideas seldom make their way into the draft policies that advisory boards prepare. That in turn results in bad public policy. We need as a matter of some urgency to do better.

I urge the Youngkin administration to take the lead and change this tradition in state government. Continue reading

Relentless Promotion of Transsexuality in Children – Fairfax County School Board Edition

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

Family Life Education – Board of Education Guidelines and
Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools, updated in 2020 by a famously progressive Virginia Board of Education, requires:

A plan for teaching sensitive content in gender-separated classes shall be announced publicly.

Current Fairfax County School Board Regulation 3204.9 Effective 09/15/2020 requires both elementary and middle school Family Life Education classes to be gender-separate.

Those rules apparently are now judged to be insufficiently progressive in Fairfax County. Headline:

Fairfax County school board debates mixing genders in 4th-8th grade sex education classes.

Continue reading

VCU Circular Firing Squad: Nazis, Terrorists and Racists

Former Governor L. Douglas Wilder. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

There’s a whole lot of crazy going on at Virginia Commonwealth University right now, and, not surprisingly, former Governor L. Douglas Wilder is in the center of it. Between the accusations of racism and alleged threats to physical safety, the controversy is a window into the demented rhetoric inside higher education today — everyone’s a racist or a Nazi — and, insofar as universities are incubators of rhetoric that spills into broader society, it is symptomatic of the fever that afflicts us all.

The story, as best I can reconstruct it from the account provided by Eric Kolenich at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, began when James M. Burke, a faculty member at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, sent an email Jan. 30 to Wilder, after whom the school is named, decrying his advisory role in Governor Glenn Younkin’s 2021 transition team.

Burke, judging by the contents of this email, does not think highly of Republicans. Indeed, he likens them to Nazis. He wrote:

Wow. What a shit show. It will be four years of disaster…. I am beyond disgusted and disappointed in anyone who could have missed the obvious. Welcome the Nazis. I have no respect for anyone who supported [Youngkin]…. Is this what you wanted, Doug? I can’t believe you fell for it. You fucked up badly…. Trust me these jerks will come after me for teaching history. They will come after my Black colleagues for saying what is true. I will not capitulate to these people. Someone has to stand up. Will you stand up with me? Continue reading

Charter School Lessons for the Youngkin Administration from the New York Times

by James C. Sherlock

Probably surprising to many of my readers, one of the newspapers to which I subscribe is The New York Times. Another is The Washington Post.

Of the two, the Times demonstrates far more balance in its reporting. Not opinion – reporting.

Times education writers, direct witnesses to the astonishing achievements of New York City charter schools and their huge waiting lists, can be counted on to investigate and report stories that openly disregard progressive orthodoxy on such schools.

They reported on May 13 (adjacent picture) that opposition to charter schools disadvantages primarily poor minority children and is driving the support of poor and minority parents away from the Democratic party.

That is the message I have been trying to bring to the Youngkin administration. Continue reading

Diverse Opinions in Higher Ed

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Those commenters on this blog who are always decrying the dominance of liberal ideas and the quashing of conservative viewpoints in Virginia’s higher ed institutions need to broaden their horizon beyond the University of Virginia.  As reported by The Washington Post,  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito spoke yesterday to a crowd of law students and faculty at the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University.  In reaction to a recently-leaked draft of his opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, there were, as would be expected, demonstrations from both sides of the abortion question outside the building in which the lecture was given.

Alito’s topic was not abortion, and he dodged questions on the subject following the lecture.  Rather, he talked about textualism, a method he favors, and how the late Justice Scalia’s advocacy of this approach had transformed the court’s methods of reviewing federal laws.  This is an important subject and one over which there is considerable debate.  The point here is that Virginia law students were being exposed to the conservative perspective.

These sorts of lectures are scheduled well in advance.  Had it not been for the leaked draft opinion, I suspect that this event would have taken place with little public notice.  Such is the diversity in Virginia higher education circles.

A Mature Dialogue: Mathews Board Discusses War Memorial

by Carol J. Bova

In Mathews County’s November 2021 referendum, 3,782 (80.06%) voted against relocating the Confederate Memorial that has stood next to the Historic Courthouse since 1912. At the April 26, 2022 Board of Supervisors meeting, there was a motion to authorize a survey to delineate the land under the Memorial to be transferred to the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The local paper, the Gloucester Mathews Gazette Journal, mistakenly printed a headline that read, “Mathews board approves ownership transfer of monument.” To their credit, unlike larger papers that don’t acknowledge errors, the Gazette Journal reprinted the edition to say, “Mathews board approves survey of Court Green, intends to convey ownership of land under monument.”

Unfortunately, whether due to lack of time or space, the newspaper omitted the details of a bigger story — the Board’s openness to hearing and responding to the perspective of the African-American community expressed by Supervisor Melissa Mason, as well as their intent to offer a second plot of land for an African American memorial.

Before acting on a motion to authorize the survey, Chairman Paul Hudgins suggested that while they were “doing the deeding” of the piece of land that’s under the monument, that the Board also should consider another spot on the Courthouse Green, if Supervisor Melissa Mason could find a group interested in putting up an African-American monument or memorial as he had discussed with her. Continue reading

A Lot of Unanswered Questions

The Chambers family. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Painting racial slurs on the face of an unconscious Black teenage boy is wrong.

That being said, a recent incident in the Richmond area leads to a lot of questions, including concerning the quality of reporting done by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

According to an RTD on-line story Friday by reporter Mark Bowes, a Powhatan special prosecutor was looking into a 2020 incident in which a 16-year-old Black youth passed out intoxicated at a party in Powhatan County. While he was unconscious,”… the N-word, the letters KKK, a drawing of a penis, the phrase “F— BLM” and ‘White Lives Matter’ [were] scrawled on his head.” Also, he was draped with a Confederate flag and a sex toy was placed next to his head. As teenagers will do, others at the party took pictures of him and posted them on social media. Reportedly, this type of thing had been done before, as a “party joke.” Continue reading

The Book Burners Next Door

Photo credit: Washington Post

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

James Sherlock alerted us yesterday to a “bigger threat to our nation than Russia and China” by the left. While the Biden administration’s establishment of an effort to combat online disinformation is somewhat disquieting, its dimensions are somewhat vague. It could be no more than a federal government “fact checker.”

On the other hand, we need only to look to one of our neighbors for a concrete example of the Orwellian future some on the right would impose. Continue reading

George Orwell Call Home

Nina Jankowitz

by James C. Sherlock

This blog, while proudly based in individual research, often offers controversial ideas.

Uniform agreement is not expected. Debate is encouraged. We learn from one another and even occasionally change a few minds on both sides.

Yesterday the Biden administration announced the establishment of a federal “Disinformation Governance Board” in the Department of Homeland Security to “combat online disinformation in the 2022 midterms.”

Seriously. It was disclosed yesterday afternoon by Secretary Mayorkas in his testimony on Capitol Hill.

You will not be shocked to learn that neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times has yet covered the story. I just checked. Yet it represents a bigger threat to our nation than Russia and China. And it lives within the Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading

An Environment So Hostile, No Reasonable Person Could Endure It

Photo credit: NBC29

by James A. Bacon

On June 11, 2021, after a series of orientation meetings and training sessions to discuss “anti-racism” at the Agnor-Hurt Elementary School, Albemarle County officials held a final training session. A presenter showed slides showing a disparity in the racial breakdown of the school division’s employees and new hires.

Responding to the presentation, Emily Mais, an assistant principal at the school, suggested that it would be useful to compare the racial breakdown of the hires to that of the applicant pool to determine if the racial disparity was due to the district’s selection process or to the lack of minority applicants. In her remarks, she was thinking “people of color” but she inadvertently used the word “colored” instead. She immediately apologized for her slip of the tongue.

The verbal miscue prompted a response from Sheila Avery, a teacher’s aide who presented herself as a representative of other Black employees. In Mais’s rendering of the story detailed in a lawsuit filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court, Avery accused her, in the complaint’s words, “of speaking like old racists who told people of color to go to the back of the bus.” Avery’s verbal abuse was so severe that several staff members expressed their alarm in communications to Mais during and after the session.

And so began Mais’s surreal journey through a school system that, in the name of expunging racism, has elevated racial consciousness and racial grievance to levels not seen in decades, demoralized White teachers by impugning them as racists, compelled Mais to make a forced apology to the school staff, and through her example cowed other employees from expressing reservations about the anti-racist training. Continue reading

Election Mulligan

by Jim McCarthy

Virginia’s new governor has proposed a legislative amendment preempting the normal election cycle and terms of office for a county school board in what can only be described as a “do over.” The amendment moves a school board election date from 2023 to 2022 and authorizes a new election for the nine-member body.

Politically, the move, an increasingly familiar trope among some conservative legislatures, echoes the “big steal” theme and tactics to magnify electoral results by officials. While not drawing inordinate attention, it is, at its core, a pernicious attempt to scuttle the democratic process that seated the board at its last election.

The ostensible rationale is related to the handling of sex crimes by the Loudoun County School Board occurring in late 2021 at the height of the campaign season. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, and ultimate winner, capitalized on the contentious issue declaring his conclusions while calling for an investigation stating: Continue reading

If You’re Not on the “Anti-Racist” School Bus, Maybe It’s Time You Got Off the Bus

Photo credit: NBC29

by James A. Bacon

During anti-racism training last June, Emily Mais, an assistant principal at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School in Albemarle County, used the term “colored people” instead of “people of color” when referring to staff demographics. She made a “slip of the tongue,” she says, but she apologized anyway.

Not everyone was prepared to forgive. Sheila Avery, a teaching assistant at the school, chastised her at the training session and several times afterwards, according to a lawsuit filed a week ago. Avery allegedly cursed her openly, calling her a “white racist bitch,” and told other employees she was a racist who intentionally demeaned Black people.

Other employees were afraid to defend her for fear of retaliation, Mais says in the complaint, which was filed April 13 and reported by The Daily Progress and other local media outlets. The relentless criticism caused her such emotional distress that she resigned. But district administrators would not allow her to leave on good terms without first issuing a groveling public apology to teachers and staff. That apology, the complaint says, “was carefully orchestrated by district officials to humiliate, shame, and traumatize.”

Mais believed she was subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of her race. After state and federal equal opportunity officials showed no interest in her case, she filed suit against the Albemarle County School Board. Her treatment, the complaint says, is the direct outgrowth of so-called “anti-racist” training policies enacted by the Albemarle school system — a program derived from Critical Race Theory that “scapegoats, stereotypes, labels, and ultimately divides people based on race.” Continue reading

Supreme Court Refuses to Require T.J. to Resume Prior Admissions Process

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  Photo credit: New York Times

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As reported today by The New York Times, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to require the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to resume using its prior admissions process, pending an appeal of a judge’s decision overturning a new process adopted by the school board.

This issue has been the subject of several lengthy posts on this blog.

A federal judge overturned the school’s decision to drop its former admissions process that relied heavily on a standardized test and substitute a race-neutral process that instead allocated slots to each of the schools in the district and also considered “life experiences” in deciding which students to admit. In siding with opponents of the new process, who contended that it discriminated against Asian students, the district judge said that the changes were “racially motivated.” Continue reading