Category Archives: Culture wars

The Fascists Next Door

Displaying dangerous fascistic tendencies… Photo credit: DailySIgnal

by Ann Mclean

Want more evidence that the University of Virginia has become an impermeable thought bubble where people can say the craziest things without fear of contradiction? Consider this: Two University of Virginia professors —Manuela Achilles and Kyrill Kunakhovich — taught a history course this spring that portrays American conservatives as fascists. They weren’t being hyperbolic. They really meant it.

In their analysis, the wellspring of fascism is not worship of the all-powerful, totalitarian state — which conservatives totally reject — but the traditional American virtues of family and patriotism.

I first learned of this class from a young friend of mine. Here is her description: 

Recently, I enrolled in a fascism class thinking it would be a great way to weed through the constant accusations that politicians make about who is fascist and who is not. The class started out great. We studied Hitler and Mussolini and other fascisms in Europe, then moved to Asia to look at Japanism, but the more the course progressed, the more I was confused about what fascism actually is. My professors chose to leave fascism undefined and allow each student to come to their own conclusion. That seems pretty reasonable, right? I thought so, too. Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, There Is Critical Race Theory In Our Schools

by Elizabeth Schultz

School districts across Virginia have been expending resources, directing staff time, and hiring consultants to address “equity” in curriculum delivery and for professional development of teachers and other employees. Fairfax and Loudoun County, the two largest counties in the Commonwealth, have set the lead in driving the changes in education and embracing critical race theory and “anti-bias” in their respective divisions.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) pushes the distorted concept that the most important thing about a person is his or her race. It divides people by those who are “minoritized” and those who are “privileged” and “oppressors,” advancing Marxist ideology that, by default, all interactions are derived from racism, our history and nation is built on racism, and all inequities are, yes, ascribed to racism. The color of one’s skin defines whether they are racist, not their beliefs or actions.

As a result, to undo the professed mantle of inherent racism in all aspects of society, CRT demands “diversity, equity, and inclusion”, addressing “justice”, and, according to activists like Ibrahm X. Kendi, the Center for Antiracist Research director at Boston University, requires people to become “anti-racist.” Continue reading

Packing the UVa Law School Faculty

Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia Law School

by Ann McLean

Earlier this week UVA Today touted the addition of 17 high-profile professors — packed with former U.S. Supreme Court clerks, Rhodes Scholars, and even a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship genius grant recipient — to the University of Virginia Law School.

“Our new and incoming faculty are either already academic superstars or superstars in the making,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. They are “highly influential voices in their fields whose scholarship will have an impact at UVA Law, both inside and outside of the classroom, and well beyond it.”

The law school’s run of prestigious hires, who include nine women and seven “people of color,” have sparked envious praise on Twitter, gushes the article, written by Eric Williamson, associate director of communications for the law school. “I feel like they must be amassing this incredibly all star faculty for a reason,” one woman is quoted as tweeting. “A new Marvel series? Avengers: Endgame 2?”

The article omitted one salient fact of interest to the broader UVa community — there is no intellectual diversity in the group. Every new hire tilts to the left ideologically. There’s not a conservative among them. Continue reading

At Least Omeish’s Commencement Speech Wasn’t Boring

by Kerry Dougherty

Remember your high school commencement address?

Of course you don’t.

It was delivered by some semi-important person from your community who read a boilerplate speech off 3×5 file cards. An unwritten rule of graduation speeches declared that speakers must expound on three things: “milestones,” “success” and the “future.” So, as he or she prattled on, you either dozed or daydreamed about the parties you were heading to as soon as you could ditch your cap and gown.

You were lucky.

Much luckier than the 505 graduates at Falls Church “Justice” High School last week. The school formerly known as J.E.B. Stuart High School.

At their June 7 graduation, students were treated to anti-Israel firebrand Abrar Omeish, a member of the far-left Fairfax County School Board, who made news last month when there was a demand for her to resign over a nasty anti-Israel tweet: Continue reading

How’s Descano’s Social-Justice Prosecution Policy Working Out?

A Fairfax County police car vandalized with spray paint in a 2016 incident.

by James A. Bacon

Steve Descano was elected Commonwealth Attorney of Fairfax County in 2019 on the promise that he would end mass incarceration by winding down the prosecution of marijuana possession and raising the threshold to $1,500 for larceny prosecutions. As he stated in his reform platform, “I will not ruin someone’s life because of an impulsive decision to steal an iPhone.”

It did not take long for his policies to spark a backlash. Charging Descano with pleading felonies to misdemeanors, a failure to punish reckless drivers,  and abandoning victims of violent crimes, a Fairfax citizens group has launched a recall initiative.

With the publication of the Crime in Virginia 2020 report, we have the data to get a better feeling for what Descano was up to last year. The statistics for Virginia’s most populous county indicate that he was as good as his word — he significantly reduced prosecutions for shoplifting and drug-related crimes. The big question is whether Descano’s brand of social justice will make Fairfax County less livable for law-abiding, middle-class families. Continue reading

A Spirited Defense of George Rogers Clark

George Rogers Clark

I reproduce here a letter from state Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, who attended the University of Virginia and lived across West Main Street from the statue of George Rogers Clark. He addressed the letter to UVa President Jim Ryan and the Board of Visitors. — JAB

I want to write, firstly, to acknowledge and express my appreciation at the University’s decision to conduct its Commencement activities in-person and without any undue restrictions. As a parent of a graduating student, it made a difference.

Secondly, I want to register my disappointment at the decision to remove the George Rogers Clark statue from its traditional location on West Main Street and presumably place it somewhere so it will never be seen again. What a mistake.

Although little known today, George Rogers Clark was an enormous figure in the early history of the United States. During the Revolutionary War, the British crown controlled the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains and waged war against their former colonists through the services of local tribes, primarily Shawnee. During that time, the British General Henry Hamilton (a.k.a. “the Hair Buyer”) paid a bounty for the scalps of American settlers, including women and children, who lived alone on the frontier and were largely defenseless. Continue reading

Can Free Speech Thrive in an Intellectual Monoculture?

Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

My fellow members of The Jefferson Council and I are united in our determination to protect the Jeffersonian legacy at the University of Virginia, in particular to champion free speech and expression on the grounds. An internal debate we have is whether we should work with President James Ryan in advancing this goal or rather, seeing him as part of the problem, work to remove him. We have reached no formal conclusion.

Ryan has not been entirely unresponsive to our concerns. Most notably, he appointed a committee to draft a statement on free speech and expression, which it did and which the Board of Visitors formally adopted. But, as Ryan himself conceded, the challenge now is to actually apply those abstract principles to real world circumstances.

I have argued that it is meaningless to champion free speech if all UVa administrators and faculty members hew to the same narrow range of moderate-left-to-far-left worldviews and other voices are systematically weeded out through the hiring and firing process. Creating an institution where a “marketplace of ideas” leads to a vibrant exchange of views presupposes that participants actually have… different ideas. Continue reading

Educators Play Semantic Games to Befuddle Voters

Scott Ziegler: It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

by James A. Bacon

Under assault from irate parents, Northern Virginia educators have been at pains to say that they do not teach Critical Race Theory to students.

At a school board meeting earlier this month, interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler repeatedly denied instructing students in the controversial theory, which posits among other things that all Whites are racist (although some can strive to be “allies”) and that society’s institutions, designed by Whites for Whites, constitute a form of systemic or structural racism.

According to The Washington Post, School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan asked Zeigler point blank: “When you are asked, ‘Is Loudoun County Public Schools teaching critical race theory?’ what is the answer?”

“The short answer is that we are not teaching critical race theory to our students,” Ziegler said, calling the theory “a subject for academics.” Continue reading

Contrary to Report, Women Are Safer from Sexual Assault at VMI

Kasey Meredith became VMI’s first Cadet Commander this year. Photo credit: AP

by James A. Bacon

Not only is the Virginia Military Institute a cauldron of racism, according to the recently published Barnes & Thornburg report, it is a bastion of sexism. As the executive summary puts it: “On gender, many respondents — including men — stated that VMI’s gender-equity issues are worse than its racial-equity issues.”

As evidence of the culture of sexism, the report cites from a survey in which 81 female cadets participated. Fourteen percent of those who responded reported having been sexually assaulted. Concludes the executive summary: “Sexual assault is prevalent at VMI yet it is inadequately addressed by the Institute.”

Here’s what Barnes & Thornburg never mentioned: According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are “sexually assaulted” while attending college nationally. According to the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, 25.9% of women undergraduates are subject to “nonconsensual sexual contact by force or inability to consent.”

In other words, using Barnes & Thornburg’s own metric, women are significantly safer at VMI than other four-year colleges. Continue reading

Craven UVa Board Cancels More History

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took another big step in purging its “white supremacist” past by voting Friday to take down the statue to George Rogers Clark. The Clark statue, critics say, perpetuates “the myth of brave white men conquering a supposedly unknown and unclaimed land.”

The cost of removing, relocating and storing the statue is estimated to cost $400,000. University officials expect the statue to be removed by the end of the summer. Then the university will start talking to students and the Indigenous community about what should replace it, reports The Daily Progress.

The removal, initially recommended by the UVa’s Racial Equity Task Force, advances the systematic extirpation of any names, memorials or statues that can be tangentially connected to “white supremacy.” The dismantling of the Clark statue is part of a larger set of recommendations to “repair relationships with Indigenous communities” by establishing a “tribal liaison position,” found a Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, recruit Native and Indigenous faculty. And, of course, it is consistent with the denigration of anyone associated with the slave-holding era. Continue reading

Why the Need to Slant Stonewall Jackson’s Legacy?

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s mixed legacy — slaveholder, educator of slaves, rebel against the United States, and one of the greatest military commanders in U.S. history.

by Donald Smith

If you were asked to describe Stonewall Jackson in just a few words, what would you say? Apparently the Washington Post would say — an enslaver of six people.

Ian Shapira, a member of the Washington Post’s Metro section, is the paper’s most prolific writer on the ongoing controversy at VMI over allegations of systemic racism and controversies over Confederate symbols at the school. The Post’s biography of Shapira credits his work for having “prompted,” among other things, “the removal of the campus’ 108-year-old statue of Confederate statue Gen. Stonewall Jackson.”

Shapira has mentioned Jackson frequently. But, if you relied on his reporting to give you the information that you’d use to develop your perception of Jackson and his legacy, you’d end up with a shallow, one-sided view. What’s worse — and actually more troubling — your knowledge of the general would be missing some of the most important aspects of his life and legacy. Continue reading

W&L Board Keeps Lee in University Name

by James A. Bacon

In a 22-to-6 decision, the Washington & Lee Board of Trustees voted today to keep the Lee in its name. There is no consensus in the W&L community regarding the name change, said the board in a statement. But the board explicitly repudiated racism, apologized for the university’s past veneration of the Confederacy and the “Lost Cause” narrative, and expressed regret for the fact that the university once owned slaves.

The statement also expressed the Board’s commitment to “free and critical inquiry, civil discourse, and developing students with honor and integrity.”

The private university has been sharply divided on policies relating to race. A movement to delete the last name of Robert E. Lee from the university was especially polarizing. Some members of the W&L community denounced the Confederate military commander as a slave holder and a traitor to the United States. Others defended retaining the name on the grounds that Lee was widely admired for his character, he played a critical role in reunifying the country after the Civil War, and he rescued the institution, named after George Washington, University from oblivion. Continue reading

An Expanded View of the Extraordinary Chesapeake Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Yesterday I wrote about the six school districts in South Hampton Roads. At the request of a reader, I expanded the data for Chesapeake.

The data show a white minority (43%), multiracial school system that in 2018-19  (last year before COVID disruptions) exceed state SOL passing averages for every major racial grouping in both math and reading.

The racial groups for which I examined SOL results were white (43.1% of students), Black (32.4%), Hispanic (10.9%), multi-racial (8.2%) and Asian-American (2.8%). That comes very close to matching the statewide school demographics.

The results are amazing. Continue reading

Vicky Manning: Tuesday’s School Board Meeting Was Illegal

Victoria Manning

by Kerry Dougherty

There was an empty chair at Tuesday’s Virginia Beach School Board meeting.

Not that the public could see. It appears the meeting wasn’t televised.

That seat should have been occupied by Vicky Manning, one of a handful of good government types on that alarmingly woke body.

Manning refused to attend because she believed the meeting was illegal.

In fact, Manning is so incensed by what she says was a violation of Virginia’s open meeting laws that she’s filed court papers asking that the actions taken on Tuesday be nullified. Those actions include a last-minute schedule change for next week’s meeting when a resolution banning Critical Race Theory is expected to be debated.

Manning’s attorney, Tim Anderson, told me that a hearing is scheduled on the matter in General District Court on Monday morning. Continue reading

The Fix Was In: Use and Abuse of Survey Data

by James A. Bacon

The Barnes & Thornburg final report into racism at the Virginia Military Institute has done its job of generating loads of negative headlines about the military academy. “Run by White men, for White men,” seems to be the most quotable quote. Predictably, there is no evidence that a single reporter read past the executive summary, which, as I explained yesterday, was a politicized, agenda-driven distillation of the extensive research conducted by investigators who, though not without their biases, painted a complex and nuanced picture of race relations.

The B&T summary conclusion that “racial and gender disparities exist” is based entirely upon the perceptions of a handful of Black VMI cadets. The report cites no documentary evidence of racism on the part of the VMI administration. The problem is alleged to be rooted in “the culture.” Accordingly, the perception of Black cadets, as gleaned in personal interviews and a lengthy anonymous survey, form the basis of B&T’s conclusions.

Here’s what the B&T summary doesn’t tell you: Of the 540 survey responses from cadets, only twelve came from African Americans. (That fact appears only in the appendix.) For most questions, the African-American responses split down the middle — six agreed (strongly or somewhat) with statements supportive of the racism allegations while six disagreed (strongly or somewhat).

Thus, when the B&T executive summary makes statements like this — “according to survey results of current cadets, half of African American cadets strongly or somewhat agree that there is a culture of racial intolerance at VMI” — the finding was based on the responses of six cadets who felt that way — six of 102 African American cadets (2021 enrollment). Continue reading