Category Archives: Culture wars

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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Anti-Racism Training and Whiteness – Equal Time

by James C. Sherlock

The movement should be allowed to speak for itself. It will do so here.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, in its online portal called “Talking About Race,” provided what may qualify as the official list of the characteristics of whiteness. 

The graphic linked below was published by the museum sometime before July 16. The part you may have trouble reading says:

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes, and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States, and since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture—including people of color.”  

It was accompanied by a chart to show what whiteness is.  Click on the link to see a readable version.  

characteristics of whiteness

In one of the six stages of loss that antiracism training features, participants may wish to confess their parts in the listed aggressions.

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$300 Million Bond Refinancing Won’t “Save” Higher Ed from Long-Term Challenges

If higher-ed institutions don’t address fundamental challenges, their long-term debt may not be worth much more than these Confederate bearer bonds.

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam has unveiled a higher-education refinancing plan that will allow Virginia’s public colleges and universities to reschedule more than $300 million in debt over the next two years.

The Commonwealth of Virginia would refinance bonds issued by the Treasury Board of Virginia and the Virginia College Building Authority. Under the Governor’s plan, which requires General Assembly cooperation, institutions would make no principal payments on their VCBA bonds through fiscal year 2023; the restructuring would extend institutions’ payment plans for two years beyond their current schedule for both types of bonds.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have tremendous impacts on higher education, including the fiscal health of our colleges and universities,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “Families all over the country are taking advantage of record low interest rates to refinance their home mortgages, and we want our public institutions to benefit as well. Refinancing will free up millions of dollars in savings allowing our colleges and universities to make critical investments, meet the needs of Virginia students, and continue offering a world-class education.”

The headline of the Governor’s press release indicated that Virginia institutions would “save” more than $300 million over the next two years. That nomenclature was repeated in leads and/or headlines appearing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Times, and Washington Post. The initiative will do no such thing. The vast majority of “savings” would come from deferring payments on $300 million, which still will would have to be repaid. Continue reading

No, You Can’t Use Public Streets as Billboards

Aerial rendering of proposed “Baby Lives Matter” mural

by James A. Bacon

Last month Venture Richmond, a nonprofit organization promoting Richmond’s downtown, obtained approval from the Planning Commission to paint a 200-foot-“Black Lives Matter” street mural on East Grace Street. Then Mike Dickenson, candidate for City Council, submitted an application to paint a “Baby Lives Matter” mural in front of Richmond Planned Parenthood.

After a closed meeting earlier this month, the planning commission reversed its previous approval of the “Black Lives Matter” approval, and Venture Richmond withdrew its application.

Dickenson told Virginia Public Media that he was trying to make a point: “If you allow one, you have to allow all.” Continue reading

Northam Labels Virginia’s Teachers Racists

No word on teacher Pam Northam’s status

by James C. Sherlock

Trouble at the dinner table?

Governor Northam on August 24, 2020 declared Virginia’s schools guilty of systemic (structural) racism and declared his intention to “build antiracist school communities.”  

He was addressing the #EdEquity VA Virtual SummitCourage, Equity and Antiracism hosted by Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

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The Undemocratic Origins of One Fairfax

by Emilio Jaksetic

On July 12, 2016, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a One Fairfax resolution to achieve “racial and social equity” and “direct the development of a racial and social equity policy for adoption.” The Board of Supervisor adopted the final One Fairfax Policy on November 20, 2017.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) issued a history of the One Fairfax policy that is available on the Fairfax County government web site and the CSSP web site. A review of the CSSP document shows that One Fairfax was conceived, developed, and adopted without any meaningful effort at seeking the input or approval of the people of Fairfax County.

The chronology and quotes in this essay are from the CSSP document, “One Fairfax: A Brief History of a County-Wide Plan to Advance Equity and Opportunity,” December 2018.

In 2009, Fairfax County government commissioned CSSP to analyze the Fairfax County juvenile justice system. The CSSP analysis concluded that problems with the juvenile justice system were contributed to by “structural and institutional factors across County agencies and institutions.” Continue reading

A Backlash at Last

Scene on the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

A message addressed to “Friends of UVA” by Bert Ellis, class of 1975, is passing around virally by email. Reed Fawell posted the message in the comments on a previous post but did not mention Ellis by name. Given the fact that Ellis is a prominent and wealthy alumnus — he is CEO of Ellis Capital — his opinions matter. I am republishing his open letter on the blog because everyone needs to see what has become of “Mr. Jefferson’s University.” — JAB

This is a sign posted on a Lawn Room door right now. It has been up like this for about 2 weeks. I sent the picture to President Ryan a week ago and asked if the University was going to permit such a sign to stay up on such a public place as the Lawn. I told President Ryan that I absolutely support this student’s right to his/her political opinions and hir/her right to express them on his/her Lawn Room door but not the profanity. Ryan responded immediately and told me “We’re working on it”.

This past Friday I went to Cville to knock on this door (room 36 East Lawn) and discuss the sign with the current occupant….if the sign was still there. It was. Not only is the University not going to remove it, they have assigned 2 UVA Ambassadors … to patrol the Lawn and prevent anybody else from taking it down, ie me. The University has determined this is her first amendment right. Continue reading

In the Naming Rights Sweepstakes at UVa’s Ed School, A Sophie’s Choice for the Woke

Mao Zedong

by James C. Sherlock

“Sophie’s Choice” is centered on a scene in Auschwitz where Sophie has just arrived with her ten-year old son and her seven-year old daughter. She loves them both equally. A sadistic doctor tells her that she can only bring one of her children; one will be allowed to live while the other is to be killed.

A reader of an earlier post suggested with tongue in cheek that UVa’s School of Education and Human Development be renamed the Marx School of Re-education.

Three currents have reached “intersectionality” (see Wikipedia’s anti-racism glossary) in renaming Virginia’s Ed School: the theorists – Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory –  and the practitioners – the new Cultural Revolution.

It would insult the leadership of the Ed School to call them theorists.

Accused accurately and publicly of “shoddy scholarship” by the Rector of the University, those worthies may consider them elves street fighters leading a cultural revolution, not academics. If so, they will wear the label proudly. The T-shirts write themselves.

If given only two choices similar to those that faced Sophie, UVA’s Committee for Naming must let Marx go and put Mao’s name on the door.

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The School Soon to be Formerly Known as Curry

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, 1901 – cancelled

by James C. Sherlock
University of Virginia
College of Arts and Sciences 1966

Robert Pianta is Dean of the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia.  He has a great CV.

Dean Pianta on March 20, 2020 sent a lengthy letter to the University of Virginia Committee on Names (UVACON) – (no comment).  

That letter provided an executive summary of a monumental effort by lists of “stakeholders” on the Ad Hoc Committee on Naming (also no comment), he convened to study the characters of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, after whom the school is named, and William Henry Ruffner, the namesake of the Curry School’s Ruffner Hall.  

To satisfy the curiosity of readers on the edge of their seats, the Dean’s letter preliminarily cancelled Mr. Curry and Mr. Ruffner.

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The Albemarle County School Board “Didn’t Ask Many Questions.”

Atif Qarni, Virginia Secretary of Education, is pleased

by James C. Sherlock

As sure as the sun rises in the east, the coming woke fix for achievement gaps in schools will be modified grading standards as part of antiracism policies.

Albemarle County is already there. The School Board is poised to approve a new grading policy at its meeting September 24. “During the meeting, board members were pleased with the policy and didn’t ask many questions.”

Readers can be for that or against it, and it may prove a good thing, or not. Proof will be in the execution.

There is no word how college admission offices will perceive and evaluate the grades of applicants from Albemarle County high schools.  Also none on how students transferring from Albemarle County schools to another district or state will be evaluated for proper class placement in their new schools and their grades translated for transcript purposes.

Details to be worked out.

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Will Virginia Teach Critical Race Theory to Kindergartners?

Robin Diangelo, critical race theorist.

by Hans Bader

This week, the Virginia Board of Education will meet to discuss a report that may promote destructive racial ideologies — the August 2020 “Report from the Governor’s African American History Education Commission.”

James Sherlock laments “the fiercely negative approach to the teaching of African American history offered by the Governor’s Commission.” He says its “Report is critical race theory brought to life. It represents the most thoroughly negative view of America’s history and pessimism about its future as a nation that I have ever encountered in a government document anywhere. Many universities have had success at radicalization. This recommends an earlier start. Kindergarten.”

After reading his assessment at Bacon’s Rebellion, I read the Report and was dismayed by it as well. Three authors cited in the Report — Robin DiAngelo, Ibram Kendi, and Glenn Singleton — give harmful advice which, if followed, will lead to civil-rights violations and spread racism in our schools.

So in comments I emailed to the Board of Education at [email protected], I objected to their inclusion. They are currently listed in Appendix F of the report, as “Scholars and Partners for Collaboration,” and their works are cited as “Resources to Support Implementation.” Continue reading

Teaching African American History in Virginia

Frederick Douglass

By James C. Sherlock

I fully support integrating African American history into the broad sweep of history taught in the nation’s primary and secondary schools.  

On September 17, there will be a Virginia Board of Education meeting with an agenda item titled “Report from the Governor’s African American History Education Commission, August 2020”  (the Report). 

I will offer here a positive, optimistic approach.

But first, the fiercely negative approach to the teaching of African American history offered by the Governor’s Commission.

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Act 9: Free Toby Cole

by Philip Shucet

Toby Cole had something to say.

Students with VIP administrators on the drill field, April 1970. Toby Cole in the circle. (Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, unidentified photographer.)

In early April 1970, you had to push tension out of your way when you walked across the drill field at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Tucked between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, Blacksburg was slow to experience the unrest of the 1960s. In October 1965, when David Miller burned his draft card in New York City, there was barely a ripple in Blacksburg.

But in that first year of a new decade the full force of student angst was bearing down on this small college town. Continue reading

Trump’s ICE Scandal in Farmville

By Peter Galuszka

In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.

Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.

The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.

Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.

According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading

Qarni’s War on Meritocracy Gets Personal

Atif Qarni demeans activist Muslim mom as member of an anti-Muslim hate group.

by James A. Bacon

Wading deeper into the controversy over admissions policies at the elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni is now at odds with the school’s PTA and one of its more outspoken members, Asra Nomani.

According to the PTA, Qarni has falsely accused Nomani, whose essay on TJ admissions policy Bacon’s Rebellion published here, of being part of an anti-Muslim hate group. Qarni, according to the Associated Press, has barred the PTA and Nomani from participating in an upcoming “listening session” on the admissions controversy.

Qarni has organized a task force to study equity-and-inclusion issues at TJ and 18 other Governor’s Schools across Virginia. Racial bean counters are concerned that the magnet schools have insufficient numbers of African-American and Hispanic kids. The racial disparity is especially lopsided at TJ, a math and science school, where 70% of the students are of Asian origin. Nomani and other parents have argued that the admissions process is race-blind and based upon academic aptitude as gauged by a test. Rather than reduce admissions standards, they have argued, Virginia schools need to work on developing mathematical and scientific aptitude among blacks and Hispanics earlier in their educational development. Continue reading