Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

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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College Education for Free? Eat Your Heart Out, Bernie Sanders

Illustration credit: Wall Street Journal

by James A. Bacon

Progressive icon Bernie Sanders famously called for “free” higher education. Not free for taxpayers, of course, but free for students. Daniel Pianko, co-founder of the University Ventures fund, thinks that nearly free tuition may be coming — thanks to market-driven innovation.

COVID-19 is accelerating trends that were underway before the epidemic saddled traditional higher-ed institutions with the task of reopening campuses and keeping students, faculty and staff safe. Many classes are being taught online, and many colleges and universities are offering a 10% tuition discount as compensation.

“Such discounts imply that students are still getting 90% of the value of higher education (about $45,000 worth, on average) from their Zoom lectures, but much of the educational content has become widely available for free. Students and parents can’t be faulted for suspecting that an online education should cost next to nothing,” writes Pianko in the Wall Street Journal.

Pianko expects that one day online educational institutions will be able to provide college degrees almost for free. Continue reading

$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

Major Impacts of Northam’s War against Teachers

Federal school funding threatened; Democrats and unions in a bind; Lawsuits coming

Timing is Everything

by James C. Sherlock

Ralph Northam declared on August 30 of this year that Virginia’s schools are systemically racist and that teachers are presumptively racist and must be treated and monitored.

In addition to threatening to create turmoil in the schools and damage to the very students he apparently meant to help, the Governor has potentially kicked over a hornets’ nest worse than he stirred up with his infamous infanticide interview that resulted in the release of his blackface yearbook photo. 

And he may have set Virginia up for federal demands for repayments of Department of Education funds and related fines. At stake is a breathtaking amount of money that includes CARES Act funding, all of which has been contingent on compliance with the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The documented facts may also have put Democrats and their allies (in that word’s traditional and critical race theory definitions) in a large political bind.

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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 COVID Made Me Do It

With apologies to Flip Wilson: the covid made me do it

by James A. Bacon

To nobody’s surprise, we are getting confirmation that lower-income students are suffering the most from the way colleges and universities are responding to the  COVID-19 challenge. Higher-ed enrollment has dropped significantly this fall, and the drop-outs are skewing toward the lower end of the income spectrum.

Some 100,000 fewer high school seniors completed financial aid applications to attend college this year, according to a National College Attainment Network analysis. Also, tuition deposits at 100 four-year colleges tracked by education research firm EAB are down 8.4% among families making less than $60,000 per year.

Those numbers are quoted by a Washington Post article highlighting the enrollment trend. Notice, though, how the Post spins the story (my emphasis):

The lower enrollment figures are the latest sign of how the economic devastation unleashed by the coronavirus crisis has weighed more heavily on lower-income Americans and minorities, who have suffered higher levels of unemployment and a higher incidence of covid-19.

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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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Reporting in on the Virtual Learning Experience

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I am taking a course this fall from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.  Virtual, of course. The experience leaves a lot to be desired.

First of all, I need to stipulate that I have little ground on which to complain because I do not have to pay any tuition. The state has a program under which Virginia residents over 60 years old can take any course in a state-supported institution of higher education for free. If one has an income below a certain level, the course can be taken for credit; otherwise, no college credits are earned. The other restriction is that tuition-paying students get first crack at courses; the non-payers can enroll only if there is still room in the course on the first day. (I did have to pay for a textbook.)

The professor is obviously not used to teaching a virtual course. I must say, though, that she is doing the best she can. Having taught college courses on an adjunct basis in the past, I think it would be difficult to teach while sitting down and trying to monitor a couple of computer screens. Although she can “see” us, it is hard to establish any one-on-one relationship or contact. Continue reading

Football Is Played Outdoors. Open the Stadiums.

by Kerry Dougherty

Had this been an ordinary Saturday afternoon in September, I would have scanned the “crowd” at the Marshall v Eastern Kentucky football game and shaken my head.

Attendance was sparse. People were seated in knots of small groups throughout the stands. Some were solo. It looked as if the Joan C. Edwards Stadium – which holds 38,227 – was about one-third full.

But, dang these fans were making some noise.

My son attended Marshall and I’ve been to that stadium many times. Fifty years after the plane crash that killed most of the team and coaching staff, they treasure college football in Huntington, West Virginia.

Last Saturday’s anemic crowd was simply college football in 2020 thanks to the fear of COVID-19, which had some colleges, including ODU and the entire Big 10 conference cancelling their seasons.

Yes, I saw the opinion piece by ODU President John Broderick and Wood Selig in yesterday’s Washington Post defending their decision. What did you expect them to pen, a big mea culpa as they watch the rest of Conference USA playing without them? Continue reading

“A People’s History” and its Role in Progressive Rage

by James C. Sherlock

A People’s History of the United States

In pursuit of an understanding of the sources of so much nihilistic rage by some of America’s young people in the streets, I recently read Howard Zinn’s book, ‘A People’s History of the United States’, originally published in 1980. It has sold more than 2.5 million copies. At 729 pages it is a heavy lift.  

It’s genre is specified as non-fiction – history. We’ll see.

It is assigned in high school and college classrooms to teach students that American history is an endless rosary of oppression, slavery, and exploitation, hoping to establish truth by early and repeated assertion, after which the case is closed.

Zinn’s book, first published in 1980, is perhaps the most famous American history textbook ever written, and certainly the most pessimistic. His goal was to change the way Americans saw their own history by writing his interpretation of the perspective of those not discussed in most histories.  

Remember that in 1980, the type of proud Marxist that Zinn represented could still see in the Soviet Union and Cuba models they admired and thought most surely would succeed.  

Fair enough. He is entitled to his ideals. And certainly America historically has struggled to achieve the goals so clearly laid out in founding documents. Slavery will always be a stain. But those truths were explored by historians long before 1980.  

Any objective historian when discussing the shortfalls in 500 years of American history must explain why America has lasted so long, accomplished so much, is the freest land on the planet and is still the place where the world’s strivers want to come and stay. 

So what does Mr. Zinn’s book do, how does it do it and why?

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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.  

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UVa Grad Students Want to Unionize

by James A. Bacon

A group of University of Virginia employees comprised mainly of graduate students want to form a union, reports the Daily Progress. If successful, the workers would be affiliated with the Campus Workers of America.

UVa last year committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so economic issues don’t appear to be at the top of the list. The unionists’ main concern at the moment is safety and health during the COVID-19 virus as students return to the grounds.

“With students coming in, everybody is worried about getting coronavirus,” said Evan Brown, a biology department doctoral student and member of the union steering committee. The group “demands” that the University abandon its hybrid in-person/remote learning model for the fall and cancel undergraduate move-in, according to a statement released two days ago.

But the demands of United Campus Workers-Virginia members extend beyond working conditions. The union also admonishes the administration “to end its relationship with Charlottesville police and cut funding for its own police department as part of its stated mission to address pervasive racial inequality at the University.” Continue reading

Hey, College Kids, Take a Gap Year

by Kerry Dougherty

I’m delighted to no longer be part of the parental tuition-check-writing cohort. Because if I were, I’d have to tell my kids that my checkbook was closed.

Take a year off, I’d tell them. A “gap year.”

That way they could escape the dystopian nightmare that colleges and universities have become as they over-react to the danger COVID-19 poses to college students. It would also exempt them from a world where newspapers are so desperate to gin up virus-shaming with headlines like this: “Six Students Sent Off Campus at Roanoke College.”

At the risk of sounding callous, why is this a news story?

Chances are these students have no symptoms or they’re experiencing something like the flu. Funny, I don’t remember hair-on-fire headlines when H1N1 was rampaging across college campuses, killing some and sickening thousands, including my son who was quarantined in his Marshall University dorm room for more than a week in 2009.

The implication is, of course, that these naughty Roanoke students engaged in “risky” behavior, which at this point amounts to ordinary college activities such as going to a party or riding in a car with four other students without wearing hazmat suits.

It gets worse. Continue reading