Category Archives: Education (K-12)

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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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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What Drives Turnover Among School Principals?

Source: Virginia Principal Retention, Attrition and Mobility Study

by James A. Bacon

Most principals of Virginia public schools — 70% — are “generally satisfied” with their jobs, although half work 60 or more hours and two-thirds feel like they spend most of their time solving immediate problems rather than creating great schools. Those are some of the findings of a survey of 467 public school principals by the Virginia Foundation for Educational leadership.

However, one in seven (14%) responded that “the stress and disappointments involved in being a principal at this school aren’t really worth it,” and one out of four (26%) said they did not have as much enthusiasm for the job as when they began. Remarkably, one in ten (11%) answered, “I think about staying home from school because I’m just too tired to go.”

A significant issue for many principals is school discipline. Four out of five (81%) reported the necessity of dealing with student acts of disrespect for teachers at least once a month, and more than half (53%) deal with physical conflicts among students at least monthly. Large percentages also reported student bullying and verbal abuse of teachers. 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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A Crisis in Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Virginia

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni – Why is this man smiling”?

by James C. Sherlock

I urge those readers with experience as teachers and anyone else with expertise in education to review  a March 2020 presentation by Patty S. Pitts, Assistant Superintendent Teacher Education and Licensure Virginia Department of Education March 9, 2020. She discusses both reasons for teachers leaving Virginia public schools and the shortfalls in recruitment of their replacements. Her data  did not include the retirements and resignations since COVID.

Consider these data in light of the new expectations of teachers as reflected in the State Board of Education and the School Boards of Virginia Beach and Albemarle County policies written about in this space earlier.

The specific recommendations of the Commission on African American History Education in Virginia relative to professional development of teachers will be reviewed by the Virginia Board of Education on September 17th.

Click on and download those recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education in Virginia.

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Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy – Part 2

Dr. Matthew S. Haas
Superintendent of Schools, Albemarle County

by James C. Sherlock

After I posted yesterday on Albemarle County’s Draft Grading Policy, I wrote each of the members of that school board.  Still troubled, I wrote them again this morning.  That board is a very distinguished group .   I thus have reason to hope the messages have some effect before the vote on the policy on September 24.  We’ll see.  

Here are the messages.


The Daily Progress reported that you “didn’t ask many questions” on September 10 concerning the pending Draft Grading Policy.   

I have experience in Virginia schools as both a public school teacher and, once retired, as a volunteer tutor in remedial mathematics.  

I read the draft policy closely.  I found considerable cognitive dissonance and large gaps both in the newspaper interviews and in the draft policy.  

This grading policy as written will present teachers with a major challenge to their integrity.   Continue reading

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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School Closings Reflect Ideology, Not Safety

by Hans Bader

Schools in liberal northern Virginia and the state’s other metropolitan areas are currently educating students only online. In Virginia’s most conservative counties, students usually have access to some instruction in-person.

In-person instruction is easier for elementary school students. They often have difficulty with remote learning, which can require mastery of electronic devices and concentrating for hours a day on a computer screen or tablet.

For that reason, some counties, mainly in conservative areas, give in-person learning to students in the earliest grades (such as Kindergarten and first and second grade), while offering only online instruction or a mixture of online and in-person instruction to older students.

Decisions to keep schools closed to in-person learning don’t seem to be based on safety risks to children. As Steven J. Duffield notes, “There have been zero deaths in Virginia under age of 20” from the coronavirus, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Yet, Virginia has considerable regional variation in school reopenings, with decisions linked more to school boards’ ideology, than student safety. Continue reading

Systemic Inequity on the Virginia Beach Schools Equity Council

by James C. Sherlock

The Superintendent of Virginia Beach Schools has some work to do now that the Equity Policy he signed off on has been approved. The policy was developed with the assistance of the Virginia Beach Schools Equity Council.

I have recommended today to the School Board and the Superintendent that they make the first order of business changing the membership of the Equity Council to make it more equitable in compliance with the new policy. It will need either to be expanded into uselessness or reconstructed with new membership.

The current leadership of the Council consists of two members of the school board and the Virginia Beach Schools Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Each is black, as are the majority of the members.  I frankly don’t care about that, but now Virginia Beach Schools officially does.

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The Homeschool Surge

by James A. Bacon

Home schooling has been on the rise in Virginia for many years. The number of homeschooled students reached nearly 45,000 in 2019; if homeschoolers were a school division, they would have comprised the seventh largest of Virginia’s 133 school divisions. Demographer Hamilton Lombard at the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia, expects the homeschool trend to continue.

There still are significant barriers to homeschooling, particularly the time commitment required by one or both parents, but other barriers are falling. Even before the COVID-19 epidemic, thousands of parents were making the switch every year, pulling their children out of school and educating them at home. COVID-19 likely will accelerate the trend by increasing acceptance of working at home and introducing many families to virtual learning. Writes Lombard in the StatChat blog:

Prior to the pandemic, Milton Gaither, who studies the history of education at Messiah College, observed that the best way to make sense of the explosive growth in homeschooling is to recognize that it is part of “a larger renegotiation of the accepted boundaries between public and private, personal and institutional.” This can been seen in the growing popularity (even before the pandemic) of other home-based trends, such as working from home, home-based healthcare, and even home birthing. Continue reading