Louise Lucas, Chair, Senate Education and Health Committee photo credit: Virginian-Pilot
by James A. Bacon
State Senator Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, doesn’t just take issue with the Youngkin administration’s interpretation of the data regarding the deteriorating quality of education in Virginia public schools, she finds Governor Glenn Youngkin’s position to be morally reprehensible. Here’s what she said in response to the release of his report, “Our Commitment to Virginians”:
We all know Governor Youngkin’s end goal – to erase Black history and any mention of equity from Virginia’s curricula. This misguided effort based on fake news and debunked theories is an outright attack from the far right, riling up racist constituencies with lies and deceit. This report shows once again that Governor Youngkin wants to take us back to the days of Jim Crow – and I would know, having lived through it. His backwards thinking will throw Virginia’s progress in reverse, harming the next generation and hindering the Commonwealth’s future.
This incoherent jumble of leftist rhetoric is unplugged from reality. Youngkin doesn’t want to “erase Black history.” His report is not based on “fake news,” but state government data. He’s not riling up “racist constituencies” with his calls to strengthen educational standards and close the racial achievement gap. And he certainly doesn’t want to “take us back to the days of Jim Crow,” if by that is meant the re-segregation of public schools.
If Lucas were a blogger, one might dismiss her bile as coming from the lunatic fringe. But as chairwoman of the Senate Education & Health Committee, she is in a position to thwart Youngkin’s educational reforms. And she’s far from alone. Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, though less intemperate in her language, comes from the same place. She described Youngkin’s principles for reforming education as “dog-whistle talking points,” “tomfoolery,” and “platitudes and promises based on lies.” Continue reading
by Jim McCarthy
Who is the “who” doing the replacing? Who is the “us” to be replaced? There is no discernable record that indigenous Americans asked themselves this question. In the early 1600s, the Powhattan people of Virginia observed as the English immigrants built a fort and spread their settlement across formerly Powhattan hunting grounds. In 1622, the natives attacked as a measure, according to some historians, to teach the English a lesson.
From the circumstances, indigenous peoples were clear that the newcomers were not of their tribe nor sharing of their sensibilities; they were others with pale skins determined to clear and dominate forested lands for agriculture unburdened by who went before them. The existential evidence was reasonably graphic to conclude that the Powhattan were being replaced, their properties being converted without concern for their interests.
Although the later governing document authored by the immigrant colonialists appeared to accord native Americans the high diplomatic privilege of reserving to the Congress explicit authority to regulate commerce and negotiate treaties with them, the document also excluded untaxed natives from the census. That Constitution ironically contained a provision limiting the taking of property without due process or just compensation. In 1800, Congress adopted an act for the preservation of peace with the natives limiting First Amendment speech and press freedoms as a means to proscribe criticism of national policies and discourage foreign nations from stirring them to protest. Continue reading
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras
by James C. Sherlock
The Richmond Public Schools RVA Men Teach program has partnered with Virginia State and Virginia Union Universities to create a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) Teacher Residency program for male minority teachers.
As a long time observer and sometime critic of RPS, I congratulate it and the two universities for this initiative.
The benefits for minority children, and in fact all children, of having male role models in their classrooms are both self evident and well documented.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has reported that about 76% of public school teachers were female and 24% were male in 2017–18, with a lower percentage of male teachers at the elementary school level (11%) than at the secondary school level (36%).
This RPS/VUU/VSU initiative represents a promising effort to increase the supply of male teachers. I congratulate them for it. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
When Gail Smith talks about growing up in 1950s-era Goochland County, she calls her time attending the Second Union Rosenwald School as “the best years of my life.” The two-room schoolhouse was lacking in what we refer to today as “amenities.” But it was supported by the local African-American community, and it had spirit.
There were no school buses in her poor farming community — Smith passed through woods on her trek to and from school. There was no indoor plumbing or running water, either. The boys went to a nearby spring with a bucket and dipper to fetch water. Nor were there grocery stores, much less free meals — students brought their farm-raised lunches in brown bags. There wasn’t even central heating. During cold weather, the boys scoured the woods to gather kindling for the fire. School lasted five hours until 2:15, with time off for two 15-minute breaks. When the kids heard the bell, they hurried back to their classroom. Smith and her contemporaries recall a teacher, Fannie Beale, with great fondness for her firmness and her ability to inspire.
“We were poor but we were happy,” Smith says. “We came to school excited to learn.” She and many classmates went on to earn higher-ed degrees and pursue professional careers. Continue reading
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
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 U.S. Supreme Court refused to pause Thomas Jefferson High School’s race-based admissions policy that, in the words of activist mom and journalist Asra Nomani, is “destroying the school’s culture and excellence.” The ruling means that the policy, which replaces admissions based on tests, will remain in effect at least one more year while litigation continues. The Federalist has her take on the ruling here.
The school still ranks No. 1 in the latest U.S. News & World-Report ranking of the top high schools in the nation. But Nomani questions how long it can hold on to its lofty reputation. As noted in the previous Bacon’s Rebellion post, TJ’s freshman class this year had weaker math backgrounds than previous classes. Despite a ramp-up in tutoring for struggling students, the number of dropouts, though relatively small, is up significantly this year.
“According to people familiar with the school, the situation has become so bad the principal has instructed counselors to connect her with students considering leaving the school, so she can meet with them and keep her numbers down, something she didn’t do regularly before,” writes Nomani.
Says an anonymous source for Nomani’s story: “Our country’s No. 1 school has become the Titanic.”
by Asra Nomani
For months now, parents and community members have been hearing distressing stories about how educrats failed students in their rush to fill the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Class of 2025 through lower academic admissions standards hastily implemented in December 2020.
The school started a new remedial Algebra 1 after-school program and the school is seeing Class of 2025 students dropping out at an alarming rate, by most accounts because they weren’t prepared academically for the rigorous coursework.
My data analysis: Record numbers of freshmen students fleeing TJ
For example, in data that I pulled from the school district’s official website, the school district reported that of the 550 students admitted in the Class of 2025, the school started off — first of all — with only 541 students in September 2021.
One student from the Class of 2025 left the school in October. Two students left in November. Another four students left in December. One more departed in January, with two more leaving in February and then another two more saying goodbye to TJ in March, bringing the Class of 2025 to 529 students.
That’s 12 students who dropped out of the school to return to their base school, most likely. The number may not seem large but consider that only one student dropped out the entire year before from the Class of 2024.
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
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
Douglas Southall Freeman
by Phil Leigh
Based upon a background report on Douglas Southall Freeman (1886-1953) by Dr. Lauranett L. Lee, the University of Richmond removed his name from Mitchell-Freeman Hall owing to his alleged racism. All the good that he had done for the school’s funding and academic reputation as a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Board of Trustees Member and Rector counted for nothing. Even though the midpoint of his adult career was 1930, the university administrators are holding him to today’s racial standards without any allowance for being part of a different era when his racial attitudes were judged moderate and often sympathetic to blacks. Despite their similarity to those of Abraham Lincoln, the University of Richmond demonizes Freeman for his racial beliefs while its leading historian and former president, Edward Ayers, glorifies Lincoln.
In contrast, the university administrators extend Freeman’s critics special allowances concerning time, place, and race. They fault Freeman for opposing interracial marriage, even though 75% of whites and 73% of blacks opposed it in 1968, fifteen years after Freeman’s death. Additionally, when Freeman referred to blacks in his writing he normally did so with the then-respectful term “Negro” as opposed to “colored” or the unmentionable “N-word.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dominion Energy expects to create 900 construction jobs and support 1,100 employees in ongoing operations for its proposed $9.8 billion offshore wind farm. Hundreds more jobs could be created if, as hoped, companies in the wind power industry begin manufacturing components and providing ancillary services in Hampton Roads.
As part of its wind farm initiative, the utility has created an economic development plan for maximizing investment and job creation in Virginia and ensuring that the benefits are shared broadly, including with veterans and “workers from historically economically disadvantaged communities.” The plan says the company will engage with economic development authorities, business trade organizations, workforce development groups, and “minority civic and business organizations.” It even plans to collect data on the number of women, veterans and minorities employed by suppliers with contracts over $500,000 in value.
But that’s not good enough for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Dominion’s Plan is not sufficient to meet the diversity, equity, and inclusion targets” outlined in the state code, says Mark Little, co-founder of CREATE in State Corporation Commission testimony on behalf of the Sierra Club.
Little wants Dominion to set “ambitious, progressive targets” on the number and percentage of employees to be hired by sex, race/ethnicity, and veteran status, collect detailed statistics on the demographic composition of the hires, and publish updates every six months. Furthermore, Little says Dominion needs to make “structural changes” such as hiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers to execute its vision. Continue reading
by Asra Q. Nomani
In June 2021, a reporter for Politico, Maggie Severns, reached out to interview me about the activism in northern Virginia around the governor’s race. Connecting with her over our common roots in West Virginia, I invited her to an event at an Indian restaurant hosted that night by the Coalition for TJ and the American Hindu Coalition, two local groups with Asian immigrants as members.
In a long interview, I told her that the story in northern Virginia belies stereotypes. Many of us are Asian, immigrant parents with long history as Democrats but the war on merit education — particularly in our community at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — had turned so many parents off, they were hosting a meet-and-greet with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. Staff for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, had asked for a sizable donation in exchange for a meeting, while Youngkin hadn’t asked for any quid pro quo.
I spent a lot of time trying to bring the stories of our parents to life. But almost a year later, it didn’t matter, as Maggie pens a piece for a new media outlet, Grid.News, filled with stereotypes and caricatures that the Fairfax County school board and activists within TJ Alumni Action Group have long been throwing at our families and students. Continue reading
Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
by James A. Bacon
The election of Governor Glenn Youngkin may bring about changes in K-12 educational policy in Virginia, but those changes will take time to take hold, and they will not play out uniformly across the state. “Progressive” school systems are organizing a form of Massive Resistance (a term I use with deliberate irony) to oppose Youngkin’s effort to rid schools of “inherently divisive concepts.”
In a recent essay published in Education Week, Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., has called for “anti-racist” school systems to band together to “escape the reactionary trap that continues to perpetuate systemic racism in our public schools.” He doubles down on every leftist trope regarding the causes of racial inequality in educational outcomes.
Assuming Hutchings puts his principles into action, Virginia will get to witness a living-lab experiment in social policy. If Hutchings’ understanding of the causes of racial inequality is based on reality, we should expect to see a significant narrowing in the racial achievement gap, as measured by Standards of Learning test scores, over the next few years. By contrast, if his “anti-racist” paradigm is riddled with false premises, as I believe it is, we will likely see no progress — or even a retrogression in learning.
Hutchings calls for educators to embrace several steps to build “anti-racist” school systems. These include: Continue reading
Recommendation to readers: Be sure to delve deep enough into the story to read Asra Nomani’s personal story. She describes the values to which Asian-Americans owe their academic success. — JAB
by Asra Q. Nomani
WASHINGTON, D.C. — This past Friday, Dr. Mridula Kumari, 71, walked up the stairs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and soaked in the festive atmosphere on the sidewalk off 1st Avenue S.E. A band played, as children danced and women clapped, pumping their hands in the air to the beat, one woman in New Balance sneakers carrying a bag that read, “Our Rights. Our Future. Our Power. Our Courts.”
As war waged across the world in Ukraine, a people trying to defend their future, their rights, their nation, Dr. Kumari understood well the power of those words. The courts can protect the rights of the citizenry. The courts can pave a path to a better future. The courts can empower the citizenry.
She hoped these protections would also be extended to her granddaughter: a first-generation American and a seventh grader in Fairfax County Public Schools, across the Potomac River in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. As the daughter of immigrants from India, her granddaughter faces a new racism in America: an anti-Asian admissions process to schools, including Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a school fondly known as TJ. Continue reading