Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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Shun Abstract Universalism, Embrace Risk

by James A. Bacon

I don’t always agree with him, but I regard Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of “The Black Swan,” Antifragility,” and “Skin in the Game,” among other works) as the most original and innovative thinker of our era. He is one of the very few people I follow on Twitter. In today’s Sunday sermon, permit me to highlight an excerpt from his writings that summarizes many of my own sentiments:

When young people who “want to help mankind” come to me asking, “What should I do? I want to reduce poverty, save the world,” and similar noble aspirations at the macro-level my suggestion is:

  1. Never engage in virtue signaling;
  2. Never engage in rent-seeking;
  3. You must start a business. Put yourself on the line, start a business.

Yes, take risk, and if you get rich (which is optional), spend your money generously on others. We need people to take (bounded) risks. The entire idea is to move the descendants of Homo sapiens away from the macro, away from abstract universal aims, away from the kind of social engineering that brings tail risks to society. 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.

Yesterday

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

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

Economic Inequality in Virginia

Two Virginias that live side-by-side. On one side, white-collar workers who have adjusted to the pandemic with Zoom meetings and social distancing; on the other, blue-collar workers who have faced losses of their jobs, healthcare, housing, and economic stability in the face of a global pandemic.

But COVID-19 has only exacerbated trends that have plagued Virginia for forty years, if not the state’s entire history. This week, the Bold Dominion podcast talks with Peter Galuszka about the growing divide in Virginia’s economy, and UVA Professor James Harrigan about the economic trends that have heightened income inequality nationwide for the last forty years. Click here to access the podcast.

Race Still Unknown in One of Five COVID Cases

by Carol J. Bova

On July 27th, Bacon’s Rebellion asked the question, “Why is VDH Stockpiling Cases as Unknown Race”? The Northam administration had expressed concerns since March about the disparity of racial impacts from COVID-19. Yet 24% of confirmed cases at that time still had not been classified by race or ethnicity.

More than a month later, that percentage has barely budged. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 5, 19% of COVID-19 cases had no racial or ethnic identifier.

On August 26, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) discussed on its COVID-19 blog why the missing information is important and announced a new method to address the problem.

Good information on disparities in disease incidence, outcomes, and social and economic consequences, is necessary to guide and develop an appropriate response. However, efforts to study these disparities have been hampered by missing data. Almost a quarter of confirmed cases are missing race and ethnicity data. Accounting for this missing data is essential to understanding COVID-19 and to facilitate research into health disparities. Social Epidemiologists from the Office of Health Equity used imputation techniques to estimate race and ethnicity for cases missing that data.

The blog post described the process used to estimate the racial composition of COVID-19 cases that were not originally reported and showed the results. Although VDH will continue to use unimputed data on the Daily Dashboard, staff from VDH Surveillance and Investigations will post new results of the imputed numbers for research purposes as they are calculated. 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

Dems Suppress Black Presidential Candidate

Democrats’ commitment to fight voter suppression apparently does not extend to candidate suppression. Backed by the prominent Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, two Suffolk residents have sued to kick black rapper/entrepreneur Kanye West off the presidential ballot in Virginia on the grounds that signature gatherers for West deceived them.

According to the Washington Post, Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat,  filed a motion for an emergency hearing today and filed a brief highlighting deficiencies in 13 elector oaths.

West’s real offense, of course, is threatening to drain African-American votes from Joe Biden. The Dems purport to support black voting rights…. but only as long as it helps Democrats win elections. Dems sue to create more black-majority districts… as long as it helps elect more Democrats. But when African-Americans think for themselves and run as independents or Republicans they must be suppressed.

Update: A circuit court Judge has ordered state election authorities to remove West from the ballot, saying that some signatures were gathered illegally. Dems were certainly within their rights to take West off the ballot… but the optics still look bad.

— JAB

Note to readers: I had hoped to do more blogging this week while at the beach, but my laptop crashed, and my blogging capabilities are severely curtailed.

Still Chillin’

Wilber’s barbeque. Sunsets. Red wine. Farkle. Long, deep sleep. Early morning coffee. Sunrises. Not shaving. Long bike rides. Gnarly pin oak trees. Powdery sand. Squinting into the sunlit waves. Perspiration and sun tan oil. Cooling breezes. TV not working — no cable, no worries.

— JAB

Chillin’

Moonlight over Emerald Isle

Sorry to be out of contact, folks, but I’m chilling at the beach in North Carolina. After two other vacations were aborted, this is the first vacation the Bacon family has had in more than a year! (Curse you, COVID-19!) I’m sure the rest of the Bacon’s Rebellion crew will keep you entertained in my absence. And in case they don’t, I’ll be checking in periodically.

— JAB

A Little Hope Goes a Long Way

by Carol J. Bova

The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute’s COVID-19 Model Weekly Update for August 28 shows the R-naught reproduction rate was below 1.0 as of August 15 in every health region but the Northern one, and that number was barely over 1 at 1.018. A rate below 1.0 suggests that the viral spread is slowing.

UVA is predicting a 10-20% increase in transmission beginning September 8th based on schools reopening and the Labor Day holiday. Seasonal weather may play a role, but no one knows for sure what that might be, according to the report.

The number of COVID-19 cases the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reports isn’t a reliable indicator of what’s happening with the pandemic in Virginia. The statistics are influenced by many factors, such as where the tests are being done, who is going for testing, and how many tests are done. Hospitalizations are a better reflection of the virus’ spread. Continue reading