Category Archives: Uncategorized

VDOE Does Define Educational Equity as Equal Outcomes

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane

by James C. Sherlock

An African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council (AASAC) was formed by the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2020.

It is charged “to develop policy recommendations to advance African American students’ academic success and social emotional well being to inform VDOE priorities and strategies”.

It has proven extremely influential.

I have yet to find an AASAC recommendation that has not been adopted by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) and VDOE in drafting and approving regulations and standards.

Given that track record, I will present below the recommendations presented by AASAC on March 17, 2021, to the Virginia Board of Education’s (VBOE) Special Committee to Review the Standards of Accreditation.

These actual recommendations will perhaps quell some of the controversy on this site about what the left intends for Virginia schools. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

Jeanine’s Sunday Memes at the Bull Elephant

Michael Saylor: Prophet or Charlatan?

by James A. Bacon

Great cover story in Virginia Business magazine this month: MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor’s $2 billion gamble on bitcoin.

I’m glad to see this story. First, it represents a return to the kind of business journalism Virginia Business did when I was editor and publisher many eons ago, when we wrote about Virginia’s most consequential and controversial CEOs. This story is the best read about a Virginia entrepreneur that I have come across in literally years.

Second, the story explores a topic of great fascination — cryptocurrency. With my libertarian leanings, I am sympathetic to the vision of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as an alternative to the fiat money created by central banks. As the U.S. indulges in ever-growing deficit spending and amasses a national debt that can never be repaid, the Federal Reserve Bank will face mounting pressure to inflate away the debt. Just one problem: I don’t see bitcoin as an alternative currency. With its wildly gyrating prices, it is not a stable store of value. Put your bitcoin in the bank, and you have no idea what it will be worth tomorrow. Continue reading

Ball of Confusion

by James A. Bacon

Virginians are still suffering from massive confusion about what the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is proposing for its controversial Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative. The befuddlement arises from the use of various words that are seeming synonyms but have precise, different meanings when used by educators.

Two columns appearing in my inbox this morning illustrated the continued inability to get the story straight: one published by the Washington Post, which quotes James F. Lane, state superintendent for public instruction, and one by the Virginia Star, which cites VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle.

Here is the root of the problem. “Tracking” means one thing. “Accelerated pathway” means another. “Advanced courses” means another. Lane and Pyle are choosing their words very carefully. But journalists are missing the nuances. Continue reading

Jeanine’s Sunday Memes

Sunday Funday Memes at the Bull Elephant

State Anthem Controversies: Carry Me Back to Old Virginia

James Bland

by James Wyatt Whitehead V

In the early 1870s, a young pre-law student at Howard College was inspired by classmate and future wife, Mamie Friend. James Alan Bland would listen to the homesick sentiments of Mamie and her home in tidewater Virginia. During a trip to meet Ms. Friend’s family the two sat down together with pen, paper, and a banjo. Bland composed his song to illustrate the reflections of a freed slave, who in old age, embraced memories of a former life on a plantation. The apologue conjures up memories of a simple agricultural life, the beauty of the natural world of tidewater Virginia, and a strong affection towards a former master.  According to the “Psychology of Music,” Bland uses the key of A to declare innocence, love, cheerfulness, and acceptance of one’s affairs. C minor reinforces key of A with a languishing sigh of a home sick soul. The G major invokes calmness, rustic scenery, faithfulness, and friendship. Using the lens of modern scholarship, it is easy to find flaws of Mr. Bland’s ode. The lines below are difficult, illogical, and subservient to the modern ear.

“There’s where the old darke’ys heart am long’d to go,
There’s where I labored so hard for old massa,
There’s where this old darke’ys life will pass away.
Massa and missis have long gone before me,”

In order to understand “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”, the reader must come to know James A. Bland. He was born on October 22nd, 1854 in Flushing, New York, to a free and educated African American family. James’s father was the first African American to graduate from Oberlin College in 1845. The family relocated to Washington, D.C., in the late 1860s where the head of the family worked as an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office. James and his father enrolled together at the Howard College. Father studied law and son studied liberal arts as a pre law major. Continue reading

Virginia School Superintendent Supports Accelerated Math Pathway

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James F. Lane

Dr. James F. Lane, Supervisor of Public Instruction, has been gracious enough to address with me his thoughts on the the Virginia Department of Education Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI).

The headline for readers of this column is that he will not support any program that eliminates acceleration in mathematics.

I sent him my column this morning that addressed VMPI and recommended a program of statistical analysis of 40 elementary schools in Fairfax County followed, if justified by that analysis, by a pilot of VMPI in those same schools in Fairfax County

His response:

“I’ve asked my team to provide a longer response with more detail, but please know that I do not support any movement to eliminate acceleration in mathematics and will work over the coming days to clarify my position on this should that not be clear.  Regardless of any discussions the team may or may not been having in the community, no recommendation of this kind will come from me.”

Continue reading

Jeanine’s Sunday Memes

Jeanine’s Memes courtesy of The Bull Elephant.

VDOE and the New “Math Path” — Healthy Skepticism and Professionalism Would Be Appreciated

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) describes the proposed Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI) as follows:

“The Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI) is a joint initiative among the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS).  The Initiative supports the Profile of a Virginia Graduate by redefining mathematics pathways for students in the Commonwealth to address the knowledge, skills, experiences, and attributes that students must attain to be successful in college and/or the workforce and to be “life ready.””

Everyone wishes such things to be true. The new proposal to overhaul the teaching of math to them, however, requires more both more caution and more professionalism than is indicated by the VDOE. Continue reading

State Anthem Controversies: Maryland, My Maryland

James Ryder Randall, author of “Maryland, My Maryland”

by James Wyatt Whitehead V

Tensions had reached a boiling point in the city of Baltimore on April 19, 1861.  160 years ago, a mob of pro-Southern sympathizers attacked the 6th Massachusetts Infantry as the unit was making its way by rail to Washington, D.C. There had been trouble the day before when regiments of Pennsylvania militia had passed through the city.  Insults, bricks, and stones were hurled by several hundred “National Volunteers” of the pro-southern persuasion. Still the city police had managed to keep the situation under control.  A decidedly Democratic and southern sympathizing city was ripe for violence in the wake of Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to restore the Union.

When the 6th Massachusetts Infantry reached the Camden Station in Baltimore, it would be necessary to pull the rail cars by horse ten blocks down Pratt Street to the President Street Station. There was no direct rail connection due to different rail gauges of the period. Commanding Colonel Edward Jones issued instructions to his troops as the locomotive chugged into Camden Station: Continue reading

Journalism, Confirmation Bias and the Presumption of Racism

Windsor police officer Joe Guttierez addresses Caron Nazario after their infamous confrontation. Presumed racist until proven innocent.

by James A. Bacon

People believe what they want to believe. They seek information that affirms their worldview, and they downplay or ignore evidence that conflicts with it. Psychologists have term for this proclivity: “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is extremely well documented in the psychological literature. Everyone falls prey to it. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how well educated you are. Indeed, the higher a person’s IQ and education level, the more adept one is at explaining away data that does not conform with his or her beliefs.

As a facet of human nature, confirmation bias has been with us always. But the rise of social media and cable news has compounded the problem by making it easier than ever for people to find views and facts they find comfortable and to not only dispel disconcerting information but to avoid even hearing it in the first place.

The scholars, journalists, artists, and politicians who dominate the cultural discourse in the United States are prone to confirmation bias like everyone else. But their views carry more weight because they control most of the news media, social media platforms, book publishers, academia, social-scientific research, television, movies, museums, nonprofit advocacy groups, and increasingly, K-12 schools. To the extent that there is no escaping the anecdotal facts and images that they highlight and project as reality, their confirmation biases become society’s confirmation biases. Their narratives become society’s narratives. Continue reading

A Day Late — Jeanine’s Sunday Memes

I forgot to link to Jeanine’s Sunday memes on the Bull Elephant yesterday. But letter late than never! — JAB

If Only Robes Could Talk

Portrait of John Marshall with robe

“To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.”
     — John Marshall

by James Wyatt Whitehead V

John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, wore the same judicial robe for 34 years. Preservation Virginia, which maintains the John Marshall House on Marshall Street in Richmond, displays the garment, one of the greatest relics of the U.S. Supreme Court, since 1911, when Marshall’s great granddaughter donated it.

Wear, time, light, temperature, and humidity  took a toll on the artifact, but a 12-year preservation campaign to “Save the Robe” resulted in success. On April 15th via a webinar, Marshall’s robe was revealed to the public once again. Continue reading

Update: UVa Freezes Undergraduate Tuition One Year

Jim Ryan

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia is freezing undergraduate tuition in the next school year, but increases in student fees, room, and board will total about $392, or about a 1.1% increase in the cost of attendance in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The board had considered boosting tuition as much as 3.1% this year, based on the national cost of providing a college education plus 1%, reports the Daily Progress. While the Board held steady on tuition this year, UVa President Jim Ryan warned, that the respite likely would last only one year.

“If there were ever a year to raise undergraduate tuition, it would be this year, given the large and unexpected costs and the loss of revenues because of COVID,” Ryan said. “At the same time, if there was ever a year to not raise undergraduate tuition, it would also be this year, given the pandemic and the financial hardship facing a lot of our students and their families.” Continue reading

New COVID Data Dump

Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

by James A. Bacon

New Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) data shows the impact of Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order banning elective surgeries last year. Hospital discharges across Virginia plunged from nearly 17,000 per week when the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the state to less than 12,000 — a drop of 31%. Then, after the ban was lifted, discharges rose to about 15,000 per week and stayed at that level — significantly lower than in previous years.

The discharge data, reported yesterday in a  VHHA report, “COVID Hospitalization & ED Visit Trends,” includes both elective and non-elective inpatient hospitalizations.

The freefall in elective procedures cannot be attributed entirely to Northam’s executive order, issued from a fear that the epidemic might overwhelm hospitals with COVID-19 patients. Many hospitals began restricting discretionary procedures before the governor issued the edict, and many patients chose voluntarily to delay procedures for fear of exposing themselves to the virus in a healthcare facility. Continue reading