Richmond Public Schools, VSU, VUU Teacher Residency Initiative is Promising

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

Judge Finds Probable Cause Two Smutty Books Are Obscene For Minors

by Kerry Dougherty

Get ready. Any minute now, local lefties will have their hair on fire. They’ll be screaming about book banning and censorship.

They will be wrong.

Circuit Court Judge Pamela Baskerville’s finding Wednesday that there is probable cause that two books available in Virginia Beach Public Schools are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors” hardly amounts to book banning. It means children shouldn’t have access to the novels without parental approval.

Baskerville is a retired judge from Petersburg who was brought in to hear the case after Virginia Beach Circuit Court judges recused themselves.

The books in question, “Gender Queer, A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe and, “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas are sexually explicit and entirely inappropriate for young kids. Anyone who’s glanced at them can see that.

The fact that a judge agrees is a win. Continue reading

Hey, Buddy, What’s Your Friggin’ Problem?

by James A. Bacon

Based on anecdotal evidence, I have long thought that the rudest, most aggressive drivers in the United States resided in the Northeastern states. It turns out, based on insurance data, that Virginia has some of the worst drivers in the country. So much for our self-image as courteous ladies and gentlemen.

Insurify, a website that helps consumers find automobile insurance, collects a massive volume of data on driver history, including accidents and tickets. Virginians stand out in several regards. Ranked by driving offenses including failure to yield or stop, improper backing, passing where prohibited, tailgating, street racing, and hit-and-run, Virginia is the No. 1 state for drivers with a “rude” driving violation on record. The percentage of rude drivers (3.58%) is more than twice that of the national average (1.68%).

Likewise, Virginia ranks No. 1 in the country for the percentage of drivers with a reckless driving offense (0.56%). That is more than five times the national rate (.09%) Continue reading

A “Best Universities” Ranking Virginians Can Be Proud Of

by James A. Bacon

There are multiple college rankings these days. Results vary widely based upon the criteria used to rate the institutions: prestige, social justice, affordability, and the like. Money magazine uses 24 factors reflecting upon the quality of the education, the cost of the education (net price after adjusting for financial aid), and outcomes (post-graduate earnings, economic mobility and return on investment).

I could give a flying fig about “prestige” — prestige in the higher-ed world doesn’t translate into anything I value — or “social justice,” as defined by leftists. Money magazine’s ranking comes closest to reflecting my values and priorities, which can be summed up as educational value added.

Of the 671 institutions that met Money’s qualifications (minimum size, reliable data, above-median graduation rate), here is how Virginia institutions fared under Money’s methodology.

University of Virginia — No. 3.
Virginia Military Institute — No. 5
Washington & Lee University — No. 11
Virginia Tech — No. 22
George Mason University — No. 72
James Madison University — No. 86 Continue reading

Silence of the Trumpets

by Jim McCarthy

Criminal justice at the local level in Virginia is the province of the 120 Commonwealth’s attorney offices funded primarily by the state, with some also receiving local supplement. Indigent defendants may avail themselves of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel through 28 public defender offices. Many other indigent defendants will be represented by court appointed counsel from lists and attorneys overseen by the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission (VIDC) which is the statutory organization for public defenders.

The genesis of the existence of public defenders arose in 1963, ten years before Roe v Wade, with the SCOTUS opinion in Gideon v Wainwright. The defendant, Clarence Earl Gideon, was sentenced to five years in prison after trial at which he requested the appointment of counsel to defend him. At the time, states were mandated to consider appointed counsel only in capital offense proceedings, not for lesser offences which might involve imprisonment. The unanimous court in Gideon concluded that the Sixth Amendment did not distinguish between capital and non-capital cases, finding that a defendant faces the danger of criminal conviction “because he does not know how to establish his innocence.”

This hallmark decision and its progeny later gave rise to the familiar Miranda warning (Miranda v Arizona, 1966), a required notification by police in a custodial setting: Continue reading

A Seat at the Table — State and Local Advisory Boards in Virginia Need Ideological Balance

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

One of the opportunities offered by investigative journalism that is denied to the average citizen is to observe appointed government advisory boards in action.

It has been enlightening, but almost always disappointing. The way the members of appointed boards are generally selected in Virginia is an artifact of a political spoils system.

Take education. Action boards such as the state Board of Education and local school boards have tended to appoint one-sided advisory panels and, unsurprisingly, get one-sided advice as a single option for public policy.

Minority ideas seldom make their way into the draft policies that advisory boards prepare. That in turn results in bad public policy. We need as a matter of some urgency to do better.

I urge the Youngkin administration to take the lead and change this tradition in state government. Continue reading

Once Upon a Time, Schools Didn’t Need Fancy Buildings, Big Bureaucracies and Trauma Counselors to Teach

Gail Smith

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

Youngkin Announces Violent Crime Task Force

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced yesterday the creation of a task force to combat violent crime in Virginia. Said the Governor in making the announcement: “We will take a comprehensive look at how we can address the rise in violent crime by providing more law enforcement resources, creating alternative and after-school activities for children, and addressing the fear that results in witnesses failing to show up for a criminal hearing.”

The announcement could not have been more poignantly timed. In Hampton Roads, three men were killed and three others injured in a series of shootings on Sunday and Monday, reports The Virginian-Pilot. One incident occurred at a vigil attended by hundreds of people in Norfolk in commemoration of a previous shooting victim.

Hopefully, the task force will identify some useful tweaks to policing, justice, and schools to reverse the upsurge in violence over the past two years. But the problem runs deeper than a lack of resources or a failure of policy. What we’re seeing now is the result of a thorough de-legitimization of the criminal justice system by America’s political, media and cultural elites. Charges of “systemic racism” have inspired contempt for law enforcement in lower-income Black communities. To turn the tide, Youngkin needs to articulate a counter-narrative that restores legitimacy to the justice system, and then enact reforms to back it up.

— JAB

Relentless Promotion of Transsexuality in Children – Fairfax County School Board Edition

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

Family Life Education – Board of Education Guidelines and
Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools, updated in 2020 by a famously progressive Virginia Board of Education, requires:

A plan for teaching sensitive content in gender-separated classes shall be announced publicly.

Current Fairfax County School Board Regulation 3204.9 Effective 09/15/2020 requires both elementary and middle school Family Life Education classes to be gender-separate.

Those rules apparently are now judged to be insufficiently progressive in Fairfax County. Headline:

Fairfax County school board debates mixing genders in 4th-8th grade sex education classes.

Continue reading

Elaine Luria: Facebook Fat Cat

Second congressional district Representative Elaine Luria. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

Kerry Dougherty

Memo to Rep. Elaine Luria: When you’ve lost the far-left Daily Beast, you may be in trouble.

In a surprisingly tough May 12 piece headlined “The Dem May Hate Facebook But Her Stock Portfolio Doesn’t,” Daily Beast political reporter Roger Sollenberger skewered Luria for publicly criticizing Facebook, while owning between $1 million and $5 million worth of stock in the company.

“Those holdings, owned jointly with her husband, make her the largest Facebook shareholder in Congress and might appear to undercut the force of her criticism,” Sollenberger wrote.

Might?

It definitely makes her look hypocritical.

If Luria genuinely believes that Facebook traffics in misinformation why would she hold stock in the company? Better yet, why would she spend hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising on the platform? Continue reading

Only Ghouls Use Tragedies To Score Political Points

Portsmouth state Senator Louise Lucas

by Kerry Dougherty

When news of the mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket broke on Saturday, Americans recoiled in horror.

The fact that the “suspect” was an 18-year-old white man who traveled 200 miles from his home to a Tops market in a predominantly African-American section of Buffalo apparently so he could kill black people made it even more grotesque.

In fact, this psycho killed 10 people, shot 13. All but two were African-American.

Americans of all races reacted with revulsion to the killings. To think that ordinary people on everyday errands were cut down and murdered in cold blood is to contemplate pure evil.

Among those killed was retired police officer Aaron Salter who attempted to stop the suspect, Payton Gendron. Then there was 86-year-old Ruth Winfield who’d just visited her husband in a nursing home and was picking up groceries. This woman, the oldest victim, didn’t deserve to die in a hail of gunfire on the floor of a supermarket. Continue reading

What’s the Governor Waiting For?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

At the reconvened session on April 27, Governor Youngkin returned 116 bills to the General Assembly with recommended amendments. Legislators accepted the Governor’s recommendations on 91 of those bills. The remaining 25 bills were returned to him as originally passed.

The Governor has three options for each of these remaining bills: sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. The deadline for him to take action is midnight, May 27.

What is the Governor waiting for? Yes, he still has 11 days before the deadline, but it was only 25 bills and he has had 19 days to consider them. He already had a folder with notes on each bill. Actually, the batch sent back included several sets of duplicate bills; therefore he has fewer than 25 legislative proposals to act on. Furthermore, he probably knew before he returned the bills which ones he was not going to approve if his recommendations were not accepted. Continue reading

VCU Circular Firing Squad: Nazis, Terrorists and Racists

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

Why Not Virginia for Semiconductor Manufacturing Expansion?

Virginia Engineering Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Among the things that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made clear is the vulnerability of Taiwan and with it, the access of the U.S. economy to the 90% of advanced computer chips manufactured there.

The national security requirement for domestic chip manufacturing brings opportunity. It is the nation’s most urgent manufacturing priority. So, why not build the needed plants in Virginia? Is the Commonwealth organized to attract those investments?

For the answer to the last question I looked at the Virginia Department of Commerce and Industry, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and Virginia’s engineering schools and found nothing to suggest Virginia is making an organized effort.

Much of Virginia’s headline effort in engineering education is to expand opportunities for Amazon workers in Northern Virginia.

I suggest Virginia focus its Department of Commerce and Trade on chip manufacturing, create dedicated educational consortiums, identify available facilities and workforces like those of the shuttered Rolls Royce plant in Prince George County and offer tax abatement packages to actively recruit semiconductor manufacture. Continue reading

Hey, Virginia State Workers, Take Off Your PJs

by Kerry Dougherty

Hey, Virginia state employees, it’s time.

Time to close those laptops, take off your pajamas and head back to work.

I know, I know, it’s been fun sitting home with your cats since early 2020, when Gov. Ralph Northam shut down the commonwealth to slow the spread of COVID-19.

And we all know how successful THAT was. In fact, we’ll never know just how many lives were saved by prohibiting loud music on the beach and volleyball.

The fun is over. Time to get into the 9-to-5 routine again. Governor Glenn Youngkin is graciously giving you until July 5th to ease yourselves back into the office. Those with legitimate health needs or other concerns can apply to continue to telecommute, but the expectation is that state government will soon be functioning as it did prior to the pandemic: in-person and five days a week.

Is that too much to ask? Continue reading