Tag Archives: Guest contributors

Propagandizing Doth Not A Happy Historian Make

by Jock Yellott

“Do you agree or disagree that college faculty are contaminating history with politics and producing closed minded, unscientific and illogical propaganda?”

Dr. Ed Ayers, former president of the University of Richmond, a former Dean of Arts and Sciences at U Va, and among Virginia’s most accomplished and respected living historians, was asked that question last week.

It came during the Q&A after the January 19, 2021 online membership meeting of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. Dr. Ayers’s  breezy, good-humored remarks about what he does and why he does can be viewed in the video above. (Dr. Ayers begins speaking at about minute 14; the question and his answer at 45.55, through 49:01).

Dr. Ayer’s response, gently edited for clarity: Continue reading

COVID Vaccination Infrastructure Is Pathetically Inadequate

by Kathleen Smith

For the millions of dollars that have come to the Commonwealth for COVID-19, did anyone ever think about the infrastructure needed to rollout the most important aspect of a COVID response, the vaccine? According to The Virginia Mercury, The Virginia Department of Health hasn’t developed a uniform playbook or guidance that health departments can follow when it comes to a COVID-19 vaccination.

Here is an example of the lack of guidance. Go to the Alexandria website link provided by VDH. There is a place on the page that allows you to register for the vaccine. Go to the Crater website link provided by VDH, you find an article from April 2020 with no information on the how to register for the vaccine.

Using the telephone number and email provided in the Progress Index for “contacting” the health department as the Crater District moves into 1B, I left and sent my contact information as requested. One week later, NOTHING. I also called at 8:56 a.m. and was told by the person answering the phone that she could not put me through to the vaccine department until 9:00 a.m. I called back at 9:00 a.m., received the same person, who then took my name and telephone number and said someone would return my call. I am still waiting one week later. Continue reading

Northam Owes Virginians Answers on COVID-19

by Shaun Kenney

Former Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, has been assiduous in his criticism of Governor Ralph Northam’s handling of the COVID pandemic — and for good reason.

Consider the successes enjoyed by West Virginia. Rather than plugging in to the federal system that mandated distribution centers, West Virginia instead activated its National Guard to create a 50-man hub designed to reach out to communities and coordinate directly with them.

Instead of going through big box stores, West Virginia opted to use local pharmacies and small businesses.

Rather than leaving things to chance and assuming that local health departments and state hospitals would simply pick up the slack, West Virginia opted instead to utilize over 250 pharmacies — all trusted by their communities — to achieve a first in the nation result.

Meanwhile, Virginia struggles with a ranking of 49 out of 50. Continue reading

What Is a “Low Dead Space” Syringe and Why Is It So Important?

by Verhaal Kenner

Governor Ralph Northam has shifted Virginia into phase “1B,” meaning that a “front line” worker, or anyone over 65 or with a chronic health condition, is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. That’s clearly a population several times the estimated 440,500 that are in the state’s  “1A” group  – only about half of whom have gotten a first dose. Expanding eligibility was needed because bureaucratic and resource constraints were clearly delaying getting shots out of the freezers and into people’s arms.

The next issue will quickly become managing events and appointments to avoid the type of long-line chaos in Florida. We also need to make sure we don’t waste the doses we have.

A surprising discovery that physicians made when they received the distribution of Pfizer vaccine is that the 5-dose vials actually contain enough for six doses, or in some cases enough for seven.* The key to getting this extra dose or two is to use syringes that don’t waste any of the vaccine. Waste normally occurs in a small dead space in the top of the syringe just below the needle. The low dead-space design often has the needle manufactured as an integral part of the syringe or with a greatly reduced cavity under the snap-on needle assembly. Even within low dead space versions, there are specific products that waste less and, thus more reliably offer the extra dose. Continue reading

Violence and Tolerance

Leftists couldn’t raise a finger to object to political violence all summer, but feel they are in a moral position to do so now? Blame Herbert Marcuse…

by Shaun Kenney

Herbert Marcuse is a name you might vaguely know.

Marcuse was the darling of violent leftist radicals during the 1960s who found new currency and utility after the rise of postmodern politics on college campuses during the last decade.

In his essay Repressive Tolerance, Marcuse touches on the reasons why toleration is a vice, why it enshrines the status quo, and how it serves as the enemy of the left:

Tolerance is an end unto itself.

Short break in the introductory paragraph, because these two ideas need to be parsed out:

The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society.

If the society does not eliminate violence, cruelty and aggression as preconditions (not ends) of a humane society? Then the society is not humane… and ergo can and by rights ought to be destroyed.

Tolerance of a status quo merely enshrines the violence, cruelty and aggression in human society today, whether that is racism, bigotry, transphobia, intersectionality, homophobia, prejudice, bias or any other sort of -ism that needs to be driven out in order to achieve the humane society. Continue reading

Reimagining Monticello after Jefferson’s Fall

Monticello. Credit: NPR

by Kenneth W. Gatten III

Among the American founders, Thomas Jefferson is most enduring: as historian Jon Meacham writes, “With… his sense of taste and love of beautiful things – of silver and art and architecture and gardening and food and wine – Jefferson is more alive, convivial.” On display at his home and museum of Monticello, these qualities have also made the third president a uniquely controversial figure. Jefferson’s fame even seems approaching notoriety as thorny facts continue to emerge about his treatment of slaves and illicit liaison with a 15-year-old Sally Hemings.

During the summer of 2020, nationwide protests against racial injustice condemned Jefferson, whose statues were shrouded from public view after an outcry in Decatur, Georgia, and spray-painted with the word “Confederate” and toppled in Portland, Oregon. As a focal point of potentially the largest movement in U.S. history, the fate of historical figures including Jefferson is at the front of the collective public conscience. Should he be rebuked, forgotten?

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which operates the Monticello museum, claims to offer an experience for visitors to answer this question by “bring[ing] history forward into national and global dialogues.” But my recent visit proves otherwise. Continue reading

When I Was “Canceled” at UVa

by Matthew Cameron

Cancel culture has been a hot topic in 2020. Most recently, it’s become a discussion point among those concerned about the state of academic freedom and intellectual diversity at my own alma mater, the University of Virginia.

The strongest critique of cancel culture at UVA emerged in October when alumnus Joel Gardner published an open letter to University President Jim Ryan imploring him to “strongly condemn the ‘cancel culture’ practice” and “focus on the real diversity that is important on college campuses–diversity of thought–rather than diversity of race, ethnicity and gender which has proven to be divisive.”

Reading Gardner’s letter and follow-up column for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, I was reminded of my own brush with cancel culture as a student newspaper editor at UVA almost a decade ago. Recalling that tumultuous time inspires within me the same concern that Gardner and others have expressed about the threat of intellectual intimidation within our campus communities.

Yet my experience also illustrates a problem with Gardner’s conclusion that “the main culprit behind these problems has been the purposeful politicization of our college communities” and his recommendation that UVA should “emphasize the traditions and values that have bound Wahoos together for decades — most especially honor and trust.” Continue reading

Virginia Voting “Reform” Makes Fraud Easier

by Chris Adams

In a Restonnow.com opinion piece last month, Delegate Ken Plum, D-Reston, listed several accomplishments of the General Assembly in 2020. Several speak positively to the Commonwealth. One, however, is noteworthy for degrading election integrity.

“Non-discrimination legislation passed with the Virginia Values Act being one of the most comprehensive in the nation,” wrote Plum. “Voting laws were changed to make voting easier and more accessible as voters are now learning as they cast their votes in this election. Many Jim Crow-era laws were repealed.”[i] Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, and Senator Chap Petersen, D=Fairfax, joined Plum in voting in favor of the bill. Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill in April.[ii]

On April 10, 2020 several changes were made to Virginia Election Law. A complete list of changes made to Virginia election law can be found here. Here are three of the most worrisome.

Absentee Voting; no excuse required
HB 1 and SB 111
Effective date: July 1, 2020. Continue reading

Reopen Public Schools or Provide Education Choice

by Vicky Manning

When I was elected to serve on the Virginia Beach School Board in 2016, I never imagined there would be a time when I would have to fight to keep our school doors open. However, that is what I have been doing for the last 6 months.

The last day of in-person learning was Friday March 13th. At that time I felt the right measures were being taken to “flatten the curve.” However, as the months of school closures continued, I questioned the toll it was taking on our students.

I have been pushing since June to get our schools prepared to safely return our students. Elementary students and grades 6 & 9 were finally phased back into in-person learning around the beginning of October. The plan was for all other grades – 7,8,10,11,12 – to return last week under a plan for 2 days-a-week learning by splitting the students alphabetically by last name. Half of those students went back to school for 2 days last week, but if you were unlucky enough to fall into the A-L last name category, you got the plug pulled when the announcement was made by the Superintendent to return all students to virtual learning. Those students have not been in a classroom since March 13th. Continue reading

How to Promote Ideological Diversity at Washington & Lee

by Neely Young

It is well known by now that the professoriate at many colleges and universities, particularly the more elite ones, is dominated by politically liberal faculty. American higher education needs ideological diversity in classrooms, particularly in those that touch on political and social issues. Disciplines like sociology, history, political science, literature, and philosophy have been increasingly shaped by progressive, intellectual currents over the last several years. Conservative students often avoid such courses because they feel they will be called out on their views. On many campuses, there are no conservative professors in the social sciences and humanities.

Indeed, many classrooms in these subjects are “homogenous islands.” In a recent study published by the National Association of Scholars, “Homogenous: The Political Affiliation of Elite, Liberal Arts Faculty,” Michal Langbert states that such homogeneity of viewpoint may well bias research and teaching, constrict intellectual discussion within the faculty, and deprive students of diverse viewpoints.

In his new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, Michael Roth, the President of Wesleyan College, has made an appeal for heterodoxy of campus viewpoints, particularly in the humanities and social sciences. As he says, “We need an affirmative action program for ideas emerging from conservative and religious traditions.”

The situation at Washington and Lee does not seem to be as dire as at some schools, but it is undoubtedly true that the faculty is more politically liberal than at any point in the past, that many conservative professors and students feel like outsiders and are not as willing to express their points of view, and that many of the liberal faculty members have played an outsized role in the controversies and crises of the last few years. The vote of 79% of the faculty to change the name of the university is a strong indication of the left-leaning propensities of that group. Continue reading

Fairfax School Board Should Focus on Schools, Not Environmental Policy

Fairfax County Environmental, er, School Board

by Emilio Jaksetic

Not content with running the county’s public school system, the Fairfax County School Board now is involved with developing strategies and recommendations for county environmental policy. The results can be seen in the Final Report of the Oct. 1, 2020, Fairfax County Joint Environmental Task Force (JET).

In April 2019, the JET was established “to identify areas of collaboration between Fairfax County Government and [Fairfax County Public Schools] to further county efforts in energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, developing implementation strategies. and making recommendations to the [Board of Supervisors and School Board].” During the period April 2019-October 2020, five members of the board served as members of JET’s Executive Committee.

The JET was tasked to “provide a forum for informing, advising, collaborating and addressing Countywide issues and aligning institutional policies and practices pertaining to climate change and environmental sustainability through the lens of One Fairfax and to appointing bodies.” Continue reading

StoryCorps Seeks to Pierce “Culture of Contempt”

Dave Isay, founder, StoryCorps

by Dave Isay

We are in the throes of what has been called a “culture of contempt,” a nation so divided that some families may not be able to endure another Thanksgiving around the same table. Passing the yams might well come with an earful… or more. Comity has given way to scorn. Division is seen as not only a national issue but one that has cost people personally, too.

Cable news and online media – and to be sure, social media – are stoking and accentuating our differences. We aren’t listening to each other. We are at a point where we must ask: Have we reached a moment in our nation’s history when we are unable to recognize our neighbors for the genuine people that they are? Is the light around us to be perpetually refracted through a prism of red and blue? Above all else, have we lost our sense of humanity, of seeing each other as people first and not as “Uses” and “Thems?”

We can do better. We must do better. Even if that starts with One Small Step.

That is the name of a new initiative that we at StoryCorps are scaling in this critical moment in our nation’s history. It’s based on a premise that we know a bit about – conversation and listening can be an act that brings two people together. Continue reading

Virginia K-12 School Re-Openings: Now Is Not the Time

Rajesh Balkrishnan

by Ryan Chou and Rajesh Balkrishnan

In the weeks and months preceding Virginia school re-openings, parents, teachers, and students speculated about what distance learning would be like. Following the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, many districts had hastily shut down schools to protect students and teachers from the virus and had implemented distance learning plans, resulting in technological mishaps, decreased communication, and an end to many student opportunities. Thus, many students and parents were hesitant to accept continued distance learning in the fall.

Ryan Chou

Thankfully, virtual school re-openings in Virginia more closely resembled in-person schooling than the chaotic version from a few months ago. Extracurriculars made an attempt to resume virtually, and sports began conditioning.

Despite this, the majority of students and parents ultimately cited declining mental health and difficulty learning, especially for younger students, as the reason to push for an in-person reopening. As a result, many school systems in distance learning mode have drawn, and are now implementing, plans to open in-person in small groups or as a whole, within the next month or two.

However, it’s clear that we cannot open our schools up. Continue reading

Big Tax-Hike Push Coming

by Chris Saxman

Earlier today I was asked by Virginia Business Magazine what the business community could expect in the 2021 General Assembly Regular Session. I talked about the construct of the short session with a gubernatorial election, House of Delegates staving off primary challenges, bills that were not passed last session, and the prospects of the changing political dynamic should Joe Biden win the presidency armed with a majority in the U.S House and Senate.

That interview will be out in January.

Not a half an hour after that call ended, a job was posted on line that will actually define the 2021 Session “and potentially beyond.”

Ohhh….what’s that you ask?

A tax increase campaign driven by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis Continue reading

UVa Needs to Shut Down the Echo Chamber

Joel Gardner, Undergraduate class of 1970; Law School class of 1974.

The following passage is the second excerpt from a letter written by Joel Gardner, author of “From Rebel Yell to Revolution,” to University of Virginia President Jim Ryan. We published the first excerpt  yesterday. — JAB

Without being able to accurately substantiate the following with specific facts and figures … I believe there are virtually no Republicans or conservatives among the top members of your administration. including deans. Our faculty is probably not much more diverse. I have heard renowned former University professor Jonathan Haidt speak … at a Jefferson Scholar event at Darden about four years ago. At that time he had a chart that showed that about 60% of college faculty are liberal/far left, 30% moderate and 10% conservative/ far right. I have no reason to believe the breakdown is any different at UVa. This is way out of line with the breakdown of thought diversity in the population at large.

This was not always the case. When I was a student, the faculty was split about 50/50 in ideology. In fact, a vote to ban ROTC from the Grounds drew a tie vote in the faculty senate. Until recently, there were a number of deans who were in the relatively conservative camp — Law, Batten and Commerce. This no longer the case. Until recently there was a mix of Republicans and Democrats on the BOV. But with Democrat governors in the statehouse since 2014, there are no longer any Republican appointees on the Board. The result in effect is one party rule on Grounds — and as we all know, one party rule is never healthy. Without meaningful debate and exchange of opposing ideas there is little opportunity to digest other viewpoints and even less motivation to compromise. Continue reading