Tag Archives: Guest contributors

An American Opportunity Story, from Missouri to Virginia

by Dan Stoddard

Though some of today’s political leaders and commentators may try to tell us that the American Dream is dead – or was always a myth – they are wrong.  America is still the Land of Opportunity.  Throughout the country there are countless examples of women and men of humble beginnings who have achieved a degree of success and contribution they could hardly have dreamed of as children. I know because I have seen them, I have met them, and (in a small measure) I am one of them. I write this because I want to share with young people and their parents what I believe are keys to that success – keys that for them will unlock those same opportunities for a happy, successful, and fulfilling life in this great country of ours.

There is nothing particularly special about me – and that is exactly the point.  I have no unique, innate talent (that fifteen-inch vertical leap cut short my hopes of pro basketball career at a very early age). Despite that fact, my life has taken me from a small home in rural Missouri, to becoming a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company here in Virginia. Along the way I’ve travelled to multiple countries; shaken the hands of congressmen, senators, governors, and at least one vice-president; and had the opportunity to serve my country in the United States Navy. I have also been blessed with the ability and the means to serve and contribute to numerous charitable and social welfare organizations over the years.

So how did a young man who grew up in a mobile home, far out in the country, whose father never finished high school because he left to join the Navy and fight in World War II, and whose mother raised him after having lost a leg in an automobile accident at a young age, have so many opportunities? Application of a simple formula – one that is available to young people of all backgrounds: getting an education, having a thirst for knowledge, accepting that risks and challenges are a part of life and that setbacks are not signs to give up, but opportunities to learn and grow, and a lot of good old-fashioned hard work. Those things, along with integrity, respect for others, strong faith, and love of family and of country, are the quintessential American Values – ones that any young person can and should embrace. Continue reading

Why Is Anne Holton Claiming the Length of Virginia’s School Closures Didn’t Matter? (Part 2)

Anne Holton

(Editors’ note” Part 1 of this series ran yesterday on Bacon’s Rebellion.)

by Vernon Taylor (a pseudonym)

Let’s take a look at Anne Holton’s claims about Virginia’s prolonged school closures and learning loss, which were made at a Dec. 12, 2023, meeting of the Virginia Board of Education, of which she is a member.


1. Virginia Data Are Sparse

Holton did not specify to which data she was referring. But Emily Oster of Brown University and other researchers looked at pre- and post-COVID test data from 12 states, including Virginia. The peer-reviewed study found that learning loss was generally “larger in school districts with less in-person instruction,” with Virginia’s test data showing the greatest correlation between school closures and learning loss. In addition, similar to the statement by Sturdefin about chronic absenteeism, the study notes its results are consistent with pre-COVID research on learning loss from summer break and unplanned closures.

2. The PISA Data Did Not Show a Significant Causal Effect

As explained above, Rotherham pointed out the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results still showed a modest causal effect. For instance, students from countries with closures of less than 3 months performed better on average in math than those from countries with closures longer than 3 months (Box II.2.1). Continue reading

Why Is Anne Holton Claiming the Length of Virginia’s School Closures Didn’t Matter? (Part 1)

Anne Holton

by Vernon Taylor (a pseudonym)

The Virginia Board of Education meeting on December 12th, 2023 had a rare moment of must-see TV (22:50 – 29:27). In an attempt to gaslight parents, students and educators everywhere as she ignored the preponderance of data from COVID-era and post-pandemic studies, Board Member Anne Holton proposed an amendment striking the following words from the Board of Education’s 2023 annual report:

These [learning] losses were most severe among low-income and minority students and students whose schools were closed longest.

Board Member Holton reasoned (emphasis added):

The evidence for it is in my estimation inconclusive at best. The Virginia evidence is very sparse and it disappears if you control for poverty…. The international evidence, the PISA report, just came out saying the countries that opened sooner did not perform significantly better in the pandemic than those…who stayed closed longer.

Finally, and most importantly, our school board leaders and other local education leaders had very, very tough challenges in the pandemic. We were operating under so many unknowns. They were trying to manage so many priorities, keeping their staff safe and alive, keeping their students safe and alive and protecting against learning loss. They were all doing the best they could in my opinion under very difficult circumstances with so many things we just didn’t know at the time and to me these words are unnecessarily picking a fight with those who closed schools longer. Nobody in Virginia closed schools very long frankly, and most of them were open by March ‘21.

Continue reading

The Facts of the Matter

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
— Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 

Dear President Ryan, Provost Baucom, and the Board of Visitors,

The former New York senator’s famous quotation perfectly describes the October 8 statement posted by the “Students for Justice in Palestine at UVAon its Instagram page.

I firmly and unequivocally believe in the First Amendment. Any individual student or group must be allowed to speak their mind, as long as their statements do not violate University policy or Virginia law. However, there are numerous falsehoods in the SJP statement. I will cite three particularly egregious ones:

  1. Students for Justice in Palestine unequivocally supports Palestinian liberation and the right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary.”
  2. While the Israeli government publicly declared war today, the war and genocidal campaign began over 75 years ago.”
  3. The people of Gaza are denied freedom of movement, are under calorie restrictions, and are routinely bombed and brutalized by Israeli forces.”

The three statements above are both factually wrong and morally outrageous. Below are the facts: Continue reading

Virginia Conservatives Need Political Infrastructure

By Chris Braunlich

Governor Glenn Youngkin can take satisfaction from passage of the long-delayed Virginia budget.

As my colleague Steve Haner points out, during his term of office Youngkin’s fight to increase the standard deduction will save the average Virginia couple up to $1,265 over three years, provide $900 in tax rebates, and eliminate the state share of the grocery tax (another $115 million in savings last year). Continue reading

Don’t Get Too Fired Up About UVa’s FIRE Ranking

by Allan Stam

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently gave the University of Virginia a 6th-place ranking in a national survey assessing the state of free speech on college campuses. Provost Ian Baucom cited the recognition during Wednesday’s Board of Visitors meeting, noting that it was the highest ranking the university had ever achieved.

UVa’s high score suggests to some the existence of a robust culture of open dialogue and intellectual freedom at UVa. However, a closer examination of the underlying data reveals a more nuanced and troubling picture.

UVa’s overall score was a mere 68 out of 100, a grade that would be considered failing in many academic and household settings. This discrepancy between the overall ranking and the actual score raises questions about the survey’s methodology. It casts doubt on the true state of free speech at UVA and perhaps other highly ranked institutions.

UVa earned the high score primarily on the basis of its stated policies. President Jim Ryan, Provost Ian Baucom and the Board of Visitors have repeatedly endorsed free speech and viewpoint diversity in the past year. But official policies tell us little about actual practices or the cultural milieu in which students, faculty and staff interact.

When one digs a little deeper into the specific categories within the survey, the concerns become even more pronounced. UVa ranks alarmingly low in several key areas: 222nd in “Comfort Expressing Ideas,” 178th in “Disruptive Conduct,” and 188th in “Openness.” These rankings are not mere numbers; they represent a tangible reality where students feel uncomfortable expressing their ideas, where disruptive conduct stifles dialogue, and where a lack of openness hampers intellectual growth. Continue reading

Alumni Free Speech Alliance Affiliate at William & Mary

by Robert Kaplan, Karla K. Bruno, and John S. Buckley

The cross removed from Wren Chapel in 2006. “Marshall-Wythe” deleted from the name of the law school during the past decade. Recently, urine thrown by a student protestor at other students promoting pro-life views on abortion and an ACLU spokesperson speaking on campus about free speech shouted down by Black Lives Matters advocates. Alas, even the venerable College of William and Mary in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, is not new to, or immune from, anti-free speech and inquiry, political correctness, and historical “presentism” that has come to characterize higher education throughout America.

It’s time for William and Mary alumni to get more involved. With a tip of a hat to The Jefferson Council at the University of Virginia — an independent association of recent vintage of Charlottesville alumni — alums at W&M are now organizing to keep a more vigilant eye on left-wing indoctrination and assorted bullying tactics that appear to be at play among faculty, administration, and students.

Our intention is to affiliate with the rapidly growing national Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA), a consortium of independent alumni organizations at major universities across the United States, formed to advocate for free intellectual inquiry in the halls of higher education. It so happens that the Commonwealth of Virginia has of late the greatest concentration of AFSA affiliates in the U.S. with organizations at the University of Virginia, Washington and Lee, Virginia Military Institute, and James Madison University, with William and Mary on its way. Continue reading

Dominion Seeks Permit to Harass 100s of Whales

Click for larger view. BOEM map of Right Whale density noting offshore wind lease areas. Dominion’s CVOW and Avangrid’s Kitty Hawk Wind are the southernmost mapped.

By David Wojick

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking public comments on a massive proposal to harass large numbers of whales and other marine mammals off Virginia by building a huge offshore wind complex. There is supposed to be an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed harassment, but it is not there with the proposal.

We are told it is elsewhere, but after searching we find that it simply does not exist. Like a shell game where the pea has been palmed, there is nothing to be found. Continue reading

Were Confederates “Traitors to their Country”?

It is often said by commenters of this blog — and elsewhere — that Robert E. Lee and others serving in the Confederate army were “traitors” to their country. Whatever contributions they made to national reconciliation or the public welfare later in life, they deserve no public honor or recognition in the form of statues, names on buildings or other memorials. In the column below Lloyd Garnett, an amateur Virginia historian, argues that the “treason” label is an anachronism based upon a faulty understanding of the evolution of the nation’s identity. — JAB

by Lloyd Garnett

Supporters of the Erasure & Destruction Commission, aka Renaming Commission, are fond of displaying their ignorance regarding the legal framework of the United States under the Constitution. Never is their misguided misapprehension more evident than when they declare that the Confederates were “traitors.”

The charge is so unarguably counterfactual as to be absurd. While forgiveness (not forgetfulness) should be our Christian impulse, it is our duty to our birthright to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – which is to say, our individual and political sovereignty under God – to firmly set the record straight.

Setting the historical record straight is not a matter of rehashing bygones, which ought to be left as bygones. Rather, understanding the important Constitutional arguments involved then, is critical to grasping the political and social arguments now. As the current arguments by the ignorant and the malevolent, have today devolved into riotous violence, injury and destruction of property, iconic art and symbolic reminders of our worthy heritage, it should be obvious that appreciation for the concept of “government by consent of the governed” is at stake. Continue reading

Math SOLs Up First for New Superintendent Coons

Figure 1. Average scores in numeracy for age 16-34 (bars) and age 16-24 (red dots): OECD PIAAC 2012. (From Goodman et al. 2015, Data © OECD 2012. Used with permission.)  Click for larger view.

by Eric (Rick) Nelson

In K-12 education, can Virginia lead the nation? If that’s the goal, in my view as a career educator, Dr. Lisa Coons is the best possible choice as our new state Superintendent. As Chief Academic Officer in Tennessee, the programs she guided to help teachers improve reading instruction are among the best in the nation.

But in Virginia, challenge #1 is mathematics. The department Dr. Coons now leads is tentatively scheduled in June to submit to the state Board of Education a proposed revision of our K-12 math Standards of Learning (SOLs). Workforce math skills are vital for our nation’s prosperity and defense, but current standards, in both our state and nation, are failing to teach mathematics effectively.

The evidence? On national standards, much of it can be found in the International Journal of Mathematics Education, among other places.

  • On a 2012 international test of numeracy skills for citizens aged 16 to 34, among 22 tested nations, the United States ranked dead last;
  • Since 2012? In national NAEP LTT testing in January 2020, before the U.S. arrival of Covid-19, math scores were lower than in 2012 for nearly every student group;
  • As noted by columnist George Will, “About 76,000 students each year receive from U.S. universities advanced degrees in engineering disciplines …. Of those graduates, about 43 percent are U.S. citizens….”;
  • Electrical engineering (EE) is an especially important field in the competitive world economy. Of EE doctorates awarded by U.S. universities, the proportion going to non-U.S. citizens rose from 62% in 2010 to 70% in 2019. Almost as many U.S. EE Ph.D.’s went to citizens of China as to U.S. citizens.

Many of these “best and brightest” from around the globe stay in the U.S. and contribute disproportionately to our economy. But one wonders: how long will U.S. taxpayers support higher education their children are not being prepared to enter? Continue reading

Thomas Jefferson Deserves Respect From All Americans

by Bob Turner

Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and is widely believed by able and honorable people to have raped the enslaved child Sally Hemings and fathered all her children. Therefore, it’s understandable that some wish to see our third president “canceled,” to use the Woke vernacular.

Today would be Jefferson’s 280th birthday, so it seems fitting to pause briefly and reassess these horrendous allegations. I have studied Thomas Jefferson for more than half a century, and I am delighted to report that his critics are misinformed.

In reality, Thomas Jefferson may well have been America’s first abolitionist. Moreover, by far the most thorough investigation of the alleged Jefferson-Hemings sexual relationship—a year-long inquiry involving more than a dozen senior professors from all over the country—concluded (with but a single mild dissent) that the allegation is false.

Jefferson’s critics are not wrong about everything. He did own slaves, and (to use his language) slavery was certainly “an abomination.” But when he inherited slaves upon the deaths of his father and father-in-law, it was illegal in Virginia to free them. And it was Thomas Jefferson who, in 1769, drafted the law that permitted manumitting slaves and, later, the 1778 law prohibiting importing new slaves into Virginia. Continue reading

Virginia Math SOLs: Science vs. Common Core

By Rick Nelson

Parents depend on schools to prepare their children with the skills needed in the global economy. In Virginia public schools, K-12 instruction is governed by the Standards of Learning (SOLs). Between 1995 and 2015, our math SOLs were based on “best practices” identified by scientists who study how the brain learns mathematics.  Listening to cognitive experts worked.  In national testing, Virginia’s math test scores rose to rank in the top 10% of the nation. Continue reading

Five Reasons the Assembly Should Cut Taxes

By Barbara Hollingsworth

Last week, the Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates passed a $1 billion package of tax cuts for individuals and businesses, the centerpiece of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s economic agenda. But Democrats, who have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, have a laundry list of policies and programs they would prefer to spend the surplus money on rather than return it to taxpayers.

Tax policy is a non-partisan issue that has real-world economic consequences, especially when it comes to taxes on business income. Here are five reasons why the state Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass the governor’s entire tax relief package, including reduction of the commonwealth’s corporate income tax rate.

There’s a very large budget surplus.

In fact, Virginia is sitting on a record budget surplus of $3.6 billion, which is revenue collected from businesses and individual taxpayers in excess of the needs and priorities state legislators have already identified and fully funded during the 2022-2024 biennial budget process. It’s disingenuous to suggest that Virginia “can’t afford” to return at least part of that surplus to taxpayers. Continue reading

On the Unlawful Nature of ‘Equity’ in Virginia

by David Gordon

The Democrats wanted a fight over Critical Race Theory (CRT). The Virginia Project and our friends gave them the fight they were begging for — and spanked them so hard they’ll never forget it. When the facts were made known, the public was overwhelmingly against it, across every demographic. Fighting CRT was a clear winner and Virginia’s Republicans rode the issue to success across the state.

However, CRT is merely the root of a much broader structure, one that includes other concepts such as “equity, diversity and inclusion” and “antiracism.” While CRT itself has been purged, with leftist schools and school boards rushing to scrub it from their materials lest they get caught and become the next schools scandal, its products remain deeply embedded — not just in the schools, but all across the state, implemented at the local level.

Critical Race Theory is dead. It’s now time to kill off its hyper-racialist demon spawn, starting with “Equity.”

“Equity” is the new “Critical Race Theory,” and the war to defeat it is rapidly entering into full swing. Continue reading

Wojick On Whales IV: Deaths Spiked with Surveys

A Humpback carcass that washed up in New Jersey recently. Photo: Marine Mammal Stranding Center

By David Wojick

The recent deaths of seven whales off New Jersey, mostly humpbacks, drew national media attention. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Directorate is responsible for whales. An outrageous statement by their spokesperson got me to do some research on humpback whale deaths.

The results are appalling. The evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.

Here is the statement as reported in the press:

“NOAA said it has been studying what it calls ‘unusual mortality events’ involving 174 humpback whales along the East Coast since January 2016. Agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said that period pre-dates offshore wind preparation activities in the region.” Gaches is NOAA Fisheries press chief.

The “unusual mortality” data are astounding. Basically, the humpback death rate roughly tripled starting in 2016 and continued high thereafter. You can see it here.  That data is just for humpback whales, with a dramatic acceleration in particular between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading