Tag Archives: Guest contributors

Addressing the Spiral Effect in Learning Loss

by Dr. Kathleen Smith

During the COVID-19 pandemic educators did what they had to do in a short amount of time (five months in the case of Virginia) with little resources (extra funding came long after September of 2020) to keep kids learning through the 2020-2021 school year. A wholesale shift to remote and hybrid learning had never been tried before. Perhaps the challenge could have been handled better, but educators did the best they could under trying circumstances.

Rather than panic over the gap between the pre- and post-pandemic Standards of Learning pass rates, educators should focus now on catching up. The good news is that they know what they need to do, and they have many resources to get the job done.

Here is the bad news: teachers have only a finite amount of time to sequence what needs to be taught, and the scope of recouping lost learning is more than can be accomplished in one school year. Their job is made more challenging by the phenomenon of “spiraling” — in which a student must master one skill level before moving on to the next.

For example, in mathematics, the student first learns simple multiplication and then moves on to more complex multiplication. Continue reading

Dominion is Keeping Whale Data Secret, Too

Click for expanded view. Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

Secrecy abounds around the monster offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy. In this case the hidden data is about the threat to the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

I earlier reported on the big hidden whale study done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is doing the Environment Impact Assessment for this huge project.

Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found something even worse. Dominion has done an actual threat assessment, but it is 100% secret! This is outrageous.

Here is a bit of background so folks can dig for themselves. There is a lot to look at. BOEM has a separate website on this monster OSW project, which would be one of the world’s largest. The project is titled Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind or CVOW. Dominion has submitted a large set of documents in what is called the Construction and Operations Plan or simply the COP. The COP is here.

There is a long main report plus 32 technical appendices. My endangered whale interest was immediately drawn to “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” It is here, and the title indicates it reports on any and all species on those lists for protection. Continue reading

Next Virginia Tax Reform: Index for Inflation

by Barbara Hollingsworth

Most Virginians are painfully aware ­­­­that it’s becoming much more difficult to make ends meet. Prices for fo­­­­od, housing, gasoline and other necessities have soared. Inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1 percent in June, the largest yearly increase since January 1982. And a recent study from the University of Iowa found that a typical American had to pay $669 more for basic living expenses than they did just two years ago.

All while the Commonwealth of Virginia was pocketing $2 billion in “surplus” revenue that was not anticipated and therefore not included in the two-year $165 billion state budget the General Assembly passed earlier this year. Most of that windfall was the result of the Federal Reserve’s monetary inflation, which made the prices of consumer staples soar because there were suddenly a lot more dollars chasing the same amount of goods and services.

But inflation had another unwelcome effect. It also pushed Virginia taxpayers into higher tax brackets despite the fact that their actual living standards went down, not up.

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to set aside $400 million for tax relief in his revised budget, which he will present to the state legislature in December. But that’s less than a quarter of the total surplus. The budget signed by Youngkin also includes $450 million to pay for potential cost overruns on the commonwealth’s capital projects due to … you guessed it …. inflation. Continue reading

School Board Races: The Next Best Hope for Our Children

by Craig DiSesa and Nancy Smith

“I’m just gonna have to step in. You need to stop saying, as a Board member, we are giving pornography to minors. … It does not happen!”

That was the reaction of Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence to School Board member Vicky Manning’s assertion that there are pornographic books in the Virginia Beach City school libraries. She was referring to books such as Gender Queer and Lawn Boy, which have illustrations that depict sexual acts between two individuals.

Superintendent Spence was quibbling over the definitions of pornography and sexually explicit material. The difference between the two phrases is such a fine line that it doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have seen any of these books, you will see they contain illustrations that are inappropriate for developing minds and will create tremendous confusion among adolescents and pre-adolescents.

Even more disturbing is that introducing this type of material to children is often a technique used by people who want to groom children. Essentially, schools are giving predators a gateway to sexually and physically abusing our children. Continue reading

Division Ends Today at the Virginia Military Institute

by The Cadet Editorial Staff

To the families of matriculants:

This is a difficult day for you. As you leave your daughters and sons to face the struggles and challenges that they are about to meet, take heart in the fact that you, too, are about to become a part of the VMI family. Today your sons and daughters leave you and you will have little contact with them in the coming weeks. For those of you out of state, as I am, it will be difficult to come and visit. But you can lean on the other parents for support. You cannot imagine now all the ways this community will aid you in your time of need, nor can you estimate how you might be able to give a helping hand. You will soon be glued to a computer scouring photos for tell-tale signs of your child. This is the greatest community of alumni and parents in the country, and we welcome you to it.

To the Matriculants of the Rat-Mass of 2023+3:

You will now embark on your journey to earn the right to call yourselves VMI Cadets. There is one single and all-important theme that must resonate with every one of you given the divisiveness we see in America today and the investigations, media scrutiny and other trials we have endured at VMI – and in some cases still endure.

You are all now here on Post. You have come from all over the country and from around the world. You have come from various economic backgrounds and from different levels of education. Before today, you have had every reason to be divided.

That ends today. Continue reading

Solar Development Continues to Erode VA Farmland

by Barbara Hollingsworth

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia lost about 2,000 acres of productive farmland per week in 2021, according to data released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons why farmers sell off their land, including development pressures, lack of interest by younger members of farming families, and the difficulties of turning a profit in the face of ever-changing market and weather conditions.

But there is now a new threat to Virginia’s agricultural base, which has a $70 billion economic impact on the commonwealth annually, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading

Jefferson Fought Slavery Throughout His Life

by Robert F. Turner

Thomas Jefferson famously declared that “all men are created equal,” yet he owned hundreds of human beings during his lifetime. Does he deserve our respect?

Slavery was obviously a heinous institution and Thomas Jefferson did own slaves. That has led some very decent people to denounce him as a hypocrite and demand the removal of his statues and the renaming of public buildings—including our own regional public library — as we seek a more just and inclusive society. But I believe they are profoundly mistaken. Having studied Jefferson for a half-century, I view him as a hero who should be loved by friends of liberty and justice across political and racial lines and around the globe.

Certainly, his critics are correct that Jefferson owned slaves and that slavery was, in Jefferson’s own words: “a moral and political depravity,” “an abomination,” and a “hideous blot.” But there is much more to the story. When Jefferson inherited slaves upon the deaths of his father and father-in-law, it was illegal to free them. It was Thomas Jefferson who drafted the law in 1769 — ultimately enacted 13 years later — that permitted the manumission of Virginia slaves. Continue reading

The Detrimental Effect of Cell Phones in Public Schools

by Robert L. Maronic

I read a sad commentary three days ago entitled, “At This School, the Cellphones Rule,” written by James A. Bacon of Bacon’s Rebellion in Richmond. His commentary, which conceals both the name of the teacher and “high-poverty high school,” truly has to be read in order to be believed, but as a former high school Latin teacher, I don’t find it surprising. In my opinion, it should be required reading for all education students, especially their all-knowing, ivory-tower professors, in both the Commonwealth of Virginia and other forty-nine states. That also includes Governor Glenn Youngkin.

I first observed this serious problem of the highly addictive nature of cell phones, which some have likened to either nicotine or heroin, among high school students while teaching myself and listening to the frequent complaints of other teachers beginning in 2009 in Roanoke City Public Schools. I later learned that Roanoke County Public Schools were often not much better, depending on the high school. Now this problem has become truly dystopian in most major urban and “inner city” school districts throughout Virginia. Continue reading

A Virginia-Centric History of the Honor System

The modern honor system took form under the leadership of Robert E. Lee at Washington & Lee University.

This essay about the evolution of the honor system at Washington & Lee University was published by The General’s Redoubt and is republished here with permission. — JAB

by M. Neely Young

Honor systems in higher education are difficult to trace as they are usually unwritten and based upon tradition. The concept of honor, itself, is difficult to define as it is organic and implicit and changes over time. A working definition of honor is the idea or ideal of a bond between an individual and society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and personal ethos and that manifests itself as a code of conduct. Originally, honor was practiced only by certain groups or classes of individuals within society, but over the last few hundred years, honor has become more democratic and egalitarian in the West and in the United States and today anyone can behave in an honorable manner.

Almost all societies have some concept of honor. In Japan, the Bushido Code or code of the Samurai developed, and in China the Confucian system promoted the idea of the chun-tzu or gentleman who practiced moral rectitude and proper behavior. In the west, the concept can be traced to the ancient Middle East. It then flowed through Greece and Rome to Medieval Europe. In the Middle Ages, honor was associated with the chivalric code and was associated only with the warrior class and the nobility. Christianity came to have a moderating influence on the warlike concept of chivalry by calling for protection of the weak, the promotion of peace, and the “just war.” Beginning in the Renaissance, particularly in England, honor came to be associated with the rising gentry class who aspired to the rank and marks of nobility. They practiced gentility which gave rise to the term “gentleman.” Gentility became synonymous with dignity or integrity, and this ideal was transferred to the new colonies in America. Continue reading

Youngkin Signs Donor-Privacy Bill

In recent years, “cancel culture” has targeted many individuals, businesses, and organizations with the intention of silencing them into submission. In one tactic, political activists target or hack donor lists of groups they disagree with and publicly shame or intimidate donors and/or their businesses who expected that their gifts would be kept private. For example, some donors to the Canadian truckers’ Freedom Convoy had their gifts made public, and the givers were subjected to public shaming, in some cases costing them their reputations and livelihoods.

To remedy this, the General Assembly passed HB 970 and Governor Glenn Youngkin signed it April 11.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt had this to say about the signing Monday of HB 970, a bill that protects the private information of individuals who support charities and other nonprofit organizations of their choice: Continue reading

Key Victories for Virginians in 2022 Legislative Session, But Work Remains

by JC Hernandez 

This past legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly set the stage to unleash opportunities for all Virginians by passing several key measures.

One of the most significant victories came in the form of a “regulatory sandbox” for health care authorized in the new budget. In simple terms, this sandbox creates space for regulators to temporarily freeze regulations and penalties. The process paves the way for private companies to develop or introduce innovative products and services in the health care arena where regulations may otherwise make that impossible. The result: better care at lower cost.

Remember that federal, state, and local governments waived over 800 regulations in the name of combating the COVID-19 pandemic and the sky didn’t fall. In fact, consumers are better off as a result, which makes you wonder why these regulations were in place to begin with. This was abundantly clear in the health care sector, where telehealth was employed to great success in areas that badly needed it.

Regulatory sandboxes are a relatively new concept. They were first introduced in the U.S. in Arizona in 2018, and since then 10 states have adopted some form of them — in the fintech, insurance, and legal realms in addition to health care. We are pleased that Virginia will now join the growing number of states to break down barriers to innovations that help people flourish and thrive. Continue reading

Commanders, Punt the Name and Try Again

By Tom Blau

For almost a century the local pro football team has been the Washington Redskins. When the Redskins name became politically incorrect, the team temporarily became “The Washington Football Team” (WFT). Two years later, the WFT is “The Commanders.”

Few Washingtonians like the new name. Competing cities think it looks good – on us.

Sports teams, highways, and buildings inspire naming and re-naming by combining politics, money and ego. Political correctness has added controversy, and fan emotion has added intensity.

Public naming presents politicians with an opportunity to signal their virtue. Private political entrepreneurs guilt-trip donors into donating more to the entrepreneurial cause. (Think of how the co-founder of Black Lives Matter parlayed her cred with the woke crowd into a portfolio of upscale homes.) Office holders, perhaps bored by housing, roads, health care, education, and law enforcement, welcome the distraction. Continue reading

Richmond’s Reaganesque Time for Choosing

Chris Braunlich

by Chris Braunlich

Richmond, like Washington, has always been a place where an “insider’s game” is played – not in a pejorative sense, but simply as the way things are done.

Relationships are paramount, people speak in the arcane language of lawmaking, agendas are confusing for outsiders, and the activities of a subcommittee for an obscure commission are followed in detail because those in the know understand that what happens there will end up as a new regulation. Continue reading

Key Data on Dominion Wind Project Still Secret

Cover page blocking public access to the engineering and cost details for Dominion’s proposed $10 billion plus Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

By David Wojick

A previous article published by Bacon’s Rebellion and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow challenged the notion that Dominion Energy Virginia can build a huge amount of wind and solar generating capacity and retire all of its fossil-fueled generators with almost none of the enormous storage capacity that is required to make the renewables viable.

This proposed long-term plan does not work and Dominion knows that, but in the short run it can make billions in profit by building the unreliable wind and solar. The disastrous unreliability shows up only in the long run.   Continue reading