Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

The Burning Deck

by James A. Bacon

Occasionally, I get profoundly depressed about the state of our country. After surveying today’s news clips, today is one of those days.

The latest furor over the raid on Mar-A-Lago crystallizes the depraved state to which our national politics has evolved. Do we believe the version of events propagated by the people who brought us the Election-Was-Stolen narrative, or by the people who peddled the Russia Collusion delusion? Do we side with the ignorant populist demagogue and his riot-prone supporters, or with the polished, Gucci-adorned elitists who use the power of the media and organs of the state to relentlessly hound and punish their enemies?

There seems to be no escape. The pathologies of national politics are percolating into Virginia. Governor Glenn Youngkin now stands in the crosshairs. Democrats, the media, and a vast array of advocacy groups have gone into full-bore attack mode.

Today, The Washington Post  published a story about a Delaware lawsuit, filed by a Pittsburgh pension fund, alleging that Youngkin received $8.5 million in a deal that shielded him from paying taxes. It follows the now-standard formula of accusation, denial from a Youngkin spokesperson, and hyperbolic rhetoric from Democrats and/or advocacy groups. Continue reading

Race As a Political Construct

by James A. Bacon

Race is a social construct, as the Wokesters endlessly remind us. It’s one of the few observations from the left that I mostly agree with… or, at least, I did agree with until reading, Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America, by George Mason University law school professor David E. Bernstein.

Now I’m more inclined to say that in the United States race is a political construct.

According to the U.S. Census, here’s the breakdown of Virginia’s 2020 population by race:

  • White (non-Hispanic): 60.3%
  • Black (non-Hispanic): 18.6%
  • Asian: 7.1%
  • Two or more races: 8.2%
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native: 0.5%
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.1%
  • Some other race alone: 5.2%
  • Hispanic/Latino origin: 10.5%. (When categorized by race, Hispanic individuals generally are designated either White or Black.)

What does it mean to be “White”? What does it mean to be Black or African American? Or Asian? Or Hispanic? Who defines these racial/ethnic classifications anyway, and who decides how to classify individuals when disagreements arise?

Unelected federal bureaucrats and unelected judges make the decisions based upon a combination of evolving ideology, case law, and political pressure from racial/ethnic advocacy groups. The resulting classification system influences the allocation of billions of government dollars, and in so doing reinforces racial/ethnic constructs of how Americans think of themselves. Continue reading

Time to Throw the Spotlight on Virginia’s Education Schools

Dean Ingrid Guerra-López

by James A. Bacon

My Bacon’s Rebellion colleague Jim Sherlock has brought much-needed attention to the link between the Wokeness revolution in Virginia’s education schools and the collapse of learning at the state’s public schools. Virginia’s education schools increasingly see their role as less about teaching teachers to teach and more about bringing about the transformation of society.

A case in point: the appointment of Ingrid Guerra-López as dean of George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), which includes the school of education.

Once upon a time, Guerra-López’s appointment would have evoked no interest outside GMU and the narrow world of education schools. Now we find it necessary to divine her intentions from vague pronouncements made in press releases and other documents, such as this Q&A published on the GMU website. In one utterance she said:

If we are not working together toward clear and measurable societal impact, then we need to ask ourselves whether that work should be done at all. Continue reading

Youngkin on the Mar-a-Lago Raid

What do you think of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s comparison? Does former President Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6, 2021, warrant special attention by federal law enforcement? Or have the DOJ and FBI become servants of the new ruling class, intent upon prosecuting only the transgressions of the political right? If the latter (remembering that this is a Virginia blog), how can Virginia, as a co-sovereign state in a federal system, push back?

Teacher Shortages Aren’t the Only Manpower Problem in Schools

Data source: Virginia Department of Education, Staffing and Vacancy Report

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s teacher shortage has become so acute that it has ignited widespread inquiries into what’s causing it. The explanations proffered by establishment media fall into two buckets: (1) teachers aren’t paid enough; and (2) teachers are quitting because conservative parents are meddling in their jobs. The latest example is an article published by the Virginia Mercury, which focuses mainly on salary and compensation.

The teacher shortage is national in scope, as the Mercury rightly points out, and it is aggravated by the fact that pay is not keeping up with inflation. The article describes how school districts are competing for a limited pool of employees by offering retention bonuses, boosting benefits, and other strategies. The Mercury also alludes in passing to non-pecuniary reasons behind the teacher exodus, quoting James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association.

Fedderman lays blame on culture-war issues such as LGBTQ rights and critical race theory. By way of specifics, he mentions the email tipline that Governor Glenn Youngkin said he would set up so parents could report on “inherently divisive practices” in schools. It’s been more than half a year now. Has the tipline resulted in a single action against a single teacher? Can Fedderman name one teacher who has been indisposed by the tipline? No. I’m sorry, but the tipline is not why droves of teachers are leaving schools. Give it up!

So, what are the real issues? Continue reading

Partisan Explanations for Teacher Shortage Are Inadequate

Governor Glenn Youngkin

by James A. Bacon

Governor Glenn Youngkin and state senator Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, have given WLJA-TV alternative explanations for Virginia’s teacher shortage. Youngkin’s is partisan and incomplete, and Surovell’s is partisan and disconnected from reality.

In an interview with the Washington television station, Youngkin blamed Democrats for holding up negotiations on the biennial budget that will provide a pay boost for teachers. “I did feel that Senate Democrats really dragged their feet unnecessarily,” he said. “And, yes, we signed the budget in June, but it included a 10% raise for teachers over the next two years along with bonuses, and it would have been really nice for the recruiting to be able to start much earlier for these spots with some certainty.”

State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon.

Surovell took issue with Youngkin’s spin on the budget. Although the state budget wasn’t signed into law until this summer, says WLJA in summarizing his argument, both political parties in Richmond were in favor of teacher raises. The raises never were an issue in the negotiations. School boards have known that teachers could expect an 8-10% raise since February.

That argument seems persuasive to me. But Surovell undercut himself with this ludicrous claim: “Teachers are leaving because conservatives like the governor are making it unpleasant to be a teacher today by micromanaging how they should teach and what they can say in the classroom.” Continue reading

Meanwhile, the Homicide Rate Keeps Climbing

From January to June this year, the seven largest localities of Hampton Roads have seen 115 homicides — up from 88 the same time last year, a 30% increase. Newport News and Hampton experienced a dip, but homicides have surged in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk, reports The Virginian-Pilot.


Welcome to America, Land Where Killers Roam Free

by James A. Bacon

Adrian de Jesus Rivera Guzman, 48, and his stepson Juan Carlos Anaya Hernandez, 24, immigrants who had fled gang violence in Central America, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were innocent bystanders doing landscaping work outside the Assembly Alexandria apartment complex when they were killed by gunfire.

Details of the July 16 shooting are sparse, as reported by The Washington Post, and police are still investigating the homicides. But Alexandria authorities have linked the incident to a burglary at the upscale apartment complex and have identified a suspect,  27-year-old Francis Deonte Rose, who had been released from custody in neighboring Arlington County several months earlier after prosecutors dropped drug and weapons charges against him.

Republicans have blamed Arlington’s progressive, George Soros-funded Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D) for the tragedy.  She has responded by calling the GOP accusations “an outrageous and irresponsible lie.”

Rose had repeated encounters with the law. He had been charged in Washington, D.C., and Arlington with carrying firearms illegally in the past, charged for unlawful possession of a loaded .45-caliber handgun that police recovered after he threw it to the ground during a foot chase, and possessing cocaine and fentanyl with intent to distribute.

Continue reading

Curfews Coming for Norfolk Nightclubs?

by James A. Bacon

Norfolk police are cracking down on downtown nightclubs in the aftermath of another shooting incident, this one resulting in a sheriff’s deputy and three others being wounded. The city will expect all businesses in the entertainment district to explain why they deserve the “privilege” of operating, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

City Manager Chip Filer said businesses’ conditional use permits will be “evaluated,” and City Council will start asking “hard questions” about whether it wants any establishments on Granby Street open past 2 a.m., according to the newspaper.

Late-night businesses should prepare to explain to Council why they should be allowed to continue operating downtown, the city manager said. “Make no mistake: operating downtown in Norfolk is a privilege.” Continue reading

Want a Woke Version of UVa History? Go on a Student-Guided Tour

by James A. Bacon

In June 2022 a University of Virginia alumnus took his college-bound daughter to visit Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa was one of the young woman’s two top choices, and she looked forward to a tour of the Lawn and the Grounds. But disillusion set in quickly. At the orientation, a senior assistant dean welcomed prospective students with a four-to five-minute discourse on how UVa’s land had been stolen from the Monacan Indians and how the University was making amends for this historical wrong. And that was just the warm-up act.

Toward the end of an otherwise engaging tour of the Academical Village, a student guide launched into a “lengthy diatribe” recounting injustices ranging from the building of UVa on the backs of oppressed slaves to the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally. The young woman was not impressed. If the recitation of left-wing grievances defined the zeitgeist of UVa today, this was not the place for her. She dropped UVa from her list of preferred colleges.

Sadly, the young woman’s experience was not an isolated one. Indeed, denigrating themes are woven through many, if not most, tours.  Arguing the need to “tell the whole truth” about Jefferson and UVa, as they put it, student guides frequently cast the University of Virginia in an exceedingly negative light. Continue reading

Sorry, Can You Please Explain Again How Systemic Racism in Healthcare Works?

by James A. Bacon

The U.S. healthcare system, we hear with increasing frequency, is systemically racist. Here in Virginia, for instance, we hear that Black women suffer a higher rate of complications in childbirth than White women. But any theory of systemic racism in healthcare needs to explain certain inconvenient facts that I stumbled across recently when reviewing the Kaiser Family Foundation “Virginia Health Care Landscape.”

Perhaps the most meaningful statistic on healthcare status is longevity. The Kaiser numbers floored me. Hispanics — people of color who are widely thought to suffer from less access to healthcare — have the longest life expectancy of any racial/ethnic group in Virginia: 88 years. They are followed by Asians, who live on average 87 years. Whites live 79 years on average, and Blacks 75 years. If the system is racist, why do Asians and Hispanics live so much longer than Whites?

Why aren’t Asians or Hispanics the racial/ethnic yardstick for health rather than Whites? Why is the small, 4-percentage-point disparity between Blacks and Whites played up while the large, 13-percentage-point disparity between Hispanics and Blacks is ignored? Continue reading

Alexandria Schools’ Tentative Return to Sanity

Image credit: Podcast Republic

by James A. Bacon

Yesterday I wrote about a move by the Alexandria public school system to designate 30 minutes each day to “social-emotional learning” — a therapeutic approach involving counseling and community circles to teach students how to behave themselves in school. This initiative follows a previous decision to restore School Resource Officers (SROs) in the public schools, and it accompanies other measures such as restricting access to school buildings, requiring students to carry student ID cards, and staggering student dismissal times.

Now comes this bit of context from WTOP News (my emphasis): “The school system has had problems with dozens of fights and weapons, on and off campus, including the stabbing death of a student at the Bradlee Shopping Center during a brawl in May.”

I have argued that violence and disorder surged in Virginia public schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods, as social-emotional learning proved inadequate to deal with disciplinary issues arising from COVID-driven school closures. Alexandria compounded the problem by removing SROs from the schools. The results were predictable — Bacon’s Rebellion saw the early signs around the state early last fall and warned repeatedly of the encroaching anarchy. In many high-poverty schools, it was evident that adults had effectively lost control.

Credit must be given to Alexandria school officials. Woke though they may be, they are not blind to reality. Fights and violence became a problem too severe to be ignored. The adults are trying to re-establish control. Continue reading

Symbol of Brotherhood… or Race Hatred?

Old Rule: it isn’t socially acceptable for Americans to display the swastika, an ancient symbol expropriated by the Nazi Party that has become synonymous with race hatred.

New Rule: it isn’t kosher for Americans to display  a symbol that sensitive individuals might construe to resemble a swastika, however remotely.

The superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools has issued a groveling apology for imprinting the logo, shown above, upon t-shirts at a professional learning conference.

“One of our teachers designed the logo intending for it to represent four hands and arms grasping together – a symbol of unity for our all-county professional learning conference. Nothing more,” wrote Superintendent Michael Gill in a message to families and staff, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “While we are confident that the logo was created without any ill-intent, we understand that this has deeply upset members of our staff and community who see the logo as resembling a swastika.”

You know who deserves an apology? The person who designed the logo.
Continue reading

Alexandria Schools to Devote 10% of Instructional Time to Social-Emotional Learning

This © CASEL infographic on the Virginia Department of Education website shows how “effective implementation integrates SEL throughout the school’s academic curricula and culture, across the broader contexts of schoolwide practices and policies, and through ongoing collaboration with families and community organizations.”

by James A. Bacon

Beginning in the new school year, Alexandria City Public Schools will designate 30 minutes every day to “social-emotional learning,” according to the school system’s website. In addition, Student Support Teams will provide more “targeted and intensive” interventions for individual students identified through the school’s Multi Tiered System of Support process.

In Virginia the standard school year is 180 instructional days, or 990 instruction hours. The standard school day shall include 5 1/2 instructional hours in 1st through 12th grades, excluding time for recess, class changes and meals. In other words, 90 hours per year, equivalent to 10% of Alexandria schools’ instruction time, will be turned over to social-emotional learning.

What is social-emotional learning (SEL)? According to the Virginia Department of Education, the definition is:

The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

One might interpret this as a bureaucratic, jargon-filled way of saying that SEL is teaching students how to behave themselves. Continue reading

Teacher Shortage Update: Fairfax and Richmond

As students get ready to return to school later this month, Fairfax County classrooms are 97% staffed, incoming Superintendent Michelle C. Reid told parents in a July 28 letter to parents and staff. “We are working hard to continue to fill those remaining vacancies and to ensure that we will have a licensed educator in every classroom.”

The Fairfax Education Association said it believes the county has about 600 remaining vacancies, and that openings may be more common in low-income, Title I schools, reports WTOP News. With about 13,300 FTE teaching positions in Fairfax schools, that implies a vacancy rate of about 4.5%, not far off from Reid’s estimate. Continue reading