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by James A. Bacon
Abigail Shrier deserves a Pulitzer Prize for her 2019 work of journalism, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” She’ll never get the recognition she deserves from the literary establishment, though, because her conclusions transgress some of the holiest orthodoxies in the progressive canon. Despite the outcry that greeted her book, it became a best seller and transformed the way many people think about transgenderism. I am one of them.
Anyone reading the book, as opposed to imbibing the mischaracterizations of her critics, will readily see that Shrier is no “transphobe.” She is highly empathetic to the struggles that transgender people undergo, and she respectfully refers to them by their transgendered names and pronouns. She also acknowledges that gender dysphoria is a real (but exceedingly rare) phenomenon that occurs mainly among boys as young as three or four who believe that their minds and bodies are mismatched.
Shrier is reviled because she regards the unprecedented surge of transgender identity among adolescent girls as a cultural contagion, and she sees “affirmative” practices of hormonal treatment and breast removal as one step removed from medical malpractice. She criticizes teachers, psychiatrists and medical professionals who automatically “affirm” transgender identity rather than inquire about other potential explanations of emotional distress.
One critic described her work as “a fear-filled screed, full of misinformation, biological and medical inaccuracies, logical fallacies, and propaganda.” Perhaps. I’m no expert. But I found her credible.
Virginians can hear Shrier speak for herself when she appears at the University of Virginia October 11, Room 125 of Minor Hall, at 7:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by The Jefferson Council and the Common Sense Society. Register here. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
I’ve been arguing for some time that the United States — and Virginia is no exception — is experiencing a collective nervous breakdown. Mental illness is surging. Disorder is spreading. Rhetoric is becoming increasingly histrionic. Bizarre behavior once limited to the fringe is going mainstream. You can’t measure the accelerating social breakdown just by the number of murders and violent crimes. The big picture includes suicides, drug overdoses, learning loss in schools, anonymous death threats, the collapse of decorum, and the spread of aberrant behavior, from Colorado congresswomen groping their lovers in public to Virginia candidates for office livestreaming sex acts for tips.
What’s going on? Writing in The City Journal, Christopher F. Rufo argues that psychological dysfunction is going mainstream. He sees the emergence of a new national American character based on what he calls the Cluster B personality types: the narcissist, the borderline, the histrionic, and the antisocial. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
A conservative media summit featuring journalist Andy Ngo was disrupted by threats of violence by left-wing militants, but the show did go on Saturday. The conference of roughly 50 attendees was scheduled originally to be held at the Commonwealth Club in downtown Richmond. Organizers lined up an alternate venue, but that was scuttled too. Fortunately, organizers found a third venue at the last minute, kept the location secret and got out the word to the roughly 50 attendees. At least one person traveling from out of town headed to the second venue only to find it had been canceled. (He managed to make it to the revised location.)
The main feature, of course, was Ngo, who has carved out a niche reporting about the activities, tactics and social composition of the decentralized, left-wing anarchist movement often labeled Antifa.
Ngo has angered the so-called anti-fascists by highlighting their proclivity for violence. Ironically, local militants proved his point by intimidating the club and hotel where the event was to be held. Fox News has part of the story here.
I was privileged to participate in the event as a panelist discussing the evolution of Bacon’s Rebellion and the economics of the blogosphere in Virginia. My understanding of what transpired comes from the organizers: The Virginia Council and the Common Sense Society. People objecting to Ngo’s appearance made phone calls to the club and hotel proprietors, implying that violence would occur. The most vivid quote I recall is that “there will be dead people” if the event went on. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The teacher shortage at Virginia’s public schools is getting worse. School divisions report 4,304 unfilled positions in the 2023-24 school year, according to a recent report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). Out of a teacher workforce of about 87,000, the creates an average statewide vacancy rate of 4.8%.
The shortages are not evenly distributed, however, as seen in the table below.
by James A. Bacon
Step aside California! Public universities in Virginia have built larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies than taxpayer-funded universities in any other state, concludes a new backgrounder by The Heritage Foundation. The DEI bureaucracy at the University of Virginia includes 94 employees listed on its website, says the report. Virginia Tech has 83 DEI personnel, while George Mason University has 69.
Expressed as a ratio of DEI bureaucrats to tenure-track faculty members, GMU earned the top spot as DEI top-heavy, with a ratio 0f 7.4 to 100. UVa was close behind with 6.5, while Tech was 5.6. In comparison, uber-woke Cal Berkeley has a 6.1 per 100 ratio.
(I’ll have to stop making quips about UVa being the Berkeley of the East Coast. From now on I’ll describe Berkeley as the UVa of the West Coast.) Continue reading
Virginia Tech’s interim dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has been accused of violating Tech’s email policy by forwarding a message that slammed local conservative school board candidates as “hateful,” according to The Daily Signal. In responding to an email sent to her Tech account blasting the local candidates for their “anti-trans” and “anti-woke” outlook, Catherine Cotrupi forwarded the email with the notation, “Sharing in case you’re interested.” One of the school board candidates is contemplating a lawsuit.
Undoubtedly, Cotrupi deserves a hand slapping, but it’s not as if she originated the email chain. One can interpret her action as careless, not a commandeering of state resources to advance a political agenda. Of far greater concern is her implicit endorsement of the representations in the email, which is indicative of a mindset that informs her DEI work at Tech.
The local school board candidates, it appears from the Daily Signal article, are guilty of the cardinal sin of supporting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “Model Policies on Ensuring Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students,” upholding parental rights in transgender issues at public K-12 schools. One wonders if Cotrupi believes Virginia Tech parents have any right to be informed of, or involved in, life-altering decisions — hormone therapy, surgery, etc. — made by their children with the university’s knowledge and consent. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) and alumni groups from nine colleges and universities, including The Jefferson Council, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday urging the court to hear a case brought by Speech First over the issue of bias reporting practices and procedures at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
“The use of bias reporting systems has become pervasive across American college and university campuses and these systems create a climate of fear and intimidation that causes many students to self-censor and discourages constitutionally protected speech,” said AFSA President Charles Davis. “These bias reporting systems have no place at a university whose defining purpose as a place of learning and human fulfillment can only be achieved through a steadfast commitment to free speech.”
From the brief:
Rather than adopting explicitly punitive speech codes or conditioning participation in university life on acceptance of prevailing views, colleges such as Respondent created “bias response” systems. Continue reading
Maniacs. Image credit: Washington Post
Virginia has the third highest rate of fatal crashes in which someone was driving faster than the speed limit or too fast for road conditions, according to personal injury law firm Heninger Garrison Davis in an analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data.
Virginia recorded 906 fatal crashes; speed figured as a factor in 240. The speeding rate of 26.5% is more than 50% higher than the national average. The press release did not specify the year these figures are based upon, but a web search reveals that the most recent NHTSA crash data comes from 2020.
I blame out-of-state drivers on Interstate-95. — JAB
(Image credit: Salon.) Who does more to promote social justice — these guys? Or…
Reading skills among Virginia’s public-school children as measured by Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores are dropping through the floor. Among the remedies that Governor Glenn Youngkin proposes to address the threat of mass illiteracy is requiring under-performing students to receive three to five hours of tutoring per week.
…this guy? (Image credit:ETFO Voice)
Good luck finding the tutors, warns The Washington Post. The teacher shortage is getting worse — about 4.8% of teaching positions were vacant at the start of the school year, up from 3.9% the previous year. And half of schools responding to an Institute of Education Sciences survey reported that their tutoring programs were constricted by lack of funds or inability to find staff.
Here’s an idea: recruit the social justice warriors to teach kids to read. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
University of Virginia old-timers (like myself) remember what it was like to find help in picking courses and deciding majors. We’d latch ourselves onto a professor who took an interest in us, and he or she would walk us through the process. It did require some initiative on our part to reach out, but then, we were accustomed to taking matters into our own hands. I was fortunate. My advisor, history professor Joseph C. Miller, was not only a charismatic teacher and a leading scholar in his field, but he regarded the care and tending of students — even lowly undergraduates like me — as part of his vocation.
That’s not the way it works anymore. Faculty members are still expected to play a role in advising students, but it is a much diminished one. At UVa, responsibility for dispensing advice has been bureaucratized.
At the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, the Ryan administration highlighted what it is doing to improve student advising. The dominant themes of the session were (1) the student experience is lacking for many, and (2) the answer is hiring more advisors and investing in the latest, greatest technology.
The picture that emerged is that UVa has numerous fragmented initiatives at the school and college level but no coherent university-wide vision. Practices vary widely. The cost of programs was not discussed. No cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. With no clear objectives beyond “we want to be the best,” there are no logical limits to an endless expansion of programs. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Wyatt Gordon writes about smart growth issues for the Virginia Mercury and Greater Greater Washington. Sometimes, he’s worth reading. But, then, sometimes, he’s not. As an example of the latter, he recently posted this on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter:
So, let me get this straight. If Gordon avoided emitting 54,000 pounds of carbon pollution by driving 1,000 miles on his electric bike instead of driving a car, he says he’s saving 54 pounds per mile. Is that physically possible?
Now, I never took high school chemistry, but I do know that a pound of gasoline does not translate into a pound of CO2 emissions. According to the EPA, when gasoline is combusted, it frees up carbon atoms and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms combine with oxygen atoms in the air to create water. The carbon atoms combine with oxygen atoms to create CO2. Most of the weight of a CO2 molecule comes from oxygen atoms that were not present in the gasoline. In that way, says the EPA, a gallon of gasoline does indeed transmute into about 20 pounds of tailpipe carbon.
But unless Gordon toodles around town in a monster truck, he’s likely getting 20 or more miles to the gallon. Basic arithmetic tells us that a car that gets 20 miles to the gallon consumes 1/20th of a gallon per mile. Therefore, it generates 1/2oth of a gallon’s worth of tailpipe carbon per mile… or about one pound.
Gordon appears to have overstated his reduced CO2 emissions by a factor of 50.
That’s not the scary part. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors grapples with contentious issues such as equity, inclusion and racial preferences, it could benefit by knowing how well the policies of the Ryan administration have succeeded or failed in making UVa a more welcoming place for students across “every possible dimension” of diversity, to use President Jim Ryan’s words.
The administration possesses considerable data to answer the question. During the final year of the Sullivan administration, 2018, the university conducted a comprehensive, in-depth “campus climate” survey. Since then, the university has participated in biennial surveys conducted under the auspices of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) consortium, which, th0ugh less comprehensive than the 2018 effort and fraught with discontinuities in the questions asked, does contain useful information.
The university’s Office of Institutional Research & Analysis posted results for 2022 for public viewing in August. The graphic below summarizes student responses to the statement, “I feel I belong at university.”
Three of five (60%) students agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that they belonged at UVa. Seventeen percent expressed various degrees of disagreement.
Is that a good finding or a bad finding? It depends on context. Continue reading
Table source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
by James A. Bacon
The Virginia Department of Education is running two weeks late in releasing Standards of Learning (SOL) testing data for the 2022-23 school year. The reason cited by state Superintendent Lisa Coons, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is to process retake data and appeals.
The SOL results, as they appeared on a Richmond Public Schools website before being taken down, were disappointing. Far from reverting to the pre-COVID norm, student achievement remained mired in a post-lockdown slump. Reading and writing scores were mostly unchanged, history/civic scores eroded, and math and science scores improved only a little.
The Youngkin administration has not commented on the results. The only quote cited by the Richmond Times-Dispatch comes from James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, who dishes out the usual social justice-style rhetoric calling for more money. Continue reading