Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Board of Education: Stick to Your Guns!

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration’s proposed revisions to the history and social-science Standards of Learning have run into a buzz saw of opposition from critics who claim the standards aren’t, for lack of a better word, “woke” enough.

As The Washington Post summarizes the changes: “The new proposed version generally places less less emphasis on the perspectives of marginalized peoples, removes suggested discussions of racism and its lingering effects, and promotes the workings of the free market, with limited government intervention.” Left-leaning educators and lawmakers argue that the standards “offer a simpler version of history that pays less attention to the perspectives and lives of people of color, especially Indigenous and non-European communities.”

After a four-hour public comment session, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has voted to delay consideration of the standards.

I urge Youngkin-appointed board members to stand firm. Continue reading

AG’s Office to Review UVa Handling of Shooting Threat

Attorney General Jason Miyares has agreed to conduct an external review of the events that led up to the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia students Sunday. He will enlist special counsel to assist his office in the completion of its work, said spokesperson Victoria LaCivita.

The review will produce a report to be shared with students, families, the larger UVa community, and government officials. “The Attorney General will work with deliberate speed while ensuring that all necessary resources remain devoted to the criminal investigation being conducted by state and local authorities,” she said.

Miyares’ statement comes after a request for the review issued by the UVa Board of Visitors. In a letter to the Attorney General, Rector Witt Clement wrote the following: Continue reading

Lost Boy

by James A. Bacon

There is a disturbing sidebar to the University of Virginia mass shooting  story. Only a few hours before the murders took place at around 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, a rapper and minor social media celebrity, Bryan Silva, posted a disturbing message on his Facebook account:

I want u v a to know what pain and suffering is. They put me through that everyday of my life here and laughed in my face. I want them to feel how I feel. I will sell everything I have to make that pain and suffering happen.

According to one media account, a Facebook reader alerted the Charlottesville police to his comment. According to another, he threatened a neighbor with a gun; the neighbor called the police. Whatever the case, police opened an investigation, obtained a search warrant of Silva’s downtown residence, and arrested him for illegal possession of firearms and a controlled substance.

Despite the coincidence in timing, police quickly concluded that Silva’s vague threats were unrelated to the tragic shooting of three UVa football players, allegedly by UVa student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. Media attention has focused on uncovering Jones’ background and possible motive. Understandably, Silva, whose crimes were trivial by comparison, has faded into the background. But I find Silva intriguing… and scary. Not because he represents a clear and present danger to society — although he might — but because he epitomizes so much that is tragically wrong with so many young men in our society today. Continue reading

A Time To Mourn

Thousands from the UVa community gathered on the Lawn last night to hold a vigil for Davin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry.

Many questions arise from the mass shooting at the University of Virginia two days ago. Why’d he do it? Were there warning signs? Could the murders have been prevented?

There will be a time and a place to answer those questions.

But not now.

Now is the time to mourn the loss of three fine young men. Now is the time for the UVa community to come together, honor the memories of the victims, support the bereaving families, and pray for the recovery of the two students who were hospitalized from the shooting.

— JAB

Teaching History as the Struggle for a “More Perfect Union”

The Youngkin administration has published a document, “The Guiding Principles for Virginia’s 2022 History and Social Science Standards Revisions,” which lays out the thinking behind revisions to the history and social-science Standards of Learning standards.

The document does not dictate what teachers will teach. To the contrary, it states explicitly that the goal is to teach history “in an objective, fair, empathetic, nonjudgmental and developmentally appropriate manner” and that teachers must facilitate “open and balanced discussions on difficult topics, including discrimination and racism, and present learning opportunities without personal or political bias.” Rather, it explains the rationale for determining the body of knowledge that K-12 students must acquire.

To many Virginians, the principles will seem laudable. But they are antithetical to ideological currents prevalent in the educational establishment that regard the American republic as conceived in sin and that interpret history through the lens of racial, sexual and gender oppression. Because the legacy media will never present the Youngkin administration’s thinking in depth — and because I cannot articulate those principles any better than the the authors — I republish lengthy excerpts of the document here. — JAB

Introduction

Virginia’s History and Social Science standards aim to restore excellence, curiosity and excitement around teaching and learning history. The teaching of history should illuminate insights from the past and inspire current and future generations to lead lives that are informed and inspired by those who walked this journey before them.

Expectations for Virginia’s Students

Every graduate from Virginia’s K-12 schools will posses a robust understanding of the places, people, events and ideas that comprise the history of Virginia, the United States and world civilizations. Our students will learn from the rise and fall of civilizations across time, so that we may pursue and maintain government and economic systems that have led to human achievement. The Virginia standards are grounded in the foundational principles and actions of great individuals who preceded us so that we may learn from them as we strive to maintain our political liberties and personal freedoms and thrive as a nation. Continue reading

So Much for Burying the Dark Side of Virginia History

Should this be our framework for learning American history and civics?

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has posted a new set of proposed goals for the teaching of civics, geography, and economics — the first major changes to the History and Social Science Standards of Learning since the existing standards were adopted in 2015.

Critics have accused the Youngkin administration of wanting to ban the teaching of the more unsavory aspects of Virginia history such as slavery, racism and segregation. The charges were leveled without any evidence and in the face of repeated declarations to the contrary by Youngkin administration officials, but Virginia’s legacy media has allowed them to pass unchallenged.

If Governor Youngkin is bent upon whitewashing Virginia and U.S. history, it’s not apparent from this overview to be presented to the Virginia Board of Education November 17. Consider these proposed changes to learning goals enumerated in that document:

  • Adding more specific and thorough treatment of the issue of slavery, particularly by requiring more content in earlier grades;
  • Adding more specific and thorough treatment of the issue of segregation, particularly by requiring more content in earlier grades;
  • Adding more specific and thorough treatment of the Reconstruction era;
  • Adding more clear and thorough treatment of the issue of the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia;
  • Requiring the examination of important Supreme Court cases like Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. U.S., Buck v. Bell, Loving v. Virginia and others;
  • Further examining the critical role of the Founding Fathers and the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the U.S. Constitution;
  • Further explaining the importance of Women’s Suffrage and key events in history that led to the Nineteenth Amendment.

The devil is not so much in the details, which Virginia school children undoubtedly will learn, but in how the issues of slavery, racism, segregation and women’s rights are framed. Continue reading

Student Misbehavior Is Schools’ Biggest Challenge, JLARC Says

Source: Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), “Pandemic Impact on Public K-12 Education.” Click for more legible image.

by James A. Bacon

In what will come as no surprise to Bacon’s Rebellion readers (other than the reality-denying ankle biters frequenting our comments section), Virginia public school staff cite poor student behavior as their most serious challenge, found a study of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).

More than 56% of respondents to a JLARC survey said student behavior was a “very serious” problem, and another 24% said it was a “serious” problem. It exceeded other issues such as teacher compensation, student academic progress, lack of respect from parents, and concerns about mental health.

What’s more, concluded JLARC, student behavior appears to be worse than before the pandemic: “85 percent of school staff believed the number of student behavioral issues had either greatly or somewhat increased.” Teachers and other school staff shared the sentiment. Continue reading

Another Key Virginia Republican Rejects Trump

Winsome Sears. Photo credit: Washington Times

by James A. Bacon

No question about it: the Democrats won the expectations game. Republicans convinced themselves that they would sweep to victory in a Red Wave Tuesday, but they fell drastically short. It appears that the Rs will gain control of the House of Representatives and they still have a shot at squeaking out a majority in the Senate, but Democrats are the ones spiking the football in the end zone.

Fair enough. The party that controls the White House traditionally suffers far bigger losses. The Dems dodged a bullet, and no one can blame them for exulting.

What I find interesting, though, is that Democrats are treating the election as a vindication of their policies and rhetoric. They weren’t repudiated; therefore, they were vindicated. Accordingly, I have seen no self-reflection, no sign that Democrats see a need to change course.

Republicans are the ones undergoing intense self-examination. And, as exemplified by remarks by Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears yesterday, they are concluding that it is time for former President Trump to retire from the political scene. Continue reading

Parental-Rights Candidates Fared Well Tuesday

Tiffany Polifko, parental-rights advocate and apparent winner of a Loudoun County school board seat.

by James A. Bacon

It has been the conventional wisdom for some time now that Governor Glenn Youngkin’s winning gambit in his race against Terry McAuliffe was tapping into the parental rights movement. Parents furious about the injection of wokism into public schools were emerging as a new political dynamic, and Youngkin was the first gubernatorial candidate nationally to tap into it.

Youngkin wasn’t on the ballot this November, but many school board candidates were. So, how did the parental rights movement fare?

The Virginia Public Access project (VPAP) identified 17 school board races across Virginia where at least one candidate made the parental-rights agenda championed by Younkin the centerpiece of the campaign. Eleven won, six lost.

Parental-rights advocates won in red-leaning counties such as Augusta, Bedford, Isle of Wight, and King George but lost in two small cities: Staunton and Harrisonburg. In Loudoun County, which was ground zero for Virginia’s K-12 culture wars, Tiffany L. Polifko is reported to cling to a narrow plurality, but in the Leesburg district the parental-rights candidate fell short.

The movement gained the most traction in Hampton Roads: specifically in Virginia Beach and Suffolk. Parental-rights candidates won the two Suffolk seats up for grabs, while in Virginia Beach, they snagged four of six seats. Not mentioned by VPAP, Chesapeake elected six new Republican-endorsed candidates to the school board. Continue reading

School System in Meltdown Approves $1,000 Employee Bonuses

Fredericksburg City Hall. Photo credit: Adam Fagen, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

Two months ago, citing a 71% rate of chronic absenteeism in Fredericksburg public schools, Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Jim Sherlock called for the resignation of the city’s superintendent, Marci Catlett. Looks as though she’ll be getting a bonus instead.

The Fredericksburg School Board approved Monday drawing from federal COVID-relief funds to pay $1,000 bonuses for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees, according to The Free Lance-Star.  

The newspaper did not report a justification given for the bonuses.

Could it have been a reward for a job well done in educating Fredericksburg school children through the COVID pandemic? Let’s check the numbers. Continue reading

Red Ripple

by James A. Bacon

So much for the red wave, much less the red tsunami, or the red once-every-60-million-years-asteroid-extinction that would obliterate the Democratic Party that a few delusional conservative bloggers imagined. The mid-term elections resulted in a red ripple. As of this writing, it looks like Republicans will win a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, while Republican control of the Senate, while not yet determined, remains very much in doubt.

Here in Virginia, Republicans gained one House seat — Jennifer Kiggans displaced Elaine Luria in Hampton Roads — but the Dems survived two hotly contested races, returning Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton to Congress. The outcome was better for Team Red than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick… but still disappointing compared to its high expectations.

Votes by congressional district. (Independents not included.)

If there was ever any question, Virginia remains a blue state — perhaps we could more generously say a blue state with a purplish tinge. With 99% to 100% of all precincts reporting this morning, the Virginia Department of Elections reports Democratic congressional candidates winning 1,515,000 votes to Republicans’ 1,439,000 votes.

If that’s the best the GOP can muster in an off-year election, which typically goes against the party that holds the White House, with 8% to 9% inflation, broken borders, raging culture wars, runaway budget deficits, declining stock market, crime in the streets, and all the rest, Republicans have a lot of work to do. It appears that the Democratic strategy of running on abortion and against Donald Trump worked. Continue reading

Virginia Business Tax Ranking Falls Again

Source: Tax Foundation

Virginia continues its long side in tax competitiveness this year with a No. 26 ranking in the Tax Foundation’s “2023 State Business Tax Climate Index.” That’s a decline from 25th place last year, 24th place in 2021, and 23rd place in 2020. As recently as 2017, Virginia’s business tax climate ranked 16th.

After eight years of political dominance by Democrats, Virginia has been transmogrifying slowly into New Jersey, which ranks 50th in the country on business taxes. It’s hardly a surprise that the Old Dominion’s middle-of-the-pack tax policy and dramatic fall-off in worker freedom (from A+ to C, according to the Commonwealth Foundation) has coincided with domestic population out-migration and sub-par economic growth over the decade.

On the other hand, Virginians can console themselves that the Commonwealth ranked No. 1 in Site Selection Magazine’s 2022 Business Climate ranking based on key site-location criteria selected by site-selection executives. Workforce skills was the top criterion, while workforce development resources and… wait, what?… tax climate were tied for the second most important factor. Continue reading

The Woke Never Rest… Because It’s Hard to Keep Up

James Madison University already has a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) program. Now three WGSS professors are proposing creation of an “LGBTQ” studies minor, reports The Breeze student newspaper.

The program, which must undergo a lengthy approval process, would give students “access to a quality minor that would give them insight into queer lives,” says WGSS prof Kristen Kelley.

Sounds to me like JMU has a long way to catch up.

Consider that Virginia Military Institute, a military academy for chrissake, refers to “LGBTQIA+” in its diversity, equity and inclusion program. The “I” stands for intersex, and “A” for asexual, aromantic, or agender, according to Google. Not only that, VMI adds a plus sign to cover any permutations of sexuality and gender the other letters leave out.

Why no “I,” “A” or plus sign, JMU?

I’ll admit, wokism mutates faster than cockroaches after a nuclear war, so it’s hard to keep up. But, really, a gender program with only five letters? C’mon, JMU, you’ve got to up your game!

— JAB

“The Fortune in the Book”

Fortune in the Book from Pacific Legal Foundation on Vimeo.

by James A. Bacon

A new Pacific Legal Foundation video tells the story of parents who fought changes to the meritocratic admissions policy at Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, rated the best public high school in the country, in the name of “equity.”

Bacon’s Rebellion readers will find most of this tale familiar, for we have chronicled it on this blog. But the interviews of TJ parents yield new nuggets of insight. The video demolishes the canard that the high school’s rigorous entry exam privileged affluent Asian families that could afford tutors and other educational assistance unavailable to lower-income minority students.

The parents in the video don’t see themselves as privileged. Many, if not most, TJ parents are Asian immigrants, and the emphasis on education is part of their culture.

The Chinese have a saying “There is fortune in the book.” If you want a better life in the future, study, says Julia McCaskill, an Asian-American. “The importance of education … it’s built in our culture.” Continue reading

Vote!

What can I say? Kevin Bacon is way cooler than Jim Bacon (although, I’ve got to say, he’s looking a bit more ragged in this tweet than the young guy who starred in “Footloose.”) And if he tells you to get out and vote, you’re more likely listen to him than me. So… listen to him here: