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Deep Equity in Education: If it walks like a duck, it might be a duck!



My ears perk up a bit when I hear folks gnawing on the topic of education. And the buzz I’ve heard in recent days has been generated by a single word. That word is “equity.”

First thought? Equity and education both begin with an “e.” That may not be relevant, but most often, if we wish to come to grips with an idea, it is best to begin with the basics. And if I were a parent of today’s school-age youngsters, I would want to know in great detail the basics. Just what is it some current educators believe and propose when they use the word “equity.”

Whatever the current focus, we must never lose sight of this: it is necessary for each student to be able to read, comprehend, and write with clarity in the English language. It is further necessary for each student to be able to solve age-appropriate mathematical problems and to understand and apply essential principles of science to life in a complex world. Hence, “equity” in education — however it is described — must, as a minimum, achieve these outcomes.

“Equity” — if it is to be of value — must afford student success. This by providing best quality teaching staff and other resources without reducing educational standards of achievement. Allow me to repeat: without reducing educational standards of achievement.

Whatever the curricular goals for any course material, student expectations for success ought never be sacrificed on an altar of social equity engineering. Is that what the current “equity” effort is? Social engineering?

It may be too early to know. What we do know is that one local description is this: “deep equity is when every student has what they need and when they need it.” Yet, another local descriptor is, “a practice of ensuring fairer outcomes, treatments and opportunities for all members of the learning community.” Aside from the grammatical error (singular “student”, plural “they”), I have no qualm with the first statement. Who would argue against having what is needed for success?

But the second idea, that of advancing “fairer outcomes,” is rife with social engineering. Those who propose equality of outcome (in any endeavor) seem never to address equality of effort or equality of investment. Have you ever spoken with an Olympic medalist? I have! The athlete does not strive for equality of outcome but rather for success! For mastery. Go ahead, ask a gold medalist to share the highest award platform with a couch potato!

Yes, educators and students should focus upon success. We would do well to define success in any learning objective as no less than: successful (60% – 75%), highly successful (76% – 85%), advanced (86% – 95%) and mastery (96%-100%). And, yes, some students will need greater assistance than others to achieve success.

Equity, then, may best be described as strategies, tactics, and methods to be applied to guarantee successful outcomes. Never should the goal of “equity” be that of redefining or reducing curricular standards or expectations.

In my teaching career, fellow teachers, principals, parents, even students themselves, told me I was the most successful teacher they had encountered. To the extent that I was successful (more accurately, my students were successful) the issue of expectations was the prime reason.

I taught sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth graders both English and German. My students proved to me time and time again that when challenged they can and do succeed. If educators have a shortcoming, if student achievement falters, we seldom need to look beyond the issue of expectations.

Certainly, some students need a little more help getting over that bar, but that is not a reason to lower standards. The greater catastrophe is not sufficiently challenging all students.

I have always found my students to be far more capable than either I or they might have believed. It is not lack of potential that stalls most students; it is tepid textbooks, mindless methodology, and insufficient challenge. When students know what we expect of them, they rise to the challenge!

I offer these thoughts in the hope that current “equity in education” programs being proposed and applied in Virginia and many other states might resist the temptation to reduce our expectations for student achievement or lower the bar for standards. Nothing could be more harmful.

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Spanish Flu



historically speaking

There has been a lot of criticism over the President’s use of the term “Chinese virus” and rightfully so. Names have not always been an accurate way of identifying ground zero for any disease. Health leaders have named this current virus COVID-19. You cannot call this coronavirus because that is a blanket term that covers any type of upper respiratory infection. Also, COVID-19 does not mean the 19th Chinese-originated viral infectious disease this year; it simply stands for Corona Virus Disease 19. Historically speaking we have seen that naming a disease after a region is not always accurate.

With the last great pandemic, the name Spanish Flu is completely inaccurate. The 1918 flu that killed around 50 million worldwide actually is now believed to have begun in Kansas. Yes, the Spanish Flu is actually the Kansas Flu. When Kansans first started going to the doctor, they were treated for the flu, but it was not seen as anything different. At first the problem was not big enough to raise attention and doctors had no good way to report. As the flu spread it did start to receive notice from health and government officials, but coming on the heels of the tragedy of WWI, the governments of the Allied powers tried to stop panic and keep up moral. The disease did not become well known until it hit Spain. Spain was neutral in the War and so not part of the Allies. When the King of Spain came down with the new flu, the Spanish media was free to report it. With the Spanish media being the only ones discussing the new disease, it became known as the Spanish Flu.

The flu hit Europe hard. Large concentrations of troops still there for the War and the troops and the people were worn out and prime for a contagious virus. With so many getting sick and dying and the Spanish press reporting, Allied nations could no longer contain the story. The outbreak in America had not taken off from the original infection, so as troops began arriving from home they brought it from Europe with them.

The idea was that Americans, because of early contact, may have been immune, but those theories were discarded when the virus mutated in the fall and Boston became one of the epicenters. By September, 85,000 Bostonians had the flu and, just south of them in Philadelphia, hundreds were dying a day. It got so bad in the City of Brotherly Love that they ran out of caskets and the manpower to bury the dead. It got so bad in San Francisco that citizens were asked to stop using the phone. No one could reach medical help because lines were tied up and operators were sick. In many ways the Spanish Flu created a situation that is starting to happen now–the streets are empty and everyone’s wearing masks.

A couple of lessons we can learn from the Spanish Flu. First, it came in three waves. Hopefully that will not happen with COVID-19. It started in the spring of 1918 but hit one of its small peaks in June. I know there is hope that COVID-19 will fade out during the warm summer months, but we see that this type of disease can have some peaks then. The largest of the flu’s peaks did come in the colder months of October and November of 1918, followed by another small peak in March the next year.

Secondly, in 1918 it was widely reported that the use of masks was responsible for the containment. This caused a huge run on masks. However, this has been proven as false. One historian, Alfred W. Crosby, who has studied the Spanish Flu, wrote, “People could and did honestly believe that a few layers of gauze would keep out flu bugs, just as screens kept the flies off the front porch.” Crosby credits the flu vaccine for the decline and not masks. The use of masks and the vaccine just happened to start at the same time.

A third possible lesson is to wait and see when and how the disease started. There is some suggestion that COVID-19 may have been in the U.S. long before it was reported. As in 1918, COVID-19 was first regarded as the flu, but now, looking back, health officials are investigating the chance that COVID-19 made it to America in November or December. These cases have not been confirmed, but understanding the Spanish Flu tells us that it is possible.

Lastly, we learn that distancing works, but ultimately a vaccine is needed. If not, we could be isolating ourselves in our homes for much longer than we might expect.

Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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Coronavirus: Case for eradication of stupidity, not case for war



Suppose I told you our current coronavirus pandemic can be traced to Wuhan, China. “Old news,” you might say.

Suppose I added that four published academic journals dating from 2007 reveal research on this virus. “So what?” you might say.

Suppose I added that ten staff members of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have contributed to the coronavirus research. “Sounds reasonable,” you add.

Suppose I added that working with the University of North Carolina staff members was Zhengli-Li Shi of the Laboratory of Special Pathogens and Biosafety, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Will you still say, “Sounds reasonable”?

And if you are ready now to question what sounds reasonable, let’s add one more tidbit. Suppose I added that this same Zhengli-Li Shi of China secured a Chinese grant to jointly fund this research and at least one other such study mentioned in this article.

A Chinese grant?

Now is a good time to introduce ourselves to Professor Francis Boyle.

“What might Boyle contribute to the discussion?” you might ask.

Quite a bit, actually. Boyle knows all that’s worth knowing about biological warfare. He is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He drafted the U.S. implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

And what does he say about today’s coronavirus?

He says China “bought” our science (remember the grant?) and took it back to China.

Boyle calls what China bought “a turbo-charged biological weapon.” Science calls it a “gain of function.” In brief, add genetic engineering to SARS and HIV to make a more potent biological weapon.

We should recall before proceeding further that biological warfare is nothing new. And because some nations pursue such weapons, others must devise defensive measures. In this article, I am not proposing that the United States has been attacked. Yet.

More likely, given where and when this coronavirus originated, I believe it to be more likely that a mishap in Wuhan might account for our present pandemic. What nation would test its biological weapon on its own citizens before deploying it as a weapon?

But Professor Boyle, in his video update on coronavirus bioweapon video, does reveal his concerns over more lethal, more infectious (gain of function) weapons being “studied.”

I will later offer relevant quotations from some of those studies. We will see the why of Boyle’s concerns.

But for now, let’s go back to September 11, 2001. There is a troublesome similarity between that attack and our current “coronavirus” pandemic. It is clear that we have not learned the lessons of that horrific attack.

The similarity? In the 9/11 attack, our enemy used us to attack us. Terrorists had used our country – lived among us. They used our flight training schools. They used our own aircraft as weapons.

From the standpoint of post-attack analysis, we are forced to credit our 9/11 enemy with excellent planning, excellent preparation, excellent mission accomplishment.

So, why do we now fail to detect that our enemy “uses us” in preparation to attack us?

Sure, we can argue that we all benefit from shared research and that our research is dedicated to finding and preventing yet more lethal virus variations.

But now, keep an eye out for how many times the name Zhengli-Li Shi of China is associated with biological research within the United States. Notice the grants from China. Notice shared information. Ask yourself, have we failed to learn the lessons of 9/11?

I’ll conclude with selected quotations from the four published studies I’ve consulted. I encourage you to seek out those studies, or others, with an eye to the thin line between biological research and biological warfare.

Some revealing quotations:

“Since furin is highly expressed in the lungs, and enveloped virus that infects the respiratory tract may successfully exploit this.” (2)

“ …may provide a gain-of-function to the 2019-nCoV for efficient spreading in the human population.” (2)

“…plasmids encoding bat and human ACE2s were infected with pseudovirus HIV/BJ01-S. Infectivity was determined by measuring the activity of reporter luciferase as described…” (3)

“…these viruses may become infectious to humans if they undergo N-terminal sequence variation, for example, through recombination with other CoVs, which in turn might lead to a productive interaction with ACE2 or other surface proteins on human cells. (4)

“Using this approach, we characterized CoV infection mediated by the SHC014 spike protein in primary human airway cells….” (5)

“To extend these findings, primary human airway epithelial (HAE) cultures were infected and showed robust replication of both viruses (Fig. 1d). Together, the data confirm the ability of viruses with the SHC014 spike to infect human airway cells and underscore the potential threat of cross-species transmission of SHC014-CoV.” (5)

Even at a glance, with these quotations we can see – if not completely understand the science – why it is we need to be applying the lessons we ought to have learned from the 9/11 attack.

We are sharing, giving away, and selling (via grants) that allow others to “use us to defeat us.”


  1. Prof. Francis Boyle Update on Coronavirus Bioweapon
    From <>
    Francis Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He drafted the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.
  2. The spike glycoprotein of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV contains a furin-like cleavage site absent in CoV of the same clade.
  3. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) proteins of different bat species confer variable susceptibility to SARS-CoV entry.
  4. The difference in Receptor Usage between Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus and SARS-Like Coronavirus of Bat Origin American Society for Microbiology, Journal of Virology, 12 December 2007 Vol 82-4.
  5. An sARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronavirus pose a threat for human emergence
    The National Library of Medicine National Medical 2016, April 22.
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A response to “Better Safe than Sorry”



I’m confused by the letter to Editor from Mr. Bianchini titled ‘Better Safe than Sorry? ‘ because many know that he is a Reporter/Editor FOR the Royal Examiner. Actually, I thought that the opinions of Editors were Editorials and represented the definitive point of view of a paper. However, I know that the ‘Better Safe…..” letter wasn’t an Editorial because the Editor in Chief of the Examiner had clearly indicated that his opinion virtually mirrored the sentiments I expressed in my ‘COVID-19, Gov’t Help or Hinderance’ letter. I recommend not spending much time trying to make sense of an Editor penning a letter to himself though or you’ll end up needing a couple of aspirins or a stiff drink. I think if the truth was known, there may be an underlying issue of philosophical difference here between a more progressive individual and one with a more conservative-leaning.

With that said, the Better Safe… letter alleges that my comments are based on partisan ideology rather than objective analysis. Plus, that indictment is used to suggest that many other observations I made in my March 20 letter should be summarily discredited as a result. Since I always attempt to be objective and pragmatic and being concerned that his statements damaged my credibility as a community advocate, I felt the need to pen this response.

Mr. Bianchini states that my criticism of the Governor’s order limiting public access to restaurants and gyms was evidence of my partisan bias. However, I never mentioned the political persuasion of the Governor and would have made the same criticism if a Republican had acted the same way. The fact that his order was consistent with actions by other state governors and supported by respected scientists in the health field was not a basis for justifying the Governor’s order, in my opinion, because I felt the officials were solely focused on health issues with no consideration of economic issues. In all of the media presentations I watched on the pandemic, and there were many, not once did I hear a health official comment on any economic impact associated with the virus mitigations they recommended. Plus, each state has had varying experiences with the virus so I expected our Governor to be an independent thinker and make decisions based on circumstances that existed solely within our boundaries. When the Governor issued his restrictions there was minimal virus impact in Virginia. Additionally, I opined that social distancing occurred in both the placement of restaurant tables and gym equipment under normal conditions and thus the Governor’s 10 patron limit accomplished virtually nothing except causing many of those businesses to close and jobs to be lost.

Mr. Bianchini said that I defended President Trump when Democrats called him out on saying the virus was a hoax. Clearly, anyone paying attention to media reports would have heard the term was used to describe the Democrat and media response to the President’s actions and statements on the crisis rather than him suggesting the virus itself was a hoax. My defense was also supposed to relate to the President restricting European flights except for two countries where the President owns golf courses. That theory is ridiculous on its face. After entering office, the President gave up management of all of his companies, donated his full salary to the country and has more money than he could spend in several lifetimes. Additionally, wouldn’t it make better sense that the travel exemptions could have been based on the fact that those affected countries (England and Ireland I believe) were geographically separated from other European countries and did not have the volume of virus cases other European countries had? No evidence was included in the ‘Better Safe….” letter that golf courses had any influence on the President’s decision. Strangely enough though, very shortly after those countries were exempted from the travel restriction, they themselves were included in the ban because their virus experience increased significantly.

My claim that ‘the cure was more damaging than the disease’ was based on facts about other serious diseases where government actions were NOT taken that caused a negative impact on our economy. It is estimated that the typical flu will kill 50,000 Americans this year alone and society seems to take that death rate in stride without alarm or precautions which cause a great disruption to our economy. In 2009, the swine flu killed more than 10,000 Americans and a national emergency wasn’t even declared by the President then until 1,000 deaths had occurred. As of the morning of March 23, approximately 42,000 Americans had tested positive for Coronavirus and slightly more than 500 had died but the mitigation recommendations from health scientists have contributed to the virtual economic collapse that affects everyone.

Mr. Bianchini’s March 20, letter to himself asserted that time was needed to determine the impacts on the economy and small businesses. However, there is already overwhelming evidence that the economy is in free-fall with no end in sight. Fact, the stock market has lost over 35% of its value in just several weeks from an all-time high of over 29,000 and trillions of dollars have been lost in Americans’ 401Ks. Fact, the Federal Reserve reduced the interest rate by 100 basis points to .25 percent several days ago in an unprecedented action. The FED has taken other unusual quantitative easing steps to ensure liquidity as well. Fact, our Treasury Secretary projected the unemployment rate could jump above 20% when a couple of weeks ago it was the lowest (3.5) in over 50 years. Fact, a multitude of respected financial institutions have predicted the US Gross Domestic Product will decline by more than 20% in the second quarter of this year. Fact, small businesses have been closing, employees have been furloughed or fired and respected economists have predicted over 2 million jobs could be lost. Considering the above, only an individual with their head in the sand would question whether our economy is in severe distress yet!

The information presented above provides a basis for increasing the validity of other comments I made in the March 20 letter rather than reducing their credibility.

  • Students and parents are being terribly affected by school closings.
  • The oil supply conflict between Russia and the Saudi’s is exacerbating an already bad situation and the President should use sanctions if necessary to convince them to behave differently.
  • Stimulus payments should be targeted to individuals that lost jobs and income rather than broad-based.
  • Bail-outs to big corporations should come with limitations on stock buy-backs and executive bonuses.
  • A balance needs to be struck between protecting the health of a limited at-risk population and maintaining economic prosperity.
  • Critical products such as pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, electronics, etc. should be manufactured in the US vs China who is an adversary and is using trade imbalance profits to build a military that we may one day have to address with force.
  • Congress possibly approving a stimulus package of an obscene amount (trillions! )and increasing our national debt is not fiscally responsible behavior. How selfish is it that we want future citizens to pay for debt we create to address today’s problems?

In conclusion, my presentation here should dispel any claims made in the ‘Better Safe….’ letter that my opinions were based on partisan ideology rather than objective analysis, critical thinking and common sense. The truth is that I have substantial criticisms of the President’s behavior and character shortcomings while still being grateful for his Administration’s accomplishments that have benefited virtually all levels of the American public. Plus, the basis for my March 20 letter to the Editor is that I disagreed with the government’s actions because I felt they caused more damage than the virus had. Finally, I am not a member of either major political party and consider myself a Libertarian. Thus, if there is any partisan ideology or bias being represented in recent letters to the Editor, I leave it to you to judge whose it is.

Gary Kushner
Front Royal, Virginia

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If your party loyalty is greater than your commitment to all the citizens, please resign



The first premise for Town Council to consider: if your party loyalty is greater than your commitment to all the citizens, please resign. Then, the question. “What does the Town Council seem to be and/or actually do?”

The answer is that our governance unit has members who are offenders by a legal definition of an offense, some are opossums for playing dead to the Interim Town Manager and the offenders; one active person, and one too new perhaps to help. What have they allowed for the past few months?

They have ignored dealing with offenders who were part of firing people who advanced the economic well being of our town. Those who do nothing about the offenders and the offenders themselves go to fire the best help—people who did not make mistakes fired by people who do. Does that suggest party loyalty over nonpartisan commitment which is the standard in our Town Charter?

The gauntlet has been thrown down: if a person will not act on wrongdoing, then that person is condoning or complicit in the wrongful act. There are personnel complaints. The Town Council is not known to have dealt with any of the complaints. Act to discipline or get out of governance.

What does the Town Council plan to do? Who knows?

In the meantime, thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for taking up the cause of the Visitor Center to ensure accurate information about it is reported.

Linda Allen
Front Royal, Virginia

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Are we thinking long term?



The time is now for our County Board of Supervisors and our Interim Town Manager/Town Council, to think about the long term effects of this pandemic.

Our economy will continue downward. Job loss will continue to grow. The inability of so many to pay their bills will continue. The town income is uncertain for this year and next year’s budget. The loss of meal tax and lodging tax alone are only two of the huge losses the Town and County will face.

Mr. Tederick and the Town Council’s tax rate reduction from the rate of $13.5 to $.13 cents per hundred, which was an obvious political move by Mr. Tederick and his Republican Party for votes in the upcoming election, will certainly come back to haunt them. I believe the following are only a few items that could be considered at this time.

  1. County and Town Tax bills to be deferred for several months or until the end of the year. This I believe can be a request to the state government.
  2. County and Town budgets should be deferred until all citizens can safely attend the meetings and have their input. I’m sure we can get an extension on the deadline from our state government.
  3. All large items cut from the upcoming budget: town infrastructure loan – what is one or two more years of kicking the can down the road, assistant town manager, redundant water line to the corridor – which the town citizens should not be paying for anyway. This was a request from Dominion Power. It is not mandatory for the town to do this project. , town road paving project – which should be done over a couple of years instead of one year.

These large ticket budget items, except for the I & I upgrade, which is mandated by the DEQ should be put on the back burner until we know exactly where the finances of the town will actually be for the rest of this year and next year. To do these items now would be ludicrous and not in the best interest of the town citizens and the small businesses located in the town.

If Mr. Tederick and the Town Council care like they say they do, I encourage each of them to lay down their political views and do what is in the best interest of the citizens, business owners and the Town of Front Royal.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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Better safe than sorry?



Everybody has an opinion – time will tell who is right about the level of response and its impacts on the economy and small business versus the actual health threat the COVID-19 Coronavirus presents to nations and the world as a whole.

However, when one lets partisan ideology interfere with one’s thought process, you tend to stray from objective, analysis-based opinion, into partisan justification and vilification, as Mr. Kushner appears to here. He criticizes Democratic Governor Northam for instituting front-end, proactive measures suggested by the scientific community, as other governors around the nation also are; while defending Republican President Trump for his 180-degree waffling, again blaming Democrats, and one guesses their “allies” in the scientific community, for actions including the president’s one-day flip from calling the COVID-19 Coronavirus “a Democratic hoax” on the campaign stump, to freezing all flights to, from Europe, initially save the two countries where he has golf courses.

If you let partisanship and political ideology prevent objective analysis of portions of your opinion, how measured should we take the rest of one’s analysis to be?

While I have initially tended to agree that much of the COVID-19 response has been over-cautious and perhaps not justified by the national or even international numbers, a medical-scientific-grounded friend has pointed out to me that the potential for viral mutations could suddenly expand the problem on a variety of levels, including numbers.

Doing little or nothing and see how things go without the means to adequately test for the disease to allow for accurate numbers to be calculated and targeted quarantines to be imposed, due to an early federal administrative lapse in response – seems a potentially dangerous course.

The experience of Vo, the small town in Italy where that nation’s first death was reported, points to the importance of being able to calculate ACCURATE numbers, rather than estimates, on how many and who is infected. That town of 3,300 tested every citizen, identifying both symptomatic and non-symptomatic infected people. They were able to isolate and treat all infected while letting the rest of their population function on a more normal level. And it is reported they have stopped the disease in the town.

In the absence of that ability to test all, treat and quarantine based on the result of comprehensive, accurate testing, I find myself drifting in the direction of perhaps “better safe than sorry” – without the mass hysteria hoarding of TP or forced small business closings – is the way to go.

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