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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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Second Amendment Sanctuary



I couldn’t contain my amusement from afar when Warren County became a Second Amendment Sanctuary, particularly as local Democrats regurgitated worn out talking points. The Chairman of the Warren County Democrats claimed to see similarities between the sanctuary and the Massive Resistance of the 1960’s, and another of Warren County’s “best and brightest” took the curious position that resistance to unconstitutional usurpations was unconstitutional. Their Confederate forefathers would be quite proud.

Such dogma has clouded the unique history of these constitutional disputes. The doctrine of nullification was best articulated by Thomas Jefferson in 1798 in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. It played a unique political role in the years preceding the Civil War. In his Farewell Address to the Senate in 1861, Jefferson Davis condemned the Northern states for their “disregard of its constitutional obligations.” Just what were these obligations? Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.

The most heroic instance occurred in Wisconsin. The state legislature called for “positive defiance” of efforts by federal marshals to capture and return runaway slaves. “Personal liberty” laws were common in the North at the time. But local Democrats, then as now, seem to think that this act of resistance was just simply awful. Then as now, they would defer the matter to the Roger Taney’s of the courts for settlement. (Apparently the Second Amendment’s protection as an individual right hasn’t been settled by the Supreme Court according to local Democrats. But I digress.)

To their ignorance they have built common ground with the proponents of Massive Resistance of the 1960’s. In 1680, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation making it illegal of a black person to carry any weapon. In 1723, they specifically forbade firearms. Predictably enough disarming blacks received support among the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party, the Ku Klux Klan. Rosa Parks recounted that her husband “slept with a gun nearby for a time,” and Frederick Douglass recognized that “A man’s rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.

From the apocalyptic outrage at the election of a Republican president to Ralph Northam’s classless costume choice, Virginia Democrats are certainly living up to their Confederate heritage.

Devon Downes

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Three lessons from Christmas



For people of most religious persuasions, Christmas represents the high point of the year, as stories of the Christ and His humble beginnings are told and retold, enriched by the millennia of traditions and practices, and passed on to each generation in turn. For the many without religious affiliation, the Christmas season presents somewhat of an enigma- the goodwill on public display, the celebrations of light and music, and the timeworn admonitions to “be good for goodness’ sake”, contrast sharply with the unbridled materialism and crass appeals to humankind’s worst instincts – greed, grasping, win-at-all-costs competition.

It’s possible to benefit from the true and transcendent values of the Christmas season even if one shrinks from the more spiritual interpretations. At the same time, people with a strong faith tradition would do well to consider the more practical lessons that Christmas is prepared to teach.

It’s true that the Christmas season does stimulate a desire in many to participate in the traditional gift-giving exercise, whatever the belief about the holiday itself – if it is only a deep need not to row your boat against the current of social convention. And seldom will a Christmas nonbeliever refuse a gift given them!

So lesson one could be: Think about every gift and give only what you believe will really be appreciated. It may be that something unusual or hand made by you will be much closer to the heart than a standard box of candy. If you don’t know someone well enough to give them something they will appreciate, as they say, you don’t know them well enough.

It’s also true that “Things” have value in different ways. Getting older makes one realize that the value of “things” with which we fill our homes gets drastically smaller over time. Christmas teaches us to reevaluate what is really important to have in our life. Sometimes a visit from a friend beats a gold watch!

So lesson two is: Identify what’s really important to you, and let go of the rest!

Our kids are inheriting much more from us than whatever we leave in a will – they are inheriting our values. Modern Christmas focuses so much on satisfying the material wants of our children that what they really need is often forgotten. If our own lives are filled with the pressures of succeeding in a competitive world, building up the net worth, appearing successful to the world around, while our children live in a form of emotional and spiritual poverty, we have failed the following generations.

Lesson three, then, is: Children are the most important thing we leave to the world. Christmas provides the opportunity to shape their worldview as influencers and leaders. Shouldn’t we strive to give them the best tools, opportunities, and motivations?

These three lessons seem simple, but the more you think about them, they capture the essence of a fulfilled life and a legacy for the future. As fractured as our world seems to be, sometimes the simple approach is best. For you and your friends and family, Merry Christmas!

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Let’s ‘cut to the chase’ regarding the 2nd Amendment and more proposed gun control



Disregarding the U.S. Constitution for a moment, in my opinion, being able to protect yourself, family and property is a HUMAN right, not subject to compromise or negotiation with government agencies or any other entity, period! The Declaration of Independence had it correct, we all have an unalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Considering the existence of violent threats only a firearm gives one the ability to effectively respond.

Firearms ARE the means to ensure Liberty. Vast public ownership of firearms in America is one of the major elements that distinguishes us from the rest of the world. Maintaining a free citizenry is only guaranteed through the public ownership of firearms.

The right to keep and bear arms is only ‘affirmed’ in the Second Amendment in the Constitution. The actual Right was addressed previously above. Since a primary reason for separating from England was to have religious freedom, that is enshrined in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It is no coincidence that the affirmation of gun Rights was addressed next because the Framers knew that it was only through force that other Rights in the Constitution could be guaranteed. The Framers purposefully used the phrase ‘Shall Not Be Infringed’ to emphasize the absoluteness of that Right. No other Amendment has similar language. The gun Right provision was prescribed to the PEOPLE since all adults were to comprise the militia. That’s in essence the basis for the Supreme Court Heller ruling that the Second Amendment applies to individuals, not to a collective government institution.

The arguments by some that hunters don’t need semi-automatic rifles, large capacity magazines or other accessories, that may seem scary to some, are irrelevant because access to such products has nothing to do with NEED. It’s about the freedom to choose what we want and not be told what is appropriate for us. To guard against tyranny the public has a right to any weapon that is generally used by soldiers in the military, end of argument.

The problem with Progressives (Democrats), in my opinion, is that their brains are more tuned to emotion than logic. They are the ‘feelers’ as opposed to Conservatives (Republicans) being the ‘pragmatists’. Unfortunately, emotions can be a stronger force than intellect. That’s why advertisements such as children with medical problems and neglected or abused animals are so effective. Democrats are wired such that they have a need to ‘do something’ to address a problem even if the proposed actions have little, if any, real affect.

While mass killings, especially in schools, are extremely tragic there is nothing that can be done to absolutely eliminate that as a possibility in our future. Even if guns magically disappeared from the planet, mentally damaged or evil people would construct bombs, use biological agents or employ other weapons to kill and injure. That’s why I believe we’re seeing the rash of gun control proposals by the Democrat majority in the upcoming Virginia Legislature. They have to ‘do something’ even if its only symbolic rather than practical or effective.

Democrats seem to exist in a fantasy-land where they think they can legislate a perfect, risk free world. They cannot accept the reality that making certain conduct or products illegal will actually prevent criminals from evil activities. You’ve no doubt heard arguments that draconian restrictions are justified if just one person is saved from harm or ill-consequence, regardless that they’ll restrict liberty for a multitude of law abiding citizens as a side effect. The problem though is that their gun control proposals conflict with Liberty and there can be no middle ground at this point between those concepts. This is exhibited by the overwhelming level of demonstration we are seeing by freedom loving people against their anticipated proposals. Approximately half of Virginia’s county’s have already passed or are considering resolutions of support for the Second Amendment even if such action is only symbolic.

It has been said that Ben Franklin once stated something to the affect that ‘those that would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.’ I believe he was right on the money. Personally, I would rather die a free man than live as a dependent or slave of the government. We’ve lost too many liberties already and this is a bridge too far! Even in a democracy there are some things that can’t be compromised and most of what the Democrats are proposing is simply unacceptable. Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Fortunately I believe we haven’t reached that point yet and much of what is advertised that Democrats will propose would be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court if actually enacted into law. Also, lower courts would almost certainly enjoin enforcement of such laws until the highest court could make it’s ruling.

Regardless though, all Liberty loving citizens should act now in an attempt to prevent dangerous laws from being passed. Contact the authors of the objectional Bills and make rational arguments against their proposals. Ensure that you and those you know are registered to vote so we can expand pro-liberty influence in the Legislature in 2022. Contribute money if you can to organizations and representatives who promote liberty and logic over more government and ineffective restrictions on our freedoms. Be willing to take the time to participate in public, non-violent demonstrations against further gun laws.

Finally, speak with your family, neighbors, friends and anyone else you come in contact with and explain the logic of why more gun laws are detrimental because only law abiding citizens are negatively affected.

Gary Kushner
Front Royal, Virginia
A Libertarian Patriot

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The Christ of Christmas



The Christian church year begins with the Advent of Our Lord, the four weeks of getting ready for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. Advent is a time of joyful preparation for the wonderful time when the Son of God came to earth to live as a person among the people.

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in His First Advent and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in His Second Advent.

The Christian Christmas is a brief season (twelve days), beginning on Christmas Day, December 25, and continuing through January 5, celebrating the Name of Jesus which is the eve of Epiphany. Christmas is a season of thankfulness for the goodness of God. The purpose of Jesus Christ’s birth was to save us from our sins, to reveal the Father to us and lead us to Him and to reveal the Kingdom of God so that we can live according to God’s Way. Jesus came to reconcile us to God so that we can have eternal life. “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Our Christian desire is to turn the eyes of all men and women upon the true Creator and Christ of Christmas. The true light of the world has come. The Christmas season and celebration presents the Church with an outstanding opportunity to preach the good news; that men can be made righteous and have peace with God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one!

Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

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Some thoughts about the “2nd Amendment ‘Sanctuary’ drive” article



Let’s start with a simple evaluation of the efficacy of HB 2. It sounds like a great idea, right? let’s be clear on what this really means and whom this is aimed at, because it’s not retailers, its private citizens.

How about a word swap; Firearm = Motor Vehicle and Background = Drivers License. Now let’s read that again.

“Requires a Drivers License check for any Motor Vehicle transfer and directs the Department of State Police (the Department) to establish a process for transferors to obtain such a check from licensed Motor Vehicles dealers.”

Such checks would become mandatory, rather than voluntary. Selling without the required Drivers License check would be declared a Class 6 felony; receipt of a Motor Vehicle without the required Drivers License check would be classified a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

Putting the same language to that very simple test shows that it is unreasonable. First if we wouldn’t put the burden of validating a person’s driver’s license on the person selling a vehicle, so why shouldn’t the same be true for selling a firearm. Second the sale of the gun is what’s being made a felony, but the purchase is only a misdemeanor. If the goal is to keep guns from criminals, why is the penalty less for the theoretical criminal buying the gun? Now on the other hand if the goal is the widening of bureaucracy and over burdening an already understaffed state agency it might sound like a swell law. Or perhaps its just designed to pray on the fears of the citizens of Virginia? Theoretically the goal is to keep guns from those already bared from having them so shouldn’t it be written that way and not to place an undue burden on law abiding citizens?

To the earlier metaphor comparing guns to cars, driving a car requires you be a minimum age, get a permit, show proficiency with a road test. Many drivers will only ever go to the DMV to get a new photo or register a new car. There is no continuous requirement to prove themselves eligible to drive. Yet every gun I have purchased over the past 20 years has required a background check, including my black powder, to prove I was eligible to make the purchase. Just like driving you must be of legal age to purchase a firearm. Obtaining a permit to carry requires not only a background check but a review by the circuit court for approval, after submitting proof of proficiency with a firearm. Every future purchase will still require an additional background check for each gun I buy. The dealers from whom I have purchased these guns face a mountain of paperwork. Each dealer is required to maintain completed forms for 20 years in the case of completed sales, and for 5 years where the sale was disapproved as a result of the NICS check. If I went to any auto dealership in town do you suppose they have records proving person they sold a car held a valid license even 5 years ago.

On maximum clip or magazine size: “Another aspect of SB 16, the maximum clip or magazine size, is another legitimate topic for legislative debate. Should the general public have access to military-sized clips carrying 30 or more rounds? Is a 10-round clip limit too small or too large for recreational shooting use? Is there justification for public access to larger clip sizes, and if so, how large? Correct me if I’m wrong hunters, but to my knowledge semi-automatic assault-style rifles and their large clips are not legal for hunting, and certainly wouldn’t be very sporting if they were.”

Do you enjoy country music, or perhaps classical, or R&B maybe? What’s the point? Just like there are many types of music and fans there are many types of gun owners and shooting sports. Just because the popular misconception is that the only legitimate private use of a firearm is hunting doesn’t make it true. Simply because someone may not be fully versed in sporting arms and the various ways in which other individuals may choose to enjoy the use of their firearms dose not make those pursuits any less valid than an individual’s personal choice in music. Under that same flawed logic NHRA, NASCAR, and F1 should not exist because cars are for transport to work and not racing. There are many a gun owner whom have never stepped foot into the woods to hunt and have no desire to do so, but it doesn’t mean that their right to enjoy shooting targets should be limited due to a lack of knowledge on the part of others.

There are a lot of statements made, often with little or no supporting facts given, and the responsibility is then on the reader to “fact check” and determine what is “news” and what is “opinion”. We are frequent Royal Examiner readers because in general you do a good job of limiting the rhetoric and clarifying what is opinion. However, some statements like this that refer to trends, really need the numbers to help clarify the magnitude of what we are discussing.

“Okay, I can live with background checks. In fact, in the face of the rising tide of mass shooting violence in America I believe a majority of Americans, perhaps even a majority of gun owners, support them.”

So, these are some of the “facts” as I understand them from sources, I was able to find readily available via Google. (numbers are from 2017 with sources cited below).

  1. There were 4.26 times the number of deaths due to overdose (1,507) than to gun related homicide (353).
  2. Automobiles accidents (843) accounted for 2.38 times the number of deaths as gun related homicide (353).
  3. Gun related deaths (1028) in Virginia represent 29.2% of the top three causes of non-natural death (Motor Vehicle, Gun, & Overdose totaling 3520).
  4. 10% of the other than natural deaths in Virginia in 2017 were gun related homicides (353).
  5. 64.5% of gun related deaths in Virginia are suicide.
  6. 7.8% of all deaths (6,7762) in Virginia are of unnatural causes (5,298).
  7. Gun related homicides (353) represent 0.52% the all deaths (6,7762) in Virginia.
  8. Gun related suicide (664) represent 0.98% the all deaths (6,7762) in Virginia.
  9. 79% of gun-related assault injuries were among persons aged 15-34 years, 89% were male, and 77% were minorities.
  10. 47% occurred in the Eastern region, followed by 34% in the Central region.
  11. 51% of gun-related self-harm injuries were among persons aged 25-54 years, 76% were male, and 74% were white.

To my earlier metaphor comparing guns to cars, driving a car requires you be a minimum age, get a permit, show proficiency with a road test. Many drivers will only ever go to the DMV to get a new photo or register a new car. There is no continuous requirement to prove themselves eligible to drive. Yet every gun I have purchased over the past 20 years has required a background check, including my black powder, to prove I was eligible to make the purchase. Just like driving you must be of legal age to purchase a firearm. Obtaining a permit to carry requires not only a background check but a review by the circuit court for approval, after submitting proof of proficiency with a firearm. And any future purchase will still require an additional background check for each gun I buy. The dealers from whom I have purchased these guns face a mountain of paperwork. Each dealer is required to maintain completed forms for 20 years in the case of completed sales, and for 5 years where the sale was disapproved as a result of the NICS check. If I went to any auto dealership in town do you suppose they have records proving person they sold a car held a valid license even 5 years ago?

If were looking for things that need to be discussed in our community, commonwealth, and country let’s try a few of these:

  • Let’s start looking at the under lying socioeconomic issues that result in firearm violence.
  • Let’s start focusing on the treatment and prevention of mental health issues.
  • Let’s start focusing on the growing suicide epidemic.
  • Let’s start focusing on education both for gun safety and understanding.
  • Let’s start putting funding into micro-loans to foster economic development.
  • Let’s start helping community leaders develop mentoring programs.
  • Let’s start by installing hope and breaking cycles of violence.
  • Let’s start focusing on the growing addiction crisis in our community.

As a responsible gun owner, I have the right to hunt, target shoot, and project myself, my loved ones and my property. My second amendment right is not a bargaining chip for anyone, pundit or politician, that would use my ownership of guns to strike fear in others.


Patrick A. DeZess
Linden, Virginia

Statistical Sources:

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The absolute hope and promise of Christmas



Dear Editor,

Christmas once again; when we joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Who is He? Isaiah 9:6 proclaims, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… and his name shall be called… The mighty God, The heavenly Father…”. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… the only begotten of the Father…” Why? God had to become flesh to die! He had to shed His own blood! This is the price God Himself set for our redemption/salvation; and His being willing to pay that price resulted in the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas! Called Immanuel, meaning “God with us”!

Being known to utter amazing and profound things concerning you and me; it seems He was speaking from His heart; the heart of God, to our hearts! Saying (John 10:10), “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Saying, in effect, He came to offer the remedy to the scourge and surety of death! The natural life, suffering death and dying, is both fleeting and temporary. Therefore, Jesus is not speaking of it here. Rather, He is saying He came to give us something we didn’t/don’t already have: Life (never-ending)! The free gift of God revealed in Romans 6:23; Therefore, we will have life forever!

As to “abundantly”, abundant means “existing in plentiful supply; abounding.” An adjective, it here describes the subject “the new life!” We do have spiritual and other blessings in this life, but it here seems opposed to prosperity; for prosperity means “being successful, flourishing, material well-being.” Maybe a care and problem-free life now. Therefore, “abundantly” is speaking to the subject: eternal life, not of “more of”, “better than” or even happiness in this temporal life. Hence, “abundantly” is referring to the plentiful, abounding supply of what we don’t have in the now. It’s what He came to give us: eternal life!

Knowing of our pain, struggles and sorrows, Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-29, “Come unto me… and I will give you rest… rest unto your souls.” Amazingly, in John 16:33, He said, “…in this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Also, saying in Revelation 2:9, “I know thy works, tribulation and poverty, but thou art rich!” The more abundant life is achieved in this life in part only, however, in the fact that he will never leave or forsake us. Thus our greatest happiness, glory and joy is in our walk and talk with Him!

Jesus said (John 1o:25-26), “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and… shall never die.” In effect, guaranteeing to those who believe, are saved/born again, the abundant, never-ending life! Saying in John 14:2-3; “I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and receive you unto myself…”

Clearly a “done deal”; The sealing of the deal!

Forever in the place He is preparing, an abundant life guaranteed by our eternal guarantor Jesus Christ, being sealed in His blood!

This then, is the absolute and sure Hope and Promise of Christmas!

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, Virginia

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