On October 19, the Royal Examiner published an open letter from two concerned citizens regarding their opinion that the entire Warren County School Board needs to be replaced. Many things were said in that letter to which a person might choose to respond, but one thing, in particular, stood out to me: “…it costs $64 million annually to educate 4,958 students in the Warren County Public School (WCPS). That means Warren County taxpayers are paying almost $13,000 to educate one public school student a year. That seems excessive!”
Is $13,000 per student excessive? I decided to compare some numbers to find out.
Firstly, as reported by the Royal Examiner on May 6 of this year, the budget approved for 2021-22 was $63,944,829. Divided across 4,958 students, that would be $12,897 per student.
The national average for public school spending is $12,612 per student. This is a difference of $285. Put another way, Warren County spends 2.25% more per student than the national average.
Ah, but excess is not determined solely by the grand total. We could spend a fraction of this budget, and if it was allocated poorly (spent frivolously to paint fences, perhaps) then it could still be considered excessive. The website for Warren County Public Schools helpfully has a link to the full budget; on page three, we can see that 76.31% of the budget ($48.8 million) is explicitly allocated for instruction.
Is that excessive?
Also interesting to note, near the end of the Warren County Public Schools budget (on page 38), the School Board has helpfully compared Warren County’s per-student spending to the state average. Since 2017, Warren County Public Schools has consistently spent almost $2,000 less per student than Virginia’s average.
Is it excessive to have a budget in line with the national average, a budget BELOW the state average, with almost all of the budgeted funds being explicitly directed to educating our children?
I suppose we will learn what the people think on November 2.
Front Royal, Virginia
The sun is over the yardarm
As I relax behind the wheel of my outdated mobile, I realize I am the 15th car at this East Main traffic light. There appear to be more cars than roads in our fair city. The red glow of the brake lights silhouettes the passengers moving to their music and hanging out the windows. The revelry gives way to a sense of looming excitement all around. Summer has moved in. Coolness abounds.
Something is in the air. The vehicles aren’t from around here. It appears that the flatlanders are infiltrating the high country to kick off the summer season. Tents and hikers will soon pop up along the rivers and highlands. All is good. The spirits of the people are not succumbing to the elevated gas prices and the foreboding gloom on TV. That is just fine with the locals. We love the beaming new faces and the sweet smell of campfires up and down the river. Alas, COVID has taken up position in the rearview mirror.
Memorial Day revelers historically kick off the summer in the US of A and send a signal to the fashionistas that it’s okay to sport about in white blazers and slacks for the next 90 days – assuming anyone still adheres to that rule anymore. Soon the sun will be over the yardarm – and we can burn some meat and switch on the smoking lamp.
So, remember to make some noise this weekend as spring gives way to summer madness. Alas, the lengthy chill is billowing out to sea – rapidly replaced by rising temperatures. School’s out – it’s party time battalion style! Let the 90 days of summer commence! Next stop – fall football season. Not so fast. We’ll get to that in due time.
This Memorial Day starts a series of three Federal holidays within a six-week stretch. (Memorial Day – this weekend, Juneteenth (weekend of 19 June), and Independence Day (weekend of July 4th). How cool is that? Frankly, if you cannot find time during one of these extended weekends to step out – then you should consult a therapist. Do not waste time. It is the stuff that life is made of.
My advice this summer is to do something different. Grab an inexpensive cruise around the Caribbean or hit the beach. If you are staying local, get down by the river with some friends…Or…simply put on some ole ’60s Beach Music tunes, don some sandals and commandeer some small kid’s swimming pool. Forget about Biden and Ukraine for a spell and crank up “summertime’s calling me” by the Catalina’s. If you find that appealing, then have a go with some of the other Carolina Beach Music groups like The Embers, The Tams, The Drifters, or Chairman of the Board. You can be sure that is what they are doing in the affluent quarters of Charleston to usher in the summer. If you do not know what I am talking about – just look it up and listen to a few of these tunes and your karma will align properly. It is a beach thing and it goes well with beers and campfires in the Valley during this time of year too. If you tilt brown juice while listening to it, your girlfriend may have you shuffling about on the dance floor. It is called shagging in the Carolinas. Not to be confused with the English use of the term – which is also a possible by-product of this behavior.
However, as the night turns into the next morning kindly do not reference this article or call me in irritation. However, do know that accelerated revelry and adolescent antics into the night are good for the soul now and again. Keeps you young. There are, of course, other things to commemorate during this Memorial Day weekend so once the wind has blown your head clear, allow me a bit of refinement.
Memorial Day is also a time of reflection and commemoration of those that fought on our behalf in war. I always enjoy recording and watching the plethora of war movies that annually populate the Turner Classic Movie channel over Memorial Day weekend. That is one of the cool things I like about living in America. This year, 2022, in particular, commemorates several rounded military anniversary dates – and several of these commemorative sites are within close proximity. Keeping with the spirit of the holiday, remember that the US Civil War and World War II had quite a few memorable battles that we commemorate around the end of May and the first days of June. As you know, the locals just celebrated the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Front Royal on Monday (23 May 1862) and the US will soon celebrate the 80th anniversary of The Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942 – next Saturday. Two days later on the following Monday, we can raise a glass to our heroes that fought in the Battle of D-Day in 1944 – which we commemorate annually on 6 June.
Both of these significant dates are coming up next week. Just another fine reason to raise a glass I always say. So while you are enjoying coffee and donuts one of these glorious summer mornings, remember, a donut without a hole is a Danish and the only King without a mustache is the King of Hearts.
PSYWAR in the valley – Jackson’s Valley campaign recalled tonight at Warren Rifles Museum
(Editor’s note: Author John Paul Morgan will be the featured speaker at tonight’s May 23rd ceremonies sponsored by the Warren Rifles Museum commemorating both the Battle of Front Royal and the 160th anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The event will begin at 6:30 PM. Due to the threat of steady rain late this afternoon and evening, the event has been moved indoors to the Warren Rifles Museum at 95 Chester Street in midtown Front Royal, from the good weather site at Soldier’s Circle in Prospect Hill Cemetery.)
There’s a line in the 1968 “Green Beret” movie where John Wayne says, “Put PSYWAR on it.” That’s essentially what the Confederacy did when things looked bleak 160 years ago. In case you missed that last point – this spring is the 160th anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign. Just so you know, Front Royal is probably the only town in America that can claim a run and gun shootout between opposing armies in its streets. Urban engagements were a rarity in the U.S. Civil War.
As a former Intelligence officer, I was intrigued with the military deception and Information warfare exhibited in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 – and in particular – the effects of said campaign. So much so, that I moved from Washington to the Valley in 2007 to have a closer look. I have yet to depart. Today most of us glance at the Civil War historical signs from time to time but rarely do we pause and visualize what the Valley must have been like in yesteryear. Our collective culture and technology have matured so much that it takes an in-depth imagination to construct such a visual. Meanwhile military classrooms around the world continue to regale their students with captivating tales and lessons learned from maneuvers that occurred on the very streets and grounds we walk around on every day in the Valley.
The Visual: The spring of 1862 was much like the one in 2022 – up to this past weekend – colder than most with lingering snow. The future dawned dark for the Confederates as Federal progress threatened to make this conflict a brief footnote in U.S. history. The combined U.S. Army offensive driving westward between the James and York Rivers was coordinated with another U.S. force moving southward along what is now the I-95 corridor from Fredericksburg. This one-two punch comprised the hammer and anvil smash General McClellan had in mind for the Southern capital. All told, the U.S. army had a force of 200,000 closing in on Richmond. The Confederate defenses had roughly 60,000 troops to oppose this enormous force. The numerical disproportion was increased by the North’s vast material resources.
For a gambling man, this is not a difficult wager here. Take the United States to win by 4 touchdowns – no brainer. No doubt a smart bet if the U.S. had not succumbed to a masterful influence operation. As Houdini said, “What the eyes see and the ears hear – the mind believes.” The brain trust of the rebel alliance found a weakness in the Lincoln Administration’s thinking and the results shocked the world. Lincoln and advisors were very concerned about protecting their capital. General Lee and President Davis would exacerbate those fears by way of a little-known soldier at the time.
For the next three months, General Stonewall Jackson crisscrossed the Valley wired hot with dispatches from General Lee to cause havoc and remain foremost in the mind of the Lincoln Administration. Jackson’s objective was to tie up as many Federal forces as possible thereby relieving pressure on the rebel capital while feigning towards Washington if possible. It was a tall order but if successful, Jackson’s maneuvers would divert troops at the very moment McClellan needed them for the combined offensive against Richmond. This would require fake newspaper stories, deceptive marches eastward to get on train transport westward, operational security and speed.
Stonewall’s antics in the Valley did not get inside General McClellan’s head but his actions clearly had effects on the National Command team headed by President Lincoln in Washington. The impact on the President and his advisors caused the redirection of three Federal armies totaling over 50,000 troops away from Richmond at a critical juncture. He essentially removed the anvil portion of the equation. Lincoln re-directed those forces to converge on the Valley with the aim of destroying Jackson and preventing him from threatening Washington. Jackson’s infantry force of about 15,000 was way too small to cause harm to Washington but the U.S. leadership did not know that. Deception is everything in warfare.
One of the advantages Jackson used was a hyper-accurate survey of the Valley’s floor in collusion with cavalry screening and deception to keep the Federal opposition guessing wildly. Federal and Southern newspapers sounded the alarm further enhancing the impact of his exploits – in some cases providing misinformation. Jackson’s troops were known as foot cavalry trudging 40 miles a day. Washington could not make sense of the reports stating Jackson was 60 miles from the last report, so calculations of his troop strength rose exponentially with each report. Federal forces were lulled to sleep by the effective use of cavalry along the valley corridors and mountain gaps. Against Union General Banks, Jackson segregated his force from the protection of his cavalry in order to deceive the opposition as to his location. One minute the Federal forces are exchanging fire with his cavalry diversion in Strasburg and the next minute Banks and staff are reading reports that Jackson is blitzing through Front Royal – seizing Federal supply wagons on his way to Harper’s Ferry. All this was quite alarming to Lincoln and his staff as Harper’s Ferry is in proximity of Washington especially for a force that moves as rapid as Jackson’s appeared to be – and especially since there is minimal protection between them. So Lincoln pulled more troops from McClellan thereby further impeding McClellan’s moves against Richmond. Jackson had no intention of attacking Washington.
Meanwhile Jackson’s use of operational security was so effective that his own brigade commanders had no idea where they were going next. That caused a few problems, as you can imagine, but it also meant that stragglers and the Valley citizens could not reveal what they did not know. We call that OPSEC today. The Richmond papers promoted the idea that Richmond defenses were ringed by an enormous force of two hundred thousand. Interestingly, these numbers were confirmed by McClellan’s chief of Intelligence – a man named Pinkerton. As noted above, there were barely sixty thousand. The results of this disinformation cautioned the Federal leviathan’s movements toward Richmond while Lincoln redirected more troops toward the protection of the capital. In modern parlance – this is called “effects based PSYOP at its best!”
There’s an ole saying, it’s not the years in one’s life that matter but the life in one’s years. Prior to the U.S. Civil War, few had ever heard of Stonewall Jackson. In fact, the following summer Jackson would be killed in battle. But in the spring of 1862, in the span of three months, Stonewall Jackson would become the most famous officer in the world. His forces marched hundreds of miles, fought 5 pitched battles and tied up over 50,000 Federal troops in three months’ time. He effectively saved the Confederacy from certain destruction in 1862. His campaign altered the course of the war, forcing U.S. war planners to vector brigades earmarked for the hammer and anvil out to the Valley to crush him.
The strategic results of the Valley campaign followed up by General Lee’s audacious maneuvers along the Chickahominy provide history with the biggest turnaround ever witnessed in warfare. Within weeks of the Valley exploits, the Confederates were at the gates of Washington staging for the invasion of Northern territory. Unreal. But it all started right out here in the Shenandoah Valley 160 years ago.
How about that.
Growing social division and its political symptoms
Our country is more deeply divided than it has ever been. Just within the past weeks, we have seen the murder of nearly a dozen people whose only crime was being born with darker skin than that of the murderer.
State legislatures are imposing laws prohibiting all abortions despite the beliefs and desires of the majority of their constituents.
Conservative legislators are actually banning books and the seditious ideas they supposedly contain.
With midterm elections upon us, our so-called Representative, Ben Cline, is again begging for money and denigrating the people who don’t support him by calling their ideas radical and socialistic. Every month Ben Cline puts out a “newsletter” and every newsletter starts with complaints about President Biden. Instead of working to fix his constituents’ problems, he is taking the Moscow Mitch approach to politics by spending 100% of his efforts obstructing the Democrats. How does this help us pay for food and fuel? How does this help our country?
Why would anyone give Ben Cline money to draw the salary WE are paying so that he can continue to whine and complain?
Warren County, Virginia
Price of Progress
Every year in May a colleague and I take about a dozen students on some type of weeklong outdoor experience. In the past we have done backpacking or canoeing, but this year we camped at different historical and environmental locations in western Oklahoma. We spent a few days camping at Black Mesa, followed by a few days at Alabaster Caverns, and concluded at the Battle of Washita. It was on our last day while watching a video about the Battle that a line caught my attention. The video asked, “What was the price of progress?” I have thought about this for a few days. Historically speaking, there have been too many instances to count where we thought we were doing the right thing at the time, in the name of progress, only to realize later that we had made mistakes. It makes me wonder, with so many social and cultural changes, what will our price be for progress.
During the Civil War in 1864, bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho began to attack whites who were encroaching on their lands. In response the Colorado militia under Colonel John M. Chivington attacked a village that included Chief Black Kettle. When the warriors fled, hoping to draw away the soldiers, the soldiers instead attacked the village mostly composed of old men, women, and children. The government acknowledge their wrong and in the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty promised to take care of the Indians if they moved to Indian Territory. However, the government did not fulfill their side of the bargain and whites continued to encroach on Indian lands. When the natives fought back and raided settlements, the army decided they needed to put a stop to Indian crimes and ordered General Philip Sheridan to punish they Cheyenne tribes. Sheridan turned to his trusted lieutenant and hero of the Civil War, Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer.
Though seen very differently today, Custer was one of America’s most popular celebrities. Made a General during the war at only age 23, Custer was one of the boy generals and was seen as a romantic dashing character. After the war he was commissioned a Lt. Colonel and followed his mentor Sheridan out west where he continued to build his fame as an Indian fighter.
On the other side of the battle was Black Kettle. Even after the Sand Creek Massacre, Black Kettle tried to work with the U.S. government for peace. He worked so hard for peace that his band was forced to separate themselves from the other Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa camped along the Washita River. On the morning of November 27, 1868, Custer with the 7th Cavalry attacked at dawn against the isolated camp of Black Kettle. Custer led one unit directly into the village while the others surrounded it to cut off escape. In the end between 30 to 60 Cheyenne lay dead, including Black Kettle. Custer then ordered the destruction of 650 horses belonging to Black Kettle’s people to hurt them in the future. It was only after the other camps began to arrive on scene that Custer retreated to Fort Supply. Here is the thing: today we see Custer as a villain, but in 1868 he was lauded a hero. He would go on to win several other major victories, each time increasing his fame. He was so popular by the time of his death at the Little Big Horn that the American population demanded revenge, which justified Sheridan’s scorched earth policy that devastated the Native tribes and forced most of them onto reservations.
It is hard for us to understand the popularity of Custer today. His methods were almost on the level of genocide, but he did it in the name of progress. At the time Natives were standing in the way of U.S. progress. Their outdated ways and beliefs were hurting America’s greatness. At the time Americans needed to grow. They needed more land.
The problem with Indians was that they had not changed with the times. They were too old-fashioned. For one thing, they did not use the land properly. In the U.S. view, land was meant to be tamed, to be controlled. You were not using the land properly if you did not section off what was yours with a fence, cut down the trees to build a house, and plow under the grass lands to plant crops. New technologies were allowing Whites to progress faster than ever before, with railroads and steel plows. Railroads needed to cross vast areas of land, lands that had been promised to the Native tribes. With these new technologies, as well as the discovery of gold on Indian lands, the U.S. government began to shrink Native lands, or move them somewhere else altogether. Forget that these lands had been theirs for thousands of years. They were in the way of U.S. progress.
It is hard for us today to grasp that in the late nineteenth century, the army was seen as in the right. Those who stood up for the Natives were seen as out of touch and against America’s progress. The Natives did kill Custer and his entire regiment. Anyone capable of such actions needed punishing. Yet the price of such progress was cultural genocide.
What is the price of progress that we will have to pay today? Nineteenth-century Americans could never have imagined that they would be judged harshly for their treatment of Indians, who were considered savages who were hurting America. What are we doing today in the name of progress that people will look back on in 100 years and think why did they allow that? What are we doing that could ultimately cause harm to our society or culture but yet seems like the right thing to do?
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.
The Forgotten Variable in Pending Overturn of Roe v Wade – Unwanted Children
I sat in church Sunday and heard my pastor say abortion is immoral and we should be okay with Roe v. Wade being overturned. It was hardly a trailblazing announcement, but it made me look around and assess the women in that room, many of whom I’d lay money on having had one. There were women of all ages but not too much diversity. Mostly white and mostly middle class. Mostly.
In the immediacy, this likely development doesn’t affect me personally. My uterus is safely on the other side of its sell-by date. The young women that I personally know seem largely indifferent to the fall of Roe v Wade (kind of reminds me of the Iraqis that wouldn’t fight for their own skin.) My two daughters are generally viewed as extremely ill-advised in the reproducing department.
Amelia tells me repeatedly that she has no desire for a baby. I blame Sofi for that. Sofi is 7 years old and who knows what she’ll want? Developmentally she’s about 2.5 years old (according to UVA) so with any luck, she’ll be menopausal before she chooses to be a biological mom.
So, what does this mean to me? Several things. It means Pro-Lifers are delusional if they think they’ll be good at caring for this new onslaught of unwanted children. They’ve done very poorly thus far. There will be more unwanted children languishing in substandard conditions. When a woman has an abortion she’s saying, “I can’t do this.” She means it, people. She always has. Legal and safe abortions tidied that up for all of society. Orphanages were common until the mid-60s but less so afterward. So, there will still be babies to save. There always have been.
As for Pro-Choicers, well maybe these 50 years were an anomaly. Maybe what the world (or simply America) DOESN’T want for women dwarfs what it does. It DOESN’T want us to be equal financially because we’ve never been, and children are the why for that. It DOESN’T want us thinking we are equal without a willingness to reproduce – a common complaint among my childless women friends.
Legal abortion had its flaws (damnation being a common belief aimed at those unfortunate repeat offenders.) Far more interesting to me is the who, when, and why regarding those who do manage to step up to solve an unsolvable problem – unwanted children. The prevention of and care for will ALWAYS be battles that need fighting. The high-horse attitudes of both sides are laughable in the face of the misery that unwanted children cause, and indeed endure.
Ann Deans Masch
Do the homework – and pray for all oppressed peoples
Shireen Abu Aqla, a Palestinian Christian, reporter, and the mentor and close friend of a dear Palestinian Christian, reporter, and friend of mine of over 25 years, was brutally gunned down recently by the government of “God’s Chosen People”, despite clearly wearing a visible “PRESS” vest. Do your own homework.
While trying to hold a peaceful funeral, the officers of “God’s Chosen People” kicked and beat the pallbearers. Where is the outrage from “Christian” America? Where is the outrage from those who claim to be a “child of God”?, yet remain silent while one of your own is brutally slaughtered? Do your own homework.
So many had no problem jumping on the “Save Ukraine” bandwagon. By the way, I support the people of Ukraine 100%!! – I also happen to support the people of Palestine. I support the beautiful peaceful native Tibetans. For that matter, I support those in Russia who are eager for genuine peace, yet who are stuck with brutal and soulless regime, run by well-known thugs. Do your own homework.
I have to ask: have any of you who say you support Israel actually read that Bible you say you believe in? Please give it a try. Cool book! I’m a huge fan. Enlighten yourselves to the many times that “God’s Chosen People” turned their hearts against God, and God left them to deal with the consequences. Stop making excuses for the thugs and punks that operate against their supposed God at will, just because of a culture they cling to out of convenience, as opposed to purpose. Do your own homework.
Granted, one could say the same about the manner in which U.S. politicians support this brutal government and their paid assassins, all in the name of convenience, while possessing zero value for true faith in a loving and compassionate God, whom I choose to believe sent his son to die for my sins. I want nothing to do with the God of murderers, thugs and the politicians who support them all for self-serving convenience. Do your own homework.
While we all pray for the beautiful people of Ukraine, please (after doing your own homework) also pray for the beautiful people of Palestine. The horrors which the people of Ukraine have been subjected to have been part of Palestinian life for over 70 years. Don’t they, also, have a “Right To Life?!?”
Michael Sean Williams
Front Royal, Virginia