More Columns From This Author

January 28, 2015

In my adult life, one of the most difficult challenges has been dealing honestly with my personal lack of religious faith.

January 21, 2015

One hazard of beginning a two-parter in a weekly paper is that events occasionally supervene – forcing your humble columnist to choose between a timely response to events, or finishing what he has started.

January 14, 2015

Eight-score and one year ago, Congress passed – and President Franklin Pierce signed – the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a law providing for the organization of two new territories, Kansas and Nebraska.

January 7, 2015

Since I took up residence in this space, I’ve seldom let a New Year pass without expressing my incredulity at the idea that January could be the beginning of anything.

December 31, 2014

The other day, an old friend posted – or rather, re-posted – one of those modern-day, chain-letter-like items which have done so much to turn the social media into a kind of Purgatory. This particular item asserted, in fighting words, the determination not to let anyone take away his right to wish others a “Merry Christmas.”

December 17, 2014

A few weeks back, in this space, I began a piece with the thought that – in a purely intellectual sense – I was born in Charlottesville at the chronological age of eighteen.

December 10, 2014

Last week, in this space, I suggested that a first step toward meaningfully reducing the plague of campus rape might come by recognizing that, in dealing with serious crimes, colleges and universities are ill-equipped – and insufficiently motivated – to assume the functions of official investigative, prosecutorial and judicial institutions.

December 10, 2014

Many years ago, an acquaintance asked me why I spoke of Charlottesville with such affection. Without thinking, I replied, “I was born there.” I quickly corrected myself. In literal truth, I was born at John Randolph Hospital, in Hopewell.

December 3, 2014

The great majority of my friends – both in real life and on social media – vote Democratic. In the wake of the midterm elections – which went so badly for Democratic candidates – most of these folks are looking for someone to blame.

November 19, 2014

Stop me if I’ve told you this. (Just kidding. We both know I have.)

November 12, 2014

This year, I failed to do my civic duty. I voted, of course. I always vote. But I’ve never regarded the mere act of voting as sufficient.

November 6, 2014

I read recently of a decision by New York State’s Board of Regents eliminating the requirement that high school students complete a year of both US History and Global History in order to graduate.

October 29, 2014

The other day, I was out running errands with a friend, who wanted to stop by the AT&T store to ask about a voicemail issue. This gave me a few minutes to stroll around, looking at displays of shiny, brightly-lit devices.

October 23, 2014

I don’t own a television. I do listen to public radio – and, during baseball season, some sports radio – but, since neither normally carries political advertising, I’m largely spared the annual flood of nonsense through which American political campaigns are conducted.

October 15, 2014

It won’t be easy writing this piece during a weekend in October – which is, in my opinion, properly the season for baseball.

October 9, 2014

I know almost nothing about ancient Greece.

October 2, 2014

Approaching yet another Election Day, I’d like – so very much – to be fired up about electing some exceptional candidate, or sending some disappointing incumbent into well-deserved retirement.

September 30, 2014

For many Americans, September means two things – back-to-school and football.

September 16, 2014

This week, while America’s media obsess over Roger Goodell’s increasingly shaky tenure as NFL Commissioner, President Obama is preparing to involve this country in yet another, far-from-promising adventure in the Middle East.

September 11, 2014

Last Saturday, after a particularly daunting workout at the Y, I treated myself to a hearty breakfast at Cracker Barrel. While waiting for my order, I overheard a fellow at a neighboring table lecturing his waitress on the folly of fast-food workers who had recently staged a one-day strike in favor of a living wage.

September 4, 2014

It’s that time again. Across the Commonwealth, students and teachers have started another school year. For many high school seniors, the college search now kicks into high gear.

August 29, 2014

I had planned to use this week’s piece to start a series on choosing the right college. Then, as occasionally happens, something supervened.

August 20, 2014

Last year, my best friend and I wandered into an Oregon book store, where she picked up a novel by Portland journalist Brian Doyle. After she’d had sighed, chuckled, and laughed aloud a half-dozen times – and read me some passages – I downloaded it to my Kindle.

August 13, 2014

I’m writing from Seattle – a frequent destination since my best friend moved here twelve years ago to earn her MFA and pursue a theatrical career.

August 6, 2014

Last week, in this space, I suggested that History will likely judge President Obama a failure, largely because of his failure to lead Americans in discovering a new sense of national identity – rooted in our past, but relevant to the circumstances of the present.

July 30, 2014

History is a slow process. It’s easy to predict what history will say, but extremely hard to get it right.

July 23, 2014

I wasn’t always a cat person. I grew up in a family that usually included one or two indoor-outdoor cats – but they’d ranked well behind the invariable pair of dogs and my sister’s ponies.

July 16, 2014

The President and Congress are heading for a collision over how to handle the “crisis” caused by a flood of underage immigrants – children and adolescents – across the Mexican border from failing, gang-ridden states in Central America.

July 9, 2014

Recently, on social media, I responded to a friend opposed to putting American “boots on the ground” in Mesopotamia.

July 3, 2014

It is a truth generally acknowledged that insanity may be defined as a proclivity for doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

June 24, 2014

Just over eleven years ago, President George W. Bush had his “Mission Accomplished” moment aboard the carrier Abraham Lincoln.

June 17, 2014

Recently, one of my students from Midlothian High School began posting photos, including old yearbook candids, from her high school days. Since I was very active with student organizations, I showed up in quite a few.

June 11, 2014

I began this piece at midday on Friday, June 6, a date that few Americans – few Britons, Canadians, Frenchmen – will permit to pass without a moment of reverence.

June 4, 2014

Somewhere, in a box of old files in the attic of our family’s garage, there’s a newspaper photograph of me with three other people: Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Warner.

May 28, 2014

My first column for the Village News – back in the summer of ‘04 – was an experiment. If it hadn’t gone well, I doubt you’d be reading this today.

May 21, 2014

In contemporary political discourse, one hears a great deal of bloviating about our nation’s Founders and what they believed.

May 14, 2014

One needn’t be too much the curmudgeon to argue that we live at a time of decline in popular culture.

May 7, 2014

Half a lifetime ago, when I was Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, my duties included making recommendations to the Governor about executive clemency.

April 30, 2014

As winter makes its delayed exit from the Shenandoah Valley, there are days when blue skies, puffy clouds and warm breezes cry out for a road trip.

April 23, 2014

Last week, in this space, I urged young people with political aspirations to weigh the advantages of making AGW – anthropogenic global warming – part of their political agendas.

April 16, 2014

Back in the late ‘70s, I was a young lawyer practicing at Chesterfield Courthouse, and like many young lawyers, I had political ambitions.

April 16, 2014

For the past few days, I’ve been back in the area – house-sitting at the old family place in Bermuda Hundred.

April 16, 2014

A friend – a smart, thoughtful and talented young mother of three - recently posted a question on social media asking what her friends do when they’re feeling grumpy.

March 26, 2014

This week, my local NPR station – WMRA – has been conducting its spring membership drive. And this time around, I’m ignoring it.

March 19, 2014

When I was a kid, you could be pretty sure our president – whether Republican or Democratic – would stand up to the Russians, or anyone else who threatened to extend tyranny by force.

March 12, 2014

In recent months, I’ve been re-reading Sir Winston Churchill’s monumental, six-volume history, The Second World War.

March 5, 2014

Before this sees print, the world will come to a screeching halt to watch this year’s Academy Awards.

February 26, 2014

For the past two weeks, the good folks who run the Village News have kindly run “classic” columns in this space. There were reasons for my absence – technological, weather-related, family, etc. – but the best and simplest explanation is that I went through a phase where I couldn’t face “the blank page.”

February 5, 2014

I’m writing this at a Starbucks in the Queen Anne district, early on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. In Seattle, things are remarkably quiet, but it’s the quiet before the storm.

January 29, 2014

I’m writing this on a nippy Friday afternoon in Staunton. At 1 p.m., temperatures had soared to 16 degrees outside, but it’s not likely to get much balmier today.

January 22, 2014

We are a nation obsessed by toys.

January 15, 2014

I’m writing this from Seattle, where I’m in the middle of an unplanned, eight-day trip to do a good deed of sorts.

January 15, 2014

For years now, in this space, I’ve cautioned readers against the fallacy of making “New Year’s resolutions” – that January 1 marks the beginning of absolutely nothing in the real, natural world.

December 30, 2013

If I had a Christmas wish this year, I’d wish that Christmas was still my favorite holiday.
When I was a kid, it absolutely was. As much as I liked Halloween, it didn’t compare with Christmas.

December 18, 2013

Recently, I watched a DVD of To Kill a Mockingbird, the 1962 film starring a perfectly-cast Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.

December 11, 2013

I don’t know if you’ve had the nightmare where you’re suddenly reminded that you have an exam tomorrow in a college class you thought you’d dropped and never attended.

December 4, 2013

From my childhood, I’ve loved BIG movies – the sort of movies that were made for the biggest screens of real cinemas, and which simply don’t work on your cell-phone or an in-flight monitor.

November 27, 2013

Apparently, this year, a lot of people on Facebook are participating in a “Thirty Days of Thanksgiving” movement. This strikes me as a fine idea. It sure beats starting Christmas immediately after Halloween, as the stores would have us do.

November 20, 2013

There’s a reason serious educational reform never happens in America.
It’s the same reason no serious reform happens in America.

November 13, 2013

The recent gubernatorial election was one of the best examples in living memory of being forced to choose between what Captain Jack Aubrey would call “the lesser of two weevils.”

November 6, 2013

For nine years, I’ve avoided weighing in on the annual brouhaha over how we greet each other during the Yuletide holidays.

October 30, 2013

And so, we reach another of the year’s cross-quarter days. Halfway between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, the Christian calendar places All Saints’ Day (November 1).

October 23, 2013

For most Americans, the end of the Federal government’s partial shutdown – and the far more serious evasion of debt default – brought a sense of relief.

October 16, 2013

I was a little kid during the Eisenhower administration, when men were men and Republicans were rational. Like most little kids, I spent a few years trying to get my way about everything – employing age-old tactics in the process.

October 9, 2013

Dad has been much on my mind lately, for many reasons.
Dad’s been on my mind because I can’t help thinking how much he would have liked the new Pope.

October 2, 2013

For years, I’ve been a proponent of using eight pivotal days of the year as optimum times to make life changes. Major or minor, changes seem easier if made in accordance with these eight days, which have been celebrated by agriculturally-based societies since ancient times.

September 25, 2013

Isaiah surely had something else in mind when he said, “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.” And that’s fine.

September 18, 2013

I don’t know nearly enough about Iran, but I’m working on it. I have picked up a little bit over the years, though, and that little bit tells me that the handful of experts calling for a rapprochement with Iran are onto something.

September 11, 2013

In 1969, the year I graduated from Thomas Dale, Tyrone Davis had a huge hit with If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time. His song expressed an emotion we’ve all felt.

September 4, 2013

Though he now seems likely to be distracted by the mess in Syria – the consequence of several years of principled procrastination – President Obama has spent much of August on a strategically-timed campaign aimed at the problem of soaring college education costs.

August 28, 2013

Every now and then, I come close to dropping Facebook.

August 21, 2013

Next Wednesday, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, our community will say farewell to John Shoop, who disappeared while sailing on Smith Mountain Lake.

August 14, 2013

I narrowly missed the chance to witness the start of Aaron Sorkin’s rise to fame.

August 7, 2013

One of the pleasant aspects of summer in Staunton is watching classic movies on Monday evenings in the beer garden behind Coffee on the Corner.

July 31, 2013

This week, I’m wrapping up my first MOOC - an excellent course on climate change taught by two professors from the University of British Columbia.

July 24, 2013

As the furor over George Zimmerman’s acquittal dies down a little, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the lessons of his trial.

July 17, 2013

In every life there are moments at which a person must ask the question, “What now?”
You graduate. Your service hitch is up. You survive a health crisis, or the end of a marriage.

July 10, 2013

On the day after Christmas – Boxing Day for Canadians and Anglophiles – I will have been a professional, freelance journalist for ten years. (If the crick don’t rise, that is. At 62, I assume nothing).

July 3, 2013

Last Wednesday, I got to Cranberry’s – my coffee and Wi-Fi hangout in Staunton – in time for the early morning special: a mug and free refill for two bucks.

June 26, 2013

In my teaching days, I used to tell my students that evolution is a law of history. They might, if they chose, deny evolution biological principle, but they’d never understand history without it.

June 19, 2013

Two weeks ago, in this space, I offered a few observations about the rise of the massive, open, online course (MOOC) and my initial experience with a course on the subject of Global Climate Change.

June 12, 2013

One of the great fallacies in modern educational thought is the baseless assumption that the present generation – with its limited knowledge of the past and understanding of the present – can accurately forecast what skills and knowledge will be useful to a younger generation moving toward an inscrutable future.

June 5, 2013

By now, most Americans who don’t live in a cave have heard something - however vague – about MOOCs. MOOC is short for “massive open online course”. Several consortia offer these courses – Coursera being perhaps the best known.

May 29, 2013

Inevitably, within 24 hours of Oklahoma’s monster tornado, one of my very good friends posted to Facebook, deploring the descent of the news media on the scene of the disaster.

May 22, 2013

We all make mistakes. Approaching nine years of writing this column, I have the greatest sympathy for the earnest souls who’ve had the task of proof-reading my weekly 828 words.

May 15, 2013

Four years ago, the Commonwealth Book Club read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers - a book which surveys some of the latest research on the factors contributing to human success.

May 8, 2013

A few weeks back, as duly reported in this space, I finished John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s brilliant biography of Woodrow Wilson - and plunged directly into James Chace’s history of the Election of 1912.

May 1, 2013

The Obama administration is engaged in the sort of mental gymnastics it usually adopts before making a big decision. The administration is “discovering” the shocking fact that Syria’s ruthless autocrat, Bashar al-Assad, has been using chemical weapons against his own people.

April 24, 2013

In the past, I have argued that our educational establishment – and the public at large – have lost sight of why we have schools. It seems strange to ask the question, but only because we all take the answer for granted.

April 17, 2013

Five weeks ago, America passed the centennial of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration as America’s 28th President. Remarkably, no one made much of a fuss.
Understand, I’m not going to get on my high horse about this. I’d be ashamed to.

April 10, 2013

Earlier in this series, I urged that Chesterfield invite neighboring jurisdictions to join in creating a regional governor’s school for highly-gifted students in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.

April 3, 2013

Last week, on my blog, Gray’s Gazette, I posted twice concerning Hollingsworth v. Perry – taking what is, for me, a difficult position. For constitutional reasons, as well as considerations of practical politics, I believe progressives and liberals should hope for a Supreme Court decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 - but not creating a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

March 27, 2013

Today, let’s resume our discussion of ideas for improving Chesterfield’s public schools. Thus far, we’ve focused on ways of improving STEM education, with discursions into education for the extremely gifted and preparing disadvantaged children to start school.

March 20, 2013

Last Wednesday, I was subbing at Stuart Hall - a private school two blocks from my house in Staunton. During sixth period, a trusted student had been using a laptop to show Chemistry podcasts on a screen.

March 13, 2013

I sit here on a Friday morning in Staunton, in my grandfather’s Morris chair – lovingly restored by my mother, who was good at such things – a laptop balanced on my knees.

March 6, 2013

Having devoted two weeks to the education of the highly-gifted, let’s turn our attention to improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for children who are not part of the intellectual 1 percent.

February 27, 2013

Before moving on to the next topic, I should stop to offer a few thoughts about the consequences of acceleration as a model for educating gifted youngsters. I do this largely in response to a thoughtful e-mail from a Village News reader who – while he liked the idea of a STEM governor’s school...

February 20, 2013

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for further Federal efforts to help states and localities “to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy... and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math...”

February 13, 2013

The current session of the Virginia General Assembly, dominated as usual by partisan bickering, suggests once more the growing dysfunction of our two-party system.

February 6, 2013

After six months of living in Staunton, I miss any number of things about home.