More Columns From This Author

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.

January 30, 2013

Last Monday, I turned on the radio to listen to President Obama’s second inaugural address. To say I was impressed would be a substantial understatement.

January 23, 2013

So, the debate has begin. After three decades of silence, those Americans who favor reasonable limits on the availability of weapons have finally begun to speak up. The primary tactic of the NRA - using political intimidation to silence debate - has, at least for the moment, been overcome by the sheer revulsion of millions of Americans over the massacre of school children.

January 16, 2013

Governor Bob McDonnell is no dummy. The man did his undergrad work at Notre Dame.

January 11, 2013

Over Christmas, I enjoyed the rare chance to spend five days and nights at the family place. I’d originally planned to come down for a night, join in the exchange of gifts and the Christmas feast, spend a little time with family, and check up on Mom.

January 2, 2013

In 1941, December 7 became a “date that will live in infamy.” Over time, that date has gradually lost the taint of infamy – to be replaced quiet remembrance of those who died that day, and warm pride in the fact our country survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, rallied to the task before it, and triumphed.

December 19, 2012

Every family has its black sheep. For all our modern, technologically-aided efforts to surround ourselves only with those who echo our own beliefs - and thus live unchallenged, unexamined lives – few can escape the ties of consanguinity.

December 12, 2012

When I was a kid, Mom, Dad, my sister and I gathered at the kitchen table at least twice a day, for breakfast and supper. We also ate lunch there on Saturdays and most holidays.

December 5, 2012

And so the “Jobs Election” is behind us.

November 28, 2012

I’m writing this on the morning after Thanksgiving. Before the mood fades, I’ll murmur a quick word of thanks for The New York Times. In an era of dying print dailies, the Times continues offering excellent national and international news; extensive reportage on the arts, entertainment, and books; great sports coverage (including hometown coverage of the lamentable Jets); and the best op-ed page in print.

November 25, 2012

Forgive me if I’ve told this one before, but I like it:
Two jungle explorers walk into a clearing, only to confront an enormous tiger entering from the other side. One explorer drops his backpack and begins putting on running shoes. The second explorer says, “Friend, you’ll never outrun that tiger.” The first explorer says, “I don’t need to outrun the tiger. I need to outrun you.”
Two weeks ago, residents of central Virginia outran New Jersey and New York.

November 7, 2012

Last week, my sister and her family said goodbye to a gallant dog named Cypher. Part pit bull and all heart, Cypher was the sort of calm, intelligent, companionable fellow who has earned dogs their reputation as humankind’s best friends.

October 31, 2012

Every week, I drive down from Staunton on Thursday night or early Friday morning to teach my Shakespeare class at the Shepherd’s Center and visit Mom at the Crossings.

October 24, 2012

As I write this, I’m thinking a good deal about Time.
It’s Thursday night, and, because fall break begins tonight, I’m now halfway through the semester – with a good deal less than half the work done.
Crunch time.

October 17, 2012

When my sister and I were kids, my Dad had a silly poem for every occasion. One I particularly loved went like this:

October 10, 2012

After five weeks of grad school, I’m beginning to adapt to a world in which most of the inhabitants care more about Shakespeare (and Marlowe, and Jonson, and Middleton) than they do about, say, the Election of 2012.

October 3, 2012

As a personal matter, I’ve always been good at school. After all, I have exactly the sort of intelligence – bookish, clever with words, analytical – that gratifies teachers and earns A’s. I can sit through the driest lecture, looking interested while unobtrusively reading a book tucked away beneath the edge of my desk.

September 26, 2012

We all know the feeling. You’ve made up your mind to support a candidate for public office. Maybe you’ve done some volunteer work, sent in a contribution or poked a yard-sign into your lawn. Maybe you’ve simply done your civic duty – studying the candidates and issues as time permitted and making a firm decision who will get your vote.

September 19, 2012

We Americans are justifiably proud of the brave young men and women in uniform who stand ready, on short notice, to risk their lives for our country. On every national holiday, we remind ourselves of their sacrifice – the sacrifices of past generations of uniformed warriors.

September 5, 2012

Last week, in this space, I got a bit rough with America’s two major parties. True, nothing I wrote was remotely as harsh as the ads now polluting every corner of our public space. But it was strong, coming from me, because frankly, I’m disgusted with both parties and their lack of constructive vision.

August 29, 2012

In less than a week, we’ll observe another Labor Day. When I was a kid, this was the date when political campaigns began.

August 22, 2012

One of my favorite legends from English history is that of King Canute, the eleventh-century Danish warrior-king whose reign briefly interrupted the rise of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy begun by Alfred the Great.

August 15, 2012

Last week, in this space, posed the question of what might happen if we took seriously the matter of what people know, understand, and can use – rather than what they had studied.

August 8, 2012

This summer, I’ve been gradually shifting my base of operations to Staunton, Virginia. In a few weeks, I’ll be – and trust me, I find this difficult to believe – in grad school again.

July 25, 2012

Years ago, I was invited to address L. C. Bird High School’s graduation. As I recall, it was only Bird’s second graduation ceremony, and as my dad had spoken the year before, it was quite an honor.

July 18, 2012

With four months to go in this, America’s most expensive presidential campaign, it’s still impossible to predict whether President Obama will withstand the determined challenge of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

July 5, 2012

Thursday morning, after CNN and Fox briefly muddied the waters, Americans learned that the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, including its “individual mandate”. Chief Justice John Roberts had pulled together enough votes to sustain nearly all of the health care law.

June 27, 2012

Over the past two weeks, a fierce controversy has erupted over the forced resignation of UVA president, Teresa Sullivan. Apparently, Sullivan’s “resignation” was engineered by three members of the sixteen-member Board of Visitors - without public discussion or input, or even an intelligible explanation of what she might have done wrong.

June 20, 2012

It’s a strange thing to be heading off to grad school at 61. Who does that?

June 13, 2012

A few weeks back, in this space, I offered a piece about story-telling, an activity which has become central to my life. I ended by leaving my readers with what screenwriters call a cliff-hanger.

June 6, 2012

When President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage, my immediate reaction was that he’d done a courageous thing.

May 30, 2012

In last week’s column, I reminisced about the poems through which my parents helped to shape my mind and character, as well as my sister’s.

May 23, 2012

One of the most fundamental of all human activities, perhaps the fundamental activity which separates us from other parts of the biological world, is telling stories.

May 9, 2012

When I first ventured into acting, I was 42 years old. I had practiced law, headed an agency of state government, taught high school history for seven years and served as an assistant principal for one.

May 2, 2012

Last summer, out in Oregon, my best friend introduced me to the HBO series Deadwood.

April 18, 2012

In the past two weeks, I’ve attempted to set forth two major considerations which must be addressed if America’s schools are to be rescued from their present mediocrity.

April 13, 2012

Last week, I introduced the idea that many of the fundamental issues in education go undebated, because the Powers That Be have declared them settled and, thus, off-limits.

April 4, 2012

Recently, in this space, I have challenged our superintendent’s plan to “reform” education in Chesterfield’s public schools. After three columns on that topic, I’m going to give it a break in hopes that parents, teachers and others with more at stake will take up the banner.

March 21, 2012

Veteran teachers know that new educational initiatives, handed down periodically from on high, are almost inevitably a waste of time. Most also understand the political motives which result in such initiatives.

March 14, 2012

Last week, I raised questions about Chesterfield’s proposed “Design for Excellence 2020”, a multi-year plan to change the way our teachers teach and our students learn.

March 7, 2012

Two weeks ago, I attended a School Board work session with the intention of writing a news article. I was a bit uncertain exactly what might be discussed, since the sole item on the public agenda was a presentation on “Design for Excellence 2020”, by Donna Dalton, of the CCPS staff.