Virginia's teachable moments


 Is it just us, or does it seem like the level of Virginia’s intellectual discourse has been steadily declining over the last few years? Whether it’s our proudly anti-science Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli implying that a single heavy snowfall negates the overwhelming evidence of global climate change, or Del. Mark Cole’s attempt to save his constituents from the antichrist by outlawing the forcible implantation of microchips, it sometimes feels as if the Old Dominion’s collective I.Q. is getting lower by the day.

Unfortunately, our sincere hope that Virginia’s educational system would help reverse this trend took a giant hit recently when it was revealed that a number of state-approved textbooks were riddled with embarrassing errors. In Our Virginia: Past and Present, for instance, students are informed that the Confederacy was made up of 12 states, that the U.S. entered World War I in 1916, and that two battalions of black Confederate soldiers fought under the command of Stonewall Jackson. (The correct answers, if you’re playing along at home, are actually 11, 1917, and zero. Publishers will reportedly post corrections online on January 15.) Of course, seeing as the textbook’s author, Joy Masoff, was previously best known for brain-stimulating titles like Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty and Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest Moments, you’d think that Virginia’s Department of Education might have performed a more thorough level of fact-checking.

To make things worse, while Virginia’s schoolchildren are being misinformed in the classroom, the educational lessons they’re learning in the outside world aren’t so hot, either. In fact, on a variety of subjects, a number of prominent public figures are clearly heading for failing grades.

Take 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, for instance, who recently proved his devotion to constitutional law by helping to read the entire U.S. Constitution on the House floor, and also wants all bills introduced in Congress to state their Constitutional basis. Problem is, Goodlatte once authored an internet censorship bill that was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. And, when recently pressed by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, he freely admitted that he has no idea whether the minimum wage law—which he has repeatedly voted for—is constitutional. Brilliant!

What about mathematics? Well then, the man you want to see is incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who helped Republicans win control of his chamber by promising to focus like a laser beam on the ballooning national debt. And the first two announced priorities of Cantor’s new majority? To repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, thereby adding billions to the deficit, and to pass new rules that would exempt all tax cuts from having to be offset by spending cuts. But he’s also going to cut some unspecified programs on some unspecified future date, so we’re sure it’ll all work out just fine.

Finally, there’s leadership and professional ethics, as taught by Norfolk’s Captain Owen Honors, ex-commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Enterprise. Turns out that, years ago, Honors produced a batch of off-color videos filled with simulated sex acts and homophobic slurs and broadcast them to the entire crew. Sure, it seemed like a real hoot at the time, but now that the Virginian-Pilot has posted copies of the movies on its website, we’re guessing that the recently-relieved-of-duty Captain Honors is rethinking his career as an amateur filmmaker.

Oh well, at least these guys have one thing going for them: prominent entries in Joy Masoff’s new book, Oh Nuts! Virginia’s Most Incompetent Role Models.