Thursday, February 24, 2022


Straw and rags muffled gun wheels and horses’ hooves as twenty German divisions lumbered into their final assembly areas on Friday night, December 15. Breakdown crews with tow trucks stood ready along roads that now carried only one-way traffic, and military policemen were authorized to shoot out the tires of any vehicle violating march discipline. For the last kilometer leading to the line of departure, soldiers portaged ammunition by hand or on their backs. Quartermasters issued ration packets of “special vitalizing and strengthening foods,” including fifty grams of genuine coffee, grape-sugar tablets, chocolate, fruit bars, and milk powder. “Some believe in living but life is not everything!” a soldier from the 12th SS Panzer Division wrote his sister. “It is enough to know that we attack and will throw the enemy from our homeland. It is a holy task.” Two hundred thousand assault troops packed into an assembly area three miles deep. The initial blow by seven panzer divisions and thirteen of infantry, bolstered by almost two thousand artillery tubes and a thousand tanks and assault guns, would fall on a front sixty-one miles wide. Five more divisions and two heavy brigades waited in the second wave, giving the Germans roughly a five-to-one advantage over the opposing U.S. forces in artillery and a three-to-one edge in armor. The best of Rundstedt’s divisions had 80 percent of their full complement of equipment, others but half. Panzer columns carried enough fuel to travel one hundred miles under normal cruising conditions, which existed nowhere in the steep, icy Ardennes. Few spare parts or antitank guns were to be had, but for a holy task perhaps none were needed. Hitler had indeed staked the future of his Reich on one card. The final OB West war diary entry on Friday night declared, “Tomorrow brings the beginning of a new chapter in the campaign in the West.”

In the red-roofed Belgian army barracks that served as the VIII Corps command post in Bastogne, champagne corks popped on Friday night to commemorate the anniversary of the corps’s arrival in Britain a year earlier. The commander, Major General Troy H. Middleton, had reason to be proud of his men’s combat record in Normandy and in the reduction of Brest. A Mississippian who had enlisted as a private in 1910, Middleton by November 1918 was the youngest American colonel in World War I and, in George Marshall’s judgment, “the outstanding infantry regimental commander on the battlefield in France.” Leaving the Army in 1937 to become dean and then vice president of Louisiana State University, Middleton returned to uniform in 1942, commanding the 45th Division through the Sicily and Salerno campaigns before taking corps command as an Eisenhower favorite. Now he drank a final toast to battles past and future before retiring to his sleeping van. A few miles to the east, the faint clop of horses and a growl of engines in low gear drifted to American pickets along the Our River, demarcating Luxembourg from Germany. Their report of disturbing noises in the night ascended the chain of command from one headquarters to the next, with no more heed paid than had been paid to earlier portents. Middleton’s command post in Bastogne issued a weather forecast for Saturday—“ Cloudy, snow beginning around 1300. Visibility 2 miles”—and a three-word battle summary for the Ardennes: “Nothing to report.”

Rick Atkinson, (2013. The Liberation Trilogy (Kindle Locations 42751-42757).

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


July 4, 1803, the nation’s twenty-seventh birthday, was a great day for Meriwether Lewis. He completed his preparations and was ready to depart in the morning. He got his letter of credit in its final form from President Jefferson. And the National Intelligencer of Washington reported in that day’s issue that Napoleon had sold Louisiana to the United States.

It was stunning news of the most fundamental importance. Henry Adams put it best: “The annexation of Louisiana was an event so portentous as to defy measurement; it gave a new face to politics, and ranked in historical importance next to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution—events of which it was the logical outcome; but as a matter of diplomacy it was unparallelled, because it cost almost nothing.”

Napoleon’s decision to sell not just New Orleans but all of Louisiana, and the negotiations that followed, and Jefferson’s decision to waive his strict constructionist views in order to make the purchase, is a dramatic and well-known story. It is best described by Henry Adams in his History of the United States in the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, one of the great classics of American history writing.

Napoleon was delighted, and rightly so. He had title to Louisiana, but no power to enforce it. The Americans were sure to overrun it long before he could get an army there—if he ever could. “Sixty million francs for an occupation that will not perhaps last a day!” he exulted. He knew what he was giving up and what the United States was getting—and the benefit to France, beyond the money: “The sale assures forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a rival who, sooner or later, will humble her pride.”

For Lewis, what mattered was not how Louisiana was acquired, a process in which he played no role, but that the territory he would be crossing from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide now belonged to the United States.

As Jefferson nicely put it, the Louisiana Purchase “lessened the apprehensions of interruption from other powers.” The Purchase did more for the expedition than relieve it of threats from the Spanish, French, or British. As Jefferson noted, it “increased infinitely the interest we felt in the expedition.”

Stephen A. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West, 101. Simon & Schuster. [1996] Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022


Reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into
discussions of Literacy in Our Schools.

Reading Before Writing

Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review
8 September 2018

The extra-large ubiquitous Literacy Community is under siege from universal dissatisfaction with the Writing skills of both students and graduates, and this is a complaint of very long standing.

The Community response is to request more money and time to spend on sentence structure, paragraphing, voice, tone, and other mechanical Writing paraphernalia.

It never seems to occur to them that if students read more, they would know more, and in that way actually have some knowledge they wanted to write about. But reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into discussions of Literacy in Our Schools.

When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of processes.

On the one hand writing is difficult enough to do, and academic writing is especially difficult if the student hasn’t read anything, and on the other hand teachers feel the need to have students “produce” writing, however short or superficial that writing may be. So writing consultants and writing teachers feel they must come up with guidelines, parameters, checklists, and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something they have learned.

Samuel Johnson once said, “an author will turn over half a library to produce one book,” the point being, as I understand it, that good writing must be based on extensive reading. But reading is just the step that is left out of the “Writing Process” in too many instances. The result is that students in fact do not have much to say, so of course they don’t have much they want to communicate in writing.

Enter the guidelines. Students are told to write a topic sentence, to express one idea per paragraph, to follow the structure of Introduction, Body, Conclusion, to follow the Twelve Steps to Effective Writing, and the like. This the students can be made to do, but the result is too often empty, formulaic writing which students come to despise, and which does not prepare them for the serious academic papers they may be asked to do in college.

I fear that the history book report, at least at the high school level in too many places, has died in the United States. Perhaps people will contact me with welcome evidence to the contrary, but where it is no longer done, students have not only been discouraged from reading nonfiction, but also have been lead to believe that they can and must write to formula without knowing something—for instance about the contents of a good book—before they write.

A nationally famous teacher of teachers of writing once told me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much...” This is a splendid example of the divorce between content [reading and knowledge] and process [techniques] in common writing instruction. 

Reading and writing are inseparable partners, in my view. In letters from authors of essays published in The Concord Review since 1987, they often say that they read so much about something in history that they reached a point where they felt a strong need to tell people what they had found out. The knowledge they had acquired had given them the desire to write well so that others could share and appreciate it as they did.

This is where good academic writing should start. When the motivation is there, born from knowledge gained, then the writing process follows a much more natural and straightforward  path. Then the student can write, read what they have written, and see what they have left out, what they need to learn more about, and what they have failed to express as clearly as they wanted to. Then they read more, re-write, and do all the natural things that have always lead to good academic writing, whether in history or in any other subject. 

At that point the guidelines are no longer needed, because the student has become immersed in the real work of expressing the meaning and value of something they know is worth writing about. This writing helps them discover the limits of their own understanding of the subject and allows them to see more clearly what they themselves think about the subject. The process of critiquing their own writing becomes natural and automatic. This is not to deny, of course, the value of reading what they have written to a friend or of giving it to a teacher for criticism and advice. But the writing techniques and processes no longer stop up the natural springs for the motivation to write.

As students are encouraged to learn more before they write, their writing will gradually extend past the five-paragraph size so often constraining the craft of writing in our schools. The Page Per Year Plan© suggests that all public high school Seniors could be expected to write a twelve-page history research paper, if they had written an eleven-page paper their Junior year, a ten-page paper their Sophomore year, and a nine-page paper their Freshman year, and so on all the way back through the five-page paper in Fifth Grade and even to a one-page paper on a topic other than themselves their first year in school. With the Page Per Year Plan©, every Senior in high school will have learned, for that twelve-page paper, more about some topic probably than anyone else in their class knows, perhaps even more than any of their teachers knows about that subject. They will have had in the course of writing longer papers each year, that first taste of being a scholar which will serve them so well in higher education and beyond.

Writing is always much harder when the student has nothing to communicate, and the proliferating paraphernalia of structural aids from writing consultants and teachers often simply encumber students and alienate them from the essential benefits of writing. John Adams urged his fellow citizens to “Dare to read, think, speak and write” so that they could contribute to the civilization we have been given to enjoy and preserve. Let us endeavor to allow students to discover, through their own academic reading and writing, both the discipline and the satisfactions of reading and of writing carefully and well.

In 1625, Francis Bacon wrote, “Reading maketh a Full man, Conference a Ready man, and Writing an Exact man.” These benefits are surely among those we should not withhold from our K-12 students.

Varsity Academics® is a registered trademark of The Concord Review, Inc.
The Concord Review, 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776    978-443-0022

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


 “The first thing Mao’s Red Guards did,” she tells IWF, “was to abolish law enforcement.”

Independent Women’s Forum

She survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution and doesn’t want to see it happen here.

Xi Van Fleet

When Xi Van Fleet, a Loudoun County mother, pushed back against Critical Race Theory at a heated Loudoun County School Board meeting last summer, her words carried special weight. 

An immigrant from China, who as a child had lived through Mao’s Marxist Cultural Revolution, Xi described CRT as the indoctrination of children. What she was seeing in Loudoun County, she said, reminded her of what she witnessed growing up in Mao’s China.

“I’ve been very alarmed by what’s going on in our schools,” Fox News quoted Xi Van Fleet as telling the Loudoun County School Board members. “You are now teaching, training our children to be social justice warriors and to loathe our country and our history. Growing up in China, all of this sounds very familiar. The communist regime used the same critical theory to divide people. The only difference is that [they] used class instead of race. This is indeed the American version of the Chinese cultural revolution.” 

“Critical Race Theory is indeed the American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution,” Xi contended. “The critical race theory has its roots in cultural Marxism. It should have no place in our schools.”

A video of Xi’s remarks went viral. She was in the headlines and soon Sean Hannity invited her to appear on Hannity. “Am I ready for all this?” she recalls thinking. “It was such a big decision. And I decided yes. All this is worth it because, I can do something to help to save America, yes. So, I went to Hannity. I’d never ever, ever, ever, ever been interviewed by anyone. And I think it’s God’s will that I did well.” Requests for other interviews poured in after Hannity. She’s game to accept invitations. “If anyone offers me a platform, an interview, I will do it. I feel like this is the reason that I was brought to America, and this is the moment that was designed for me to use my story to help save America.”

Xi, who came to the United States in 1986, when she was 26, told IWF that she has been watching the development of what she believes are parallels with China under Mao and her adopted country for nearly a decade. But the riots of the summer of 2020 convinced her that the process had reached a critical point. 

“I could not remain an observer,” she told IWF. “I had to do something. It was the time of Covid, plus the death of George Floyd. It was a perfect storm that brought communism to the American streets and revealed its true face. Before, I would say that there was a tendency. But, no, this is not a tendency. This is the American cultural revolution being played out before our eyes. Too many Americans have no idea what is really going on. Why? Because we have never taught students, the American people, about the crimes of communism.”

Influenced by Marxist thought, her parents joined the revolution in 1949. “Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which was officially the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in 1966,” Xi recalls. “It lasted ten years until his death in 1976. I was a first grader when the Culture Revolution started. I lived through the whole revolution. By the time it was over, I had finished high school, and I was sent to the countryside to work in the fields for three years. And at the end of that time, Deng Xiaoping took over and decided to open up China and I was able to go to college at the age of 19.”

Xi compares what she saw happening in the United States to what she had seen as a child in China. “The first thing Mao’s Red Guards did,” she tells IWF, “was to abolish law enforcement. It wasn’t defunding the police but it was so similar. With law enforcement abolished, nobody could stop the Red Guards. They were just like BLM, antifa. What we saw on the streets of American cities 2020. We saw violence, rioting, looting, and burning—just like the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution. Mao also launched a great cancel culture. He wanted to cancel everything that wasn’t communism. He called them the Four Olds, or the Four Old Things. 

“They were old ideas, old traditions, old habits, and old customs,” Xi continues. “So, they basically cancelled Chinese traditional culture. So, the Red Guards pulled down any statue that is Buddhist, or that is not communist. They burned down the temples, they went home to home to break into the house and destroy anything that’s old. Old books, old vases, I mean just insane. I saw so many on the street one by one things pulled out, smashed, burned, and homeowners were just howling, and some were beaten if they resisted. The Red Guards wanted to get rid of the Four Olds, just like the burning of churches here, or the pulling down of statues, and they changed the names of streets, of schools, of stores, and even personal names. If a street was called, for example, Prosperity Boulevard, it became Anti-imperial Boulevard or whatever. If you had a traditional name, it was a good idea to change it.” 

Downtown Washington, D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza? Used to be two blocks of 16th Street. “The naming of the street has been seen by many as not only a reaction to the protests but part of it,” the New Yorker magazine’s Kyle Chayka ecstatically noted. 

Xi was named for the city of Xi’An, but Xi’s name is also the Chinese character signifying the West, with implications of Western imperialism. There was peer pressure to change her name. Xi kept her original name, but she saw many people who adopted a new name to avoid running afoul of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which could be fatal.  

Critical Race Theory famously categorizes individuals as oppressors or oppressed according to factors decided at birth. This labeling reminds Xi of the way people were defined during the Cultural Revolution. “In China, when the communists took over,” Xi says, “right away, there was land reform. China was an overwhelmingly agricultural society. I think that 90-some percent of the population were rural peasants. So, through the land reform, the communists classified people, they divided people into five different categories. 

“The worst was the land-owning class, that’s the enemy. So, by owning land, you were an enemy of the state. And the next category is rich peasant. You’re bad, but not as bad as the landowner. And then middle-class peasant, poor peasant, and then tenant peasants, which is proletarian. About one or two million landowners were executed. And the land was confiscated and then given to the poor peasants. Well, they had a field day for like one or two years, when everything was collectivized, through the collective farming. But then everything went back to the state. But what I’m trying to emphasize is that everyone has a label. You know where you stand.

“Basically, Mao divided China into two major camps: red camp, black camp. Red means you’re okay, You’re the friend with the revolution. Black means that you are the enemy. Not only that, your label is hereditary. Just like CRT. You’re born, if you are born to parents who were labeled as class enemy, you were class enemy at birth. Everyone knew his or her own place. If you did anything that was considered offensive to the ruling class, you became what’s called a counter revolutionary, and you ended up in the black camp. You could start in the red camp and end up in the black camp, but you can never start in the black camp and end up in the red camp. Does it make sense?” Unfortunately, it does make sense to those who have read about or otherwise been exposed to CRT.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping took over in 1979. Deng opened China to foreign investment, and ultimately made it possible for Xi to come to the U.S. to pursue her studies. Xi landed at Western Kentucky University, where she pursued graduate studies in English and met her husband. He wanted to introduce her to his grandmother. Xi was anxious about the racial aspect of the meeting. She needn’t have worried. “My husband’s grandmother was a working-class woman and basically was a factory worker, and probably had never seen a Chinese person before,” Xi recalls. “I believe there was one Chinese doctor in the whole town of Bowling Green. So, I thought she probably would look at me funny or something. She just treated me like a neighbor.

“A factory worker, an uneducated woman, accepted me as if I were just from the neighborhood. And that’s not the way in China. In China a foreigner back then would be followed, like a curiosity. So, I’m just saying that that gave me such comfort thinking Americans are really nice people. They don’t look at you by your ethnicity that much. They look at you as a person. I think it’s beautiful.”

“The first thing Mao’s Red Guards did,” she tells IWF, “was to abolish law enforcement.”

The Van Fleets live in Loudoun County and have one son, who graduated from the public school system in 2015. Xi obtained a degree in Library Science from Catholic University, and has had a successful career that enabled her to pursue her passion for travel. She’s been to Peru, Pakistan, India, Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Armenia and in the past visited her family in China. “I was there when Covid broke out. I took the last flight back to Dallas after President Trump banned international travel,” she says. “I don’t think I will go back. I don’t want to end up, you know, a communist jail and spend the rest of my life there. No. No. I don’t think I can go back.”

Although Xi worries about her family in China, she feels that she must speak out. But she limits herself to speaking out only about her adopted country. “My focus is to save America using my own experience living under communist rule,” she says.

Xi joined the Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club after listening to Fox’s Dan Bongino telling his listeners how important it is to become involved. It was through friends in this organization that she heard about the Loudoun County school board meeting. With some trepidation, she knew she had to speak out and in doing so became a media sensation.

“To me, and to a lot of Chinese, it is heartbreaking that we escaped communism and now we experience communism here,”
Xi said in a Fox interview after the Loudoun school board meeting. Xi’s mission is to inform Americans and do her best to ensure that her beloved adopted country remains the Land of the Free.