Archive for July, 2012
Monday, July 30th, 2012
The signs of systemic collapse in education are becoming more numerous. Here is the big news at present:
16 Schools in Lancaster County on list of Low Performers
This new program, which is really the best of its kind nationally, is an expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) which allows businesses to receive a tax credit for giving support so that needy students can afford a private education. It is the best because it builds supportive relationships between businesses and the schools–not schools and the state. It is not perfect, but it is good. The expansion is allowing for a greater degree of scholarship for low income students and families trapped in failing school districts. In Lancaster County, this will hammer the McCaskey District, Columbia, and (unexpectedly) Pequea Valley HS. This will bring a level of accountability to these districts which is needed. It will or could have these problematic results which happen generally when government gives a subsidy:
1. Private schools could increase their tuition to get the maximum benefit from the tuition of subsidized needy people.
2. People who would qualify for the tuition subsidy might actually move into the poor districts just to get the subsidy.
3. The public districts might have to make massive cuts as families flee.
4. Private schools (starving for money) might accept students who are going to have needs that they are not really set up to meet (needs for breakfast, and more support than they offer) just to get money.
5. Private schools might unwittingly become dependent on a government program.
All of these problems are going to increase because the public system is economically unsustainable and the states can not print money. The fixes right now are the sticking fingers in a dyke, but the state only has so many fingers and the dyke is getting runnier…and no one can locate the little Dutch boy. A family member of mine (wise and prudent Christian man who is involved in public education) said (with frustration), “Some lawmakers just want the all schools to be private schools!” This is true, but increasingly this is not happening because of philosophical commitments it is happening because of the ability to read a spreadsheet. If you have stocks in the public schools, I would sell now.
The next question to ask is this: “If low performing districts are so bad that you will give an $8500 tax credit per student to a low income (under $60k) a year to flee, then why not for families that make $60,001 or $70k or $80k?” The logic (seems to me) is unassailable and when this questions is answered, the gig is up for parts of public school.
Monday, July 30th, 2012
Here is a really interesting article by Alan Jacobs on J.R.R. Tolkien’s view of the modern world, power, domination, and technology. The Christian reaction to technology is usually one of unthinking acceptance or thoughtful rejection (which is a great minority, but, hey, we are in Lancaster County). I am worried (greatly) about modern Christianity’s unthinking acceptance, but believe the answer the thoughts need some more parsing. It is an interesting article:
Fall, Morality and the Machine: Tolkien and Technology
Saturday, July 28th, 2012
A classical education focus on the skill of rhetoric. Why? Because ideas are powerful and they are communicated from one mind to another by words. Good words draw people together and adorn the Truth with Beauty showing that Good things are truly Good. Here is a good speech by John Raphael:
Friday, July 27th, 2012
I am a big fan of Rene Girard (The Scapegoat, I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning, Deceit Desire and the Novel, etc.,). I have not been a fan of the recent Batman films, but this take on Nolan’s story telling will make you wan to watch them:
Why Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Finished Glenn Stanton’s The Ring Makes All the Difference last night. I am going to be at a dinner party presentation where I can ask questions to the author tonight. I have some questions and concerns about the book, but there is one thing that is proven beyond all shadow of a doubt (scientifically, statistically, theologically, logically):
If you are a woman and you choose to cohabit with your fellow, it is a bad deal for you in the short run, the long run, and the even if it turns out in a marriage (this seems to be what most women are thinking will happen when they move in with a guy).
All of this, of course, makes perfect sense to cads (men who live outside the biblical and covenantal commands of self-sacrificial husbandry and fatherhood). It seems that unwittingly feminism in a hope (understandable hope if you think about cases of thoughtless and prideful male leadership) to be liberated from the rule of one man, a husband, many women have unwittingly become something like free lance, unpaid concubines for a slew of men. The descriptions of female life at most colleges (see this book and I am Charlotte Simmons) point to this shocking practice.
This could cause you to lose heart (especially if you have four daughters like me), but don’t! Good men are still there. We will be able to see them better because they are going to stand out more and more as the culture clinks is glasses to celebrate a freedom that looks identical to (actually at points much worse than) slavery. Marginal men are being swept away. Good men are leaders, but they are leaders like Jesus pouring out their lives daily for their wives and children. This is the answer to all the marriage quandaries of our culture. If Christian husbands would take up their cross and love their wives, then the differences would be clear and the desire to put off or avoid matrimony and all of the silly postmodern marriage ideas (both gay marriage and polygamy and the like) would be shown to be imposters. May God give us grace!!!
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
I listened to the NCAA ruling this morning. After a few moments, a friend from out West emailed asking my reaction. Here it is:
I listened to the announcement live. It was carried on all the radio stations. I do know what will happen. This is very different from the SMU thing. In some ways much worse. The crimes here and the administrative looking the other way hid things much more vile than sports cars and paying players. In some ways I think that PSU is in a much better place. SMUs administration was always and ever trying to hide things from the authorities. After the first NCAA punishment, they had a meeting and the board (which included the Governor of Texas) decided to keep paying players because “they had a payroll to meet”. In the PSU case, the board has acted to dredge through everything (they commissioned the Freeh Report). We will see.
On the cultural critic side, this whole thing sort of irks me. Let’s be frank…the whole thing is a ruse. The NCAA today said that it is out to “change the athletic culture” and to make sure that “athletics is part of an integrated whole with the university’s educational goals.” Really? This is a lie. I do not think that the people telling can believe it. I started at a D2 school with no football team. The basketball players showed up the first day of class and they came to take their finals (never saw them otherwise). A few good books on the phenomena would be John Gerdy’s Sports: An All American Addiction and Air Ball. He is an NBA player and was on the track to be an AD at one of the SEC schools. He saw what the culture around athletics was like and rebelled against it. He lives here in Lancaster and runs a foundations that encourages music education (they leave pianos all over the city and people can just stop and play them—it end up being really fun). Out colleges and universities are NOT about education (preaching to the choir here I know). This is the most egregious example. I want the death penalty for the whole thing (college economics and bad debts will more likely to cause this). Do we believe that the culture is more healthy at Alabama, or LSU. Sandusky’s actions are reprehensible, but we feed the athletics department busloads of drug addled 18 year old coeds every night. We sweep it under the rug and load the next bus…and a few universities cash big checks (about 80% actually lose money on sports!). It is a ruse…an idol.
At PSU now, a lot is happening way too fast. I think that people should give things a few years before making any sort of final judgments. I think that the NCAA is reacting to the news cycle. Calmer heads might have made a better decision than this on reflection (it might need to be the death penalty). This is sort of knee jerk. We will see if it was the right call.
Monday, July 16th, 2012
If you are looking for an interesting and obscure read, try John Buchan’s The Dancing Floor. You spend about a third of the book thinking that you are heading into some late Victorian manners piece and then spend the rest of it in something like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I am not sure what else to say without spoiling it. You will certainly like it!
The Dancing Floor
Saturday, July 14th, 2012
Michael Geer’s piece which was the focus of “We Are?” Part 2 has been bouncing around my mind. The cultural schizophrenia in starting to drive me (I think I am a sane person) mad.
Before I begin this analysis, I think I should be clear. The part of this that fascinates right now is our cultural reaction. This does not mean that I want to distract from the justice that should flow down from the civil authorities to men like Mr. Sandusky and the former administration at Penn State. I am glad that I am not charged with bringing judgment against Sandusky because I would be tempted have him treated in ways that would be cruel and unusual (I read Dante). I believe in capital punishment and I think the civil magistrate should put laws in place that visit this punishment on rapists. I think that authorities who try to sweep this under the rug should also face civil and criminal sanctions.
In our culture, the pulpit thumping is getting louder and louder, and I guess the hypocrisy of this is grinding me. Here is what I mean:
Our culture believes (in the main) that human life is a result of a cosmic accident called evolution. This process (according to our culture) proves that their is no God and no real morality or moral accountability. This process by which all life is maintained is called the survival of the fittest. This means that stronger animals take advantage of and usually devour vulnerable animals. Cats eat mice; dogs eat cats; lions eat dogs; men kill lions who are eating their dogs and eat all sorts of animals. We have no compunction about this. If humans, however, are nothing but self-aware animals or full grown, really smart germs; what is the problem which one stronger animal destroying more vulnerable animals. What is wrong with Sandusky’s actions if Darwin is right and if God is dead? The answer is that there is no way for us to condemn the horrible actions of this monstrous man if we are really just animals. No way; no how! If you disagree, I await an answer.
The truth is, however, that down deep we know that this is wrong. We know it because God has built this sense into us. We can and some have blinded themselves or seared themselves so that they cannot feel the gut churning wickedness of these actions, but thankfully most can. I am thankful for this and saddened by it. I just wish that our culture and its pundits would ask “why” more often instead of ranting while they are (in fact) standing on clouds.
Friday, July 13th, 2012
I just saw this note from Michael Geer of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. In light of the what has come to light, this type of moral ambivalence is both prophetic (it shows what could happen) and points to a college president who is practicing at speaking in such political language that the Sandusky episode is just another brick in the wall.
Penn State Falls Into a Pit
Friday, July 13th, 2012
Today is a sad day in Central Pennsylvania…a very sad day. Yesterday, the shock waves started to rumble out of State College. The worst fears of many of us seemed to be confirmed (I say seemed to be because I have read about Freeh Report and listened to him explain it). It seems that the top officials at Penn St covered up the crimes of a sexual predatory in order to spare the football program and the University the shame of telling the truth about him. In this, people (children) were devoured in some of the most heinous ways imaginable. The truth was know, but skirted or diminished or dismissed. Today, the pundits are swooping like vultures on the dead carcass in Happy Valley. There are shouts of glee and shouts for justice and charges of hypocrisy (ironically carried to us by the Comcast cable line which also feed more child pornography to the world than any mechanism in human history). Justice should be done. It must be.
Sadly, the most important questions in this entire episode are not being asked or they are only being asked in despair: “Why did this happen?” “How could such good men make such bad decisions?” “Why didn’t Coach Paterno (for he is the only one of these fellows that we know by word and deed to be a good man) just turn Sandusky over to the police?”
I want to try to answer this questions in a way that aims at the broadest solution possible. I do this not to ignore the guilt of PSU officials or to protect the reputation of Joe Paterno whose life and all its deeds will be judged better in the future than now. I do this because I am convinced that the PSU scandal is just a symptom of a much broader and more pernicious problem. Today, the talking heads are tearing down individuals, a particular institution, and a football program. The problem is much deeper. Why did this happen? My answer is this: “We are Penn State.”
As a nation we have built idols and to those idols we make sacrifices. Those sacrifices look very similar to those of Old paganism. We let the powerful and the brutal–the gods–devour their chosen victims. This happened at Penn St, but it happens in every big and even little time college sports program. It happens in high school sports. We allow the gods to feast on their victims. We look the other way. We allow and even celebrate the system and the pedestals that hold the gods up for us–even though we do this by prostituting our educational institutions for big time athletics. Most college students pay highest tuition so that their college can have sports (80% of colleges lose money on athletics). At this crucial time for our country we are failing at the deepest level to use the institutions that we have to give our next generation the education that they need–without making them debt slaves. We do this for the sake of our idols. This idol is what was being protected by Mr. Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno. They protected it because we love it. They were, of course, protecting it for their own gain, but they our the priest of our religion.
The sexual misdeeds of the monstrous Sandusky must be viewed full bore. We need to know what was hidden inside by our idol. If you believe that the same protection of the same idols are not being made at Alabama, Kentucky, and Notre Dame; you are not paying attention. We cover this over and excuse it by feeding willing (or at least old enough to consent victims) to our idols. Does the drug addled eighteen-year old freshman have consent? Would it matter if she were not drug addled and we just chalked it up, more honestly, to some new form of temple prostitution. The reading of Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons and John Gerdy’s Air Ball are helpful here. We have made idols. We worship them. We make sacrifices to them by averting our eyes when the devour people by having a priestly class cover the horror of the sacrifice and by the massive cultural price that we pay to maintain institutions of higher learning that have less and less to do with learning and at some points (like big time football) have divorced learning and college life all together. We don’t just tolerate this sort of thing. We glory in it. “We are Penn State!”
So what should we do? First, we should point the blame where it needs to be pointed. The courts will deal with the monsters and people that hid his sins. We need to deal with our own complicity in a system that devours. This repentance should not drive us to despair, but it should drive us to Christ for forgiveness. We should come to grips with the fact that if we all stopped watching and packing into stadiums the system would be fixed. We need to do this. We need to stop supporting systems that devour. We need our representative to choke off funding until colleges and universities tear down the idols. We collectively are the fix.
Second, we need to open our eyes to see where this is happening throughout our culture and we need to protect the vulnerable.
Finally, we need to tend our own gardens by unplugging from a systems and ideas that support this sort of foolishness.
Today when I pulled my t-shirt off the top on the pile in the dresser it was my PSU football shirt. I put it on. Today, it should be worn, but not with pride. It should be worn in hands should beat our chests as they did in the old liturgy. “We are Penn State.”