Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
Saturday, September 15th, 2012
During this last week we all received an impromptu lesson in “the Politics of Offense”. Eruptions of this volcano are happening often now, but this last week was a loud one. “The Politics of Offense” (PoO) works by deflecting criticism by making the insensitivity of your opponents’ comment THE issue. If you are dealing with disciplining your own children, these sorts of issues occur when one does something really heinous (like stealing a toy) and then tries to deflect the needed discipline by claiming that their sister said, “no”, when they asked to have it and struggled (perish the thought) to keep the toy when they came to take it. (I speak, of course, only from theoretical knowledge nothing like this has ever happened at my home.)
The PoO really starts to hum along when the charges of “she hurt my feelings” (implicitly “she is an insensitive moron”) begin to fly back and forth. We might call this sort of eruption a hissy fit. It is ugly. Sadly, this is what we are experiencing at the highest level of political life in our country today. The attack/protest in the Middle East during this last week are a prime example. The terrorists attacked and quickly the two candidates were embroiled about whose response to the situation was most inappropriate and insensitive. Throughout the week, the hissy fit has continued on both sides. I drove home last night listening to NPR who was covering the response to the attack–not the attack.
Political life that is full of PoO is one of the reasons why a classical and Christian education is so important. Here are the top three things that a the study of rhetoric does to the PoO:
1. It helps people see that PoO is not an answer to the question. If you are asked why there were not more soldiers guarding the embassy and you say: “How dare you pollute this moment of grief with your insensitive quest to affix blame!” The correct response is: “Answer the question!” This happened to me just yesterday in a debate that I lost to Mr. Hayward in class. One student asked a question, I gave a response, and she responded, “Fine, but you really did not answer my question.” We need millions of people like this.
2. The study of rhetoric helps us understand why the PoO is so potent. Aristotle said that there are three parts of rhetoric: ethos (the perceived character of the speaker), logos (the words that the speaker is saying), pathos (the feeling attached to the words). Ethos, the Philosopher said, trumps all. If you can harm your opponents character (or the perception of his character), you have the game won. So, our leaders resort to the PoO. We must not let our picture of the character of a leader be colored by the PoO. We need to make sound judgments rather than sound bite judgments. Most people, however, do not study rhetoric and thus they take PoO serious (to the determent of the country).
3. Finally, classical education prepares people to move beyond the PoO–to cut through it. Politics is an entertainment sport today–but it is serious business. We must turn our TVs off and we must remember that PoO is a sign of weakness, moral ineptitude, and incivility. It is ugly and it is used to deflect responsibility rather than doing what real leaders must do–embrace responsibility, repent (when needed), and lead by answering questions instead of throwing fits.
Friday, September 14th, 2012
I had an interesting conversation with a father of grown children recently. He mentioned how his family moved around the county to find the right schools for his children. He asserted this (I am paraphrasing):
“I knew that both our children were of average intelligence and I knew that most public schools do not spend their money on average students. They invest at the top and the bottom. The top students were given extraordinary opportunities. The bottom were given a lot of support. The middle got very little.”
They choose a blending of private school and the right public school for their children (who are now grown). I have pondered his thinking and I think that he might be onto something. I fear that things have changed for the worse since he made his decisions. Now, the funding goes to the bottom because accountability happens at the bottom because of things like No Child Left Behind (which could be called Most Children Left Bored).
Classical education, because it is radically committed to different measurements–ones that point toward readiness not for a particular job but for profitable living in a free society like critical and logical thinking skills, and the ability to persuade effectively using written and spoken communication–aims right more evenly rather than focus on the top or the bottom. The results are fabulous!
Saturday, September 8th, 2012
There is an interesting article on the First Things blog about the growth of classical Christian education amongst Catholics. Here is the articles:
The Case for Classical Education
Some of this is happening because of the closing of some traditional Catholic schools. This move is suggested by Andrew Seely and Elisabeth Ryan Sullivan who are Catholic educational leaders. I think that it is a good move. I also think that it is a opportunity for the members of different branches of the church to figure out a way to work together. This is not to diminish any of the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants. We need to talk about these differences. Important matters are at stake in the issues that caused the Reformation. It is a recognition that many Catholics and Protestants presently do not know or understand those differences which might offer an opportunity–especially regarding classical Christian education.
The Catholic criticism of Protestants is basically “you don’t know church history.” The Protestant dig on Catholics is “you don’t know the Bible.” Sometimes this is true; sometimes not. What if we made a place where Protestant and Catholic kids could learn about the Bible and Church History and argue about it? Wouldn’t those kids be able to relate to one another without having to work through the caricatures of 16th and 17th century debates which might not be the most pertinent today?
I hope that Protestants and Catholics and find ways to work together to give their children a great Christian education.
Monday, August 27th, 2012
Here is an interesting story about Chinese “Communism” and how it changed and became more capitalist. The results are telling. Private property makes the incentive to work, to be frugal, to save, and to invest in the future palpable. We should remember this story as our “capitalism” heads in the other direction.
1. We should remember that this story–privatizing agriculture–was our story. Bradford, in Of Plymouth Plantation, tells almost exactly the same story. They were all starving and working collectively on the one farm. The leadership decided that the land would be privatized. They went to work and found prosperity.
2. We should see that any time the government steps in to protect and guide they are harming. People can and will make society work. They can do almost everything without government intervention. The US Constitution is a great experiment in limiting what the government can do. We proposed because of this limitation. As we have removed these restrictions we see more government intervention, more subsidy, and less motivation to figure out cost effective ways to do things for ourselves.
3. We should understand what positive forces could be released if we would remove the massive subsidies in particular areas. I am most interested in education. Americans can and will send their children to school. Most understand their own and their children’s self interest. Presently the subsidy built into the system means incredibly high costs (mainly now because of bureaucracy and benefit promises) at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels. If this would stop, then we could build an educational system that would be (I hope) better and more cost effective. This would not mean the end of teaching for good teachers in the public schools. Great teachers will always be in demand. It would mean a reshuffling of the deck… and I believe this is going to come. I believe it more each day.
Sunday, August 5th, 2012
I was very distressed by the recent National Review Article in which John J. Miller interviews Wendell Berry. This is not odd (I am often distressed), but it is odd that I am distressed by Berry. The rambling interview asks about how and why Berry is popular on the left and the right. As Miller digs down into Berry’s views, he finds a lot of things that don’t fit the tags and categories that don’t fit:
1. He votes for Democrats and even Obama (but has little hope that politician can do anything to help life).
2. He is pro-life, but non-committal when you get into particulars.
3. He looks to Miller like an anti-capitalist.
These were not too distressing to me. I expect Berry to be sort of politically non-committal. I would like him to be clearer on pro-life issues, but I respect his hatred of movements. I do not believe that Berry is anti-capitalist, but I do believe that he is anti-giant corporations (because they are out of proportion with life or as has been recently said “too big to fail”).
I am distressed about Berry’s views on gay marriage. He is for it. The reason he is for it are not shocking–he wants all sorts of people to have inheritance rights, etc. He basically wants the government out of marriage recognition business. This is, of course, fitting with Berry’s distrust of government and his libertarianism. At this point, however, he is overreaching. Government does need to be involved in recognizing who is married to whom. How could the law work otherwise!
Berry also points to the hypocrisy of the church on sexual ethics, noting:
He regards the entire debate as a distraction: “I really don’t understand how you can single out homosexuality for opprobrium and wink at fornication and adultery, which the Bible has a lot more to say about. The churches are not going to come out against fornication and adultery because there are too damn many fornicators and adulterers in their congregations.”
Both of these reasons, however, fall far short of biblical justification. The Bible claims that sin is destructive. That it actually harms the people engaged in. If the government says it does not, then (well) the government is wrong (it has been before and consistently). The government governs best when it tells the truth, but the government can not change the truth, however, loudly it proclaims against it.
It is disappointing that Berry who sees so many flaws in the ways that our world works produces such flimsy arguments to justify bad thinking. Someone who works on a farm should know better! Nature (and nature’s God) guide us through His word and through His revelation in nature.
Here is a link to the whole article:
Sunday, August 5th, 2012
A classical education teaches transferable skills like logic (thinking clearly about language in arguments and ideas). I have been talking about the logical fallacy called equivocation recently. Our culture plays with language and it does not like to be bounded or restricted by language. We don’t like this when it comes to the Constitution. We do not want to be bounded by promises or by commitments. We want to avoid obligations by altering or changing the meaning of words.
In the recent debates about marriage, I have recognized that one of the most pernicious problems is an equivocation on the word marriage. The word does not come to us today without a history and without a settled meaning. The meaning of this word is rich with and bounded by Christian meaning. Marriage is about making a commitment. This commitment can not be separated from other words. Another way to say this is what is marriage a commitment to? It is a commitment to be a husband or a wife to each other. I am not against other commitments (biblically commitments to a sexual relationship are bounded by marriage). All of our ceremonies (both religious and secular) use this language. In the ceremonies we are committing ourselves to specific obligations–the obligations of husbands and wives. Gay marriage bends this language. How are the two people to fulfill both roles? We can only makes sense of this by saying that these words and commitments are fungible and bendable.
Of course, as a Christian, I have to take the presently unpopular stand that homosexuality is sinful and wrong. I am willing to do this because I believe that God is trying to maximize our joy and when He restricts something, He does so because it is harmful. If I care for gay people, I have to be willing to tell them that what they are doing is going to harm them. (I need to do this with other sexual and non-sexual sins too, of course.) The meaning of the word marriage, however, points to something that is connected to a commitment to fill a certain office (husband or wife). Without the protection of these words (which are being denuded of their meaning as we speak) we are losing something that our society (and every society in history) has needed to survive.
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.
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!!!
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.
Thursday, July 12th, 2012
I was thinking about this today as I was driving around (the time between meetings). I think that classical Christian education and the culture that it supports are committed to crossing Kant’s line and maintaining (virulently) that Christianity is true! Not true in our hearts or true in our opinion, but true! Factually, objectively, true. And this truth makes life good and beautiful.
Kant’s line was made between the subjective and the objective in 1781 (I believe this is the date of The Critique of Pure Reason. He, trying to protect Christianity, relegated it to the subjective. The faith was true, but only true to US and true IN OUR HEARTS.This pious activity has led to our current anemic faith which makes Christ the Lord of our hearts, but not our lives and not the world outside of our hearts (i.e., the Supreme Court, or the schools of our country, or your backyard).
So definitionally classical Christian education is the joyful affirmation that the facts of the faith are true and that trusting Christ leads to beauty and goodness.