• Education •
June 17, 2005
As the Southern Baptist Convention convenes in Nashville next week, the issue of public education is once again at the center of potential controversy. For the second year in a row, proposed resolutions have been submitted to the denomination’s Committee on Resolutions, calling for Christians to reconsider support for the nation’s public school system.
May 22, 2005
The New York Times reported last week that as many as 5,000 children are expelled from preschool programs each year. Researchers at the Yale Child Study Center released a research study that indicated an expulsion rate for preschoolers that ran three times higher than rates for school-age children. “In the past, in a school of 150 kids, you might have one or two kids with behavior problems, but now it may be up to 10 percent of the kids,” commented Susan Glaser, an educational psychologist and preschool director in Cleveland, Ohio. Surprised? Today, the paper is out with a commentary by Jennifer Steinhauer that agues that the problem might be what is expected of preschool programs.
May 11, 2005
Roger Kimball is out with an interesting new essay in The New Criterion that sugests how the American university can be recovered from postmodern chaos. Kimball, one of today’s most insightful cultural critics, suggests that public outrage over the Ward Churchill affair at the University of Colorado is a sign that recovery might be possible. In “Retaking the University: A Battle Plan,” Kimball acknowledges that reforming the university will not be easy. “It is a peculiar moment in academia,” he admits. “In many ways, things have never been worse. All those radical trends that got going in the 1960s and gained steam in the 1970s and 1980s are now so thoroughly entrenched that they are simply taken for granted.” Yet, he is not willing to throw in the towel. “The chief issue is this: should our institutions of higher education be devoted primarily to the education of citizens–or should they be laboratories for social and political experimentation? Traditionally, a liberal arts education involved both character formation and learning. . . . Since the 1960s, however, colleges and universities have more and more been home to what Lionel Trilling called the ‘adversary culture of the intellectuals.’ The goal was less reflection than rejection.” The rejectionists have been in the driver’s seat for decades now, experimenting with every pernicious ideology to come down the pike. Kimball’s article offers both [guarded] hope and insightful analysis. While on the subject of chaos in the academy, consider this paragraph from Kimball’s 1990 book,Tenured Radicals: “With a few notable exceptions, our most prestigious liberal arts colleges and universities have installed the entire radical menu at the center of their humanities curriculum at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Every special interest–women’s studies, black studies, gay studies, and the like —and every modish interpretative gambit–deconstruction, post-structuralism, new historicism, and other postmodernist varieties of what the literary critic Frederick Crews aptly dubbed ‘Left Eclecticism’–has found a welcome roost in the academy, while the traditional curriculum and modes of intellectual inquiry are excoriated as sexist, racist, or just plain reactionary.” Well said.
May 10, 2005
A controversy brewing in the Puget Sound region has national implications. Should middle and high school boys be required to compete with girls in wrestling matches? According to a report in The Seattle Times, girl wrestlers and their parents are indignant that some boys are forfeiting matches, refusing to wrestle girls. In particular, boys from Tacoma Baptist Schools and Cascade Christian Schools are at the center of the controversy. Schools in the Rainier Valley League have honored the right of the schools to forfeit matches rather than have a boy wrestle a girl. League President Dan Petersen advises that the current policy allows any wrestler to forfeit for any reason. “If a person chooses not to wrestle, they don’t have to wrestle,” he stated. Now, at least one parent of a girl wrestler is ready to take legal action. Jerry Connors, father of wrestler Meaghan Connors, has filed a complaint charging the league with violating Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination against girls and women in schools. Connors, described in the paper as “a former Episcopal president and one-time pastoral assistant for social justice at St. James Cathedral in Seattle,” says he is just standing up for his daughter: “My daughter’s rights are not going to be bargained away for any reason.” What about the rights of the boys? Girls won the right to compete on school wrestling teams twenty years ago, and a handful of girls participate on wrestling teams in the Rainier Valley League. The Christian schools claim a right to follow their own convictions, arguing that boy/girl wrestling matches fall short of proper behavior or sportsmanship. As Cascade Christian Schools superintendent Don Johnson explained, the school “does not want to put our young men in a situation where they would be inappropriately touching a young lady.” That makes sense to me, and my guess is that this would make sense to most parents. After all, the sport of wrestling requires close–very close–physical contact. The holds and moves required for the sport mean that wrestlers will grab each other and struggle for physical supremacy. That pretty much defines the sport. As Andrew Spradlin, a former All-American high school wrestler, reported on my radio show Monday, wrestling with a girl would require a boy to initiate contact that would be considered sexual assault in any other context. Parents and wrestlers are not supposed to worry about that? Boys are to be encouraged to pin girls down on a wrestling mat? What’s wrong with this picture? This controversy will continue over the summer, and it bears close attention. If these Christian schools can be excluded from competition in the Rainier Valley League for this reason, religious liberty is at stake in a whole new arena.
May 6, 2005
The evolution controversy has hit Kansas again, but not without some strange twists and turns. According to ABC News, a subcommittee of the Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings in order to consider whether the state’s schools should include Intelligent Design within the curriculum. The hearings were described by ABC News as “trial-like,” painting the event as something like a re-run of the Scopes trial. Interestingly, the evolutionists didn’t show up for the hearings, claiming that their participation would somehow dignify the concept of Intelligent Design. Well, that concept needs no dignity from the evolutionists. The fact is that the Darwinist club is running scared. Their failure to show up in Kansas is evidence of a massive failure of nerve. Sadly enough, confusion abounds. Take this statement from a mother of two Kansas teenagers: “I believe in God, but I’m not sure He created everything. I’m right in the middle.” Right in the middle of what? Just what does she think God did create? Scholars with the Discovery Institute testified on behalf of Intelligent Design. We’ll watch this closely.
May 4, 2005
Andreas Kostenberger, Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of a new book, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundations [Crossway Books]. It’s really an excellent book, combining an extensive engagement with the biblical text and a keen eye for application. Consider this paragraph: “Fundamentally, children, like all people, ought to be considered spiritual individuals who are uniquely created by God and yet are fallen sinners, so that the task of parenting is not merely that of behavioral conditioning but spiritual nurture and training . . . . In reality, only those children and young people who experience personal regeneration through faith in Christ and receive the indwelling Holy Spirit can truly and permanently live a life pleasing to God and benefit as their parents guide them toward greater wisdom. This, however, does not do away with parental discipline and training prior to a child’s conversion. It does mean, though, that parental efforts can only go so far unless aided by the internal, supernatural enablement in the respone of the child. Thus the child’s conversion is truly an important aspect of parental guidance.”
May 3, 2005
The Louisville Courier-Journal is at it again, publishing an editorial today decrying Southern Seminary’s shift to a consistent model of biblical counseling. According to the editorial, “Orthodoxy’s March,” this continues the seminary’s “retreat from the mainstream of American life,” making it “more like the insular Bible college that some would like it to be.” Furthermore, the paper slams the move as “part of a national trend toward Christian exclusiveness.” In the following sentences, it links the seminary’s shift in currciulum to the fact that a Jewish cadet at the Air Force Academy was accused of “killing Christ.” Next, we can expect to be blamed for earthquakes in Asia and UFO sightings in Alaska. The Courier-Journal continues its tirade against biblical Christianity. Christianity is fine, in their view, so long as you sing a secular tune. The changes in our counseling program are the result of our determination to train ministers for churches, not therapists for private practice. In addition, we cannot in good conscience teach psychological principles and therapeutic approaches that are incompatible with our theological convictions. The paper published a major front-page article on the curriculum changes in Sunday’s edition, characterizing the context as a battle between the Bible and “science.” [See also this related article.] The paper concluded its editorial today with these words: “As for the seminary, comfort may come from fundamentalist purity, but the long-term relevance of degrees students earn is in question. Meanwhile, Louisville watches, with sadness, as a once important local educational institution follows an ever narrower path.” From this side, we’ll watch as a once important newspaper follows its path into absolute irrelevance.
April 14, 2005
Thousands of schools all over America observed the “Day of Silence” yesterday, an event sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network [GLSEN]. The program, now in its tenth year, represents an effort by gay activists to push their agenda in the schools and to argue that homosexuals, lesbians, and transgendered persons have been “silenced” in the educational curriculum.
February 8, 2005
A mixture of often contradictory ideas frames the popular imagination and, to a great extent, the contours of the American mind. One of the most cherished of these ideas is of fairly recent vintage, though its philosophical roots go far back into the American experience. This idea can be called simply the “self-esteem myth”–the idea that an individual’s self-esteem is central to success, happiness, performance, and behavior.
January 4, 2005