Archive for May, 2009

Epic Struggles

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Two quintessential questions our culture raises by its nature and development are what is truth? and what can we believe? Our culture doesn’t know the answer. It never did. The Puritans knew that. They looked beyond themselves. They looked to God. But from this point in American literature we will be entering a wasteland . . . after the humorist Mark Twain wrote his satire and early Realism, American writers lost confidence in a single truth and came to the conclusion that truth is unattainable. Today we hold to a plurality of truths and the tolerance of them is now a virtue. Truth, to our secular world, is discovered in this struggle.

The Only Way

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Huckleberry Finn was one of the earliest novels where the issue of motivation and self are paramount. We have come a long way, baby! Kenneth J. Gergen in his book The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (HarperCollins, 1991) argues that self motivation has appeared at the end of this century as a sort of selfishness that is very destructive to Christianity. As Huckleberry regularly relativizes his situation on the banks of the Mississippi, likewise Christians are making their faith into another relative system of truth. Jesus Christ is the way, and the truth, and the life! There is no other! The fact is, most people may not care if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. But let me warn you: the moment you say that He is the only Savior–the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life–then people will be bothered. So, the task before you in the next century is not only to preach that Jesus Christ is Lord but to preach that He is the only Lord. Stand tall and strong, Saint! Do not equivocate on this point! Or we may lose the next generation . . .

Short Stories

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

A short story is more than a short story. It is an author’s vision of reality written in a focused, brief way. The Romantic poet Edgar Allan Poe, in his review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in Graham’s Magazine, May 1842, wrote:

A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents–he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. . . In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preestablished design. . . Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem, but undue length is yet more to be avoided.

Poe argued that “unity of impression” is of primary importance; the most effective story is one that can be read at a single sitting. The short story writer should deliberately subordinate everything in the story–characters, incidents, style, and tone–to bringing out of a single, preconceived effect or thesis. The tale may be made a vehicle for a great variety of these effects than even the short poem.

Lost Things

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Puritans saw the world in terms of individual sin and in terms of principalities and powers. They always saw themselves as being part of a larger, more important cosmological story. They knew, without a doubt, that every knee would bow, every tongue confess . . . With the rise of Lockian rationalism and its emphasis on individual rights, supported so vigorously by men like Thomas Jefferson, Americans privatized its faith and morality. Morality was defined according to each individual preference and Americans avoided static moral structures–as that which is given in the Bible. For the first time in American thought, man’s agendas were more important than the Word of God.

Transcendentalism

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Transcendentalism is a sad commentary on the failure of American Puritanism. By the end of the seventeenth century Puritanism was declining because of a lack of conversions and a disrespect for authority. As a result of this demise, American society lost a strong sense of community. Some thinkers, like Peter Berger argue that one of the features of our modern day has been the loss of mediating institutions, so that we now have increasingly atomistic individuals and a powerful state, with no buffers in-between. Berger also argues that we Americans have lost all sense of community. Puritans rarely talked about themselves–they just lived their lives in the community of the Lord. We talk about community so much because we experience it so little in our life. The church ceased to be a mediating institution like it was in Puritan New England. And, as a result, Christianity lost credibility as a viable institution.

As a result, I wonder if we were ill-prepared for the present onslaught against Christian culture. What do you think?

Reclaiming the High Ground

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Puritans very effectively combined sound scholarship and profound spirituality. They led American society in education and science for a century. They founded most of the universities in the new england. Some modern Evangelical scholars lament that that combination has been lost. Evangelical Professor Mark Noll, a former professor at Wheaton College, but now a professor at Harvard University, argues that “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Noll is speaking of a comprehensive ability to think theologically across a broad spectrum of life (e.g., politics, arts, culture, and economics). Evangelicals, he argue, have a propensity for shallow analysis of complex cultural issues (See Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994). This is a view held by other scholars as well . See David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Eerdmans). “Surely the God who is rendered ‘weightless’ by modern culture [especially evangelical Christians] is quite different from the living god.” Do you agree with Noll and Wells? Is there hope that born Christians again will regain the high ground in culture and thought?

I believe the vanguard of that reclamation project is the evangelical home school movement!

THE GIFTED AND TALENTED

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Any person who exhibits measurable and exceptional skills in a(n) area(s) could be considered gifted and talented. The characteristics must be excessive (almost too high to measure). A very small portion of our population is G&T. Someone could be very smart, very, very smart, and not be G&T. Our children have a 1-in-20 chance of being G&T. The difference between smart and G&T is the difference between the Book of Romans and the Book of John–both are important, both ar e anointed, but Romans is profoundly different–not superior–from< John. Greek scholars will tell you that Paul was off the scale in intelligence; John, though, was gifted in other ways. Both were used by the Holy Spirit; both wrote anointed books; but Paul was G & T.

The following is a summary of characteristics of a G&T person: high IQ (over 135) and often a behavior problem (not always). At the skill application level G&T students exhibit: elaboration, originality, divergent thinking, and problem solving. Social skills include: cooperative learning approaches, shared decision making, active participation, self-management skills, and a process-oriented approach.

  • Shows superior reasoning powers and marked ability to handle ideas; can generalize readily from specific facts and can see subtle relationships; has outstanding problem-solving ability. The high IQ may be the best indicator of G&T.
  • Shows persistent intellectual curiosity; asks searching questions; shows exceptional interest in the nature of man and the universe.
  • Has multiple interests, often of an intellectual kind; develops one or more interests to considerable depth.
  • Is markedly superior in quality and quantity of written and/or spoken vocabulary; is interested in the subtleties of words and their uses.
  • Reads avidly and absorbs books well beyond his or her years.
  • Learns quickly and easily and retains what is learned; recalls important details, concepts and principles; comprehends readily.
  • Shows insight into arithmetical problems that require careful reasoning and grasps mathematical concepts readily.
  • Shows creative ability or imaginative expression in such things as music, art, dance, drama; s hows sensitivity and finesse in rhythm, movement, and bodily control.
  • Sustains concentration for lengthy periods and shows outstanding responsibility and independence in classroom work. Sets realistically high standards for self; is self-critical in evaluating and correcting his or her own efforts.
  • Shows initiative and originality in intellectual work; shows flexibility in thinking and considers problems from a number of viewpoints.
  • Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas.
  • Shows social poise and an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way.
  • Gets excitement and pleasure from intellectual challenge; shows an alert and subtle sense of humor. (Adapted from ERIC, http://ericec.org/digests/e476.htm)

One word of caution: G & T status does not imply there is a concomitant growth in morality and spiritual formation. In other words, one can be very gifted, an a moral degenerate. Witness Adolf Hitler. All indications are that Hitler was G & T. However, clearly, he was an evil, if smart, man. G&T evaluation is normally tied exclusively to cognitive development. Daniel in Scripture is a good example of a G & T young person who combined intelligence and moral acumen. Let us not neglect the spiritual formation of our G & T students.

There are several interventions we can employ to educate G & T students. First, we can do nothing. Let child develop naturally. If anything, hold him back until he matures appropriately.

  • Acceleration Overall (curricula compacting)
    1. Provides needed pedagogical stimulation.
    2. Emotion and spiritual price. Can create elitism.
    3. Can spiritual/affective development keep pace with academic development?
  • Contracting

Independent Study Agreement
The following terms are agreed to by parent and student:
The student may learn the key concepts or the information described on the study guide independently. The student must demonstrate mastery at appropriate checkpoints to continue this arrangement for the rest of the unit. The student must participate in selected group activities when one day’s notice is given by the teacher. The student agrees to complete an independent project by (date) to share with the class.
Project description: ___________________ .
The student agrees to work on the selected project according to the following guidelines while the remainder20of the class is involved with the teacher. (List guidelines.)
Parent’s signature Student’s signature
Implement an entirely new curriculum: student-centered, etc.
The curriculum committee of the Leadership Training Institute (Passow, 1982) developed seven guiding principles for curriculum differentiation that reflect the considerations described in this Digest.

  • The content of curricula for gifted students should focus on and be organized to include more elaborate, complex, and in-depth study of major ideas, problems, and themes that integrate knowledge within and across systems of thought.
  • Curricula for gifted students should allow for the development and application of productive thinking skills to enable students to reconceptualize existing knowledge and/or generate new knowledge.
  • Curricula for gifted students should enable them to explore constantly changing knowledge and information and develop the attitude that knowledge is worth pursuing in an open world.
  • Curricula for gifted students should encourage exposure to, selection, and use of appropriate and specialized resources.
  • Curricula for gifted students should promote self-initiated and self-directed learning and growth.
  • Curricula for gifted students should provide for the development of self-understanding and the understanding of one’s relationship to persons, societal institutions, nature, and culture.
  • Evaluations of curricula for gifted students should be conducted in accordance with the previously stated principles, stressing higher level thinking skills, creativity, and excellence in performance and products.

Developing curriculum that is sufficiently rigorous, challenging, and coherent for students who are gifted is a challenging task. The result, however, is well worth the effort. Appropriately differentiated curriculum produces well-educated, knowledgeable students who have had to work very h ard, have mastered a substantial body of knowledge, and can think clearly and critically about that knowledge. Achieving such results for one or for a classroom full of students who are gifted will produce high levels of satisfaction, not only for the students who are beneficiaries, but also for every teacher who is willing to undertake the task.

Name of Student:
ACADEMIC CRITERIA
Standardized Score Percentiles:
99% plus in four subjects (25 points)
99% plus in two subjects20(15 points)

SAT/ACT scores:
Ninth grade over 2350 (40 points)
Tenth grade over 2350 (35 points)
Eleventh grade over 2350 (30 points)
Any grade 2350-2400 (20 points)

IQ (If known):
129-135 (5 points)
135-150 (15 points)

Socialization
Is he bored by regular classroom work?
Does he prefer work at least two grades ahead?
Does he have problems working with his peers?
Does he have mood swings?

If you answered yes to all of the above give yourself 40 points.
If you answered yes to three (30), two (20), one (10).

Problem Solving
Does your son/daughter show obvious skills in higher level thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)? (30 for evaluation, 20 for synthesis, 10 for analysis).

A score of 120-150 indicates G&T potential. The nature of this evaluation implies a great deal of subjectivity so it obviously is inexact; but it can be a rough guide.

Conclusion: How can we live in a culture so full of hopelessness?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Yet, even as I write this speech it is evident that change is in the air. Oz Guinness warns us that at some point Americans will become fed up with the excesses and dysfunctional aspects of our culture. He says that as American mainline culture fails to sustain Americans in their hedonistic pursuit of self interest, they will want something more. William Bennett is right to warn us that there is a “death of outrage” in our country but he might add that there is a numbness spreading across the land that offers much opportunity for Christians in general and for homeschoolers in particular.

Guinness encourages Christians with the fact that Americans in the near future will be looking to places of stability and strength for direction. Besides, almost by default, those people whose lives are in reasonable good shape, who have some reason to live beyond=2 0the next paycheck will have almost an inexorably appeal. Like Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid we will all someday after the storm thrown on somebody’s beach.

How do we as parents and now as new graduates create a foundation for personal success? There are four key issues that must be settled in your mind: identity: Who am I?, responsibility: What will I do with my life?, priority: what is really most important to me? , and commitment: How much am I willing to commit? Using Hebrews 11:23-27 let’s look at these four issues.

First, as you begin a new phase of your life make sure you know who you are and who your God is. “By faith, Moses, when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter’s.” (V. 24). He refuses and then chooses.

Second, Moses accepts responsibility for his life. “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Vs. 25). You will be persecuted because you will join the stream of faith that believes Christ is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Thirdly, You will need to decide fairly soon what is important and valuable in your life or others will do it for you. You need a cause worth dying for (as well as living for). And I don’t mean late library books. Does your mom really take off on library books? “He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (V. 26).

Finally, you must never take your eyes off the goal. “By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” How long can you wait? How long can you persevere? The story of Jeremiah buying the field at Anatoth.

Summary

Quite literally this generation will have to create a new world. How to create a new society? These are the new Pilgrims, the new Puritans. They need the tools to create a new world because the old world as we know it will not last much longer. Risk takers–Esther 4 (find the reference). Daniel 3: 16-18–Whether we burn or not, we will never bow down to you, oh King!!!! John Winthrop, the first Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called his generation and ours to be “a city on a hill.” Memorize this famous passage. My challenge to this generation is to be salt and light to the world! Isa. 39: 1-8 tells one of the saddest stories in the Bible. King Hezekiah, on again and off again king of Judah, has invited his enemies into his camp. The King of Babylon’s emissaries have come to negotiate with Judah. They really do not want to conquer Judah–Egypt is the real enemy–until they see how rich the nation of Judah is. Hezekiah opens up the kingdom and shows everything! An OT version of putting pearls before swine! The prophet Isaiah comes and warns Hezekiah about the grave mistake he has made. Hezekiah reasons, “Oh, well, there will at least be peace and security in my days.”

In Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim Jim is instructing a young person steering a ship how to handle a storm. “Steer neither to the right or to the left of it,” Lord Jim says, “Steer right into it.” Christian homeschoolers, we need to steer right into the storm. We can be and will be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!

CONFUSION

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

One of the greatest problems in this generation is confusion about individual responsibility. Perhaps the problem began with Freud who told us that feelings of guilt were a sign not of vice, but of virtue. That our problems stemmed from our mothers, not from our sin. Perhaps our problem began with Goethe whose Faust escapes the consequences of his sin by sincerity and good naturedness, poor Gretchen aside. Look at the evolution of the American understanding of hero:

  1. Traditional John Wayne . . . A moral, golden rule, hero. He was never immoral. He always did the right thing.
  2. Modern Clint Eastwood . . . Eastwood is tough. “Make my day” world. Doing something invites any appropriate response–as defined by offended person.
  3. PostChristian Tom Cruise . . . Cr use is selfish but moral. Commits adultery and lies for the sake of good things in The Firm. But there is a hint of morality.

The Christian homeschooler must be responsible before God. Every thing must be do to His glory.

Confusion about responsibility is only one confusion. Confusion about what toleration is also everywhere. S.D. Gaede, When Tolerance is No Virtue, says . . . In our culture, there is considerable confusion about how we ought to live with our differences and a cacophony of contradictory justifications for one approach as opposed to another. All appeal to the need of tolerance, but there is nothing like common argument on what that means. The question our culture raises by nature and development is what is truth and what can we believe? Our culture doesn’t know the answers. In fact, we have lost confidence in truth and have come to the conclusion that truth is unattainable. Thus, tolerance moves to the forefront. C. K. Chesterton wrote: Toleration is the virtue of the man without convictions. The Christian Response: A. We need to understand the culture in which we live–one in which relativism is growing which leads to injustice. B. We must know what is right and do it. C. We must seek justice–we cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices related to multi-culturalism. D. We must affirm truth and not tolerate relativism. E. The church must be who it is–it must express its convictions about truth and justice and practice and express tolerance (i.e., love) to the multi-cultural body of Christ.

Sir Arnold Toynbee says . . . In the nineteen forties Toynbee studied civilizations and came to the following conclusions: Based on his study of twenty-one civilizations Toynbee found that societies in disintegration suffer a kind of “schism of the soul.” They are seldom simply overrun by some other civilization. Rather, they commit a sort of cultural suicide. Disintegrating societies have several characteristics. They fall into a sense of abandon People begin to yield to their impulses–especially in the sexual area . They also succumb to truancy that is escapism seeking to avoid their problems by retreating into their own worlds of distraction and entertainment. There is a sense of drift as they realize that they have no control over their lives. Consciousness is adrift, unable to anchor itself to any universal ground of justice, truth on which the ideals of modernity have been founded in the past. Contrast the biblical figure Joseph who knew who he was and where he was going. God was in control [45:Eight]. Most people in the last election thought Clinton was immoral but did not think it mattered. There is no moral outrage William Bennett cries.

The Lay of the Land: Preparing This Generation to Be World Changers For Christ

Monday, May 18th, 2009

We must prepare this generation to be different in meaningful ways. We must prepare this generation–like no other–to be in the work but not of the world. As Josh Harris loves to say, “American cannot take another Christian generation that just fits in.” The postChristian age is one dominated by anxiety, irrationalism and helplessness. In such a world, consciousness is adrift, unable to anchor itself to any universal ground of justice, truth or reason. Consciousness itself is thus “decentered”: no longer agent of action in the world, but a function through which impersonal forces pass and intersect [Patricia Waugh in Gene Edward Veith, Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture, p. 45]. Let’s examine some modern trends.

The first is a pervasive and abiding concern about the future. To those of us who lived through the Cold War this seem ludicrous. But it is real and this generation is one of the most hopeless in history. Interestingly enough this hopelessness has made us rather sentimental. We have become very sentimental about the past. We have lost our way; lost our dreams.Dr. Harvey Cox: “We once had dreams and no technology to bring them to pass.” Now we have technology but no dreams! Even in our most creative creations it is more of the same: Star Wars are going after the same thing we want and still not finding it. Notice bar scene. The Star Wars phenomenon is so appealing because it is about the past; not about the future. Luke Skywalker is more like John Wayne than he is like Tom Cruse. To this hopeless generation history is not sacred; it is merely utilitarian. It is not didactic; i t helps make them feel better. The modern psychologist B.F. Skinner, for instance, disdains history and gives mm’s to monkeys. We have no actions–only fate driving us. We are rudderless. The fact is we Christians know, however, that God is in absolute control of history. We need to teach our children to be tirelessly hopeful. We need to make sure that we are not mawkish! We can easily do so by speaking the Truth found in the Word of God in places of deception.

Next, there is a serious breakdown of community. The Christian teacher Oz Guinness says . . .It is now questionable whether America’s cultural order is capable of nourishing the freedom, responsibility, and civility that Americans require to sustain democracy. Modernity creates problems far deeper than drugs, etc. It creates a crisis of cultural authority in which America’s beliefs, ideals, and traditions are losing their compelling power in society. Soci ologist Peter Berger says. . . One of the features of our modern day has been the loss of mediating institutions, so that we now have increasingly atomistic individuals and a powerful state, with no buffers in-between. The Christian homeschooler, therefore, must not merely talk the talk, he must walk the walk. We must create an alternative community of hope. We must sabotage the conspiracy of hopelessness and self-centeredness that is so pervasive in our nation.