Life and Musings of Ed

Archive for the ‘Christian Education’ Category

Brokenness in Education

In Christian Education, Life and living on 15 February 16 at 10:40 am

I am deeply troubled by my recent experiences teaching mathematics in a public high school.  Not only have the vast majority of students entering my classroom lost any wonder or desire to learn mathematics, they come in with a deep set disdain, even hatred of the subject and severely deficient proficiency.  Consider the following example from an integrated math 3 student [similar to algebra 2, for those used to a traditional high school course sequence].  The selected problems from a quiz follows the student’s opportunity to see examples in class and practice both by hand and with the assistance of a graphing calculator.  This is not an anomaly.


Couple this with general class response of “yeah, we agree”  to the following quote from Mike Rowe [Dirty Jobs], and the anecdotal evidence is already very troubling!


There is no shortage of laments regarding the state of public education, and in particular, mathematics education , in the US, nor is it difficult to find any number of suggestions for “fixing” the problem.  One might hear buzz focused on “data driven” education, and “brain based learning”, etc. etc. , for example.

From my perspective, there is a serious world view clash and I will be laying out proposals and offerings for anyone interested in Christian Ed.  My heart is torn daily when exposed to brokenness in so many of my students.  The Good News is that there is Good News [the Gospel] and a real solution to this brokenness.

To start my online and public thinking process, here is a short paper about my philosophy of education, which I wrote for one of my Master’s courses at Concordia University :

Philosophy of Education

I believe the purpose of education is to transform students into the image of Christ, to equip them for every good work, and encourage them to live such that they will glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  As a teacher, I facilitate the development of a Christian worldview, guide students toward Truth and knowledge of God’s creation, love and edify them through trials and struggle, encourage perseverance and the development of Godly character, uphold hope, and foster their understanding of God’s call and will for their life.  By pointing students to Christ, I help them to understand excellence and beauty, their intrinsic worth and value, and principles for a joyous and fulfilling life — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27  ESV).  

Because I believe that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, I seek to partner with parents, to involve them as much as possible, and acknowledge their right to choose the best educational setting for their child.  Because I believe we are created as relational beings, incorporating collaborative learning experiences, promoting teamwork and citizenship are critical in my classroom.  Because the great narrative of humankind, the patterns of sin and redemption, of evil and heroism, of love, passion, tragedy, destruction and discovery are recorded, shared and best expressed through language, the written word, mathematics, and the fine arts, these disciplines are critical components of education.  As citizens of the United States of America, I believe we share a common heritage, that students should fully understand philosophies and ideas which led to the founding of our country, should be able to read and comprehend founding documents, the constitution, the history of our country, and the great sacrifices that have been made to establish the freedoms we enjoy.  They will come to understand that such freedom requires a moral, responsible and educated populace. To best understand America, students must be able to compare and contrast all aspects of the history and culture of the United States with the rich cultural diversity and history of other nations.  Because I believe God’s creation is worthy of study and that we are called to be stewards of His creation, the study of science, mathematics, technology, the history of their development and their effective use are critical components of education.   Because I believe all students are created in God’s image, have special gifts and talents, and a purpose or “calling”, I will do everything in my power to ensure equity in my classroom, school, and community.

Finally, the effective impartation of knowledge and wisdom in my chosen discipline of mathematics and science demands my diligence in professional development.  I will continue to stay abreast of research regarding best practices and effective pedagogy, of current understanding of the brain and implications for learning, of new technologies and their effective use, and of current discoveries in mathematics as I seek to deliver a coherent curriculum which engages students multiple intelligence, and is accessible to a diverse community of learners. I will adhere to the simple principle that students must be given a rich exposure to, a variety of ways to engage with, ample opportunities to process, and some choice in expressing mastery of new skills and their ability to use newly gained knowledge.  I will do whatever it takes to ensure every student is able to demonstrate proficiency of a common core of research based, internationally bench-marked standards.



Why Boys Fail

In Christian Education, Life and living on 26 March 10 at 2:56 pm

I have lamented the state of education in the public sector and have noticed the shifting policies which tend to demonize much of what was once “normal” behavior of boys.  Here is a commentary, with which I generally agree, that addresses a key to the apathy of young men toward education, school and life. Think about the lack of opportunities for boys to live out the life of a hero in today’s risk-averse, nanny state.  Then think about what you can do to reach out to provide an opportunity for a young man to be a hero — not a fake hero — a real hero, taking risks and serving; in fact, if you are a male role model, show him how to be a hero — display some character and grit!

Another Reason Why Boys Fail

A coarsened cultural environment has eliminated the heroic ideals that once inspired young men.

By Stephen C. Zelnick

March 11, 2010

Editor’s Note: Stephen Zelnick is a member of the Department of English at Temple University and co-founder of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC).

I happened to catch an interview with Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That’s Leaving Them Behind. His is the latest voice in a chorus of writers who have focused attention on the weak performance of boys and young men in education. Whitmire, a capable and committed journalist, follows the social science approach of gathering statistics and then guessing at likely causes.

And the data are stunning. Boys do poorly in reading in the early grades, they fail in great numbers to graduate from high school, they go on to higher education at lower percentages than young women, and they fail to complete higher education programs at a noticeably higher rate than their female counterparts.

So many theories have been proposed for these failings that it is difficult to keep up with them. Boys’ brains don’t work right for what school does; boys’ energies are not suited to sitting still (more Ritalin, please); boys are biologically best suited to manual labor; boys lack male role models in school settings; boys see cooperative behavior as submission; boys resist cupboard-keeping neatness; and so on. Undoubtedly, these are all true, and always have been.

I would like to propose a wider perspective by looking for causes in the broad cultural environment. As a humanist who teaches literature and labors as a core curriculum and Great Books advocate, I premise my thoughts on old notions of human nature, social values, and cultural continuity.

Thus, I would add something I am not hearing in this discussion. Boys, and young men in particular, respond very well to noble purpose but haven’t had much to go on in the past fifty years of our bedraggled history. So many of the young men I see in my classes have mentally and emotionally quit, given up. They are not supported by inspiring ideals that help organize and focus their energies.

They seem prematurely weary, defeated by obstacles they haven’t met yet, bored and restless and merely going through the motions. Some have adopted the cool pose of indifference, and, indeed, they really don’t care. When I ask them where they are going with their educations, they look perplexed, as if I had awakened them from a deep sleep. Instead of a direction, they tell me a long wandering tale of possibilities, a tale told with an embarrassed smile and no conviction.

Our society has not totally forgotten about the affinity between young men and ideals of service and sacrifice. My guess is that the military’s advertising works precisely because it appeals to young men (and it is still aimed primarily at men) and their desire to serve a higher purpose and prove their valor. The football field provides another example of young men pulling together, sacrificing to win, admiring tradition, and responding powerfully to the strong-hearted guidance of a coach. However, these examples are too restricted to answer the needs of most young men, and I fear they live better as images than as sustaining realities. As far back as The Republic, Plato noted that the best leaders (he termed them “guardians”) are driven by visions of honor and service and not by dreams of gain. Our military seems still capable of producing soldiers and statesmen; I am less sure about our universities.

I am now an old codger approaching age seventy. Growing up, I could idolize sports heroes, but also scientists, and artists, and entertainers, and statesmen, and businessmen, and politicians. My sports heroes were never bigger than the games they played and were neither puffed up on mega paychecks or mega drugs. Businessmen were giants of industry and made things you could see and use, and created prosperity that improved everyone’s lot. Bankers, like judges, were noted for probity and not for manic and destructive inventiveness. Today’s celebrities run faster, express themselves with extreme energy and talent, and master the media with finesse and power never dreamed of by my heroes, but they seem not much motivated by anything other than greed. “Show me the money” is not an inspiring message for the young.

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Though in my family we were reflex-Democrats, Eisenhower was viewed as a noble man, a decent and high-minded person who cared about the country and about the government that protected us. Perhaps that time was equally corrupt, but I wonder. Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men was shocking because it exposed the corruption of a political figure, Willie Stark. Would Jack Burden, seeking some nobility in Willie Stark, now seem merely credulous and naïve? Whatever the facts underlying the appearances, our public stories once were honorable in substance and intent.

As a boy, I revered George Washington and was not baffled by the fact of his slave-owning or his land dealings along the Potomac, as if that was all to be known about him. I hoped I would tell the truth about despoiled cherry trees; I hoped, like Benjamin Franklin walking down Philadelphia’s Market Street as a young man on his own, that I would see the world before me as an open field of possibilities; I believed I would, like Lincoln, chase after the poor woman who forgot her three pennies because it was the right thing to do. How does a boy become a man without these inspirations?

The social and cultural atmosphere has been so polluted one wonders how young people can form life-projects that demand decency and tenacious effort. Everything seems to be for sale, and no one is ashamed by it. The fix is in on the Left and the Right in Washington. Turpitude in the coal and oil industry, with their locust hosts of lobbyists to protect them from those who would protect the environment, is an old story. The new stories are about agri-business and healthcare and education, and now even the green NGOs that take big bucks to moderate their advocacy.

A recent National Public Radio interview featured a sexual dominatrix who earned praise from the interviewer for her entrepreneurial inventiveness. College campuses promote celebrations of sex and invite young men and women to share the dorm and each other. State and local governments pay their bills by sponsoring gambling and constructing casinos (when those are exhausted, is prostitution next?). No politician aspires to courage, or risks moral conviction; it seems to have become a great game for small prizes. Our wars appear to be not only immoral but also pragmatic embarrassments—founded on lies, blood, power, and profits. Young men can be excused for pondering whether ours is a wicked nation, or a stupid one.

In the “boys fail” discussion, girls enter as victims suffering from a lack of suitable life partners. The crisis now faced by well-educated African-American women in finding similarly high-attaining mates among African-American males is projected to the population as a whole. If women constitute nearly 60 percent of the four-year college population and graduate at a higher percentage than men, the future looks bleak for marital parity—and bliss.

I am seeing more aggressive young women and fewer aggressive young men in my classes. Unlike their female counterparts, young men tend not to complain about unpleasant grades and do not chase every stray GPA point in petty obsession to excel. Young women, praised for being strong and belittled for perpetuating weakness, cheer for King Lear’s Goneril and Regan and believe Cordelia is a wimp. This is not good for the future of couples, and it is not good for women. Without the restraint of shame, the encouragement of honor, and the inspiration of noble purpose, none of us can lead fulfilling and happy lives.

Young men are more uncertain about sex and marriage than ever. Women have been coached to take the lead and to think they need men “about as much as fish need bicycles.” They no longer seem to seek male protection and support. Our films and books and TV stories counsel the foolishness of depending on those expectations.

This shift to the narratives of distrust robs men of their edge and purpose. Historically, men have been ennobled as protectors and have justified their hard work and sacrifice as heads of families and protectors of their communities. Without that aspiration, young males can aspire to be earners and consumers and lonely foragers in the sexual forest, but that is not the same thing as being men.

Every time we hear yet another tale of mendacity from our muddied public life, our young suffer and education is driven down to a shoddy business of getting ahead. We end up with cynical business majors on the one hand, and the slackers on the other, both defeated by the atmosphere of unapologetic greed and self-promotion. We pay a heavy price in all our institutions, from poisoned food to dilapidated infrastructure to our ridiculous political circuses. How can education, this delicate flowering of culture, not be a front-line casualty?

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Carrots, Eggs and Coffee

In Christian Education, Life and living on 27 January 10 at 8:25 am

A sweet friend of mine sent the following story to me this morning and as a coffee lover, this resonated with me.

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee…..You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up, She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word…

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘ Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, mother?’

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

‘Which are you?’ she asked her daughter. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Do you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.

Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

May we all be COFFEE!!!!!!

Postman Speaks

In Christian Education, Life and living on 4 December 09 at 12:14 pm

Stephen Clawson, a valued friend of mine, turned me on to the works of Neil Postman some time ago.  Today I ran across a new (at least new to me) blog of Robert Talbert, who I have followed for some time via his Casting Out Nines blog.  He had the following quote from Postman posted 😉   Postman, as usual is incredibly insightful and clear, yet this only serves to raise the question — What do we do with this insight?  Do we simply accept it and deal with it somehow? Do we seek to make societal changes and if so, how in the world do we begin to turn the tide?   Do most folks even see this as a problem, or is it just those, like me, who came of age in a seemingly different world, who are troubled?

“How television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged. It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse. It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails. As typography once dictated the style of conducting politics, religion, business, education, law and other important social matters, television now takes command. In courtrooms, classrooms, operating rooms, board rooms, churches, and even airplanes, Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” -Neil Postman”

The Manhatten Declaration

In Christian Education on 25 November 09 at 6:40 am

The Manhattan Declaration

Reframing Human History | Christianity Today

In Christian Education on 23 September 09 at 3:11 pm

This link takes you to a book review written by Kate Kirkpatrick.

The book:

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Yale University Press)

by David Bentley Hart

Hart, a visiting professor of theology at Providence College, begins by looking at the New Atheist phenomenon, lambasting Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett et al. for their carelessness with and rhetorical manipulation of philosophy, theology, and history. But that is quickly left behind; in the book’s second half, we begin to see the Orthodox theologian’s real intent: to offer a counter-narrative of religion’s role in human history.

Reframing Human History | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

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President Obama’s Address to American Students

In Christian Education, Life and living, Uncategorized on 14 September 09 at 3:58 pm

The President encourages students to overcome and work hard to succeed.

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MyStudents Need to Know

In Christian Education, Technology on 18 August 09 at 11:50 am

Wolfram|Alpha vs  Google ?

No –> complementary tools

Screenshot by
Wolfram|Alpha is a computational engine

Sometimes tech journalists will call a new service a Google killer even when it’s not a search engine. That’s the case with Wolfram|Alpha. It’s easy to confuse Wolfram|Alpha with a search engine. It has a field into which you type a query and it searches its database for answers. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Search engines provide users links to Web sites that presumably hold information the user wants. Wolfram|Alpha consults an enormous database to bring data directly to the user. You won’t receive a list of links when you execute a query on Wolfram|Alpha. Instead, you’ll be greeted with charts and graphs populated with data related to the keywords you entered.

This makes Wolfram|Alpha a very powerful research tool. Wolfram|Alpha employees vet all the information included in the database. They pull data from established and accepted resources. You can use Wolfram|Alpha to compare two subjects within the same category. Want to see if a Big Mac is healthier than a Whopper? Use Wolfram|Alpha to compare the nutritional information.

Because Wolfram|Alpha pulls back data rather than links, it’s not in direct competition with Google. You should use Wolfram|Alpha if you need to know information about a specific concept. You should use Google if you want to read the latest news on the subject, find a product review or just browse.

Wordle Ideas

In Christian Education, Technology on 11 August 09 at 9:43 am

Pastor Mark Driscoll

In Christian Education, Life and living on 8 August 09 at 11:57 am

One of AMiA’s newest consecrated Bishops, Doc Loomis shared this video on Facebook and I just wanted to pass it along.  Members of my family have fallen prey to the “prosperity” gospel at times and Mark’s perspective is important.  So much of what Joel proclaims is Truth; we are children of an amazing God, our hope and faith in His power and authority and grace is well founded, He desires to bless us [though not in the way we might “want” or think we “deserve”], …   And yet Joel is wrong to equate “victory” with health, wealth and joyful relationships.  In fact, as Mark clearly points out, this definition of “victory with Christ” would paint a picture of Christ  Himself as a failure.  One other thought:  Another extreme and false position is also possible.  One can accept sin and pain and poverty as one’s “lot in life” and stop striving to live fully in God’s will, to develop His giftings and serve His people, allowing others to see the Christ alive and working within them.  Are wealth and prosperity and good health sinful in and of themselves?  Of course not!  But when they become idols or goals which are elevated to higher importance than following Christ, they hinder our walk with Him.  When they become a measure of our “victory”, they blind us to the real victory of  knowing and sharing the love of Christ.     Watch the video — and share your thoughts.