Monthly Archives: July 2010

The State of Education in America


It seems that there was more going on this past Fourth of July than one nutty American Tory wearing a London T-shirt.  I’ve read the results of a poll taken that day of celebrants of all ages, races and genders: 26% of them did not know whom we were fighting in 1776.  Some guessed Mexico.  One guessed China! In addition, nearly 50% of those polled could not name the general who led the Continental Army in the Revolution.  One strange person thought it was Winston Churchill.  (Find this poll at http://www.mediaite.com)
Now, I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in polls.  The results can be skewed depending on the results desired.  But having had many frustrating conversations with appallingly ignorant people over the years, I’m afraid I believe this poll is near the truth.  I used to hope that the idiots interviewed for  “Jay Walk” on the Tonight Show were aberrations.  But I’m afraid they are more representative of America than one would like to believe.  Most Americans today are so poorly educated, I don’t know how we manage to function as a nation anymore.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much education a person has on paper.  My husband once had quite a time convincing a man who has a masters degree that Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom.  He had to use a map, a globe, and an on-line dictionary to get the guy to understand.  He once watched three FBI agents examine evidence taken from a suspected terrorist; they were studying a suspicious poster the girl had put in her luggage. Rich wondered what clues or codes they were looking for on it, so he stuck around to watch.  Pictured on the poster were Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Che.  After spending a good ten minutes studying this important piece of evidence, one of the FBI agents said: “I think this one is Stalin.  I don’t know who the other guys are.”  I know a young man who is just about to graduate from college.  He not only could not name the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or even the year–he was not even certain of the correct century! He has a good job all lined up for when he graduates–with the government!  I once tried, and failed, to convince another young man that the classical pianist he was listening to on his computer was not, in fact, Beethoven himself playing his own work.
Even more frightening is the attitude people take concerning their own ignorance.  They act as if it is unreasonable of anyone to expect them to know such trivia.  After all, they could always look such information up on-line if they really needed to know it.  And it’s true, they could, and they do.  And then they promptly forget the facts they gleaned as soon as they’ve made use of them.  And why not?  They could always google the information again if they needed to.  And yet, I’ll be willing to bet that these same people, who cannot list their own sitting congressmen,  could rattle off the names of “American Idol” winners without straining a bit.
They cannot seem to understand that a basic, working knowledge of history, science, math, and literature are essential to understanding our world today.  They are content to let the elite few who actually enjoy knowing things run the country and leave them free to enjoy. . . . whatever it is that they enjoy.  I can’t really guess what that might be.
But, however much this lack of factual knowledge makes one want to dig one’s hands into one’s hair and pull hard, it is not the most worrisome aspect of our dismal educational deficit in America.  Americans today do not know how to THINK.  They cannot think out a problem logically.  They cannot pursue a line of reasoning to its probable outcome.  They cannot construct a valid syllogism, or even understand what a syllogism is.  They cannot write well enough to make themselves understood. Americans today think with their emotions almost exclusively.  Read the comments on any online news item, or listen to people on talk radio or TV interview shows.  They will tell you what they feel, or they will react emotionally.  But they cannot respond with intelligent thought.  And so, here is my point: Americans are not being taught logic in schools anymore, and haven’t been for at least half a century. This has led the downward spiral in all education generally.  After all, only reasonable people can understand the importance of knowledge.
But there is hope, and I have seen it.  I have seen groups of young adults engaging in intelligent conversation, pursuing real knowledge, and enjoying such intellectual pursuits as reading, visiting museums,  going to symphonies, and browsing through book stores.  These young people can write well, crafting sentences and paragraphs with both proper grammar and proper reasoning skills.   Most of these young people were homeschooled.  Those who were not had parents who were passionately involved in their educations.  The antidote to poor education in America is parents taking responsibility for their own children’s upbringing.  It means sacrifice and lots of hard work.  It sometimes means organizing tutorials and volunteering one’s time to help one another.  It sometimes means throwing out all available curricula and writing one’s own.  But the end results are worth it: well-educated young people able to function intelligently in today’s world.

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An American Tory


I wore my London T-shirt on Independence Day because I am a Tory.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a Tory because I am an Anglophile, although I am an Anglophile.  I am not a Tory because I hate America.  I am grateful for my country and am as patriotic as anyone.  I am fully aware of how lucky I am to live in this country.  But if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that, if I had lived in the late 1700’s, I would not have been able to support the revolution.  I believe that political and social change is best effected by working within the system by peaceable means, not by violence and rebellion against government authority.  It may take a lot longer to effect change within the established system of government, but it can and it does work.  I also can’t justify violent revolution with the Scriptures.  It just won’t jive with the verses that command us to live at peace with our neighbor (Romans12;18), to honor the king and obey all secular government officials (I Peter 2:13-17), to “render unto Caesar” (This verse is found in three of the four Gospels.  Repeating something three times, to a Jew, is tantamount to highlighting it, underlining it, and putting several exclamation points after it.)

I am not a pacifist, by any means.  I believe we have the right to defend ourselves against an enemy who attacks and tries to take us over by force.  I even believe we have the responsibility to wade into the fray in defending our neighbors against unlawful attack.  I would have been right there in World War II, fighting against Hitler any way I could.  But to attack my own government and countrymen–I just don’t think I could in all good conscience.

Jesus never advocated revolution against the Romans, even though it was a tyrannical and oppressive regime.  He made a point of being non-political by taking as His disciples both Matthew, a minor official of the Roman Government, and Simon the Zealot, a member of a political party that used terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in their struggle against the Roman oppressors.  There is no record of Jesus admonishing or correcting either of these two men, or addressing politics with them in any form.  But Matthew left his post as a Roman tax collector, and Simon never went back to his Zealotry.  They had more important things to do.

I have been thinking a lot about what would have happened if our forefathers had been more patient and had waited out King George.  Yes, he was a tyrannical madman.  Yes, something needed to be done about him.  But it needed to be done by  lawful means.  The rule of law was long established in England, land of the great Magna Carta.  And the king would not live forever.  I’m not saying that living with the insulting taxes and laws levied against the colonies would have been easy.  But perhaps it would have been preferable, and not just to avoid the bloodshed of war.  If we had remained colonies of England, slavery in this land would have ended when it was abolished by British Parliament, half a century earlier than we managed to do it on our own.  It would have ended peacefully, without a drop of bloodshed.  It would have ended without rancor or bitterness on the part of either side.  There would have been no need for a Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, because integration would have occurred as naturally and easily as it was in England.  For that matter, our great statesmen and political thinkers might have helped England along in their extrication from their other far-flung colonies by more peaceable means.  Who can say how different the world might be today if our forefathers had all been Tories?

But be that as it may, this world is not our home.  We are citizens of a better place, and we should act in accordance with the Laws of that glorious land!  Ephesians 3:20!

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Pray Without Ceasing


God put it on my heart to share a journey He’s been guiding me through concerning prayer.  He gave me Thessalonians 5:17 quite some time ago, “Pray without ceasing.”  A wise women I know once told me, “You do need your quiet time each day with the Lord.  But He’s with you all 24 hours of each day.  How rude to ignore Him most of that time.”  But what exactly does “praying without ceasing” mean?”
For me, it’s come to mean that I must be in constant acknowledgment of His presence.  Still, that’s hard to do consistently, especially when things are going well.  When  our daughter starting questioning God’s existence, praying without ceasing seemed a lot easier to do.  Then last June, when things came to head between us and she left home, every breath I drew, every thought I had, became a prayer sent up on her behalf.  I couldn’t do much except pray when I was awake, and I couldn’t sleep at night for praying.  Lots of praying, not much peace.
Soon after this, God told me to take a strip of linen and tie it around my left wrist, and to leave it there until further notice.  Okay.  I didn’t understand the purpose, but do I really have to understand to obey?  I tied it on and continued to pray.
Two weeks later, my husband was studying to speak at church on Ephesians 6:18–“With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit.”  This was a verse close to his heart, as he had been praying without ceasing, too.  But he wondered, why “prayer AND petition?”  Those words are synonyms in English, but they must both be there for a reason.  He looked up the original words in the Greek.  The word translated “prayer” was “ask”, just as you might expect.  But the word translated “petition” meant “with hands bound”.  Weird.  But then he put his hands together, as if he were bound.  What a picture of complete helplessness, pleading for help, begging for mercy, unable to do anything for oneself.  I can’t actually bind my hands together every day, but this symbol God gave me reminds me that my petition is always before the throne of the Almighty.  Petition without ceasing.
But the journey didn’t end there: I still had more to learn.  Soon after this, God told me to take a day off, leave home, and spend a day in prayer.  I decided to spend at least a part of that day walking on the greenway.  As I drove to the parking area at the entrance to the greenway, I prayed about what I should pray about while I walked.  I know, that’s weird, but I’m a weird person.  Anyway, God told me, “Why don’t you just be quiet and listen for while.”
That’s when I realized that I’d been really one-sided in the praying without ceasing thing.  I’d been asking, pleading, crying out, thanking Him for the answer I know is coming; getting angry, yelling, asking forgiveness for getting angry and yelling; making helpful suggestions as to a course of action He could take.  Not a lot of listening going on.  So, for almost three hours, I walked the greenway and listened as God spoke peace and rest into my soul.  If I started to talk about anything other than praise to Him, He would gently say, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.  Or, “My soul waits in silence for God alone, for my hope is from Him.” Psalm 62:5.  Or, “Let all the earth keep silence before Him,” Habakkuk 2:20.
I know I still have a lot to learn about what it means to pray without ceasing.  But now at least I try to keep a balance between talking and listening!
Father, teach us to pray, to pray without ceasing; to constantly acknowledge your presence in our lives; to listen as much  as we speak.
Amen

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