Thursday, April 27, 2006

Update: Do Baptists oppose Christian and home schools?

As follow-up to my previous post, I see today that the director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, Roger Parham, has already stated something less than a positive view toward parents who choose Christian schools or home education:
One can't understand southern Christianity and the disdain for public education without recognizing the role of racism.

Some parents who send their children to Christian academies or homeschool them admit the entrenched reality of racism and seek ways to reform culture. They make their decisions for a variety of reasons other than race. Not all Christian school parents and homeschoolers are racists (and not all public school parents are free from racism).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Family appears in Education Week today

My wife Melanie and oldest son John Calvin were interviewed recently by Education Week for an article on homeschoolers and Advanced Placement exams. According to the story in this week's edition (registration required), the number of homeschoolers taking AP exams has tripled since 2000.

Our family's contribution to the story focused, appropriately, on non-traditional ways to gain the necessary knowledge, though Melanie's comment that the important point is the education, not the test, didn't make it to print:
Some parents help their home-schooled children patch together innovative self-study plans to prepare for AP tests.

When John Calvin Young of Smithville [sic], N.C., wanted to study for the AP U.S. government and politics exam, his mother, Melanie Young, selected a textbook and study aids. But they both believe the youth’s involvement in two campaigns for Republican candidates during the fall of 2004 and other political activities helped him score a 5 on the exam.

"One of the harder parts of the AP government stuff for me was remembering the details behind the legislative process or behind specific legislation from the past," said Mr. Young.

The fact John was working for Republican candidates is beside the point, actually. They tried to keep the interview non-partisan, but the writer grilled it out of them.

On the other hand, a Harris poll last month indicated that
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to know someone who currently homeschools their child (40% vs. 29%).
so maybe there's something significant to that, after all. It doesn't affect the exam, though.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Forcing an issue

What's the cynical philosophy, that the warranty period on an appliance is scientifically determined to be just inside the expected failure point?  We're working on the corollary which applies to cellular phones and their contracts.  With six weeks to go on the original two-year service agreement, my wife is nursing one phone with a broken screen, no, the old phone can't be re-activated because it doesn't have GPS capability, and no, the screens aren't interchangeable. 

Just today, mine fell out of the car into a gravel parking lot (scratches on the screen) and not ten minutes ago, jumped feet first into a mug full of coffee on my desk (don't ask).  I've shaken about a teaspoon of decaf, two Splenda, two creamers, out of the innards and disassembled the phone, which is now air drying in a vertical position beside my pencil sharpener.

Just six more weeks is all we need.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Holy God, we praise Thy Name

Holy God, we praise thy Name;
Lord of all, we bow before thee!
All on earth thy scepter claim,
all in heaven above adore thee;
Infinite thy vast domain,
everlasting is thy reign.

Hark! the loud celestial hymn
angel choirs above are raising,
cherubim and seraphim,
in unceasing chorus praising;
fill the heavens with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.

Lo! the apostolic train
join the sacred Name to hallow;
prophets swell the loud refrain,
and the white robed martyrs follow;
and from morn to set of sun,
through the Church the song goes on.

Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name thee;
while in essence only One,
undivided God we claim thee;
and adoring bend the knee,
while we own the mystery.

Words: Ignaz Franz, 1774; trans. Clarence Augustus Walworth, 1858
Music: Grosser Gott

Friday, April 21, 2006

Do Baptist leaders oppose homeschooling and Christian ed?

According to their press release early this morning,

The Baptist Center for Ethics on Friday released a pastoral letter decrying the demonization of public education and calling on Baptists to "speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America's public school system."

And certainly that can be done. Whatever your views on privatization, home education, school choice, or other alternatives, still nine out of ten North Carolina families send their children to the traditional public schools. Nearly 50% of the state's budget is spent on K-12 education. If for no other reasons, we should all be concerned with improving the educational system. A lot of money and a lot of people are fully committed to it and depend on the results.

You can support "a constructive future" for the schools even if your kids aren't involved. And you can do it without tearing down other alternatives. This state's largest homeschooling organization, North Carolinians for Home Education, made the decision over fourteen years ago to focus on "the positive aspects and excellent quality of home education" instead of criticizing the public school system -- which had tried very hard just a few years before to clamp draconian regulations on the fledgling movement. NCHE's leaders at the time understood that you can take one option over another, even promote your favorite choice, without seeking to run down the others.

So why does the Center for Ethics include this statement in paragraph three of their pastoral letter?

"We believe it is wrong for Baptist leaders to urge Baptists to exit the nation's public school system for homeschools and Christian academies and to equip that cause."

The message appears to be aimed at supporters of The Exodus Mandate, but the wording of the Center for Ethics statement wields an awfully broad tar-brush. As it stands, it appears to be an unbiblical and historically un-Baptist binding of the consciences of pastors as well as their members.

I believe it will prove to be short-sighted, as well, given the number of evangelical families who are already homeschooling or sending their children to Christian schools. More than two-thirds of the 65 thousand or so children being homeschooling in North Carolina are in self-identified "religious" homeschools, and a larger number than that in the Christian academies.

Are the churches associated with this letter turning their backs on members who choose something other than the local public schools for their children, often after much prayer and soul-searching, and with continuing sacrifice after the decision? I hope not, but this letter is not a good starting point.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Number One again

This time in "globalization", according to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's "Globalization Index <> ". Actually, it is based on some reasonable statistics and indices <> , so it might be useful to somebody.

According to their data <> , the U.S. tops the list for Political Globalization (just ahead of the U.K. and France), w-a-y ahead of Canada on Social Globalization, and comfortably in front of Sweden on the overall Globalization Index. On the Economic Globalization, we drop to number 28, between the U.K. and Kuwait; Luxembourg is inexplicably high, but China and Ireland are next.

The least "global"? Saudi Arabia, overall.

(HT: Division of Labour <> , cross posted on <a href="">The Locker Room</a>


And the Lord gave to Israel all the land which He swore to give to their fathers.  And they possessed it, and lived in it. 

And Jehovah gave them rest round about, according to all that He swore to their fathers.   And not a man of their enemies stood before them.  Jehovah delivered all their enemies into their hand. 

Not a word failed from any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel.  All came to pass.

-- Joshua 21:43-45 (MKJV)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Where is my Congressman on the spectrum?

Looking up some information on a couple of bills in Congress, I ran across a website called If you follow the link to the site's page for an individual Congressman, you'll find something like the energy efficiency label on a new refrigerator, with an arrow pointing to the Congressman's relative position on the political spectrum. This link led in turn to an interesting and immediately understandable graph:

There's a pretty comprehensive description of how the positions were determined -- but basically, it comes from the bills which the Congressman or Senator co-sponsored. I'd like to see the same just for our delegation from North Carolina.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


WRAL is reporting (from the Fayetteville Observer story) that twelve of the state's poorest counties were in the top 25 for highest per capita sales of N.C. lottery tickets.  Only three of the wealthiest were.

Most regrettable response:
Greg Taylor, chairman of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners, was surprised by the per capita spending amount, but said the county ultimately could benefit from the lottery when proceeds are disbursed to education programs.

In search of the historical Judas?

Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes on The Gospel of Judas here: and explains why this certainly ancient text (3rd century A.D.) was "suppressed" at the time … and since. 

Simply put, it's because when you are in the business of teaching truth, then you obviously must be opposed to disseminating fiction.

Another good article by Dr. Mohler.

(HT:  The Cultural Report )

Monday, April 10, 2006

Progress in the air

A trio of environmental watchdog groups just released their study of the amount of smokestack emissions coming from the top 100 electrical power producers in the country.  I note that International Paper and Alcoa are included as major producers, too; this should indicate how comprehensive a list the top 100 would be, since major industrial concerns even qualify.  The report is linked from here:

While my own Progress Energy is reported in the media as one of "the top 15 in air emissions" ("Progress among top producers" is the headline in Triangle Business Journal), as usual there are a few pieces of data which paint a very different story.  The key overall is not the simple sum of all emissions, but the rate compared to the output.  Here's the story from the report's own data:

  • Duke Power and Progress Energy are the 8th and 9th largest producers of electricity in the U.S., respectively
  • On sulphur dioxide, looking at pounds of emission per megawatt-hour of electricity produced, Progress is 23rd in the country (with more scrubbers coming online since the data was collected) and Duke is 41
  • Mercury from coal-fired plants, Progress is number 46 and Duke is 59
  • Carbon dioxide, 55 and 67
  • Nitrous oxides, 66 and 80

So in other words, both companies are in the top 10% of electricity producers, yet for most measures, they put less junk up the stack for each megawatt of power than over half of the industry leaders.  Comparisons aren't everything, but it tells me that North Carolina's power producers are doing pretty well for the industry.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


In the ongoing uproar over the latest immigration reform bill, I'd like to say that I am ASIGH and proud.  That's Anglo-Scot-Irish-Germano-Huguenot.  There's some Swiss on my father's side, maybe a bit of Welsh, too, but that made the acronym unwieldy.  (This conservative is very  much in favor of immigration and immigrants, so long as everyone abides by the rules.  The best jobs I had in high school were working for men with names like Athanasios, Hieronymous, and Georgios.)

Of course, eventually you have a statute of limitations on your immigrant status; at its nearest approach, I'd have to say I'm just a  fifth-generation American (via Scot-Irishman James Mack, who came from Belfast to Charleston in 1825).  The English (Parris, Ensley, Pinckney, Routledge), Scot (MacLeod, MacDowell), Irish (Brookshire, Kelly), German (Schluter, Weiss, Pullig, Marstellar) and Huguenot (DuTartre, D'Oyley) all date from earlier than that; so does the Swiss (Rebsamen).

In fact, though my Parris and DuTartre ancestors both arrived in the 1600's (to Massachusetts and South Carolina, respectively), my wife wins on the "First American" question -- her great-great grandmother was Cherokee. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Book Review -- Joseph Ellis' American Sphinx

I just finished Joseph Ellis' 440-page biography of Thomas Jefferson, American Sphinx.  Ellis is very readable, and there is always a good-natured tone to his prose.  He is very frank about the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies of his subject, another iconic figure like His Excellency, George Washington.  Certainly there is no shortage of contradictions to observe, and Jefferson ultimately never even recognized most of them.

A friend who got his PhD from the University of Virginia had the experience of Jefferson that Ellis, growing up in Alexandria, did of Washington -- he was simply a natural force, ubiquitous in the environment.  My friend, not a fan of Jefferson anyway, didn't care for American Sphinx, and I can see some oddities about the book that may have bothered him.  Ellis jumps around a bit when you compare his chapter headings with the actual text, such as quite consciously dating the chapter dealing with Jefferson's second term after he retired to Monticello.  The best I can say is ignore the headings.  There is practically nothing about Jefferson prior to the Continental Congress, which Ellis probably did because many of the contemporaneous sources were lost in a fire at Jefferson's Shadwell property.  The new information which came out in the DNA study linking Jefferson with Sally Hemings is awkwardly appended to the original appendix, though the introduction to the paperback revised edition does warn the reader at the start (relevant material is inserted smoothly into the main text).

All in all, though, I found it a useful book.  The major observations highlighted are Jefferson's tendency to think in moral dichotomies, not at all nuanced like the modern liberals we associate with him.  In fact, as Ellis points out from his perspective in the mid-1990s, the conservative wing of the GOP is most like Jefferson in its ingrained suspicion of expansive government power (a suspicion sunk beneath the surface in the present administration).  Jefferson's command of written language was probably unmatched in his time (as Chernow noted, Alexander Hamilton, while brilliant in thought, was often prolix on paper), but he indulged himself from the very beginning with fantasies of societies running smoothly without government at all, once people were freed from the weight of residual feudalism and monarchies (he included Adams's and Hamilton's version of Federalism in the latter vein).  Any realities which intruded on his philosophical reflections were simply denied a place in thought; the existence of slavery in his home life, for example, was made as invisible as possible.  In fact, while Jefferson was documentably duplicitous, treacherous even, toward his political opponents, he seemed to truly expert in self-deception more than any thing else. 

Overall, I admire his language skills and the nobility of many of his expressions, but I have a mixed pity and dislike for the character of the man.  I have to agree with the sentiment  attributed to David McCullough, who supposedly started to write a dual biography of Jefferson and John Adams, and grew so tired of the backbiting Sage of Monticello that he relegated him to be a supporting character in the Pulitzer-winning biography, John Adams, that was finally  written.  American Sphinx is a useful book for understanding why that would be.

Watch out for reassuring instructions

"Even the cow was smiling."

Eldest son was working on a biology lab last night, and the manual explained "this is part of the fun and challenge of science".  This is always a warning sign.

It reminded me of the line above, in James Herriot's All Creatures Great And Small, when he reflected on the laboratory-clean, straightforward version of calving in his vet school textbooks.  At the moment, he was laying face down on a "muddy" barn floor struggling with the inner workings of a straining heifer. 

Apparently Ivory Towers also have Ivory Barns, as well as an Ivory Laboratory.