Sunday, May 28, 2006

Conference report

We're back from the North Carolinians for Home Education Conference and on the road to recovery, thanks.

Someone stopped me in the hallway at the conference and asked how I was doing. I told them I was hot, footsore, and full of headache, and wouldn't be anywhere else in the world. All true.

The big personal event was completing my three terms as president of the organization and handing the reins over to my extremely capable "executive officer", Ernie Hodges of Pfafftown. Ernie has been my wing man for the entire three years and I couldn't have asked for one better. I recently read Leading from the Second Chair, a book about how associate pastors, vice presidents, and assistant chairmen can improve their service in the "second chair" positions, and I was thinking the entire time, "Ernie already does this." I'm looking forward to serving under his administration now, and thank him for the support he's given me.

I also had the privilege of speaking to the Friday morning general session, about two thousand homeschoolers in one place, on "the state of homeschooling". The point I wanted to get across is that home education in North Carolina, like Franklin's summation of the Constitution, is a freedom we enjoy only as long as we are careful to keep it. Homeschooling has grown to a population comparable to the city of Fayetteville, and I doubt that we will see a true assault on the basic right to teach our own children at home. What concerns me is the rise of public school programs which offer a home-based instructional program. The educational libertarian in me applauds the development of any alternative system which will allow parents to spend more time and attention on their children's education, saving taxpayers money on school construction and personnel costs to boot; yet we homeschoolers have to remember that a public school program in our living room is not an expression of the parents' right to direct the education of their children.

If our only concern is negative socialization, then keeping our children off the bus and the playground by using a virtual school program may be an adequate solution. If our intent is to train up our children according to our own conscience and best judgment, though, we can't forget that accepting the convenience of public school at home means trading away our independence and freedom to do what we think is right, regardless of the state's largest bureaucracy.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Speaking at the NCHE Conference

Melanie and I will be speaking at the 22nd Annual Conference and Book Fair sponsored by North Carolinians for Home Education, held at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, NC, this coming Thursday through Saturday (May 25-27). 
Melanie, mother of six boys, will be speaking in the first session on "Ballistic Homeschooling: Teaching and Appreciating Boys"; this is free and open to the public, Thursday at 3:00 p.m.  
I will be giving my talk for fathers on "The World, The Flesh, and The Young'uns", Friday at 11:00 a.m.
The two of us will also be giving a session called "You Can Rest When You Get Home", about the unexpected benefits of educational travel as homeschoolers.  This will also be Friday, at 2:00 in South Main 3.  It's not on the website yet; the speaker originally scheduled for that time had to cancel for family reasons, but we has already been asked to do this session so the opportunity was Providential.
I'll also be giving the President's address at NCHE's Annual Membership Meeting, Saturday at 8:30 a.m., right before the Saturday keynote session.
The full schedule and conference information are on NCHE's website,  Hope we'll see you you there -- stop by and say hello.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My take on illegal immigration

I've posted a piece this on my op-ed blog, Five Points. First things first, I say.

Something for everyone, I guess

I read this morning that my employer, Progress Energy, is sponsoring a portion of the Raleigh spring festival "Artsplosure" which includes an act called "Guys On Ladders".

How appropriate is that?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Brains fully engaged, every day

Paul Brewster writes for Olive Press Online that mothering is not a threat to civilization, but its preservation:

Rearing children and managing a household are first-order jobs. They require the best efforts parents can put forth. Yet [economist Sylvia Ann] Hewlett is alarmed that women who have children sometimes delay their re-entry into the “workforce” for two or more years. She was so concerned with this finding that in 2004 she formed the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force to “try to find solutions everyone could live with.” Everyone, that is, except the children.

So, according to the feminists, mothering is a brain-drain and a threat to civilization. They could not be more wrong. Stay-at-home moms are the hope of civilization and represent the finest and most noble use of human intellect known to humanity. My wife is a summa cum laude college graduate. And she uses her brain fully every day. I believe deeply that her contributions to society are every bit as vital as that of the most strategically positioned female executive. Her brain is not wasted by staying home. Instead, she has chosen to invest her life in our children and in their future.

The truth is that when we married more than 17 years ago, we did not envision her staying at home. But the further we progressed in rearing our family, the more we realized what my mom already knew: parenting and homemaking are not short-term propositions. They require the very best that parents have to offer of both time and energy, and they require it over very long periods of time—like a lifetime.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Perhaps St. Paul can speak to Durham

John A. Murray, headmaster of St. David's School in Raleigh, wrote an excellent op-ed in the News & Observer last week, asking whether it wasn't time for colleges, and particularly Duke University, to look to the impact of faith or its lack on students and their communities. He suggests engaging a much older book than those picked for UNC's summer reading program:

    While Duke faculty committees continue to explore ways to address recent events, perhaps they should consider reexamining the original tenets of their institution. Former Duke Divinity School professor George Marsden documents the 1924 mission statement in The Soul of the American University: "The Aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." As Marsden notes, "Until the 1960s, Duke continued to require undergraduates to take courses in Bible."

    Given tensions between Duke and the community of Durham, perhaps incoming freshmen could once again be challenged to read, discuss and debate a thought-provoking work such as the Bible's book of Galatians. Here are found the ideas of knowledge and faith which shaped the principles of our democratic republic: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). This is a much-needed reminder as our society faces issues of race, class and gender today.

-- John A. Murray, "College Students Could Do With More Faith", News & Observer 5/9/06

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"Where there is no law there is no freedom."

"The law that was to govern Adam was the same that was to govern all his posterity, the law of reason.  But his offspring having another way of entrance into the world, different from him, by a natural birth, that produced them ignorant, and without the use of reason, there were not presently under that law.  For nobody can be under a law that is not promulgated to him; and this law being promulgated or made known by reason only, he that is not come to the use of his reason cannot be said to be under this law; and Adam's children being not presently as soon as born under this law of reason, were not presently free. For law, in its true notion,  is not so much the limitation as the direction of a free and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and prescribes no father than is fore the general good of those under that law.  Could they be happier without it, the law, as a useless thing, would of itself vanish; and that ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from bogs and precipices.  So that however it may be mistaken, the end of law is not abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.  For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom.  For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law; and is not, as we are told, " a liberty for every man to do what he lists."  For who could be free, when every other man's humour might domineer over him?  But a liberty to dispose and order freely as he lists his person, actions, possessions and his whole property within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not be subject tot he arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own."
John Locke (1632-1704)
Concerning Civil Government, 57

Why the reform didn't work

"We trained hard, but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

From Petronii Arbitri Satyricon A.D. 66
Attributed to Gaius Petronus, Roman General
(HT:  Terry Stoops, Ph.D)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A new article and a new weblog

Weblogs run the gamut of online diaries (or diatribes) to serious journalistic vehicles. Like most I read, this is some of both. I have opened up another weblog, Five Points, which I plan to maintain more in the commentary end of the range, while I keep the less journalistic items over here. I've just posted a summary of a book review I wrote for Carolina Journal, considering the life of The Man on the Ten-Dollar Bill.

Comments are open in both locations; feel free to let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The faith of George W

Michael and Jana Novaks have an excellent article in The American Enterprise, "Washington's Faith and the Birth of America". 

    Almost everything about George Washington was hard-earned, and his faith was no exception. Although he ended up owning a library of nearly 1,000 books, some 40 or so concerning religious questions, his preferred teacher was experience. In his father’s line there was at least one Anglican cleric, and his mother was unusually devout and quite attentive to the religious life of her children. But Washington’s faith mostly grew out of his diligent efforts at self-improvement.

    Washington studied the thinking of British generals and European monarchs, the manners of Indian chiefs, the habits of fur trappers of the frontier, good farmers and bad, and trustworthy and untrustworthy merchants. He pondered the ways of Congress and the surges of public sentiment. He watched closely the inner passions of his own fighting men.

    He learned how all sorts of humans reason, what they fear, what attracts them, and what moves them to action. Washington was nearly a genius in getting the best out of his own hotly rivalrous cabinet. He had enormous common sense and a wordless instinct for how things actually work in the real world. He understood the dramatics of gesture, raiment, and dress; he understood the role of imagination as well as reason in life, of passion as well as logic. His was not a highly verbal nor academic mind. But his practical judgments were sure.

    Washington knew that the tasks he undertook were too big for him, that he was too unlearned and lacked some of the necessary gifts, that the odds he faced were steep. He truly, genuinely, feared failure.

    He got nearly his fill of excruciating disappointment on many occasions. At Monongahela, on Long Island, at Valley Forge, on the icy Delaware, at the Newburgh meeting, he could taste failure, it came so close. His was not a fake humility. He knew he had many limitations, and that given the immense tasks handed to him, he might embarrass all who depended on his success.

    So how did George Washington persevere? As he acknowledged many times, he trusted “Providence.” George Washington had a silent ally to whom he regularly gave thanks, publicly and privately.

There are excellent observations and insights on the historical context of Washington's beliefs; one key fact is that 18th century Anglicanism was uneasy about religious "enthusiasm", having swung back and forth between formalism and Puritanism for a century and even then deciding what to think of George Whitefield and John Wesley's Methodist movement.  A very self-restrained man on matters of the heart, Washington simply couldn't be expected to display the outgoing expressions of faith encouraged by the modern evangelical church. 

    Some historians seem to fear religious interpretations of Washington. More recent biographers often suggest Washington was at best a lukewarm Anglican, that he was more a deist than a Christian, and that his concept of “Providence” was closer to the Greek or Roman “Fate” or “Fortuna” than to the Biblical God. Yet Washington’s own stepgranddaughter, “Nelly” Custis, thought his words and actions were so plain and obvious that she could not understand how anybody failed to see that he had always lived as a serious Christian. As she wrote to one of Washington’s early biographers:

      It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions, I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray “that they may be seen of men.” He communed with his God in secret.

The article is adapted from the Novaks' book Washington's God.  I also recommend John Eidsmoe's Christianity and the Constitution for more discussion of the deism question with regard to the Founders (Eidsmoe debunks most of it, btw).

Well worth reading here:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Don't wait for the break up

Leaders of the Christian Left think that global warming is going to split the evangelical Right. 

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy doesn't think so.  He points out in The Weekly Standard that while the Evangelical Climate Initiative has the support of Rick Warren and a number of academics, the National Association of Evangelicals and parachurch leaders like James Dobson and Chuck Colson, have cautioned the church not to jump so fast on a disputed issue.  They, unlike ECI supporters, represent tens of thousands of churches and a whole lot of believers nationwide:

Among many evangelical academics there is an ongoing self-consciousness and about their evangelical identity. Some of them want to disassociate themselves from the traditional Religious Right and its seeming preoccupation with issues of personal morality. Embracing legislation to reduce carbon emissions, backed up by a few vague scripture verses, has become an easy way to disassociate from old evangelical stereotypes.

According to [liberal evangelical activist Jim] Wallis, "biblically-faithful Christians" are soon going to turn against the Religious Right and instead follow his Religious Left. Instead, it seems more likely that an easy acceptance of apocalyptic warnings about a burning planet will ultimately confirm, not overturn, the political leanings of conservative evangelicals.

RTWT here:

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Presbyterians take stand for Christian ed ?

I have an early report from an acquaintance that a Presbyterian denomination passed a resolution this weekend calling on all church officers and church members to provide their children with distinctively Christian education.  I am waiting for verification before I post it, but this is a major step in a direction the Southern Baptists have not been willing to take so far.

An old tradition but not a good one

In Plato's Dialogues he records a conversation between Socrates, in prison awaiting execution, and his follower Crites, who urges him to accept a ransom and exile instead. Socrates replies with submission to a line of reasoning I found disturbingly contemporary:

"Tell us, What complaint have you to make against us which justifies you in attempting to destroy us and the state? In the first place did we not bring you into existence? Your father married your mother by our aid and begat you. Say whether you have any objection to urge against those of us who regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against those of us who after birth regulate the nurture and education of children, in which you also were trained? Were not the laws, which have the charge of education, right in commanding your father to train you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. "Well then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child and slave, as your fathers were before you?"

There are specific Supreme Court decisions which refute parts of this logic, but we still hear it from some segments of our government.

Friday, May 05, 2006

It's better than it first sounds!

An excellent summary of the Alpha Iota Omega lawsuit at UNC-Chapel Hill, by my friend Jon Sanders (late of the Pope Center for Higher Education):

    Moving the goalposts — to the opposite endzone. Score! We win!
    WRAL News reported last night that a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Alpha Iota Omega Christian fraternity against UNC. The news didn't elaborate, making it sound as if UNC had won a significant victory in court.

    The Durham Herald-Sun gets to the heart of the matter:

      Judge Frank Bullock Jr. wrote that members of the fraternity had "filed this lawsuit as outsiders, challenging the university system, and end this lawsuit as insiders, fully participating in the university system. The claims of the original complaint are [thus] moot and the court will not allow plaintiffs to morph it into a new case." ...

      The three members of Alpha Iota Omega originally sued UNC in 2004 in a dispute over the university's non-discrimination policy that would have required the fraternity to admit non-Christians. ... But, as Bullock noted in his ruling, in March 2005,
      UNC amended its policy, allowing official recognition to "student organizations that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs." In September 2005, Alpha Iota Omega applied for and received official recognition, the judge wrote, "entitling them to full and equal privileges at UNC for the 2005-06 academic year."

    In other words, AIO and Constitutional rights are the victors here. Nevertheless, sounding as if this outcome had been UNC's goal from the get-go, UNC Chancellor Moeser declared victory (if you were wondering whatever happened to the Iraqi Information Minister, maybe he's producing spin at UNC):

There's more good stuff that follows:  read the whole thing here:

The Rockfish Gap Scope and Sequence

I’m not a great fan of Thomas Jefferson but when he did get it right, he said it well.  In considering the form and function of the proposed University of Virginia, Jefferson outlined this view of the educational program which would lead to the college gates.  If you add training in the nurture and admonition of the Lord -- for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding -- the result would be hard to improve on.  I call this the Rockfish Gap Scope and Sequence:

The objects of this primary education determine its character and limits.  These objects would be,

To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;

To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing;

To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;

To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;

To know his rights;

    To exercise with order and justice those he retains;

    To choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates;

      And to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;

And in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

-- Thomas Jefferson, Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, Meeting in Rockfish Gap, Virginia, to the State Legislature  (quoted in William Bennett's Our Sacred Honor;  the paragraphing is my own.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Billings' Africa

William Billings (1746-1800) is one of my favorite hymn writers and possibly my number one among Americans.  The group His Majestie's Clerkes has an excellent a capella recording of this hymn, known by its tune, "Africa".

For no particular reason, this was going round in my head as I walked in to work yesterday morning.  Among  songs which do that, it's certainly one of the most profitable.

The score and midi are here: and the full lyrics and historical background here:  The words below are as I hear them on the recording above but the article, of course, is probably more accurate than my ear.

Now shall my inward joy arise
and burst forth to a song !
Almighty Love inspires my heart
and pleasure tunes my tongue

God on His thirsty Zion hill
some mercy-drops hath sown;
a solemn oath hath bound His love
to shower salvation down

Why do we then indulge our fears,
suspicions, and complaints?
Is He a God, and does His grace
grow weary of His saints?

Can a kind women e'er forget
the infant of her womb?
Among a thousand tender thoughts
her suckling hath no room?

Yet saith the Lord,
"Should nature change,
and mothers, monsters, prove,
Zion still dwells upon the heart
of everlasting love.

"Deep on the palms of both My hands
I have engraved her name;
My hands shall raise her ruined walls
and build her broken frame."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We like immigrants. We are immigrants.

It occurs to me that if one believes the Biblical account of Creation, then technically, all of us here are descended from immigrants -- even the so-called "native" Americans.  As much as I like my country, I don't think Eden was ever located here (North Carolina township notwithstanding).

On a later note, Ken Ham asks his audiences whether kangaroos ever lived in the Middle East, then points to the account of Noah gathering the animals.  Good point.  In fact, depending on where Noah's antediluvian home was located, and what happened to different land masses after the Flood (some have been submerged ever since), it could be that <i>everyone</i> lives on land that wasn't originally in the family … so to speak.