Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Attention Public Schools: Why not Value Achievement over Attendance?

This Diane Tran case in Texas has got my blood boiling. For those not familiar with the case, Tran was sentenced to 24 hours of jail time by Judge Lanny Moriarty for oversleeping and missing school too much. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran was abandoned by her divorcing parents and worked a job and a half to help her older brother stay in college and to help support her younger sister. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran is an honor student. She is unfortunate enough to live in a state with compulsory attendance until age 18, so she got turned in by her helpful high school "education professionals."

While there are many issues involved, including finding the deadbeat parents, my focus today is on the whole idea of universal compulsory attendance laws. Why should the state care how many days a kid goes to school as long as there is proof said child has mastered the curriculum? Why should high school honor students on track for graduation even be subject to compulsory attendance laws? The answer is simple: government-controlled schools are paid according to how many kids are occupying seats. Obviously if compulsory attendance laws were about academic achievement, kids like Tran would be cut some slack.

Gifted children suffer from compulsory attendance laws. Depending on the state, gifted children are trapped with all other children in boring, repetitive classes until the age of 16 to 18. Homeschoolers suffer from compulsory attendance laws because these laws are used as justification for state oversight of home and private schools. Compulsory attendance laws are a burden on responsible parents and responsible students.

Who benefits from compulsory attendance laws? Labor unions benefit as young people are kept out of the work force and public schools benefit because they get paid for body counts, not for educational outcomes. End of rant—for now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Viral by Leonard Sweet: A Must Read!

While Leonard Sweet has written this book specifically to help the body of Christ minister to today's culture, the information in this book can also help parents and teachers  bridge the technology/culture chasm that separates them from their kids.  Technology has not just changed the devices we use for communication--it is changing the ways we think, communicate and relate.

Sweet dubs the emerging culture TGIF: Twitter, Google, iphone, Facebook.  The two groups of Christians he addresses are the Gutenbergers and the Googlers, the word-based Christians and the relationship-based Christians.

Gutenbergers, named for the inventor of the printing press, value the written Word of God.  Over the past several centuries they have expanded global missions, translated the Bible so that diverse peoples can read the Word for themselves, created an impressive array of church programs, and given humanity big ideas like religious toleration, the rule of law and freedom of speech. They tend to value individual effort and the accomplishment of goals.  Their methods were amazingly effective in many ways for the culture that preceded the recent revolution in communication technologies.
Googlers, named for the dominant search engine on the internet, value relationships.  In many ways, Googlers seek to reestablish the human relationships that formed the backbone of pre-industrial societies—and to accomplish it using cutting-edge technologies.  Like neighbors over picket fences, they read each other's tweets and status updates.  They are lost if their phone battery dies and they lose connection with their network of friends.  While Gutenbergers fear that Googlers' relationships are shallow, many Googlers would counter that they interact with their family and friends more regularly than a workaholic Gutenberger.  Through blogs, tweets and social networking profiles, Googlers can create a network of influence and relationships that can lead to opportunities to advance the Kingdom.

If the church is to reach a lost world, it must reach the world as it is, not as it was.  Gutenbergers like myself need to learn the culture and learn to value human relationships over church programs, people over policies.  Working together, Googlers can help the Gutenbergers enjoy relational evangelism (the kind Jesus did) and avoid nasty legalism.  Gutenbergers can learn the language of the new culture while maintaining their rightfully high regard for the Word of God and helping Googlers achieve depth as well as breadth in their lives.

I highly recommend this book for bookish curmudgeons and iphone addicts alike.  Sweet's writing style is conversational, but he includes enough footnotes to let you know he's not just making this stuff up.  This book is practical and theoretical, broad and deep--great reading for everyone.

Please be aware, I received an electronic review copy of this book free from the publisher, Waterbrook-Multnomah.