Because life is a series of edits

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

My Little Protesters

In Education, Family, Places & Spaces, Politics on February 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm


I sent Megan and the girls to do my protesting dirty work at the St. Louis Tea Party today (I came up with the slogans). They had a good (cold) time, even getting interviewed by various media as to why they were there (though few have really reported anything – sad).

Here are a few sites where the ladies have turned up:

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Megan got quoted in the paper (and gets the last word)
  • WORLD Online - Megan's post, "Partying Like It's 1773," is up
  • The Dana Show – Click "Homeschool mama! Best craft EVER."
  • St. Louis Tea Party – here's a pool of pics from the day (the ladies are included)
  • Doctor Bulldog & Ronin – a bit of a scary site, but you can see Megan in a crowd shot, as well as a shot of our youngest pouring tea into the Mississippi

At best, the girls were part of something that might help make a point further down the road; at the least, they made the most of a good local opportunity to experience our freedom to assemble.


Tea Party Coming to St. Louis This Friday

In Politics on February 25, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I’m seriously thinking about making my way down to the Arch on Friday to be part of the St. Louis Tea Party to protest the recently-passed stimulus package. Like most folks who pay their mortgages, I have to work on Friday, but I’m wondering if I can swing the lunch hour to join other common sense Midwesterners in protest.
Anybody interested?

Getting Schooled

In Education, Thought, Westminster on February 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Before professionally stepping into the role of teacher three years ago, my previous experience of the classroom was as a student (elementary, junior and senior high, college, and then graduate level at seminary). Maybe it's because I've had such little formal training that I am fascinated by educational history and the theories behind what goes on in classrooms. While I used to feel intimidated by what I thought I didn't know as a teacher, my increasing sense over the past three years is that I may not have missed as much as I once imagined, mostly because so much of it is out-of-date.

Last Friday, Westminster hosted a teacher in-service for educators within independent schools of St. Louis. The speaker was Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and there were about 300 folks in attendance. I've been to a few of these day-long training sessions before, but this one topped the list in terms of providing the best mix of theoretical/practical and strategic/tactical content.

While Westminster is further down the road in several ways in providing a 21st-century education, we got the equivalent of an educational spanking (made easier by some dry humor and a free lunch), as what has been taught and passed on for decades within the American school system is painfully outdated, and our best effort at making a shift forward is barely keeping up. This doesn't mean there aren't some good or even "out front" things going on in American education today, but compared to the rest of the world, we're lagging behind as a whole.

Think about this:

  • The majority of schools (public or private) are running on an educational model established in 1892 (think factories and mass production), with most "current" curricula and practices created and coming out of the 1970s.
  • What is needed to improve this reality is two-fold: short-term upgrades (revision and replacement of dated curriculum and assessment types with more vital contemporary forms), and long-term versioning (new versions of the program structures in our school and institutions that house curriculum and instruction). We shouldn't go "back to basics" but "forward to new basics."
  • Assessment is a demonstration of learning in which the focus should be on feedback. We should design cumulative assessment that helps the learner revise his or her performance independently rather than the teacher revising it for him or her. The focus should be on developing self-assessment rather than just providing teacher assessment.
  • We need a curricular commitment from each teacher with regard to technology. What this commitment includes should be an integrated use of technology that enhances content, an application to a specific unit of study, and one that is evidenced directly in student products and performances. What this commitment is not is the limited and immediate use of a technological tool (i.e. using an LCD projector vs. an overhead; using a computer vs. a typewriter; or using a smart board vs. an LCD projector).
  • Each teacher should commit to identifying at least one specific unit to revise; planning to replace a specific content, skill, and assessment practice with a 21st century upgrade within the unit; sharing the proposed change with colleagues; learning to use the tool that will be requisite to replace the current unit design with the new practice; revising the unit and begin implementation with students; tolerate a certain degree of frustration; celebrating victories; and reviewing and sharing results with peers.
  • With regard to issues of schedule, student grouping patterns, teacher configurations, and space (both physical and virtual), decisions have to be made about all of these elements together, as the whole is the sum of the parts. Key principle: form should follow function (not reverse). I've appreciated Westminster's approach to much of this in the new building currently in design.
  • More on grouping students: we need to replace "ability" groups which focus on student labels and focus on grouping by skills, literacy (language, information, cultural, global), and independent study needs. We also need to rethink lower and upper classmen models and seek to boost the dignity of both college and vocational career paths; in other words, all students should have some experience regarding both.
  • Based on world population percentages and realities, we ought to bag teaching French and focus more on languages like Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic (we currently teach French, Spanish, and Latin). We also need to teach all subjects with a more global emphasis (geo-economics, geo-politics, etc.) and do away with state-distinctive education, especially since our American population is so mobile between states.
  • We need to rethink the length of the school year, which, since 1892, has roughly been 180 days and largely based on an agarian calendar. At least five of these days should be allotted for professional development and review of assessment data. Considerations need to include year-round or summer semester possibilities, with consideration given to days not having to be on-site-task vs. seat time.
  • Teacher configurations should include multiple affiliations and task forces grouped to solve specific problems. We should also group teachers both vertically (departments) and horizontally (grade level/age level/skill level) so as to foster better continuity in advancing students.
  • We should rethink our "12 grades" compulsion, allowing for early graduation if/when a student is ready, or an additional year if/when the student is not. We need to replace seat time with task completion that might be accomplished virtually.

There's plenty more where all that came from, but I won't bore you. The fact is that the American education system is in dire need of a major philosophical shift, but this transition seems next to impossible because the key elements of the system (schedule, student grouping patterns, teacher configurations, space) have been in place for the past 100 years. It's the 21st century, but the American school system is and has been stuck – not in the 20th century, but in the 19th!

It's been a slow week (month, year) for comments, but does anybody feel like weighing in on this?

Audit Congress

In Politics on February 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Here's a link to a petition website to encourage the immediate and annual tax audit of our government leaders. I would have signed it a thousand times if they had let me.

More Than Daddy Day Care

In Calling, Family, Holidays, Marriage on February 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

For Valentine's Day (not really, but it's a happy coincidence), I'm sending Megan to the Rochester L'abri conference taking place this weekend "way up nort der in Minnes-O-ta." I'm excited for her to go – certainly for the content and experience, but also for the time away and alone for a long weekend – and mercifully, the weather for Rochester looks to be almost warm for the upper Midwest this time of year (highs in the lower 30s).

Obviously, the implication of Megan being gone Thursday through Sunday is pretty impacting on our family. Since I still have to teach Thursday and have a full day of teacher in-service on Friday, our friends the Sargents and the McMillens have graciously agreed to take our brood in half-day shifts today. On Friday, one of my students is hosting the girls for all the Dance Dance Revolution they can handle (thanks, Julie). Apart from that, it'll just be the ladies and me, which could be fun…that is, if I don't screw it up.

So far, I've got a few plans in place: half-price shakes at Steak-n-Shake Friday afternoon; Friday night movies at home with the Back to the Future trilogy; a field trip or two on Saturday to the Science Center (we're members) and the Art Museum (it's free), with some reading time in the afternoon/evening; church and naps on Sunday – in general, more fun than you can shake a stick at.

For those who have kids, you know all this "fun" takes a lot of work. I love my girls, but the energy required to keep up with them – especially after a full week of teaching and this weekend as a single parent – can be difficult to muster. I need to go to bed when they do (which Megan never does), as well as lower my expectations of what else I might get done (which I never do) to really have a shot at making the most of the time.

Though I much prefer having Megan with us, my time alone with the girls is important – it's different from their normal routine and provides opportunity for me to relate with them differently as well. This doesn't mean trying to be both father and mother to them – no one can do that – but it does mean trying to exhibit a fuller essence of fatherhood in the physical absence of motherhood.

Make no mistake: I may be the head of our home, but Megan is the heart of it. "All father, all the time" is not God's best (just as "all mother, all the time" is not either). Still, I think God gives windows of opportunity when time with one or the other parent is concentrated for the purpose of building relationship with that parent, while at the same illustrating the need for the other as well. I want to do my best to build depth into our relationships, but I know in trying to do so, my girls will recognize their father's need for their mother (not to mention their own similar need as well). Thankfully, and by the grace of God, this disequilibrium somehow provides a sense of family stability.

So, we're playing with some big stakes this weekend. And, while some may say I'm making more of everything than I should (when was the last time I ever did that?), I'm convinced that for a father (and a father of daughters especially), the challenge of parenting is overcoming his desire not to do so. Providing for, protecting – we as men get these ideas. But parenting? That requires real men to show up and play, as to play with our kids is sometimes the hardest thing in the world for us to do.

(FYI: Megan's latest post at World on the Web is up. She also has information on how to purchase a new book - Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible by Jerram Barrs – at a discount rate here.)

A Letter to Albert Pujols

In Sports on February 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

Dear Albert,

I'm sure you've heard the news about Alex Rodriquez admitting to using illegal substances to enhance his baseball performance. While I've never been much of an A-Rod fan, I am a fan of yours…but I confess I'm nervous.

I'm nervous, Albert, that you're a fraud as well – like Rodriquez…like Bonds…like McGwire. I'm nervous that your name is on a soon-to-be-released list of drug-doers, and if and when the evidence gets too overwhelming to refute, you're finally going to come out and say how sorry you are – not for what you did, but for the fact that you got caught.

And that's going to break my heart, Albert, along with millions of others who look to you as at least one – just one – player who happens to be great because he is rather than because of the drugs he does.

Which player are you, Albert? Can you say – before God and everybody – that you're honestly and truthfully the real deal? I need to know, because right now I have very little reason to care about baseball anymore. I'm sick of the business of it and of the players who will do anything for an edge.

I just want you to do your best, Albert, because your best is enough…or at least I think it has been. Has it been your best, Albert, or the drugs' best? I'm sorry I'm asking, but baseball has left me no choice.

I don't pretend to know the pressure you're under, and I don't mean to come off sounding ultimatum-ish, but if you fall, I'm done with baseball. I love the game (or the idea of what it used to be) and have always thought of you as an old-school player in a 21st-century uniform, but if you're no different from the overpaid junkies who can't hit a baseball unless they're on something, it's over, Albert. I'll never watch a game again.

Help me, El Hombre. You're my only hope.



Saturday Smatterings

In Health, Movies, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture on February 7, 2009 at 11:29 am
A few things:
  • It's 70 degrees today. I'm thinking about getting the bike out and going for a ride. My kids think spring is here already, and I don't have the heart to tell them that the Midwest enjoys playing games with one's weather expectations. They'll find out soon enough, I suppose.
  • Our younger daughters had a birthday party to attend at the seminary's log cabin this morning, so I volunteered to bring them so I could spend an hour-and-a-half studying at the library. Of all the things I miss most about being a full-time student, studying daily at the library has to be at the top of the list.
  • Several of my ethics students are coming over for our Sabbath dinner tonight, and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with them. I love everything about these high schoolers – their good-natured senses of humor; the way they get so easily embarrassed; their zeal in engaging with and trying to figure out life. I'm blessed to call them friends as well as students.
  • Speaking of ethics, as this past week was Spirit Week (may it rest in peace), I treated my kids to a week-long viewing of Pope John Paul II. The film – 180 minutes long – is a really well-done treatment of the former Pope's life, his heart for young people, and his commitment to biblical ethics on a variety of fronts. My students really liked it, and if you've not seen it, it's worth watching.
  • I lost five whole pounds last week, almost exclusively from changing my diet (i.e. no exercise). I'm avoiding carbs and eating a lot more fruit and fiber, which all seems to be working. On Thursday, we went out to Red Robin for a birthday dinner and I ordered a burger wrapped in nothing more than lettuce (yes, I'm that serious). Encouraged, but I still have twenty-five pounds I'd like to drop.
Have a nice weekend, everybody.

38 Today

In Health, Humanity, Thought on February 5, 2009 at 8:18 am
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Mark Twain

I turn 38 today. While my mother may have a story or two from my childhood to the contrary, for as long as I can remember I've never really cared that much about my birthday. For some (and you know who you are), a birthday is (or should be) a national holiday, but even if mine were, I don't think I'd care (they usually don't officially set aside those days until after you're dead anyway). To me, it simply is what it is.

Thankfully, God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, graciously granted me a daughter who shares my date of birth, which makes it easier to endure the fuss about the fact that we were born, as it's usually (blessedly) pointed in her direction instead of mine. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad to be alive and believe that every year – yea, every day – is a gift from God. But a birthday is like any other day for me. I just don't get the preoccupation.

I also don't get the fear of birthdays and what the accumulation of those birthdays represents. Our culture is so paranoid about growing older and puts so much into fighting (both physically and psychologically) the effects of aging that it's amazing we haven't collapsed into one giant heap of adolescence.

Children aren't taught to grow up to be adults in society; they're taught to grow up to be teenagers. Adults aren't embracing their position of elders in the world; they're fighting tooth and nail to get back to their glory days and not be viewed as old. (For more on this, read my post on Diana West's book, The Death of the Grown-Up.)

In case anyone's wondering, I have no plans to color the spreading amount of gray in my hair or trade out the beige Delta 88 Land Yacht I drive for a fiery red sports car. My goals do not include proving to myself or anyone else that I can still woo the ladies or that I can keep us up with the Joneses.

No, I'm content trying to act my age, even to the point of occasionally going beyond it in wisdom if/when God so enables. I'm more than happy trying to make better decisions about health, as opposed to merely ones made in pursuit of a more attractive body. I'm simply humbled trying to walk with God in a way that models love to my wife, children, and neighbors, rather than appearing religious and (self-)righteous.

So, I'm 38 today, and I'm glad to be so. I look forward to 40…to 50…to 60…all of it's gravy when you consider I don't deserve to live even a day, for "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). From this perspective, I can say with honesty and awe that it's good just to be alive, no matter how old I may be.

Live-Blogging the Super Bowl

In Sports on February 1, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Based on absolutely nothing resembling an informed pick, I'm taking the Steelers over the Cardinals, 28-21. I'll add a few thoughts and observations throughout the evening below concerning the commercials, halftime show, and overall Super Bowl spectacle.

  • Dumbest post-game question of the evening (asked of Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger): "What did you learn about yourself tonight?" Seriously?
  • The Steelers are thanking President Obama?
  • If anybody wants an example of modern day idolatry, check out how football players bow down to the Lombardi trophy. Golden calf, anyone?
  • Okay, the eTrade baby made me laugh. "Shankapotamus." Hilarious.
  • Game over. Steelers win.
  • Pittsburgh scores. With the extra point, that puts the score at 27-23 Pittsburgh. How about those prognostication abilities, eh?
  • Question: Why are the sideline television reporters always women?
  • Note to self: Avoid GoDaddy (as if I didn't know that already).
  • I can hear the "I want to thank the Lord Jesus Christ" already: Warner to Fitzgerald, touchdown. Cardinals lead 23-20. Whoa.
  • Safety for the Cardinals. 20-16, Pittsburgh.
  • Pepsuber?
  • Touchdown Arizona. It's a one-possession game at 20-14. Seven minutes to play.
  • Cardinals making a come-back? Warner starting to pick apart the pass coverage.
  • Coke Zero take-off of old Mean Joe Greene ad at least funnier than what we've been subjected to thus far. Cash4Gold ad with Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer humorous (especially Ed's "Goodbye, old friend" line).
  • Fourth quarter. Would sure like to see Warner and company make it a game, but the penalties are killing them (91 yards worth so far).
  • More ads: Transformers (bleh); Career Builder (not bad); Heroes (the football version with Elway, et. al. wasn't bad earlier on). Liked the insects taking off with the Coke bottle (my girls liked that one, too).
  • Dumb penalty (running into the holder) against the Cardinals gives Pittsburgh the ball back with four downs on the 5-yard-line. Cardinal defense holds but Steelers score, making it 20-7 Pittsburgh.
  • First round of second half ads: Coke: Avatar; Bridgestone: Hot Item; Denny's: Thugs; Monster: Need a New Job? Did everybody just spend money on ad space instead of the ads themselves? Lame.
  • Well, I give the Boss an A- for great sound and energy; only thing I would have changed is Bruce playing less to the camera (the dialogue with Stevie seemed a little contrived, as did the stageslide into the camera). Still, a rockin' performance.
  • Listening to "Workin' on a Dream" now – first time I've heard it. Catchy, but it sounds a little too Boomer-ish for me. Now we're talkin': "Glory Days." Man, the band sounds great (Bruce, too).
  • "Born to Run" – that's more like it (albeit a shortened version). My six-year-old just told me, "Dad, you should be doing that." In another life, maybe.
  • Okay, Springsteen's on with "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." Why start with his guitar on, but then toss it (literally) before the end of the second bar? Horns sound good.
  • Wow. Harrison's 100-yard interception return for the Steelers is not how the Cardinals wanted to end the first half. Can't believe he stayed in bounds all the way (they're now reviewing). Steelers up (at least for now), 17-7.
  • Signal's back. Not sure Pixar's next film, Up, appeals all that much to me. Cardinals intercept with two minutes to go before halftime. Bring on the Boss. 
  • Missing the current batch of commercials due to the train running by our house (for some reason, it leaves us with either a scrambled frozen picture or a black screen with a "No Signal" in a blue box). Guessing I missed nothing, or (more likely) the best ad of the evening.
  • Cardinals score, making it 10-7. Two great throws by Warner (despite almost biting it on the TD throw). Surprised by how much older Tiger Woods looks in the Gatorade commercial (guess age is catching up with him as well).
  • Beginning of second quarter. Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost? Sad. Looks like they didn't even try to tap into the 70's retro-coolness of that show from my youth. Actually laughed at Pepsi's "I'm Good" ad, but the female ten-and-under crowd are digging the Budweiser Clydesdales. Steelers up 10-0. 
  • Steelers up 3-0. So far, the "Refresh" Pepsi commercial is decent, but the Bud Light commercials have blown chunks. I never thought the "Drinkability" campaign was all that strong in the first place, but it's certainly not when they try to make it Super Bowl funny.