Because life is a series of edits

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

On Accreditation and Statism in Education

In Books on January 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I (Craig) have been revisiting a few previously-read books on classical Christian education to apply their counsel to current situations. The process has been helpful for the sake of thinking through some of these aforementioned "opportunities".

For instance, I recently received the following email from one of our Veritas parents:

"My daughter has just finished another semester at Veritas. We know she is getting a very good education, and we are pleased with her performance. She is learning how to study and prepare, to be a success when she attends college. It is never too early to create good study skills and habits.

However, I am curious about the state accreditation status of Veritas Classical. I am sure the process is a long, drawn-out procedure, but to be honest, I am a little nervous. Am I correct in saying, if a student does not attend a state accredited high school, the only way for them to be accepted to a state college or university, is based solely on their ACT scores?

I am also interested in the accreditation status because there is a grant program available for schools. Perhaps you have heard of the Box Tops program. This program has probably existed for 20 years. Many of the foods we use come with Box Tops, and once collected, the boxtops are sent in, and the school receives money. I would be happy to assist with this program, but the school MUST be state accredited to receive the funds. I have saved these coupons for three years and hopefully, one day Veritas, will be able to benefit from them.

I have not heard of any specific details indicating that VCA is indeed making a consorted effort to continue their pursuit of accreditation. Would you please be specific and give me some concrete details about this matter?"

Rather than email back, I thought a conversation might be more helpful, so I picked up the phone and called. We had a pleasant discussion about her concerns and our philosophy concerning accreditation. Indeed, I said, there are no specific details because there are no specific plans to pursue state authorization or endorsement. Curricularly speaking, we actually exceed the state's academic requirements; financially speaking, we don't want money with strings attached.

Simply put, with regard to accreditation, we don't need or want it.

Douglas Wilson, in his books, Repairing the Ruins and The Case for Classical Christian Education, elaborates on what I mean:

"We have been told, both directly and subliminally, that state accreditation is to education what the FDA stamp of approval is to food quality, i.e. the guarantee of rigorous scrutiny by knowledgeable experts. But the reason we are having all this debate over education in the first place is that the whole country pretty much agrees that our state-certified and accredited schools are usually pretty poor.

Nevertheless, parents still have a deep faith that accreditation means something because it ought to mean something. And so they come to inquire about possible enrollment at a private school, and one of their first questions concerns whether or not the school is accredited – even though the reason they have come to apply is that they are thoroughly unhappy with the school they are leaving, which has been accredited for a hundred years."

In revisiting some of Wilson's thoughts, I noticed another of his answers that fleshed out more of my perspective on the question of school choice – a hot topic here in Oklahoma, and the subject of the "Restoring American Exceptionalism" (terrible title) Town Hall I'm attending on Tuesday. After tweeting yesterday that "Restoring American Exceptionalism is not my goal, but I'm for school choice and will be attending Tuesday,' I realized I should probably have clarified what I meant when I used the phrase "school choice".

For me, "school choice" has little to do with charter schools and vouchers, but simply local (read: parental) control and no government (city, state, or federal) involved. Again, Wilson writes in The Case for Classical Christian Education:

"At the root, the problem with charter schools and vouchers is not difficult to understand. I've written elsewhere that the theological case against such programs should actually be grounded in the prohibition against stealing. When the government taxes us in order to perform the duties assigned to the civil government by God, Christians clearly can have no consistent ethical objection (Romans 13:1-7). But if the government adopts responsibilities that God never assigned and begins massive redistribution of wealth accordingly, this creates an ethical problem…

…Parents who want charter schools and vouchers are asking, in effect, for others to pay higher taxes to fund their children's education – and the whole thing becomes simply 'food stamps for the brain.' A citizenry may be taxed in order to fund those activities that God requires of the civil magistrate, but secularist education is not one of these activities…If conservative Christian parents join this parade by seeking a piece of the action, we are demonstrating that we do not understand how our nation has drifted into its current idolatrous statism. As I put it elsewhere, 'until we learn to fight statism by refusing to accept benefits, our hypocrisy will be evident.'"

While I don't agree with everything Wilson says or writes, it's been helpful revisiting his (and others') books that address these ideas in a way that goes beyond (for now) my instincts and common sense. Much to ponder and process as we continue to shape the future of education.

A Dispatch from January

In Books, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Movies, Oklahoma City, Places, Pop Culture, Sports, Television, TV, Veritas, Young Ones on January 21, 2012 at 8:03 am

I have over 150 "have-to-answer" emails in my inbox, so it would seem a good time to work on the blog. (I'll just think of this as a warm-up rather than a put-off. Note: If you're waiting on an email from me, it will come today). Some items of late to mark the days:

I just finished two books, both with a financial theme: The Price of Everything, a parable of economic emergent order, by Russell Roberts, and The Third Conversion, a "novelette" by R. Scott Rodin about fundraising as ministry and not just money. The first book is a very readable text that our seniors are reading in Economics; the second is a more semi-hokey series of conversations between a seasoned fundraiser and his up-and-coming protege.

While recovering from my first kidney stone surgery, I found myself with some time to actually watch a few things on Netflix via the iPad. I'd heard of Joss Whedon's Firefly series (only one season of 15 episodes, capped off for resolution by the movie, Serenity) and enjoyed this "space western" well enough. I also had time for a few Shakespeare films (Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V and Patrick Stewart in Macbeth were excellent), which were fun and novel to watch.

There's been a lot of "launching" going on this January. A week ago, City Pres got off the ground with our first official worship service (I helped serve the Lord's Supper) and our Tuesday night CityGroup started back up; this past week, we kicked off our Veritas capital campaign and website, which we hope will come to first fruition in early March; and I've  enjoyed getting back in the classroom twice a week teaching the second semester of our senior American History course (two very different but engaging texts: A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schwiekart and Michaell Allen and A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn).

Other highlights so far this month: 70-degree weather, my four capitalist daughters selling three (and counting) enormous boxes worth of chocolate for their homeschool band program, Megan clearing off and cleaning my desk (she loves me), NFL football playoffs (which is really the only time I'm interested enough to watch), the daily newspaper in my driveway, cold milk on hand, and people who call me "friend".

Okay. Guess it's time to deal with email, to which I say (in my best British accent): "Do your worst!" Thanks for reading.

So I’m Having a Little Surgery Tomorrow…

In Family, Health, Science on January 8, 2012 at 8:36 am

I had a bit of a scare earlier this week by way of a doctor's appointment in which the word "cancer" randomly found its way into the list of possible pain diagnoses. Thankfully, I actually have two "significant" kidney stones (9 millimeters and 7 millimeters; one in each kidney) and am scheduled for an outpatient procedure early Monday morning to have them lasered. (All prayers appreciated for this procedure tomorrow; for the menfolk out there, this is where you cross your legs in empathy).

With the exception of one day, I haven't been in any kind of major pain; however, the doctor was concerned when I described to him the pain I had felt being in both sides of my back. He said it was rare to have "synced" kidney stones in each kidney and thought the odds were a little against that. When I asked him what else might account for the dispersed pain, that was when the briefest of cancer discussions began.

In general, I'm not one to freak out at things like this, and I didn't; odds or not, the pain was similar to the only other time I've had kidney stones, so I was pretty sure that's what I was dealing with here. But the doctor had me get a CT scan later that day so we would know what the problem was, and in the 36-hour period of waiting for the results, I experienced a few emotions at the possibility of having cancer that I'm not sure I had felt up to this point in my life.

My first emotion – starting in the doctor's office – had to do with the challenge of the prospect: I felt myself hoping it was cancer so I could take my best shot at beating it. Perhaps a form of denial or just prideful presumption, I remember thinking through how I could "use" this to inspire others through my battle and come out on top in the end. I know: sick. But that was my first emotion, self-serving and naive as it was.

My second emotion – once I moved past the idiotic hope of wanting cancer – had everything to do with Megan and the girls. I began thinking through all the details I needed to figure out (and fast) so as to make whatever time I had left with them the best that I could. I also spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure out when and how to break the news, as their disassociative abilities are not as fully developed (read: non-existent) as mine are in terms of dealing with bad news and not immediately personalizing it.

My final emotion – and the one that was strangest to deal with – was my first real visceral sense that, in my humanity, I am indeed mortal and vulnerable to death. Though I've made peace with this reality from the philosophical and theological perspectives, this was the first true emotional consideration of the fact that I am not always going to be a living, breathing person. I felt fear, sadness, and disappointment creep in at the possibility that I might be dead prematurely (at least by my watch), and I emotionally winced at the Bible's teaching that, "…you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14) I prefer not to be a poster child for this truth (though I – and all of us – are).

Thankfully, I DON'T have cancer, the kidney stones will be taken care of in an outpatient surgery tomorrow, and I fully intend on making a quick and complete recovery and getting back to what God has called me to do. In fact, as I processed all of the above this week, one thing that did encourage me was that, if indeed I had limited time to live, I had no desire to do anything other than what I'm doing – no end-of-life trips or job-quitting plans required. This is reassuring and has brought new focus to the tasks at hand this week.

I'm glad for that 36-hour period in which I didn't know for sure what the future held; if anything, it was a good and practical opportunity to hold on tight with open hands to my life and check how much I do or don't trust God with it. In not knowing, I felt relief that, by His grace, I seemed able to trust Him for whatever would come, as several times Job's words were my own: "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." (Job 13:15 ESV)

Not doing much arguing of ways these days…just grateful to God to get to have one more.