Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Juvenile Crime

Our high school debate team will be debating on April 8th about juvenile crime. The resolution is as follows:

Resolved: Juveniles convicted of violent crimes should be punished as adults.

What do you all think? It seems that a lot depends on how you define juvenile and violent crime. However, I tend to agree with the resolution.

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Some things to think about: What is punishment? What is the purpose of punishment? Should the purpose of punishment be different for adults than for juveniles? What is special about 18? Should people be allowed to vote before they can be punished as adults? Are kids who are too young to be drafted also too young to be punished like adults?


Blogger Dan said...

Something to think about here:

What is/should be the purpose of punishment? For juveniles? For adults? Should it be the same or different? Is punishment for rehabilitation, deterrence, quarantining, retribution, all of the above, some of the above, or what?

9:36 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

I strongly feel that children should be given separate punishments, for a very simple reason:

It's a oft-stated law of Deontology that rights and reponsibilities go hand-in-hand.

They are not given the same right as adults, so therefore, we cannot expect them to have the same responsibilities either.

If you're adult enough to be put to death, you're certainly adult enough t be able to vote, drive, buy alcohol, or have other rights of self-determination.

Granted, many 15-17 year old may, indeed, be old enough to warrant being treated as an adult. But if we refuse to grant any 16 year old the rights of adults under any circumstances, how can we then punish them as adults when it suits us?


I have a similar problem with a law many states have that makes it illegal for anyone under 18 to smoke. Note-- the law doesn't make it a crime to SELL 17 year old cigarettes, it actually makes it a crime for the 17 year old to smoke.

A younger relative of mine was routinely cited for violating this law.

But this is hypocrisy. If a 16 year old is so utterly irrational that the can't rationally decide for themselves whether to smoke or not, then how can you charge them with a crime when they do it? The very law is conclusive evidence that they lack the mental capacity to understand the law well enough to violate it.

7:34 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Taking a stab at the purpose of punishment, I'll say this:

I think the question all comes down to: Are we trying to STOP crime or are we trying to get vengenance?

Because in general, the goals of rehabilitation and retribution/deterrence are mostly incompatible. The more despicable a prison system is, the more prisoners are exposed to cruelty, disrespect, violence, and hatred, the more they're going to see the world as inherently cruel, and the more they're going to be likely to commit crimes when they get out again.

If you're dealing with a prisoner who is honestly and truly never going to be free again-- someone serving a life sentence or waiting to die, then perhaps retribution can take priority. Maybe vengance for vengance sake is wrong, but who am I to say that. Maybe it helps the mental health of crime victims and their families. So if a prisoner is really never going to be free again-- maybe you can punish him all you want if it makes you feel better.

BUT-- if the prisoner's ever going to be free again-- you'd better focus 100% on rehabilitation. Your #1 goal should be to stop future crime.

And that means providing prisoners with a SAFE environment. That means treating all human beings, even prisoners, with kindness and respect. That means making prisons something very different than what they are now.

And it also means recognizing that drug users are usually more victim than criminal. It also means having high-quality publically-accessable health care, so that the impovershed mentally ill homeless can get treatment and don't wind up in prison.

And, if we're REALLY serious about stopping crime, it also means increasing funding for public schools tenfold or even twentyfold.

And ideally, it also means seriously changing the wealth distribution and the tax structure so as to abolish the working poor. 28 million americans live in poverty, usually without any kind of healthcare, despite working full time jobs.

When someone working a full-time job at Walmart can barely make ends meet and can't send their kid to a doctor, while at the same time, individual stockholders of the company get $25 Billion for doing nothing... you're going to have a problem with crime in your society.

When the US government spends $475 billion on the military, but only $5 billion on the prisons, you're going to have a problem. After all-- we need a lot more protecting from criminals than we do from foreigners.

Give me oh, $2 trillion dollars a year , and I'll abolish 99% of all crime for you within five years. Heck-- it might be possible with one-tenth that amount.

You can all call me a commie now :)

12:37 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I reject the idea that knowledge and understanding is necessary in order to be held accountable to behavior. Ignorance is not an excuse. This belief is predicated on the idea that God has revealed himself to all men, so that men are without excuse. Since the revelation of God is available to those who seek Him, then people can not say, "I did not know better."

Having said that, you have several points that are well taken, but my question for you is this: Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to punish a juvenile as an adult? If a 17 year old goes on a shooting rampage that is clearly premeditated and murders a dozen people, should he be punished as a juvenile or as an adult?

12:56 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


Man, I wish we could meet. You, me, my uncle, my father, my father's co-workers, Joe (my Italian uncle). We should all get together at Barnes and Noble some time, have a cup of coffee and talk.

You post is interesting, because it reveals how religious of a person you are. Everyone is religious in one sense or another. While, we can be classified as homosapiens (thinking man); we really should be classified as homoadorans (sp?), which means worshipping man. We have been hard wired to worship. If we do not worship God, we will worship someone or something. If we are not trusting in God, we will find someone or something in whom (in which) to trust, or we will despair. The Bible says, "Some trust in horses; some trust in chariots. But we will trust in the Name of our God." I say "Some trust in the government, some trust in money, some trust in politicians, some trust in democracy, some trust in public education, but I will trust in the Name of the LORD my God."

So, what does this have to do with anything?

You say that if we want to stop crime, we should increase funding for public education 10 or 20 fold.

Education is essentially a religious experience. In education you are taught values of one kind or another. You are contradicting yourself, because you say that the state shouldn't be shoving values down kids throats in school, yet you hold on to the idea that by increasing funding in public schools, crime will be reduced.

Juvenile crime will be reduced when young people truly beging to value human life. As students learn the 10 Commandments and put those commandments into practice, crime will decrease. Think about it: "Do not murder." This reveals to us that God values life. "Do not steal." God values hard work and possessions. "Do not covet." God wants us to be content in Him and to love our neighbor. You can not love your neighbor if you are coveting your neighbor.

You talk about the "goodness" of public education. Question: What is education? What makes education good? Remember, you are talking to a school teacher. I think about this all the time. This very close to my heart. It is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. It drives me. I have been captured by this idea of classical Christian education: "The cultivation of wisdom and virtue, nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty, by means of the Liberal Arts (the Trivium and the Quadrivium), so that, in Christ Jesus, students are equipped with the tools of learning and are better able to fully glorify God."

Teaching kids math and science without teaching kids wisdom and virtue will not make the world a better place. Math and science are tools. Tools can be used for evil or for good. Look at Hitler. He was very good at rhetoric. He used it to carry out his agenda.

I teach rhetoric. I tremble to teach rhetoric, lest I equip young people with powerful weapons that they then use for evil. Same thing with logic. But I also teach the Bible. Students are being taught the Old Testament. They see the consequences of making God angry. They see the mercy of a patient God of love. They see. This causes them to love and to fear.

Of course, some choose to rebel. I am in a spiritual war. The whole universe is in a state of spiritual war. There is no neutral ground in the entire universe.

So, to throw money at an institution which teaches little children to be "neutral" about morality, ethics, and religion is foolish and evil.

Public education is good for a few things. One of those things is brainwashing the next generation to vote Democrat or maybe moderately Republican. But since those are two bad choices, then the goals of public education are bad.

Virtue and values must be taught (and, in fact, they are). Let me clarify. The right virtues and values should be taught. If they are not, then teachers are teaching by default - at very least - that virtues and values are not important.

I will address the goals of punishment later.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Check out my previous post from a couple monts ago: Concerning Camden. There I lay out my plan for reducing crime and cultivating positive communities. You just can't get away from individual responsibility. It takes God, church, and family. Hillary can take her "It takes a village" idea (i.e. It takes the aggressive intervention of the state) and shove it. Excuse my aggressive language, but I can't think of a gentler way to make my point clearly at the moment.

1:37 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Dan, you're really good at finding holes in my arguments that I've explicitly glossed over because my answers are so complex that they detract from my main argument.

In all my talk about how juveniles shouldn't be punished as adults (since they don't have the right) , you notice that I (oh so cleverly I might add) never burden myself by explaining how, exactly, the juveniles should be treated.

So yes, I definitely have to admit there are many cases where the juvenile should, in the end, get the same punishment as an adult. There may be many circumstances where we simply cannot, under any circumstances, risk letting an offender ever go free again-- no matter how old he is. If you believe in the death penalty, there probably isn't any strong reason why juveniles shouldn't, in some cases, be eligible.

But that's not EXACTLY the same thing as "punish as an adult". The juvenile justice system has a whole host of differences from the adult system, and as long as someone is "minor citizen", without all the rights and responsibilities of an adult, then they belong in a juvenile court, which is qualified to realize that not all of its defendence may be "of adult compentence".

I feel like the current system is having it both ways: the system will treat you like a child when we feel like it, and we'll treat you as an adult when we feel like it too.

My "general impression" is that the main reason children are sometimes tried as adult is so that they can be subject to the death penalty. I don't know if that perception is true or not. If so, a better solution would be just to pass laws saying that we, as a society, can indeed execute juveniles through the juvenile justice system.

I get the feeling that the whole "tried as adult thing" comes from our nation's uneasy compromise over the death penalty. A law allowing the juvenile justice system to execute might be a little to controversial to get passed, so instead, they have a "tried as an adult" exception that allows the state to execute juveniles, but call them adults. There's a vague feeling I get of double-talk from the whole thing. If we're going to execute juveniles, allow that. If were not, then don't allow it. But don't have laws that say Juveniles can't be executed, but then say that doesn't apply, since you refuse to admit that a 16 year old a juvenile. I ain't buying it.

So, if the question is should some juveniles be eligible for live sentences, i'll agree, they should.

If the question is: should some juveniles be eligible for the death penalty, I all agree that if adults should be eligible, then fairness dictates that some juveniles probably should be eligble as well.

But if you ask, should juveniles be tried as if they were adults-- no. Definitely not. They weren't an adult before they committed their crime, so you can pretend they're one now-- that's just plain cheating.


I have a lot of these sorts of complex views that either "amount to the same thing" or cases where I'll say "On one level yes, but on another level no."

For example, a few years ago, Texas executed a 68 year old grandmother, despite many loud, vocal calls that she be spared. On the one hand, I, being a mild death penalty opponent, disapproved. But on the hand, they wouldn't have pardoned her if she was a 28 year old black male, so I'm glad that they didn't treat her differently just because of her age and gender.

On the one hand, I'm against affirmative action and scholarships based on race or gender. But if you handed me a program that took into consider "Family History of Poverty", "Exposure to Crime", and other criteria, such that in the end, it had exactly the same effects, person by person, as the race-based affirmative action, I'd strongly support it.

On the one-hand, I think the catholic's prohibition of birth-control is just plain dumb. But on the other hand, I approve that they regard homosexuality as "no more sinful than any other type of non-procreative sex".

It's tricky being me.

4:28 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"I reject the idea that knowledge and understanding is necessary in order to be held accountable to behavior. Ignorance is not an excuse."

Well, I partially agree and partially disagree.

In the law, they have two concepts: "malum prohibitum" and "malum in se". "Malum in se", wrong in itself, are acts that are truly and completely utterly normally wrong. Like murder or rape, for example.

Human beings, either through god, evolution, or culture, generally have some conception of morality, and there are some acts that virtually every human culture across time and place has generally regarded them as inherently, and obviously, wrong.

On the other hand, sometimes the law prohibits acts because they're disruptive to society. These are "malum prohibitum" -- wrong only because they happen to be prohibited. Driving 5 mph over the speed limit, fishing without a license, etc. These things are "really" wrong, they're just prohibited in our particular society at certain particular places.

Now, if I killed someone, and say igorance doesn't matter because I should have know "in my heart", I'll usually agree with you.

If I was parking on the alternate side of the street on the third Sunday of the month and got a parking ticket because that's the one day of the month you can't park there-- then if I can prove I couldn't possibly have known about it, I get a get out of jail free card. God did not instill in me the knowledge that this esoteric rule was wrong.

Similarly-- smoking IS NOT EVIL. It is not wrong. It's just dumb.

Now if you really believe minors are so mentally enfeeble that they don't have the right to make this decision, okay, fine. If you really want to-- then go ahead and make it a crime for a responsible adult to sell tobaccoo to irresponsible minors. But don't charge the MINORS with smoking-- this whole thing started because you said they didn't have the capacity to know whether or not to smoke! (not you personally, of course)

Charging kids with smoking is like pulling over a car because their toddler doesn't have a car seat, and then giving the TODDLER the ticket?!?


Now, you see theme I've got going here:

It's not that _I_ think teenagers are so inherently incapable of making moral decisions that they can't comprehend the laws. If I ran the circus, I'd let 11 year olds drink and 16 year olds vote. But if you agree that children really are so irrational that they can't make rational decisions that you have to deny them certain inalienable human rights, then don't go treating them like adults the second it suits you. (again, not you personally :) )

4:50 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Here here on the coffee-- if I wasn't an agoraphobic shut-in, i'd be there with bells on.
True that about religion. Broadly construed, I think everyone has a religion-- a higher purpose of sorts. I think part of the epidemic of mental illness comes from a breakdown of these sense of higher-purposes. In the Age of Information, complexities and contradictions overwhelm us. Not that the contradictions can't be over-come, but the level of single-mindedness that someone was capable of in 1800s is almost impossible to regain today. BUT, anyway:
"I teach rhetoric. I tremble to teach rhetoric, lest I equip young people with powerful weapons that they then use for evil. Same thing with logic."

Hehe, I'm sure my teachers would feel that way. Someone once quoted the verse "Remember that the devil can cite scripture to suit his purposes" in reference to my knowledge of the bible despite not being a christian.


On to the main point:
Again-- you nail me on points where I've glossed over complexities, resulting in a contradiction (I love it when you do that.)

I strongly support increased education as a way to stop crime, but yet I opposes "teaching values" to students-- how can these two seemingly-contradictory statements exist together?

The answer is, I don't want my educational system to TEACH values, in the sense that the teacher has one set of values and then uses any means whatsoever to try to replicate those values in the minds of their students. Rather, I want my educational system to be safe, happy, fun spaces that demonstrate kindness and respect for their students. I want my educational system to present all kinds of different information, sometimes contraditory, sometimes confusing, sometimes heretical. I want my educational system to have faith that it's students will, if given enough information, come to the right conclusions. I want my teachers to respect that every human being has the right to come to their own conclusions about values, and the role of teacher is to aid them as they find their own way, rather than dictate what that way will be.

haha, I sound like such a hippie.

But, I feel like the "Values Education" idea is: "These particular set of values are RIGHT, and we must do anything we must do whatever we can to replicate those values in our students, by whatever means necessary". Usually, this involves a lot of "Let's drill our ideas into them, make sure they never ever encounter any ideas that contradict ours, and pray that by the time we can protect them from the bad world and it's wrong ideas anymore, our ideas will be so engrained into their heads that they won't ever question them".

So, I don't expect better education will end crime by directly "teaching" values per se, I rather expect that exposing students to a kind, fair, and respectful environment will lead the students to learn for themselves the benefits of kindness. Children don't become juvenile deliquents because they have "never been taught" values-- rather, they (generally speaking) have lived their whole lives in a world where nobody cares about them and where kindness is met with exploitation and victimization-- so they've learned that nobody else around here is being fair or kind, and if I'm unilaterally fair and kind, I'm just going to be bullied, exploited, and harrassed. If they get to spend thirteen years in a safe, kind, loving, respectful environment, they'll generally come to see the virtue in those attributes.

5:37 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Hillary can take her "It takes a village" idea (i.e. It takes the aggressive intervention of the state) and shove it."

Yeah... Poor Hillary-- she just is so clueless about why she is making half the country hate her guts. I don't know that I hate her, but I'm certainly not a big fan.

For one thing-- as the wife of the president, your role in the government is: NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The "Wife of the President" is not mentioned in the constitution, and not one person voted for you. So don't decide to become Health Care Czar-- it's nepotism, and worse than that, you're damaging the cause for the sake of your own ego. Her health care program failed horribly, and probably 60% of that was people who just didn't like her personally.

Her "It Takes A Village" has a lot wrong with it. For one, it implies a stone-age tribe that can't figure out metalworking and would kill you and sacrifice you as a gift to their rain god is somehow a better moral judge of public policy than an enlightened democracy. For another-- just how much help is my village going to give me?!? The number one thing I want from my village is for them to leave me and my kids alone.

But, that said... If we're going to fix any of our country's problems, we are going to need a little bit of help from the village, because the American Family just ain't up to the job anymore. 30% of children are born to unwed parents, and half of all marriages end in divorce. At the same time, the minimum wage is so low that both parents invariably have to work in most households.

I feel your pain on hillary. But-- take heart: I truly believe she has the potential within her to be the biggest loser in a presidential election in US history, if she can JUST get the nomination :)

(Tune in some other time to hear my "If you risk your entire presidency for a chance to cheat on your wife, maybe you shouldn't be impeached, but you're still an idiot" rant)

5:58 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

You say, "The answer is, I don't want my educational system to TEACH values, in the sense that the teacher has one set of values and then uses any means whatsoever to try to replicate those values in the minds of their students. Rather, I want my educational system to be safe, happy, fun spaces that demonstrate kindness and respect for their students."

You are describing an educational system that would instill the values of safety, happiness, pleasure, kindness, and respect into the students. This is most definately teaching values.

Would you have rules in the classroom? Would you enforce those rules? Would you reward students for "good" work and "good" behavior? Would you punish, correct, admonish, or discipline students for "bad" work or "bad" behavior? In all of this, you would be teaching values.

In fact, if you don't reward and punish good and bad behavior, then you are teaching students to disrespect you, each other, and the subject matter being discussed. In fact, you would be inadvertantly training them to hold the subject in contempt.

Discipline, properly understood and administered, is a kindness. A refusal for authorities (parents, teachers) to discipline those under their tutelage is to express indifference and contempt. Essentially, a refusal to discipline students is to succomb to the selfish (and too often politically expedient)temptation to treat children as something less than valuable human beings.

The global economy, with its insistent, dogmatic, "bottom line" does not particularly care about people and families. Thus, human persons become objectified, and are treated as means, rather than ends. This is idolatry. Check out some of Dr. Fox-Genovese's writings (including the essay I posted a link to a while back).

This should never happen in education (or anywhere else for that matter). Every child should be treated as the special people that they are. Furthermore, they should be trained to treat one another accordingly.

Now, it is true that children must be prepared for a world who will not care for them. I agree with many of your ideas. I am thinking about the pedagogy of Christ. Jesus taught the people using parables. He told stories to illustrate spiritual and moral truths. He also called people to obedience and faith. He changed Simon's name to Peter (Rock). He confronted evil decisively.

You say that you would want your students to be exposed to heresy. You may also want your students exposed to racism. But when you talk about the Holocaust, I would think that while you explore the ideas that Hitler might have had, you are going to present it in such a way that leaves the students feeling outraged, upset, and resolved that such a horrific attempt at genocide should never ever happen again.

In a similar way, I try to lead my students in different discussions about various views that many secularists have, and then through questioning, discussion, Bible study, and more discussion, I show my students how secular views are often totally illogical and always abhorrent - since "everything that is not of faith is sin."

Some set of values, ideas, beliefs, and doctrines will be inculcated in the education process. You can not get out of this. Nor should we want to get out of this. Rather, as human beings created in God's image, we ought to take full advantage of all the opportunities presented to us in the education process to cultivate wisdom and virtue - to nourish the minds, hearts, and souls of students - to equip them with the tools of learning - and to teach them by words and actions what authetic Christian charity is.

Anything less than this is evil.

Therefore, it is my goal to be an authentic Christian educator. I fall way short of this. But I thank God for His wonderful mercy and grace. My competency is not of myself - lest I think that anything is of myself. My competency is of God.

You say, "I want my educational system to have faith that it's students will, if given enough information, come to the right conclusions." This is misplaced optimism in the human race. You really ought to know better. You know a few things about history. Having knowledge and understanding of information does not cause students to become "good" or "virtuous" people. Your view of the nature of man is heretical. Man is not good. Man is sinful. The problem with man is not - at its root - a problem of poverty or a lack of education. The problem with man is that we are sinful people. You think that money being thrown at programs will reduce crime, and that education will cause kids to make good choices. But there have been plenty of people throughout the ages who have been extremely educated, and who have definately done evil. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. We don't need "programs." We need God to rescue us from our wicked selves. God must take from us our hearts of stone, and give us hearts of flesh.

You say, "I want my teachers to respect that every human being has the right to come to their own conclusions about values, and the role of teacher is to aid them as they find their own way, rather than dictate what that way will be."

So, if I come to my own conclusion that all Poles or Greeks or Germans or Women or Blacks should be exterminated, then teachers should respect that? What does that respect look like? If the word respect means anything, then it must be expressed in a meaningful way. It the word respect is simply patronizing, then it does not really mean anything. It is interesting to note that you are being dogmatic about teachers not being dogmatic about values. Being the educated philosopher that you are, you should know better than to be so illogical.

Again, truth and morality and faith are all absolutes - not relative. It is complicated - no doubt - but still absolute. The manner in which we guide people to the truth is a major discussion that is very complicated. Like I said earlier, we would do well to learn from the greatest Teacher who ever walked the planet. Also, using the Socratic method of teaching via questioning is a great way to teach. But if students refuse to learn wisdom (which is absolute), then teachers must lovingly and firmly discipline the rebellious student.

Havin said that, creating an environment that is warm and inviting, where ideas can be discussed openly, is of the utmost importance. Indeed, this is necessary to do, if the teacher is to effectively lead students to higher truths.

You should check out Doug Wilson's book: "The Case for Classical and Christian Education." Wilson is a cultural warrior, and he has some incredible wisdom. He is one of my heros.

10:16 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"The global economy, with its insistent, dogmatic, "bottom line" does not particularly care about people and families. Thus, human persons become objectified, and are treated as means, rather than ends"

Sing it, brother! We'll turn you into a socialist yet!


"You are describing an educational system that would instill the values of safety, happiness, pleasure, kindness, and respect into the students. This is most definately teaching values."

Well, yes and no. I describe an educational system that I think would be best, and I state my idea that children in that educational system would probably learn all kinds of good things from being in it. So in the sense that "having any experiences" teaches you, then yes, I guess it is teaching values.

But in a large sense, I think you'd agree that just providing students with lots of different facts in the hopes they "they'll probably learn SOMETHING out of all that" doesn't qualify as teaching. A teacher usually has a definite lesson plan as to exactly what the end result of the lesson is going to be.

So, I advocate providing students with exposuer to a good, safe, uncensored system, and I state my own belief that they will learn good things from it. But, it's up to THEM to decide what they're going to learn from it. I'm not creating a school in some machievellian way in order to FORCE my students to develop certain values. I'm describing the school I think would be best, and I think students in it would learn all kinds of good things from it-- but precisely what I'm not sure.

I think it's a horrible insult to teachers to liken my haphazard laissez-faire stance on values to the skilled work performed by a professional who can teach a five year old to read in less than nine months. But, on the other hand, there's no doubt they'd "learn values" from the totality of their experience, of which my dreamschool would be a part, so if you want to think of any sort of "facilitating the learning process" as teaching, then yes, I guess it's teaching values-- but what values I don't won't know until long after the teaching process.


"So, if I come to my own conclusion that all Poles or Greeks or Germans or Women or Blacks should be exterminated, then teachers should respect that?"


Some kids will come to those conclusions, and they have that right. Obviously, violence based on those ideas isn't okay, but holding those ideas is.

That question reminds me of the Germans, who _REALLY_ haven't gotten the whole free speech idea down. "During WWII-- Jews are evil, and we will lock up anyone who says otherwise!". "Now-- Nazis are evil, and we will love up anyone says otherwise!"

I guess it's better to regard Nazis as more evil than Jews, but they're really not getting the spirit of this whole Freedom and Democracy idea.


"I would think that while you explore the ideas that Hitler might have had, you are going to present it in such a way that leaves the students feeling outraged, upset, and resolved that such a horrific attempt at genocide should never ever happen again."

I think that's the natural response when people shown all the information on the subject-- but I don't get to stack the deck. I can't engineer every image I present, censoring some and including others, so as to produce precisely the emotion I want the kids to have.

The hitler one's an easy one-- almost everyone comes to the same conclusion on that one except for people who have lived in the most racists of communities.

"'I want my educational system to have faith that it's students will, if given enough information, come to the right conclusions.' This is misplaced optimism in the human race. You really ought to know better."

Aha! I anticipated this objection and spent much time thinking about it, such that I can rattle off my parry.

Yes, I admit that humans are very flawed, often hateful creatures. But the teachers are humans too. And gram for gram, I trust powerless open-minded kids more than I trust older empowered teachers who have entrenched values.

My faith isn't so much in humans per se-- it's precisely my distrust of human beings that leads me to these views. My faith is more in "the transformative and enlightening power of information".

I trust that, on average, the more diverse the information someone is exposed to, the better conclusions they'll reach (as a whole). And therefore, I fully expect that in the end, the students will, as a population, be AT LEAST AS GOOD as their teachers, and probably better.

I guess this is partially a product of how I look at the modern world. The older generation's hatred, bigotries, and closed-mindedness is always greater than the younger generation's. Older americans believed to their dying day that slavery was right, but younger americans could see it was wrong. Older americans believed women shouldn't vote, but younger americans could see they should. And so on, for segregation, for racism, for women's right to work, and for long hair and loud music.

I don't have to have faith that all the students will be good-- they just have to be better than the generation before them.

I think within a generation, homosexuals will be given the same rights as heterosexuals. I think younger people have a better ability to see through some of the BS that entrances the older people-- the hypocrisy of both democratic and republican politicians, the evils of captalism, and dangers to the environment.

But, what if I'm wrong? What if my precious younger generation all starts watching Fox News and electing Bush as President for Life Then in my horror, I will have to admit the possiblity that maybe I, too, have become the older generation, and that hopefully the younger generation is just seeing a truth that I myself am too old to see.


The good news, for me anyway, is this: values education doesn't really work, in the sense that, there is no education system that successfully and flawlessly replicates the older generations's values in the minds of the young.

If there were such a way, then generations long ago would have imposed it, and our society would ceased to evolve-- we would be stuck forever in the stangant bigotry of 1820.

In reality, every student, in my dreamschool or any other, always takes all the information they have access to and then forms their own values. Just look at how few catholic school graduates grow up to be catholic. The evolution toward greater and greater truth is unstoppable.

To be sure, massive wholesale censorship of children's information can certainly slow the process down. But with the triumph of mass media and the internet, even fundamentalist muslim parents in Saudi Arabia are having trouble keeping their kids from being exposed to western truth.


"But there have been plenty of people throughout the ages who have been extremely educated, and who have definately done evil. We don't need 'programs.' We need God..."

Bah! my programs will stop more crime than your religion. America is by far the most fanatically christian nation in the world, and we have the highest murder rates of anywhere in the industrialized world. Cooincidentally (?) we also have the greatest rich-vs-poor gap. I'm being somewhat silly in throwing those out there, but of course I don't really believe christianity causes murders (these days). But, my point is-- poverty is a far bigger contribution to crime than atheist. Prisons are filled the brim with impovershed christians and muslims, not affulent atheists.


"It is interesting to note that you are being dogmatic about teachers not being dogmatic about values."

#1: As a sometimes postmodernist, I have a "Get-Out-of-Logical-Contradiction Free Card". If I want to, I can throw it down, exclaim with glee "Of course I'm contradicting myself! Don't you see-- the whole world is contradictions" and disappear off in to a land of mirthful philsophical silliness. :)

#2: However, I will DECLINE to play that card, and I will instead say this:

Well, I'm not EXACTLY dogmatic about it, because I don't blame the world for not rushing right out and building my dreamschool. Who the heck am I? What are my educational credentials? How many kids have I had? How many kids have I taught. LOL. and who ever heard of such a crazy loony idea as mine?

And I'm very open to the possiblity that, hey, maybe I'm wrong. I've got a guess for what would be the "best" system (whatever "best" means), but maybe all my students would grow up to be ultraviolent anarchists. It could happen.

And most of all-- I'd never ever want to "impose" my ideas of education on unwilling parents and children.

So, I like to think I'm actually relatively light-to-moderately dogmatic in my opposition to dogma :)

1:21 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

So you are hoping that kids will pick up some "values" inadvertantly through the educational process. But you would never be intentional about teaching any values?

Again, would you have rules? Would you enforce those rules? This is teaching values.

You say that you would respect my beliefs (or at least my right to believe) if my beliefs were racist. What does that respect look like? It just sounds patronizing to me.

Furthermore, you would be wrong to render respect to racist beliefs. You can respect people (because they are created in God's image). But to respect a wicked creed is wicked.

It sounds like your dream school would inculcate the American civil religion (which is secular and postmodern at its root). This is, of course, anti-Christian (as can be seen by your use of the word BAH).

Here is another thing: You have no problem using tax money, yea even increasing taxes, in order to carry out your socialist commie ideas. But I'm pretty sure you would have a problem if I tried to get legislation passed to carry out my ideas. "Separation of church and state!" i.e. "American public schools must stay true to the postmodern secular American religion. Tax money can only go toward that."

For whatever reason, most Americans are fine with the idea of tax money being used to inculcate the values of the idolatrous American civil religion religiously - as long as there is no religious tag on it, but churches have no right to tax the people?

What makes your funding your ideas with tax money okay? Why shouldn't tax money be used to fund my ideas? My ideas are better than your ideas anyway, because my ideas are lined up with God's ideas.

Not that I would encourage Christians to accept money from the government. "He who takes the king's coin becomes the king's man." I used to be for school vouchers; in fact, I came up with the idea. That is, without ever having heard the phrase or the discussion, I thought of the concept. Then someone cued me in that I was talking about vouchers. But I have reversed my position on that. I don't want the state to become entangled with Christian education. But I do want Christians to influence the politics of the state.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


If you were the headmaster of your dream school, would you hire me? ;) I always start my classes off with prayer (to Jesus for His glory in His Name). I pray for all kinds of reasons. I want God to have His way in my classes. I want Jesus to be present and welcome in my classes. I want God to be glorified. I want the students to learn knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. I want everyone to be protected from the spiritual attacks of the devil and his army of demons. I want my students to be healthy (physically, emotionally, socially, intelectually, spiritually). I want to model for the students the various acts of loving God in all things. For example, as I teach math and physics, I point out that there is so much ordered-complexity and beauty in the universe. So, then we might read Psalm 8, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your Name in all the earth!" I want my students to be blessed, for without the blessing of God, we are in trouble, and with the blessing of God, we have strength to face all kinds of hardships, plus peace that passes all understanding, and unspeakable joy. I want each student to know the depth of their worth - that they are loved and cherished - that at any point, they can turn to Jesus, and receive grace and mercy in their time of need.

See, there is an antithesis between faith and unbelief. Agnostic education (which is rooted in unbelief, and whose goals and purposes are fuzzy, if not downright evil) operates on the assumptions of unbelief. That is there starting point and their direction. This determines where they go. Christian education operates on the assumption that we all exist for the glory of God, that we are loved, that we are sinners, and that a way of salvation has been made available through Christ. Faith and unbelief are diametrically opposed to each other. God has given us commandments to obey. To play the "neutral" card in response to the commandments of God is to disobey God - whether the disobedience was intentional or not.

Now I hear you about your hesitation to trust authority. That is a very real problem. As an authority, it causes me to evaluate myself. I think that every educator needs to have the purest motives and intentions. That is why I am such a fan of the classical model and the Socratic method. I encourage students to ask tough questions. If students doubt, I encourage them to be real and honest with those doubts and to ask the tough questions. I, in turn, will give them questions to ponder, and we could have discussions together about various ideas. In all of this, I try to model Christian charity.

So, can I teach at your school?

1:15 PM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...


So you say why do the "seculars" even care to change my view, since all views are relative ? What difference does it make to them what I think, worship or feel since they have absolutely nothing to offer me as an alternative if not a host of false gods and idols?

You are right, and in fact even if a community decides to believe in a crazy god and they kill each other off and do even the worst "sins", the secular can always say who cares, it doesn't make any difference, any lifestyle lived in any way at all are all the same so even my own lifestyle is totally irrelevant, meaningless and at the end of my life it wouldn't matter at all what I did or didn't, if I loved or hated or killed, had success or failed in everything.

And this is in fact the very weakness of the secular worldview. Either it is absolute like yours or the muslims or it is nothing at all. The only problem arises when 2 absolutes will face each other and it comes time to decide who will destroy who. In this case, absolute worldviews will bring on fierce wars until one part is totally killed (1 billion muslims or evangelicals). And then the winning side will finally kill off all the seculars. And when this has been achieved, god's will on earth will have been achieved. AMEN.

8:58 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

You're a tricky one:

"My School", is sorta like "My Grandmother's Famous Vegetable Soup"-- it's a soup prepared by a certain recipe. My Grandmother's Vegetable Soup doesn't have any potatos in it.

So you ask me: "I'm going to make a soup and put a lot of potatos in it, so.. can I make Your Grandmother's Vegetable Soup?"

When I say no, don't get mad and say "How come you're not respecting my right to make your Grandmother's Vegetable Soup? Are you saying that Christians aren't welcome to make your Grandmother's Vegetable Soup?"

But, it's not that I'm trying to deny you your right to make whatever soup you want-- it's just that if you use a completely different recipe than my Grandmother, then the resultant soup cannot, in fact, be My Grandmother's Vegetable Soup. If you want to make soup based on her recipe, that's fine. If you want soup of your own recipe that's fine. , too.

So, no, a classroom in which a teacher forces his own personal interpretation of religion upon 30 students can't exist in "my school" because that isn't "my recipe"-- but that doesn't mean I think such a classroom should be illegal. It just means in such a classroom, we wouldn't be using "my recipe" anymore, we'd be using yours, and so by definition, it couldn't be in "my school".

When I used to teach modern US politics to university students, albeit not exactly in "my school", I went about it based on two principles:
-I tried very hard to never make any direct statements, but instead only to ask questions.
-I tried very hard to make it impossible to figure out what my own views on any particular issue were based on the questions that I asked.
-I tried to ask questions designed to lead very different types of people into being on the same side.

That is, in other classes I'd sat in during training, I noticed that the classes tended to quickly polarize into two sides, roughly along the liberal-vs-conservative dimension. In my own class, I tried to create questions that would break that up, so that sometimes the most-conservatives and most-liberal found themselves in opposition with the moderates, sometimes the libertarians were against strong-governments, etc, etc, etc.

"You say that you would respect my beliefs (or at least my right to believe) if my beliefs were racist. What does that respect look like? It just sounds patronizing to me."

Well, it doesn't mean that anyone has to 'pretend' to feel that racism is okay. It doesn't mean the teacher has to pretend to agree with those conclusions. But it does mean that you "respect the rights of human beings reach their own conclusions". It means not trying to ostracize or ridicule someone for their beliefs, not trying to brainwash or to create propaganda.


I have to admit feeling a strong amount of sympathy for the victims of the separation of church and state. It is the law of the land that the government (and its school) can support a wide array of political and moral agendas, but never ever anything related to religion. Evolution is a good example-- in a debate between Science and Religion, our law says the government can never ever support Religion, which by default means supporting Science.

This has got to be very frustrating.

Our democracy is, by definition, a secular one, and that has to be upsetting for people who's very identity is non-secular.

If I wanted to be mean, I could quote the Pro-America crowd who chime in every time anyone dissents about anything: "If you don't like America, then go somewhere else!" But I hate that saying-- it's one of the most redneck ignorant statements I know of. Because the whole point of America is the right not to like America as it is.


If I ran the circus, I don't think I would have supported the establishment of Public Schools that are directly run by the government, except in cases where no good, neutral private school could exist.

The voucher idea is a good one. Technically, it would amount to federal dollars going to support religious schools. But so long as tax dollars could go to ANY schools, I don't see a problem.

Here's the problem: Many Americans do not affirm the basic human right of every child to go to a good, safe, well-run school. Public schools barely have enough fudning as it is. Private school parents want to take more money out of the public school funds and then use that money to give their children private schools. If that loss of money then means that poor kids have to go to school in condemned building and won't be able to buy textbooks, then they're just out of luck.

I have no problem with taxes paying for kids to go to private schools, so long as we all agree that EVERY child is going to get to go to a really nice school, and if that means we have to raise taxes until we're Sweden, then so be it. But I can't agree to let the rich parents steal money out of the already-struggling public school system, knowing that it will be the poor kids that are going to be left without a chair when the music stops.

Amazingly in this day and age, in 2006, far too many people do not recognize the right of every child to go to a good school.

So, if we all agree that government is going to pay $30,000 a year per student to go to school, then they can go to any school they want. But if people want the government to pay $500 a year per student, with saavy private school parents knowing that they would NEVER send their children to such an under-funded school but will instead pay extra out of their own pockets, but it's fine if the poor kids have to go to such an underfunded school-- I'm not playing.

In reality, that's basically what's going on now, really. If, god forbid, public schools were mandatory, do you really think the rich kids parents would allow their children to go to schools that are as underfunded as the current public schools?

We still have two classes of school-- the rich schools for the rich kids, and the poor schools for everyone else. The problems that led to Brown v. Board of Education still exist just as bad as they ever did-- we've just scrambled the sides so it's not race-based anymore, it's wealth-based.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


Secularists wage war for secular reasons. Look at the American Revolution, the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Secularist does not equate with pacifist.

Religious people wage war for religious reasons. Look at the Crusades.

I am trying to point out that secularism is a religion of sorts.

I also do not advocate a violent jihad style "Christian" revolution. However, if we ever wage war, we ought to have a just cause, and we ought to have sound theological arguments to justify our war effort. Essentially, if we are to wage war at all, it ought to be for God's glory. After all, everything we do should be for God's glory.

And I do believe that God is glorified when wicked despots like Hitler and Saddam Hussein are brought to justice.

But I don't believe that Democracy is the answer. Any democracy is only as good and wise as the majority of its citizens are good and wise. Since it is the unfortunate reality that the majority of people are sinful and stupid, democracy will eventually fail.

Many people believe that Democracy is a Christian idea. I would challenge all those people to read and reread the Scriptures. If Democracy is so great, then why hasn't God said so in the Scriptures?

In fact, the form of government does not really matter all that much. A state can be a communist state or a capitalist state or a hybrid between the two (which would probably mean that legislation is contradicting itself somewhere). A communist state falls a part and leads to totalitarianism because people are selfish. If they have no selfish motive to work, many people won't work. On the other hand, a capitalist state leads to monopolies and all the problems with monopolies again because people are selfish.

So, the solution is not to find some magic formula for the form of government that will suddenly make the country wonderful. The solution is Jesus Christ. In Christ, we realize that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son - His absolute best - so that people could be blessed. In Christ, we are moved to give generously in appreciation of what Christ has given to us. If everyone worked hard, used their talents, and gave unselfishly - that is, if everyone was looking out for their neighbors and loving each other, then the form of government would not matter. A capitalist state would work out fine, because those who experience success would share with those who are in need. A communist state would also work out fine, because people would be motivated to work, not out of selfish ambition, but out of a desire to glorify God and to share with those who are in need.

And at this point, this particular discussion is far away from the topic - whether or not juveniles convicted of violent crimes should be punished as adults. We can keep talking about these tangential ideas, but lets try to focus or at least relate our ideas to the topic at hand.

Warning: For the season of lent, I will not be blogging at all. So, if I seem to suddenly become silent for about 6 weeks, that's why.

12:06 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Dan, why the Lent Ban on Blogging? We'll miss you.

That strikes me as a weird thing to give up for Lent. I mean, isn't it a combination of preaching the word of God, contemplating the word of God, and learning how heathens have difficulties accepting the world of God (such that you might better be able to convert other heathens in the future)? I assume you're giving it up because it's something you enjoy-- that's good.

Granted, I'm probably not the best person to give advice on how to practice Lent-- I celebrate Lent in 1988 by giving up Christianity. But still-- isn't there something else you enjoy that doesn't benefit God in a conceivable way? Chocolate or Icecream or Television?

3:31 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

You say "the solution is not to find some magic formula for the form of government that will suddenly make the country wonderful. The solution is Jesus Christ."

But that really just pushes the problem of "the perfect government" back one level. Sure, you can say "disenfranchise all non-christians, create a theocracy in which only non-christians rule", but that just postpones the ultimate problem of how to get a group of people to decide how to run a society.

Because once you have a "christians-only" nation, how are you going to decide amongst christians how to rule? You can't just say "Do what Jesus says" because there will be major disagreements amongst christians about what exactly it is that Jesus wants.

How should a group of people come together to decide what to do? You could have a theocratic dictatorship-- pick somebody, appoint him pope, and be done with it. You could have an oligarchy-- pick one particular small christian sect and appoint them the defacto rulers, sorta like the post-Stalin Soviet system. Or you can have a Christian democracy.

Which one do you think has the best chance of actually doing God's will? I'm totally neutral on this one-- If I accept for a moment that there is a god, and he does have desires, and we're going to rescind all other priorities except fulfill God's desires-- I have no clue which one is best.

A papacy will be very prone to getting things terribly wrong, but in the ideal case, it seems to be the only one that could perhaps get EVERYTHING right. A democracy will probably avoid errors because it will approximate the "lowest common denominator" of what everyone can agree God wants, but it's liable to miss a lot of things God wants too, because no everyone can agree on them.

On the one hand, God seems like a big believer in Free Will, and so perhaps a democracy would let everyone have some share the actions of the government. On the other hand, as you say, God never says a word about democracy, and he did seem to be a pretty big fan of the Davidian monarchs.

I guess your point in not getting into that is that a theocracy, any theocracy, would be so much better than any secular government, that there's no point quibbling over which type of theocracy would be best. Still-- it's something interesting to think about.

3:47 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

By the way, ya'll. People as smart as the readers and commentators of this blog should really start editing Wikipedia-- the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Now, you do have to promise to try your absolute hardest to be neutral (and if you aren't, people will just delete the non-neutral additions). So, you might not want to edit articles things too near and dear to your heart: Jesus, Classical Christian Education, etc. But you could always edit thing like "Types of Tropical Aquarium Fish" and "Knot-Tying" or "Calligraphy" or whatever other interests you have that don't have quite so much "non-neutrality" to them. It's really fun, and a wonderful way to help the educational systems of the third world, because the encyclopedia is going to be printed up and given away for free.

If you do try to write truly and honestly neutrally on something you're not neutral about, it's REALLY hard. I've spent the past week writing an article on the controversy about the boy scouts's expulsions of gays and atheists, and it's really excrutiating going through article after article of people I disgree with and page after page of US Congress resolution supporting the expulsions and painstakingly summarizing their very best arguments and presenting them. And then going through every word I've written and looking for any hint of bias I might have inadvertantly introduced against the homophobic fanatics.

There's also a big push to get teachers to assign "write a wikipedia article" projects instead of just writing reports that no one but the teacher will ever see. hint hint to any teachers that are listening :)

4:03 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


You say, "I have no problem with taxes paying for kids to go to private schools, so long as we all agree that EVERY child is going to get to go to a really nice school, and if that means we have to raise taxes until we're Sweden, then so be it."

There are so many problems with these statements (as well as the rest of your argument), that I hardly know where to begin. I will not be able to address them all, by Ash Wednesday, so I will address some of them now, and then see you in about 6 weeks.

First of all, before you advocate a government that operates on the Swedish model (or worse, a government that has the potential to be a completely communist totalitarian dictatorship), would you do me the kindness of defining education? So many people feel that we need to pump more money into public education. "Education is not working? No problem! Give them more money!"

Hmmm.... So, are we rewarding failure?

Hmmm.... What is education?

You are indeed a collectivist. As much as you talk about liberty, you advocate institutionalized envy (socialism). I tend to define rights according to the classical liberal concept (which is a far cry from the modern collectivist liberal concept). Let me explain: All rights, by their very nature, imply obligations. For example, my right to life obligates everyone else not to murder me. My right to own the property obligates everyone else not to steal that property which I own. Now, I tend to define rights - as much as possible - in terms of negative obligations. Both examples above are examples of defining rights in terms of negative obligations. Those legal rights do not obligate anyone legally to take any positive action to make my life better. Certainly, I would invite anyone and everyone to take positive action to make my life better. I would be very thankful and appreciative.

But should laws be passed which force people to take positive action to serve me?

In some cases, yes. For example, the right to a fair and speedy trial implies positive obligations (because it takes time, money, a courthouse, a judge, a jury, etc). But I think that we should severely limit those cases. In general, rights should imply negative obligations - not positive obligations. In general, charity should not be legislated - unless you want to establish a theocracy - and that is a whole different ball game. But I get very nervous when a secular government starts institutionalizing charity, because it becomes institutionalized envy.

That is what this whole language of rights is from the collectivist viewpoint. Anyone who takes a basic class in economics should be able to recognize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But collectivists argue that they have the right to a "decent wage," implying that the rest of us have to make sacrifices in order to make sure that everyone else has a decent wage. And so, we all become slaves of the communist totalitarian state.

So, I reject the idea that people have the right to an education. Education is a kindness which parents have been commanded to extend to their children. Education is not a right that the state is obligated to provide to its citizens.

The responsibility needs to be put in parents' hands - not the state's. This does mean that children of bad parents are going to suffer. And that is a tragedy. But it is not the state's job to "minister" to bad parents and their children. It is the church's job to minister to bad parents and their children. God has granted this grace to the church, not the state. God has mandated that the state should make just laws and execute those just laws. The state could serve the community by cracking down hard on crime. Leave the social programs and the educational programs to the families and churches. Don't tax the families so hard that they have nothing left to give their families and churches.

See, no doubt you are thinking, "What if the church fails? What if families fail?" But God has given us great and precious promises. Everything hinges on those promises being fulfilled by God as God's people do things God's way. There is no "Plan B." If God is not faithful to His promises, then all is lost. But we need not worry. God is faithful.

More later....

9:54 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"before you advocate a government that operates on the Swedish model (or worse, a government that has the potential to be a completely communist totalitarian dictatorship), would you do me the kindness of defining education?"

Well-- I should say two things. One, I just threw out Sweden because they're the typical example people always use for a non-totalitarian Socialist nation. So, when I say Sweden, I'm using a quick-one-liner, not making a deep political statement. For all it's troubles, the US still seems, to me, to have the best system of government that I know of. A quick google search, for example, and I find that Sweden still has ceremonial monarchs, for example-- that's no way to go.

Second thing-- my 67th rant is that definitions are bad. We don't learn by definitions, we don't think by definitions. When you were a child trying to learn what a dog was, your mother didn't try to explicitly define for you what precisely made something a dog as opposed to being a cat or a horse. Instead, she pointed to a dog and exclaimed "Doggy!" and you got the idea.

Lots of things are almost impossible to define. As a famous supreme court justice once said (about pornography): "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it".

So what is education? I might throw out "Helping learning" as good starting point. But of course, our educational system does all kinds of other things that aren't education, not the least of which is babysitting.


"'Education is not working? No problem! Give them more money!'
So, are we rewarding failure?"

First of all, I strongly dispute the idea that the American educational system is a failure. I think all things being equal, even moderately funded schools are doing an incredible job.

My grandparents, and other people from the WWII generation LOVE to complain about young people today, and the schools in particular. But the face is, when they went to school, a high schooler was doing good if they could read, write, and do simple arithmetic. Throw in a little american history (half of which was mythical) and call it an education.

Nowadays, our schools have shot literacy rates almost as high as they possible could go. We're routinely teaching algebra to sixth-graders, and calculus to sophmores. High schools teach advanced physics, foreign languages, and high level composition. Not to mention that almost every young person is a frickin computer expert nowadays.

Don't get me wrong-- there's a bazillion thing still wrong-- but when you step back and look at it, american education is doing a truly incredible job.

So, it's not education itself has a problem or somehow "doesn't work"-- it's that its coverage is spotty-- high schools in violent areas that have no funding. I refuse to believe that the innner city blacks can't learn just as well as white suburbanites, if you just give them the same safe school staffed by equally qualified teachers.

Secondly-- even if the school systems were doing a bad job, that doesn't mean increasing their budgets is "rewarding failure"-- nobody wants to increase teacher salaries just to pay them more-- the whole point is to be able to FIRE the cruddy low-wage teachers and hire better ones. So, no-- that's not rewarding failure. Continuing to pay underqualified staffers no matter how bad a job they do-- that would be rewarding failure.


Despite the fact that I've used it as a debating point just within the last week, I'm actually a big opponent of the whole "Every right carries with it an equal reponsiblity".

It's not that I disagree with it totally, but it's a dangerous way to phrase things.

Because, it carries with it this hidden idea that if you can't live up to your responsibilities, you therefore are no longer entitled to your rights. This just isn't so-- the whole points of rights is they are things that should be respected no matter what. They're not just part of a social contract--- if you scratch my back by upholding your responsibilites, than I'll scratch your back by upholding my responsibilities. They're supposed to be something we respect no matter what.

I know this is a really subtle distinction, but I'm not just splitting hairs. The distinction comes up all the time. Death penalty for example-- we have the idea that a man who hasn't lived up to his responsbilities not to murder has, therefore, forfeited his own right to life. Or the idea that someone who's been accused of plotting against our nation no longer has any kind of rights-- no longer even the right not to be tortured. Or that a person who can no fulfill his responsiblities to work a job therefore no longer has a right to have basic medical help.

I think this totally confuses what a right is supposed to be in the first place. You should, within your abilities, work to support the rights of everyone, not just if they do the same, but even if they can't.

I have a definite problem with property. Things directly related to a person's life-- the room they spend most of their time in, their car or their ipod or their favorite blanket--- all these seem to me to fit with a very natural understanding of property. I think if we went to almost any human being in any civilization, they'd understand and agree to this sort of property.

But modern capitalism has invented all kinds of other property that I find hard to accept as an actual right. Some people "own" millions and millions of acres of land-- so many acres that they could never even visit it all. People "own" billions and billions of dollars in stocks-- so much stock that they could never in their entire lives go and visit all the subsidaries and the offices.

Right now, I can't go into a restaurant and have them sing "Happy Birthday" to me in a restaunt. They have to sing some other made up song instead of "Happy Birthday to You". If they could actually enforce the existing laws, we also would never be able to sing it at family parties. Why?

Because someone "owns" the "Happy Birthday to you" song. Two kindergarten teachers in 1893 came up with the song, but somewhere along the way someone bought the rights, and now, nobody's allowed to sign Happy Birthday without paying money to some giant corportation that somehow wound of up with copyrights. And if the stockholders who "own" that corporation ever wanted to listen to every song that they "own", it would take decades upon decade of constant listening to go through them all.

These are very weird ideas of property, and I don't respect them. I feel our society can allow this kind of property to exist, or not allow this kind of property to exist, depending on whether it's ultimately maximally beneficial to society as a whole. But "owning" so much that you own don't even know exist-- that's not an inalienable right, it's an illusion that we've all agreed to respect for the time being until we can figure out a better system.

Did you know that among the founding fathers, most also did not believe that property was a genuine "right". The phrase "Inalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" used to be "Life, Liberty, and Property". But the founding fathers didn't think property was a genuine right, and so they crossed it out and put in "Pursuit of Happiness".

A thousand years ago, kings and nobles insisted they had a divine right to be served and to be wealthy-- but nowadays, we can see how silly that is, and the world is better for it.

Two hundred years ago, whites insisted they had a divine right to be served by blacks-- but we can see how silly that is. And the world is better for it.

Now, the ridiculously wealthy insist they have a divine right to get whatever they want, while the rest of us work like bees to provide them with it-- think how better the world is going to be when we all realize how silly that is.

If socialism is institutionalize envy, surely our current form of capitalism is institutionalize greed. But is wanting everyone to have a doctor really just envious? Is wanting everyone to be able to go to a good school really envious?

Would you have called abolitionists "institualized envy" because they wanted the slaves to have of the same things whites did? Why then call socialists "insitutionalized envy" just because they want the people who were born poor to have some of the same things as those who were born rich?

"If God is not faithful to His promises, then all is lost. But we need not worry. God is faithful."

Tell that to the Jews. God supposedly made them all kinds of great promises about what a wonderful kingdom he'd give them-- and a lot of good those promises did when the assyrians came, and when the babylonians came, and when the persians came and when the egyptians came.

Some believe the promises didn't come true because the jews didn't live up to their end of the bargain. perhaps.

I tend to doubt that God's ever made any kind of promise for "this world". I don't particularly think "this world" is very important to God. Even if every word in the bible is true, I probably could count on a few dozen hands the number of times, throughout all of human history, God's directly intervened throughout human history.

God's got a larger plan-- that's fine. But whatever his motives, God's not going to build us a good school, end poverty, or get everyone a prescription drug plan. Maybe he'll guide us, maybe he'll inspire us, and maybe he'll save our souls after we're dead-- but in this world, it is up to us to solve these problems.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

There are all kinds of wonderful and great things that my organization (church - but we won't say that too loudly) can do with tax payer's money. So, why shouldn't your tax dollars go toward our noble cause? And don't ask me to define my terms or my noble cause. Defining terms is a really bad idea, because then terms would have definate meaning, and that might imply responsibility and consequences.

How do you spell secular tyranny? You are stealing my money and using it to promote an anti-Christian agenda (which public education does promote). Wherever Christ is not exalted, idols are exalted.

Just last night, I had a discussion with a good friend of mine who teaches in public school. She is a Christian. She has a parent-teacher conference this week with a family that is apparently Christian. She said, "Not that I can pray with them at the conference, but at least I know that they are Christian." I told her, "Sure you can pray with them." Well, this launched into a heated discussion concerning whether or not she can/should pray in a public school setting. The bottom line is that she is being too cowardly and selfish, and she is bowing down to the idolatry of secular humanism. She ended up very upset, but not repentant.

And you are the problem! You and the rest of godless America are putting intense pressure on Christian teachers throughout the land to teach the next generation the idolatrous religion of secular humanism with my tax dollars. Yet, you find it ironic and abhorrent that I should say that your money ought to be used to promote the Christian agenda. You have exalted your ideas over the Bible. You are provoking the wrath of Almighty God who owns all things - who is over all - who is the most wise Jehovah.

Do statesmen have the right to acknowledge the God of the Bible - in their role as statesmen? Do public school teachers have the right to acknowledge the God of the Bible as they teach?

Yes, not only the right, but the obligation. We are called to acknowledge, honor, respect, worship, praise, and love God with every fiber of our being. Anything less, and we are in idolatry. So, the law of the land demands that we bow down to idolatry. God has demanded that we confront idolatry. God has commanded: "I am the Lord your God... you shall have no other gods before me."

Education must be dedicated to the glory of God. If not, then let it be cursed.

And when Christ is lifted up, he will draw men to Himself. And that will solve all kinds of problems - including the problems of juvenile crime.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I would say that a right is a just claim. Would you agree? I mean this. If the government has the right to collect taxes from me, then they have a just claim on a portion of my income. If I have the right to life, then I can justly claim that I should not and must not be murdered. To be murdered would be a violation of my rights. In this sense, all rights imply obligations. Otherwise, the word "right" does not mean anything. If someone really has rights, then obligations really exist not to violate those rights. Obligations exist to honor the just claims that are made by the citizen.

To suggest that a right does not imply any obligations is to render meaningless the word "right."

So, then this becomes an issue of justice. I can claim that all your money belongs to me, but the claim gets no relief, because the claim is erroreneous - that is, justice says that I have no legitimate claim to your money.

So, then what is justice? Justice is that which is in accordance with God's will. Therefore, the only just government is a government which is submitted to God in all things. This is how I define authentic theocracy: a just government in submission to our just God.

I know you think justice exists outside of God, but it is a moot point because God is never unjust.

Socialists say that they have a just claim to the wealth of the rich. While I would say that the rich have an obligation to give cheerfully and sacrificially to the poor, I would deny that the poor have a just claim to the wealth of the rich on demand. But socialism is institutionalized envy. "The government owes me medical care and a 'decent' income and education and opportunity. In fact, the rich have no real rights to their own wealth. Their wealth is not really theirs; it belongs to the masses. The masses should vote on how rich individuals spend their wealth. And then we all become slaves of the state. Big brother uses our sacrifice and our tax dollars to brainwash us via public education. And don't you dare introduce a disruptive thing like prayer and the Bible into public education (something which shall remain undefined because not defining words is the secret to retaining power).

Thank God for his forebearance and mercy.

By the way, public education seems to be totally failing when it comes to informing students what a syllogism is and how to think. True, they offer geometry. But students are not taught to think logically (defining terms, making accurate statements, constructing arguments, identifying fallacies in arguments, etc). Of course, the powers that be in this nation would have a very big problem on their hands if an entire generation learned how to think logically. Especially, if they are taught to love God too.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

That is, except for geometry, students are not taught to think logically about subjects like history, social studies, biology, etc. Public education seems to focus on information and rhetoric - not logic.

2:56 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

What's so creepy about you Dan isn't your intolerance for people whose lifestyles and worldviews are incredibly different from your own. We all have difficulties being so fully understanding of people who are too far from our own culture.

But what's really scary is your intolerance of other christians who disagree with your own personal interpretation of christianity.

You dismiss other teachers doubts about prayer in schools by calling them cowards who are full of "deceitfulness in their heart". You've reduced them down to the simplicist, and insulting, idea that they are simply too selfish to give up their influencial positions by doing what you think God wants them to.

But do you ever, even for a second, think that maybe they have their own differing opinions on the matter and that maybe they're right.

Maybe it really isn't fair for jewish kids and muslim kids and agnostic kids to have Christianity force on them in a public school, and maybe the other teacher recognized that.

Maybe pushing religion down kids' throats isn't the best way to conver them, and maybe the other teacher recognized that.

Maybe God doesn't WANT public school teachers to turn the classroom into a pulpit.

And what it all boils down to is the most important lesson I feel any human being can ever learn which is:

You could be wrong.

I'll say it three times:

You could be wrong!
You could be wrong!
You could be wrong!

You could wrong about any of it. What exactly God wants, what exactly a teacher should do, whether salvation can be lost once gained or whether we should baptise babies or whether the earth is old and life evolved or whether homosexuality is wrong, or even.. even whether there's a god.

You could be wrong about any of it! So could I. So could anyone.

But the door to humility, that noblest of virtues, is through that simple little "postmodernesque" realization of Socrates's that you, yourself, could be wrong, and no matter whatever it is you believe, you don't _know_.

"That you could be wrong" IS why there's a Mystery of Faith to proclaim. Agnosticism is the beginning of all wisdom, but not the end. Without it, faith is meaningless, and I don't know if you have "faith" in the strictest sense of the world. You see, in this medium at least, so devoid of doubt that I don't feel you are "faithful" as much as you are just plain convinced, ya know?

I have ten toes. They're under my desk, so I can't see them right now, but I feel I have such much evidence in them that my belief in my ten toes doesn't really constitute faith, because I don't have any doubt about them at all.

So, my Lent hope for you is that you will come to find Doubt. Not self-crushing doubt, not world-shattering doubt, but just a teensy bit of doubt. Doubt enough to think maybe, just maybe, public school christian teachers aren't cowardly, but wise. Doubt enough to think maybe, just maybe, homosexual aren't bad, but loving. And if we're really dreaming here, doubt enough to think maybe, just maybe I'm not going to hell, I'm just a real bad mixture of smart and troubled.

So that's my hope for ya at some point. I said a prayer for you and everything.

I had to say one for someone I'm meeting next week, so as I was praying for her, I said one for you, that either you might find the doubt I feel you lack, or that I might lose the doubt I know I am burdened with. Or both. Made a sign of a cross and everything.

I sometimes feel guilty praying, since I clearly don't know what or if I'm praying to. Perhaps it's wrong and hypocritical. Perhaps it doesn't even count as prayer. But, every now and then, I do pray. To date, none of my prayers have ever come true, but perhaps I ask for the wrong things, and perhaps there are blessings all around me that I just don't see. But I long ago realized the point of prayer isn't to get what you want, it's to pray for it's own sake.

May you have an enligteningly Lent, Dan, and a joyous Easter.


5:52 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco, I appreciate your prayers.

God knows I need them.

The bottom line is this: We have been created to worship God. People who do not find their joy, purpose, life, peace, and first love in God will look for it elsewhere. They make an exchange.

I acknowledge that Christian public school teachers who have a "Trojan horse" idea might not be doing wrong. But I insist that if they ever sense the leading of the Holy Spirit to pray in the classroom or to preach in the classroom, then they need to be obedient.

So, I also say to you. When God reveals himself, it may be in a flash - like lightning. For a moment - perhaps a moment of prayer - you might get a glimpse of light - and then its gone. But, if in that moment, you sense God speak to you, then by the mercies and the grace of God, I encourage you to be radical in thoughtful and prayerful obedience.

I will not let you off so easy. The idea that defining terms is bad is ridiculous. Now, there are many different ways to define terms, and learning terms by the association of images, sights, sounds, smells, and feelings is a great way to define terms. Some people might know lexical, dictionary definitions really well, while being clueless about life experience. It is important to stay in touch with reality.

But to conclude that defining terms is bad is crazy talk. I will resist you stealing my money to advance "education" when you won't even extend to me the reasonable courtesy of defining education. That is ridiculous.

Or just give me a bunch of money for my own purposes. Just do it. Don't ask me to be clear about what the purpose is. Just give me the money, so I can use it as I see fit.

8:58 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Hehehe-- okay, okay. I can only get away with that "I don't define things" because I'm generally more of a philsopher than a politician or an administrator. Nobody's ever going to be giving me any money.

But, keeping in mind that I find it _very_ difficult to define things and that my first attempt will probably be picked apart in no time. Meanwhile, you try to define the color blue. Keeping in mind that I mean "the actual sensation of experiencing blue", not just "light of a particular wavelength", but actually the EXPERIENCE of blue.

So-- education: I'm going to go with "the process of aiding or assisting learning"

And learning, I'd very broadly define as: "the process of acquiring of knowledge or skills"

I was tempted to be difficult and use the old behaviorism definition of learning: "The effect of past experience changing future behavior", but that would just be too cruel.

Mine is a simplistic definition, a minimalist definition. I make no requirements on WHAT is being learned, no do I limit education to requiring a sentient educator. The world itself is often what aids in learning. I also make no value judgements on whether education is, inherently, good. My own personal view is that it probably is, but perhaps it really isn't. Maybe simplicity and ignorance ultimately lead to a happier life.

One of my all time favorite bible quotes, particularly when I'm feeling depressive, is from Ecclesiastes:

So I turned to consider wisdom, insanity, and ignorance.

I thought that wisdom is better than ignorance, just as light is better than darkness.

The wise man’s eyes are in his head,
But the fool walks in darkness.

But then I realize that ultimately, the same event happens to them both.

So I said to myself,

"What will ultimately happen to the fool is exact same thing that will ultimately happen to me.

So what then makes me so much better than him?”

Then I said to myself:
"Wisdom, too, is meaningless"

I'm not fully decided on this, and in any case, I enjoy learning so much, and already know so many upsetting things, that I can hardly stop myself now.

But I'm careful not to DEFINE education as a good thing. It probably is, and if I have to run the world and pick one or the other, I'm definitely picking education. But even though education may ultimately turn out to be a good thing that doesn't, ontologically speaking, make goodness INHERENTLY part of education.

If you're completely convinced education is inherently good, consider, prior to my experiences in education, I was a devoted christian who went to mass once a week and said a rosary every day. And it wasn't secular education that changed my mind, either. If it's all true, perhaps I will burn in hell for all eternity for my education, while had I died at eigth, i'd have gone to heaven....

Now, I should tell you that I when I was in college, I took one and only one 101 survey course, in philosophy. I despised 100 level courses, and amazingly that was the only one I ever had to take. And so, during that course, I ask and listened to a man drone on and on about what he personally thought Education was, while we all had to take notes and then be tested on his personal beliefs. As the professor was not, in fact, someone who was world-famous or even well known, and the opinions really were his own, not famous ones, I came out of the class not at all sure that the source had, in fact, qualified as legitimate education. But at the same time, I always had a sneaking suspicion that at some point that experience would come in handy, and this moment is now.

So, the first thing I learned from his is that he, like many educators, are big on the word "cultivation". Educators don't teach-- they "cultivate".

I oppose the word cultivate for several reasons-- for one, cultivate brings to mind the metaphor of teach as gardener and student as vegetable. I think the vegetable or plant metaphor is a particularly bad one-- it makes the educator the active element, and the student the passive element. My own personal experience has been that ALL education is ultimately self-taught. And educator may give you the books, he may tell you what to read, but ultimately, you're teaching yourself. So, i tend to shy away from the vegetable motif, and instead, I like Piaget's idea of every child as a "little scientist", both eager and able to go out into the world, conduct experiments and learn from it. I tend to learners as their own "mad scientists", and educators as the "hunchbacked lab assistants" whose job is to provide the children with requisite lab materials (brains and what not) and person some of the more menial chorse (turning on giant electrodes) so that the scientists won't have to be troubled by tasks and can instead focus on learning. Obviously, educators usually find the "cultivating gardener" role a tad more flattering than my "drooling hunchback".

The other thing you learn about philosophers of classical education is, you don't have to go too far before you bump into all this talk of "virtue", or if you happen to be an ancient greek, "arete". And lot of educators, (Dan included) define education to include a reference to virtue. I do no explicitly feel virtue is part of education.

For one-- I don't EXACTLY know what a virtue is. I'm a pseudosecular postmodernist-- i'm doing good if I can figure out that morality even exists (which, amazingly, I can). But virtue seems to be more than just morality-- thinking back to my roman catholic days and the Seven Cardinal Virtues (the counterpart to the Seven Deadly Sins. Sure, Generosity and Charity seem fine; Humility is borderline-- very important to have a tad. But Zeal? Moderation? Chastity? Meekness?

I mean, for fifteen hundred years, the best minds of europe thought about virtue, and they really want me to not eat too much, not enjoy sex, and be MEEK?

I might give you that there is ONE virtue, and that his "being moral" (where I would define moral first and foremost as "not hurting other people"). So, I'll give you one virtue. I might give you a second one, trying to make others happy. I might say that's part and parcel or morality, or I might not. I haven't decided, and I think about it alot.

But, I absolutely and utterly reject that Virtue can be taught. I'm not completely sure it can be learned-- when I look around me, at the people I've known and have watched grow up around, I feel like 95% of who they are now, they were already by the age of 3. In my experience, most people are either basically good or basically selfish (with the small possibility that there are some rare people are basically evil-- i'm not sure about that either).

But even if there ARE many virtues (above and beyond simple morality), and even if they CAN be learned, I utterly disagree that they can be taught. I can't think of a single instance in my life in which a teacher or an adult contributed to my own moral and psychological development in the way they intended. In catholic school, nuns tried hard to teach me certain virtures, and while I did learn a lot from them, the immediate lesson I learned was that christians are mean people (mind you, i've softened that stance quite a bit). Lots of teachers tried to teach me all kinds of things, and I can't think of a single instance where they directly succeed in somehow TALKING about a virtue and my developing that virtue as a direct result.

There's a Buddhist story that is so wonderfully appropriate, I have to tell it:

There was old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.

One day his only horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "How horrible," they said.

"Maybe ," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out and told him,"What a wonderful thing"

"Maybe," said the farmer.


"Teaching Virtue" is like that, I think. We can teach all we want, but the effect we're having is sometimes impossible to determine.

You're teaching your students to be good christians, you say. "Maybe", I reply.

You're teaching them to develop a love of the classics, you say. "Maybe", I reply.

In some cases, I'm sure your school does have those effects. In other cases, your school maybe have exactly the opposite effects.

Allow me to illustrate with a few examples from my own life:

A catholic nun spends all her days teaching her students to be good, moral christians by telling them about the joys of heaven and the perils of hell: Half her students are enchanted with her, and they wind up becoming catholics. Half her students are hurt by her harsh words and repeated threats of damnation, and wind up becoming atheists because of her.


A atheistic scientist teaches his student that they are nothing more than mere atoms-- some of his students see the inherent logic in his words and wind up becoming atheists because of him. Another student, heretofore a devout atheist, is terrified by the emptiness and loneliness of such a world view, and winds up seeking out spirituality because of it.


A professor from a prominent baptist university comes to lecture to a public school. He is apparently unaware of any laws requiring the seperation of church and state. He starts off ostensibly trying to dissuading students from doing drugs, but winds up preaching hellfire and damnation. He calls up some of the students and interrogates them about their lives and their morality. He calls one girl up on the stage and humiliates her, making her sob uncontrollably in front of the whole audience. A few of the child in the crowd cry silently to themselves.

In the audience, one student is deeply terrified by speakers warnings of hell, she talks to him after the assembly, and she ends up becoming a baptist. Another student is so offended by the display of cruelty that he (without talking to his parents or his teachers) takes it upon himself to file a civil rights violation complaint with the US Department of Education. A month later, the teacher who was supervising the assembly (and allowed the verbal abuse to continue) is fired. The student is validated his actions help effect change, and he resolves to try to fight that kind of hatred. Because of the baptist speaker, he becomes even less likely to become christian.


Perhaps most of all:

An eighth grade physics teacher tells his students over and over how important the science fair is, and how hard they should work at it, because they're having "Real scientists who are experts in psychology" come to judge the fair. He hopes this will teach them the value of science and of hard work.

But it turns out, the promised "experts in psychology" are just amateur parents who volunteered for the job.

One not-particularly-bright but diligent student presents his project "Are girls or boys better at multiplication tables?" The judges love his presentation, and they find it easy to determine what his "Independent and Dependent Variables" were. He wins first prize! and he goes to develop a love of science fairs, and spends his whole high school working on them, and he learns to value the hard work he put into them.

Another quite-bright student presents his project that he has worked months and months on: "A Multivariate Analysis of the Myers-Briggs Temperment Inventory Test Results of 400 Eighth-Grade Students Correlated with a Measure of Their Social Popularity".

The bright student works for months student includes college level mathematics, and personally wrote, administered, and scored four hundred tests, each several hundred questions long.

But, the "psychology experts" turn out to be mere parents-- parents who can't understand his science project, and write down on the review sheet "What's your Independent Variable??!" He gets honorable mention, losing out to such projects as "Are Girls or Boys Better at Multiplication Tables?", "Will Singing To My Plant Help It Grow?" and "What's the Best Way to Get Chewing Gum Out of Hair?" The student is so hurt and crushed by the results that he vows never to participate in a science fair again.

Years later, when he is forced to do a science project, he submits: "What is the Effect of Ignited Gasoline On the Growth of Plants" in which he takes an "experiemental" group of houseplants, pour gasoline on them, and sets them on fire-- noting that they grew much worse than the "control" group which were not burned by ignited gasoline. It is a stupid project. He spends a total of one hour on the whole thing. But it has an easily-identifiable independent variable. He gets honorable mention.


A philosophy professor lectures on how important classical education is to the cultivation of virtue. One student becomes convinced that this is right, and double majors in greek and education. Another student, listening to the very same words, becomes convinced that this particular professor (and only that professor mind you :) ), is talking in order to hear the sound of his own voice, and is merely a pompous fool who doesn't give a damn about his students-- they are just props to make him feel important. The student, who had been considering philosphy as a major, resolves never to take another class from that philsophy department ever again.

(Let me be clear-- I'm talking about my Phil 101 professor; his disrepect in class made him pompous, not his use of "cultivation" or "virtue")


These are the stories of just a few of the educational experiences that influenced my values.

In each case, there's no doubt that I learned a lot, and the experiences profoundly affected me. But in none of those cases did anyone have any clue what effect they would have on me.

In each case, there can be no doubt that "whatever you teach, you're teaching some kind of values", for indeed there is no doubt that in each of the cases, each of the students did "learn" something the teacher. But what the teacher was trying to teach, and what the students learned from the lesson are rarely the same thing.
As I've said elsewhere, I do believe that certain environments are more conducive to developing morality than others, and very very very broadly construed, maybe education can, in some cases, help result in people learning morality. So, virtue doesn't get into my definition, because virtue isn't easy to learn, and almost impossible to teach-- but I leave open the possiblity that in some cases, morality might, indirectly, by learned in the educational system. But I don't consider virtue "inherent" to education.


And at this point, I won't even try to hide the fact that I've looked at Dan's definition: "The Cultivation of Wisdom and Virtue"

So, let's talk about Wisdom. Unlike virtue, even I can't deny this exists. But here too, I'm skeptical that it can be taught. For there are many learned fools. And there are many uneducated wise men. Perhaps Wisdom is like height-- it's something you have to grow into naturally-- some people will become tall/wise, some will not.

But I'm more optimistic here. Perhaps wisdom can't be taught, but maybe education generally tends to contribute towards wisdom. Such that you can never directly TEACH wise, but teaching will help your students to become wise. I will think on this.

I suppose when all is said and done, I don't come out looking like a very big fan of education-- no matter how much funding I want it to have.

I could quote a speech my beloved father gave on the day I graduated college. He told me "I'm proud of you, because from the time you were five years old, education has never been easy for you, and you've never liked it. But you have always loved learning, and in the end, your passion for learning as overcome your difficulties with education".

When I started writing it, I didn't intend for this post to sum up quite so dramatically, but his words were very true. I don't think much of education-- but I think SO much of learning, that I can't help but like education along the way. Because while I deny that you can teach virtue, or that you can teach wisdom, education is still that noblest of profession-- trying to help people learn. And learning is such a wonderful thing, how can I keep from loving education?

1:30 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


I do not have time to give you a long response, but I appreciate all the thought you put into this.

The one thing that I noticed in several (if not in all) of your examples - to one degree or another - was the negative effect of hypocrisy.

You got turned off to classical education because your professor was a pompous ass. Now, I have to be careful here. I tend to be a pompous ass myself. I wonder how many of my students I am turning off to classical and Christian education - not to mention the students I may be turning off to a life committed to Jesus Christ.

Again, I think it would be beneficial to observe and meditate on Jesus' pedagogy. Whether He was the Son of God or not, it can hardly be argued that He was the most influential person ever to walk the planet.

Jesus was all about relationships. And he told people stories in parables. He confronted evil - and not just the evil of those "other people." He confronted the Pharisees and His own disciples. He called Peter Satan - apparently right after he told Peter, "Upon this rock, I will build my church." He showed mercy and grace to the adulteress woman. He insisted that His teachings needed to be put into practice and focused on producing fruit.

Now, it may also be worth pondering more about classical education. I'm not sure that when the word classical comes up that you and I have the same idea. I am thinking in particular about using the Trivium and the Quadrivium. But thoughts about this shall have to wait until later.

Have you ever read Dorothy Sayers' essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning." You can find it on the internet. In it, Sayers argues for a return to the Trivium - medieval style. Education is meant to teach students how to think and how to learn - so that they can learn all of their lives. Teaching students the facts of a bunch of subjects without teaching students how to learn other subjects and how to take yourself from a place of knowing less to knowing more is a failure of modern education. But to equip students with the tools of learning by utilizing the stages of the Trivium in accordance with the natural mental development of children should be a major focus of education.

I think that we are both crying out for purity. In your distrust of authority, you prefer to describe education as teachers being lab assitants and students being inquisitive scientists. There is some legitimacy to these thoughts. But since I believe that we (children included) are inherently sinful, then teachers must administer discipline - albeit in a humble manner which fosters relationship. And quite honestly, this is something that I suck at. Perhaps, I would be a better teacher if I viewed myself more as a lab assistant. I am certainly no better than my students. And if I am to have any positive effect on them, it will be because they trust me and respect me, which is something that I have to earn. I can't lord authority over them and expect that this will cause them to desire wisdom, virtue, or God.

The bottom line is that we all ought to love one another with pure, unselfish love.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Somehow, the first time I read your last post, in my haste, I missed the whole "writing about your own experiences." Man. I am sorry that you have had to deal with the injustices you have dealt with.

My goal as a teacher is to not get in the way of God. It sounds like if the judges (parents) of your science project had that in mind - and a tad of discernment - they would have commended your wonderful science project and encouraged you to pursue your God-given talents.

Education should be a place and a time for dreams to be fostered. It is entirely appropriate to celebrate the equality of the races by remembering, reading, even memorizing, and acting out MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech. Kids should be inspired in school.

Of course, this means that education must not be "neutral." To inspire kids to pursue justice is not neutral. It advances justice, not injustice.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


I am unsure of what I think about your experience of having a Baptist minister come into your school to preach the gospel. You obviously made it out to be a bad thing. You pressed charges and got a teacher fired.

So, were your actions just or unjust?

Well, anything that is not of faith is not just. Anything that is not of faith is sin. The time is coming when holy men of God will be put to death by people who think they are doing God a service.

You are not even pretending to serve God (although you would contend that you have some kind of commitment to justice).

It sounds like there was a revival in your high school. The gospel apparently was preached; teenagers cried; and some people were angered and took action against it.

If Jesus is held at an arm's length, then people can easily be deceived by foolish ideas of neutrality. But when Jesus invades, people are moved to either love Him or hate Him.

Since I was not at your school witnessing what actually happened, but only have one non-Christian source on what actually happened, then I can't really make a good judgment as to what went down.

But if someone had come to my high school to preach the gospel in the last two years of high school, I would have probably loved that. But I went to high school in Massachusetts. There is no way that my school would have let the gospel be preached. They were too busy preaching secular humanism.

3:35 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Yeah, I'm not completely sure I know all about Classical education in the sense you do. Using verbatim the old Trivium and the Quadrivium, I'm skeptical that the modern incarnations are really the same thing: I doubt astronomy is a really a full fourth of the Quadrivium, for example-- i'd expect that the terms are far more broadly construed, so that astronomy because science, arithematic and geometry becomes math. History and Government are missing from the formal list of the Quadrivium, but I'm sure your school probably teaches it, etc.

"Classical" education causes me have to mixed emotion. On the one hand, initially the classical education movement seemed to be the "liberal arts" of primary and secondary education-- moving beyond the abhorrnent "3 Rs". I hate the three Rs, because two out of the three Rs are a waste of time. "'riting" you'll recall isn't "composition" in the three Rs, but is penmanship, and I have no use for it. If you want to learn to be a caligrapher or to have beautiful handwriting, that's fine, but don't force everyone to do it. 'Rihtmatic is probably useful to have the very basics of, but we should remember that no one will ever do a 3 digit multiplication by hand ever again-- so sure, the gist of it is important, but doing thousands and thousands of problems to try to get "really fast" at it is useless.

So, on the one hand, I liked that classical education moved beyond the 3R.

On the other hand, there's a dangerous notion in "classical" that's scary. It's this backwards-looking thing, as if the ancients knew better than we about things. A book by a modern author is scoffed at as being inherently inferior to to something writting long ago. You see this a lot of Shakespeare fans-- the feel like shakespeare was THE greatest playright in history, and no one will ever be as good as him. Students, therefore, are often forced to read stuff from long long ago, because it's inherently "better" than things from the modern world.

(I'm not saying your school does that , mind you, it's just something that comes to mind when I think educators I've known who stress "The Classics")

To me, it's dangerous to think that "modern society has it all wrong". As our science illustrates, we don't. No one would ever teach a greek or medival science class, but yet, we're still tempted to teach literature and philosophy based on their formula.

But on the other hand, I get the feeling that Classical education has at it heart the idea that learning isn't just something we should do to make us employable, or fill us with knowledge. Rather, the process of learning somehow makes us "better" in some indefinable way. I whole-heartedly agree.

I doubt very seriously your students feel you are pompous. Partly because I know you look up to other educators who have blazed the trail of Classical Christian Education. Partly because you're so furvorently christian, and see yourself not as the savior of the world, but just as a servant of a higher power.

My professor was pompous because every word in the class was about him, either directly or indirectly. He spent one lecture talking about the anti-intellectual massacres in cambodia, and how these young punks had no respect for their teachers, and to me at least it was so insanely obvious he was talking about his own attitudes to all the students that had complained to hte department about him (but of course, he was chairman of the dept, so their complaints did no good).


Regarding the inicident where the baptist came to my school and lectured-- I should very clearly state that it wasn't a revival. A revival seems like a happpy thing. The people who went up on stage weren't volunteers, they were ordered up. The people who cried weren't happy, they were scared and sad. The speaker ridiculed specific individuals clothing. He interrogated them about their lifestyles. Almost everyone in the entire audience came away very upset.

Now, at least one person was either scared or touched enough that she found the experience a positive one. There may have been more. But, my problem wasn't just that he was christian, my problem was that he was abusive.

I went to school in the south, and they found a million ways to sneak christianity in. From the teacher who visibiliy and dramatically prayed during the moment of silence, to the principal who encouraged us to spend christmas break thinking about the true meaning of the holiday.

But, I never felt that was a huge wrong. After all, I don't mind kids being exposed to religion. The goal of the separation of church and state isn't to protect people from ever finding out that christianity exists. The point is to protect them from having religion forced onto them, and to protect them from religious persecution for being nonchristian.

So, those little tiny violations that they always found ways to sneak in didn't infuriate me. I don't mind people being christians, I mind them being bullies.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

On Classical Education:

There is a danger that I suppose some classical educators fall into when they think that some idea is great because it is old, while another idea is bad because it is new. However, it seems that most of the West nowadays think that everything modern and postmodern is great. Many in the modern world, in their ignorance and arrogance, look down their noses at the ancients as if all the ancients or mideivals were stupid and ignorant - and/or simply uneducated. It is scary, in our culture, that so many who consider themselves intelligent, do not even know the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

I encourage you to check out two books: Mere Christianity - by C.S. Lewis and Lewis Agonistes - by Louis Markos. Read them in that order.

Many of the ancients were not fools. They had a pedagogy that worked.

The Trivium is not simply Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. You can analyze an essay using grammar, logic, and rhetoric. That is not the Trivium. The Trivium is an educational scheme centered on the liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The educational scheme is the genus part of the definition.

Children are very good at memorizing and learning things by name. Therefore, we ought to cut with the grain. Kids are good at memorizing; we should give them all kinds of things to memorize: addition, subtraction, mulitiplication, and division tables, the 10 Commandments, Bible verses, major events and dates of history, parts of a sentence, Latin vocabulary, English vocabulary, biology organization (Kingdom, Phylus, class, etc..., genus, species), etc., etc. All of these are part of the grammar stage for various subjects. Multiplication tables are part of the grammar stage for math. Parts of a sentence is the grammar of language. Vocabulary is part of the grammar stage for that subject. Memorizing Bible verses is part of the grammar stage for Bible. Becoming familiar with events and dates of history is part of the grammar stage for history. The grammar stage gives the students a skeleton for a subject. The tools of learning developed in the grammar stage are observation and memory. Children are taught to think by singing, chanting, reciting, etc. Think about how you know the alphabet. I don't know about you, but I still need to run the little song through my head to figure out which letter comes where when I am arranging something in alphabetical order. Well, classical educators recognizes the usefulness of songs, chants, etc, and uses it not just for the ABC's, but for all kinds of things: learning the books of the Bible, learning about the digestive system, learning about the parts of a sentence, etc.

When kids get to be about 11 and 12 years old, they start to argue with their authorities. So, again, cutting with the grain, we classical educators figure, "Let's teach them how to argue." The student enters the logic phase, or the dialectic phase. In the grammar stages, students learned Who, What, When, Where. In the logic stage they learn that - but they add on How and Why. It is as if the grammar stage gave the students a skeleton, and in the logic stage, they start connecting everything together - adding flesh. Or, it is like the grammar stage supplies a set of points, and the logic stage connects the points together in a best fit curve.

So, now, in history, students think through how one event led to another event. Students learn to define terms, make accurate statements, recognize fallacies in arguments, construct valid arguments, etc. A formal course in logic is part of the curriculum in some schools, but really, in all subjects, there is an emphasis of critical thinking and reasoning.

Finally, in the rhetoric stage, students learn to synthesize and to express themselves. Rhetoric is the art of effective and persuasive communication. In the rhetoric stage, students take what they have learned in the grammar stage and logic stage, and put it all together. There is a lot of reading and writing in the rhetoric stage. The captstone of the rhetoric stage is a thesis paper and presentation. Students must choose a topic, write a persuasive paper on the topic, and present their paper in a speech before a panel of judges.

This is what I mean by classical education.

I will address your other concerns later.

10:17 PM  

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