Friday, May 29, 2009

A tool for the brain

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have become concerned about health issues . . . including mental health. (I haven't particularly been concerned about possible "going crazy" kind of mental health, but I have been concerned about mental function and memory-related mental health.)

A couple of Christmases ago, I bought a little Sega "Brain Trainer Advance[d]" toy.

I found the screen rather difficult to use. I also found that many of the memory exercises quickly went beyond my abilities--rather frustrating! So I quit using it.

Yesterday, our health insurer/provider, Kaiser Permanente, sent me an email:

It took me a while to load the Yahoo! Widgets tool, get it set up, and then add the Kaiser Brain Teaser widget. But it's pretty cool!

Most of the exercises have to do with sequences and correlations and verbal knowledge. But this morning I was stumped by a spatial puzzle:

I'll let you noodle on it for a while. . . .











Answer below . . .










Amazing stuff that's available for free online nowadays!

Get your Brain Teaser widget (including instructions) at Kaiser Permanente's widgets page.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Energy Cap and Trade

Today, when talking about cap and trade, Speaker Pelosi said: "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory . . . of how we are taking responsibility."

Why is that? Is it truly about concern for "the environment"? Or does it have to do with government power . . . and, perhaps, "enhanced revenue"?

"Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket," says President Obama in the following 1:28 video.

At least he's being honest. . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Whoa! Is Sonia Sotomayor going to make a great Supreme Court justice?

I listened to Obama's 4:12 announcement of Sonia Sotomayor as his candidate for Supreme Court justice to replace David Souter:

His reasoning sounded "too good." "There has to be a catch somewhere!" I thought.

So I went to Wikipedia to find out what else there is to know.

I was stunned at her decision on at least one "litmus test" case having to do with abortion:
In Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush [304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002)] Sotomayor upheld the Bush administration's implementation of the Mexico City Policy which requires foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds to "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations". Sotomayor held that the policy did not constitute a violation of equal protection, as the government "is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds" (Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush).
But I wonder: Will Democrats go for such a nominee?

ETA 5/27/09 6:40 AM: Interesting to discover she also served as a member of the board of the Maternity Center Association, rebranded in 2005 as Childbirth Connection, "Helping women and health professionals make informed maternity care decisions." --Is it possible we might have someone serve at one of the highest levels in the United States' judiciary who could be closely involved in issues related to reproductive rights, but/and who is not primarily focused on abortion (either pro or con)?

I'm astonished!

Childbirth Connection, does, however, seem to be somewhat interested in judicial activism. (I can't be sure. I'm not confident in my ability to make out the implications of Childbirth Connection's statement concerning The Rights of Childbearing Women. Whenever I see statements having to do with "entitlement," it makes me queasy. On the other hand, I read their Vision, Mission & Beliefs statement about the Cascade of Intervention in Childbirth, and I think, Yeah. Having a few clearly delineated legal rights in this area really wouldn't be a bad idea!)

I guess I'm saying, based on what little research I've done so far: I'm rather impressed with the nomination.

. . . But/and maybe, now, I'd better see what others have to say.

[On a relevant sidenote: Check out Stanley Fish's New York Times Opinion piece on Empathy and the law. And, as far as you can, the follow-up comments. Very interesting. (So far, I have read down to Comment #3.)]

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How our temperament affects our ability to perceive

Thanks to Daphne Gray-Grant's latest Power Writing newsletter, I came across The Atlantic's What Makes Us Happy? featured in the June issue.

Fascinating article about a longitudinal study begun in the mid-1940s of 268 "normal" male Harvard grads (primarily from the classes of 1942-1944--including four who would go on to run for the U.S. Senate; one who served in a presidential Cabinet, and one who became president (John F. Kennedy). There was a best-selling novelist, too. . . .

Clearly--and one could guess this simply by knowing they were Harvard grads!--these weren't "average" men. But the longitudinal study revealed--and is continuing to reveal--rather fascinating (and potentially depressing) facts about them.

One that hit me hard: "As early as 1948, 20 members of the group displayed severe psychiatric difficulties. By age 50, almost a third of the men had at one time or another met [the current study director, Dr. George Vaillant]’s criteria for mental illness."

But this is not the primary reason I'm telling you about the story. My primary objective is to share the following:
Vaillant says his hopeful temperament is best summed up by the story of a father who on Christmas Eve puts into one son’s stocking a fine gold watch, and into another son’s, a pile of horse manure. The next morning, the first boy comes to his father and says glumly, “Dad, I just don’t know what I’ll do with this watch. It’s so fragile. It could break.” The other boy runs to him and says, “Daddy! Daddy! Santa left me a pony, if only I can just find it!”
I've heard a version of this story before--though only about the son who got the horse manure.

I'd like to challenge you to think about how you view the things that come your way: Do you tend to see opportunity and possibilities? Or do you tend to see only the risks?

If the latter, may I suggest that you need to learn how to rebalance your perspective. The wise ones are correct: There really is opportunity all around. You "just" need to learn how to see it.

Oh, yes, you (and I) want to be fully aware of the risks. But after evaluating the risks and figuring out how to minimize their potential for damage, it really is good to pursue the opportunities.

That's my philosophy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My second most significant mentor died

I have wanted to write about this ever since I first heard it on Wednesday evening, just minutes after the event, but others have done a much better job.

Dr. Ralph Winter, who touched my life as . . .
. . . died on Wednesday evening, May 20th, at 9:05 Pacific Time.

I thought the obituary written by Dr. Winter's son-in-law, Darrell Dorr, summarized, in the shortest scope possible, a goodly portion of Dr. Winter's life's work and impact:
Ralph D. Winter, 1924 – 2009
Renowned Strategist Redirected Church’s Worldwide Mission Efforts

Recognized by TIME magazine in 2004 as one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals, Ralph D. Winter, a world-renowned scholar of Christian mission and the founder and creative activist in a wide range of mission initiatives, has died. He was 84.

Winter died Wednesday, May 20 at his home in Pasadena after a seven-year battle with multiple myeloma and after additional struggles with lymphoma since early February.

Many of the accomplishments of Ralph Winter’s long career as a missionary, mission professor and “mission engineer” stemmed from his conviction that Christian organizations accomplish more when they cooperate in strategic ways. It was at the Lausanne International Congress on World Evangelization in 1974 that Winter burst upon the world stage with innovative analysis and advocacy that have redirected evangelical mission energies ever since.

Born in 1924, Winter spent his boyhood years in South Pasadena and was nurtured in Christian faith by devout parents and membership at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. He pursued a degree in civil engineering at Caltech, an M.A. at Columbia University in teaching English as a second language, and a Ph.D. at Cornell University in structural linguistics, with a minor in cultural anthropology and mathematical statistics. While in seminary at Princeton, he served as a pastor of a rural New Jersey church.

He married Roberta Helm in 1951 while studying for his Ph.D. at Cornell. Roberta’s expert help in research, writing and editing, among many other gifts, made her a valuable partner to her husband from the time of his doctoral studies onward.

Ordained in 1956, Winter and his wife joined the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. They worked for ten years in Guatemala among the native Mayan people. Along with the development of 17 small businesses for bivocational pastoral students, Winter joined others to begin an innovative, non-residential approach to theological studies known as Theological Education by Extension (TEE), which has since been reproduced in countless mission contexts around the world.

Winter’s creativity with TEE and other initiatives caught the attention of Donald McGavran, who in 1966 invited Winter to join the faculty of the new School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA). Between 1966 and 1976 Winter taught more than a thousand missionaries, but he also claimed to learn much from his students. During these years he founded the William Carey Library, a specialized publisher and distributor of mission materials. He also co-founded the American Society of Missiology, helped in starting Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment (ACMC), and inaugurated what is now the Perspectives Study Program (first called the Summer Institute of International Studies).

Building on McGavran’s emphasis on people groups, and gleaning insights from his interaction with students and faculty, in July 1974 Winter presented a seminal address at Lausanne, Switzerland to the International Congress on World Evangelization, underscoring the necessity of pioneer, cross-cultural missionary outreach to thousands of “hidden peoples,” later more commonly known as “unreached peoples.” Winter’s statistics and careful reasoning stunned an audience (and their constituencies) that had previously assumed that “near-neighbor evangelism” by existing churches would be sufficient in world evangelization.

To facilitate creative outreach to unreached peoples, in 1976 Ralph and Roberta Winter founded the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM), and in 1977 the related William Carey International University">, on the former campus of Pasadena Nazarene College, mobilizing evangelicals to pay for the acquisition of the $15 million campus through a series of campaigns that culminated in 1988 and that emphasized mission vision more than fund-raising. A community of workers in Pasadena and other locations, now known as the Frontier Mission Fellowship (FMF), has developed to sustain an array of cooperative mission projects, and until two weeks before his death Winter served as General Director of the FMF.

John Piper, author of Desiring God and Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN), commented, “Ralph Winter was probably the most creative thinker I have ever known. On any topic you brought up, he would come at it in a way you never dreamed of. This meant that stalemates often became fresh starting points.” Likewise, Dale Kietzman, a professor at William Carey International University, noted, “He was constantly thinking outside the box. He did this to such an extent that you weren’t sure what the box was anymore.” C. Peter Wagner, a colleague at Fuller Seminary, has observed, “History will record Ralph Winter as one of the half-dozen men who did most to affect world evangelism in the twentieth century.”

At 84 Winter continued to work full-time, finding personal satisfaction in addressing a wide range of new challenges and perplexing questions. John Piper noted on his Weblog, “He did not waste his life, not even the last hours of it. He was busy dictating into the last days. He taught me long ago that the concept of ‘retirement’ is not in the Bible.” Greg Parsons of the USCWM observed, “He died with his boots on.”

Winter is preceded in death by his parents, Hugo H. Winter (a civil engineer recognized as “Mr. Freeway” for his leadership in the development of the Los Angeles freeway system) and Hazel Patterson Winter, and by his first wife of nearly 50 years, Roberta Helm Winter. He is survived by his second wife, Barbara; by his and Roberta’s four daughters (all of whom are active in Christian mission), Elizabeth Gill (Brad), Rebecca Lewis (Tim), Linda Dorr (Darrell), and Patricia Johnson (Todd); and by 14 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

He is also survived by his older brother, Paul H. Winter (Betty), a graduate of Caltech and a well-respected structural engineer; by his younger brother, David K. Winter (Helene), president of Westmont College in Santa Barbara for more than 25 years; and by nephews, nieces, and numerous friends and colleagues worldwide.

A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, at 3:00 p.m. at the Worship Center of Lake Avenue Church, 393 N. Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA. Details will be posted to the website of the U.S. Center for World Mission.
As Sarita and I were leaving staff at the U.S. Center for World Mission, I was given an exit interview.

One of the questions was, "What was the highlight of your time working here?"

"Oh, no question: Working with Dr. Winter." His passion for Jesus; his desire to do "whatever" needed to be done to finish the task of world evangelization; his unbelievably wide-ranging knowledge: they all impacted me deeply and made my time there absolutely fascinating.

My interviewer asked me another question immediately afterward: "What was the hardest thing about working here?"

Without hesitation, I answered, "No question: Working with Dr. Winter!" I "just" sensed that whatever I did, it was never good enough. I can never remember a time, while working for him, that he ever said, "Well done."

"Funny" (or perhaps not): despite the pain of working with and for him--the pain that eventually led me to resign from the Center--I always counted Dr. Winter as a friend and have often pondered what a privilege I have been granted to be able--as I did about once or twice a year throughout the years following my departure--to write to him about whatever "deep" thing was on my mind and to have him answer me, usually by email, but sometimes by phone.

Why me? To be able to say I had that kind of relationship with a person of such stature? Amazing!

I am so grateful to God for having permitted me the privilege of knowing this man!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Grill the ID Scientist

Thought I should make this known to as many as possible. I actually received this back on 5/12, but, obviously, I didn't pass it along.
Upcoming event:

"Grill the ID Scientist"
Tuesday, June 9
7 PM, University of Pittsburgh Campus (room TBA)

A network of scientists known as the Intelligent Design (ID) community continues to question basic tenets of Darwinism and origin-of-life scenarios. Not only are their views controversial in scientific circles; many in the evangelical world, who might be expected to embrace ID, are also not sold on the value of the ID program.

This event brings together a panel of scientists associated with the ID movement. After a short presentation, the bulk of the evening will be given to questions from the audience. This event is aimed primarily at researchers, graduate students and advanced undergrad students in the sciences. It is open to anyone, but participants must register in advance by sending email to David Snoke. In the event of limited seating, preference will be given to grad students and researchers in the life sciences.

Doug Axe, Biologic Institute (formerly of Cambridge University)
Michael Behe, Lehigh University
Ann Gauger, Biologic Institute
David Keller, University of New Mexico
John Sanford, Cornell University
+ others TBA

moderated by David Snoke, University of Pittsburgh
I'm bummed I'll have to miss it. I hope they will make recordings or transcripts available.

Friday, May 22, 2009

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part IV (The Principle of Relationships)

#10 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part III (The Principle of Individuality). First post in the series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.


The following content is Part IV (my divisions!) from Kevin Swanson's second speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision"--delivered on Friday, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from

The Educational Principle of Relationships

Swanson's father sent him a news clipping a few years ago.
My dad . . . [is the chief researcher] for my radio show which airs . . . at . . .

[T]his one [great little] story came in . . . about [a] family who was living in the inner city somewhere, and at some point, four years earlier, the dad--it was just the dad and a daughter--the dad just says, “I’ve got to get out of here; got to get out of these schools. It’s gonna ruin my daughter academically, character-wise. . . .”

So he just . . . goes and lives in the woods somewhere.

They live in the woods for four years, and the police just found them. They come in, and they test this 12-year-old girl. They give her the standardized test, and she tests out as a 12th-grade high school graduate. But here’s the clincher--here is the amazing thing. The curriculum--all the curriculum they had--was a Bible and a set of encyclopedias.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: I'm not sure what we are supposed to take away from this.
  1. Does he really mean that this girl had the true equivalent of a quality, 12th-grade education? She knew and understood high school algebra? Trigonometry? Biology? Chemistry? Physics? History? Music? . . . She had an appreciation for a full range of cultural heroes? She could comment intelligently on current events? . . .

    Was she really and truly a well-rounded person with the equivalent of an excellent (or, even, medium-quality) high school education?

    Or did the tests reveal, rather, that she was able, perhaps, to read on a 12th grade level? (I have no difficulty believing that.)

  2. Supposing this young woman actually did exhibit the knowledge of an average 12th-grade high school graduate: Is that level of achievement--average--all that the average homeschool parents desire for their children? (I doubt it. Though it sounds as if that is the aspirational level of Kevin Swanson for his children.)
  3. I am reminded of my comment, earlier today, about what we discussed last night with our daughter and son-in-law: about how Ralph Moody's mother had recognized the handicap under which her husband had labored due to his lack of book-learning. He was smart. He was skilled. He was a man of tremendous character. But his lack of academic training severely limited his ability in a number of areas.

    If our aspirations for our children are solely to become business-owning entrepreneurs (as it sounds as if Mr. Swanson wants for his son--and Mr. Swanson's son desires for himself), that is wonderful.

    But should the rest of us who have other aspirations for our children (or whose children have different aspirations for themselves): Should we simply lay these aside so we can fulfill Mr. Swanson's dreams?
It was around this time that we were at the CHEC conference. In fact, I had just gotten the story. We were at the CHEC conference, and my wife comes out of the vendor hall--which is like a lot of these huge conference vendor halls, where you have 150 vendors, and they’re all saying, "Buy my stuff. Buy my stuff. If you don’t buy my stuff, you’re giving your kids a sub-standard education."
Swanson overstates the case. I know of at least one vendor that has deliberately and studiously sought to avoid ever saying such a thing. Its name is Sonlight Curriculum.

Indeed, in order to reduce the pressure on potential buyers to "buy right now!", Sonlight doesn't even bring products to conventions that potential customers could walk away with.

Sorry to point out this overstatment on Swanson's part, but he pushed my button, and I figured I should protest.

My wife comes out and says, “Honey, shall I buy it all?”

Has that ever happened to any of you, where your wife goes, “Oh, what do I do? I've got to buy it all?”
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: No. And I know of no woman who would ever say such a thing.


I get the sense Swanson is speaking in a highly derogatory manner, here. Is he expressing disdain for his own wife?

I had just read the story [about the man and his daughter], and I said, “Honey, here’s what you need to do: blindfold me, and I will walk randomly into the hall, and I’ll find six things, and we’ll give them [recording is unclear, but I think he says "we'll give them back our math"--JAH].”

Why is that? See, we’ve been sold a bill of goods that it’s gonna take thousands of dollars--and this is, by the way, the way that you get the government foot in education, anyway. They come in and they say it takes a professional. No wait. It takes $10,000. "You’ve got to get this really, really nice curriculum. . . . Look at the cover. Come on, look at it, huh? You’ve got to get the satellite feed. You’ve got to get this. You’ve got to get some professional teachers coming over by satellites. It’ll work really good."

But there’s something else . . . that is so much more effective in the education of a child.

Why is it that you have moms and dads--just ordinary moms and dads--that take that lousy 50 percentile and jack it up 36 percentile points, to 86?1 How does that happen?

Does that happen because you’ve got experts out there who’ve been trained in four-year teaching colleges, by the millions, coming in and teaching your kids? No, they’re not experts.

Is it because they have the best curriculum? No, it’s not because they have the best curriculum.

What really clinched this for me was in the story, they interview the sheriff who investigated this case. He said what was incredible about the story was the unacceptable, impoverished conditions in which [the father and daughter] lived. They lived in this lean-to he had built next to a little creek, and it was really, really, really beat up. Sort of a rustic living. [The sheriff] said what was incredibly obvious was how unacceptable the living conditions were, but how close and loving a relationship they had.

You see, brothers, it’s the relationship that matters. That’s the core of it. That’s the heart of it.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: The heart of it?

Important? Yes! No question.

Will it make a difference? Absolutely. No doubt.

But that relationship, by itself, is the heart of education? I don't know!

Forget the curriculum. Forget the trivium, classical unit study--whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter. Just go randomly grab something, please. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have a four-year teaching certificate.

What matters is the relationship. What matters is focusing on what God considers to be the most important thing.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Again, I'm astonished that Swanson, the executive director and biggest public spokesperson for Christian Home Educators of Colorado can say such disdainful and unguarded comments about all the vendors who have ever gone into business to serve homeschooling parents.

But perhaps he reveals less about the majority of the vendors who come to his convention and more about people like himself, his buddy Doug Phillips, and their good friend Greg Harris, who all seem to delight in their ability to sell their wares as "non-profit ministries" to the homeschool audiences they gather.

I find myself unable to hold back from making another comment.

Swanson heaps contempt on the trivium, classical education, and so forth. None of these things matter, he says. "All you need," he seems to say, "is the Bible (and my four-book curriculum . . . and the other wonderful materials I have produced)."

But ignore his apparent exceptions reserved for the things he himself has produced (and for the other educational materials being sold directly by Christian Home Educators of Colorado?). [Interesting that this non-profit organization is going into direct competition with the companies that pay money to attend its conventions!]

I am struck--as I have noted before--that Swanson and Phillips and their pals are all very highly educated men. They have followed more than a haphazard, "pick anything" approach to "education." Swanson and Phillips and Baucham know their history. Yet they--and, here, Swanson in particular--pour contempt on everyone who would studiously attempt to follow such a path in order to prepare themselves for equal or even more effective service for the Kingdom. [Are these men, perhaps, concerned that others better than themselves might arise to take their places? --I find Swanson's and Phillips's negative comments about disciplined content-rich education particularly disturbing.]

But back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Swanson continues . . .

Now, when my wife came to me and said, “Honey, you’ve got to take this boy.” I really wasn’t sure what to do . . . because I work for a living. I’m a busy guy. Besides, for years I’ve been working to change the world. You guys have got to know the kind of guy I am.

Chris Klicka talked about the next generation being prepared to change the world. I was that next generation. I was ready to change the world. I ran for student body president at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I was active in pro-life and stuff. I was active in Republican politics. I ran for governor of Colorado in 1994, and I had a little, screaming little boy who kept trying to get in my way.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Interesting that Swanson could even aspire to run for governor of Colorado. What the-Bible-and-an-encyclopedia-only-and-no-college-educated person could possibly hope, seriously, to run for governor?
As I was writing my book, The Second Mayflower, on how to change the world, there were these little fingers coming under the door, trying to get at me. He was screaming and yelling, and I couldn’t concentrate on changing the world, . . . until I realized that changing the world had everything to do with two things: one, changing the life of one little boy, and changing the life of this little boy.

You know, that’s what it’s about, brothers. You’ve heard it already from Chris, and you’re gonna hear it again from me.

I was that guy. I was too busy for my boy. But God says, “Tag. You’re it, man.” Because I’m sitting here--I’m not trying to impose my particular regimen on all you guys, here. I’m not trying to do that. I’m just saying, here was a boy surrounded by five women all day long, and he needed a man in his life. He’s 11-years-old and--I see this among a lot of homeschooled boys--[he needs] a man in his life. I could see my wife trying to fix these issues, and maybe this metaphor will help. It came to me a while back. She was out there trying to frame a house with a little, tiny, 6-ounce hammer, going dink-dink-dink, dink-dink-dink-dink, trying to get that first nail in: dink-dink-dink. And I’m sitting here with an 80-psi nail gun, watching her, going, “Too bad for you. I’m sorry about you. Keep working, honey. Keep working. Oh, I feel bad for you.”

Guys, I have an 85-psi nail gun, where I could get into that little boy’s life, and I could do something. I just knew that I could.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: ????

What's this about his wife's little hammer and Swanson's supposed 80- or 85-psi nail gun? Why is he Mr. Big Bruiser and she has so little to offer?

Or does Swanson exhibit such swagger because he had been saddling her with the education of five children--by herself--and now, suddenly, he takes on the education of one?

Is he, suddenly, an expert on how to train boys because he has been doing some things with his one son?

His heart was crying out for me, and he had sins in his life that I had in my life.

I thought, “One and one makes two.” I put it together, and I knew that there was nobody--nobody on Planet Earth--not a pastor, not a youth group leader, not a Sunday school teacher, not a PE teacher--nobody on Planet Earth that could wade into this little boy’s life and do something for him like one man on Planet Earth. And that was me.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: I am so happy to hear he decided to fulfill some of his responsibility as a father.

Based on what I hear of many men, Swanson is by no means alone in his former neglect of his son. Each one of us fathers needs to consider how we should interact with our kids most effectively. I am sincerely grateful for Swanson to challenge us with this need to be involved in our kids'--and especially, if possible, our sons' lives.

So God called me to this and for the last five or six years, that’s what we’re doing. We travel together. We don’t really homeschool. We car school and we office school and conference-room school. And we come out here and we school. We’re just schooling all over the place. It’s kind of all mixed up. Everything’s sort of integrated together.

I’m not really sure how it’s gonna work out. It’s really crazy. We just try to catch a little math in the car from time to time.

A couple years ago, we were traveling down Road 98 near our house. It’s all dirt, where we live. So we’re down this dirt road. I’m doing typical 65 miles per hour. My son turns to me and says, “Dad, I’m having a hard time with this trinomial over here. Can you help me, here, with this trinomial?”

So I start working the problem on the gearshift. I forgot that I’m driving the car. So I look up, and suddenly, we’re coming right to 1721. I hit the brakes, going, “Aggghhh.” We stopped right there by the ditch, and we didn’t fall in the ditch, so everything’s fine. "Okay, so let’s finish this problem, now. Let’s work it." That’s pretty much the way our homeschooling works.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: And this is supposed to somehow show us how involved Swanson is in his son's life? That he "grabs a moment" from his otherwise busy life and almost kills the two of them while he works a problem with his son?


I don't want to be too hard on Swanson, but I think it is worth asking: How is this model that he holds out for "the rest of us" supposed to work for the dad who has a different vocation than does Swanson?

Besides being the executive director of CHEC, Swanson is an entrepreneur and a pastor. I can see how having one of your children tag along might work in many situations for such a person. But what if a dad works in aerospace, or in a manufacturing job, at a meatpacking plant, or elsewhere where there is no way a child will be permitted to tag along? Is Swanson going to tell such a man he has to give up his job because anything else is to disobey Deuteronomy 6:6-8?

He seems to imply No. He says, "I’m not trying to impose my particular regimen on all you guys, here. I’m not trying to do that."

And yet. And yet. He seems strongly to imply we really are in sin if we don't do it in the same way he does.

So what is such a man to do? Give up his job? Feel like he's a failure as a dad if he doesn't give up his job?

Or, forget the problems associated with a dad who won't give up a job for which he is suited and that pays the family's bills. What if a father has two or three or four son? Would the kind of on-the-go lifestyle Swanson seems to advocate work for such a father?

I don't think so. Even if he had a job that would allow so many sons to stay by their father's side.

Imagine a man in very much the same circumstances as Swanson himself. Suppose his son were not as . . . ummmm . . . quiescent as is Swanson's son? Could dad serve his son in the manner Swanson has found he is able to? I don't think so! . . .

Please don't misunderstand my purpose, here.

I think it is wonderful that Swanson has found a "solution" that meets his and his family's needs at this time. But while it is wonderful that he has found a "solution" that works for him and his son, I think it is not workable for many--perhaps most--others. And I believe Swanson should recognize that and perhaps tone down or shade the way he seems to speak of his unique situation as a model for everyone.

It’s kind of a mess, but my son’s in my life, and that’s what matters. He is sitting right there, on the front row of my life, and I need his heart.

In Proverbs Chapter 23, it says, “My Son, give me your heart. Come close and observe my ways.” See, he’s inviting his son into his life. He says, “Son, come on. Sit right here in my office. I want you sitting right across from me, so you can listen to me when I raise my voice in impatience, and then I’ve got to ask forgiveness, and then I’ve got to deal with this issue, and deal with that issue.”

You know what, guys? It’s difficult. There’s accountability between him and I, and the sins that I see in his life are the same sins in my life. I’m all ready to correct him, saying, “Son, you’re speaking to your sisters in an impatient tone of voice. That sarcasm has got to stop.”

And I think, “He’s using the same sarcasm that I used with him yesterday.”

See, it’s a very difficult thing when you invite relationships into your life, guys. We have protected ourselves from relationships, to a great extent. I think one of the reasons is because it does bring sin to the surface. When you walk into somebody’s life--you start working with somebody--you begin to take a vital interest in their life. You want to see their success. You want to see them grow in Christ. Then, you realize that you’ve got the same issues. Now, you’ve got to deal with yourself. God is working in you, as He is working in him. He sometimes uses the work in you to effect the work that goes on in him.

Sometimes I look at [my son] and I think to myself, “He’s really irritating me, right now. Do I really like him? 'Kevin, do you love this person, here? Do you love him? After just what he did--after the way he blew that--after his disobedience--do you love this boy?'”

Then, I hear another voice, “Hey, wait, wait, wait. Here’s another question: do you love Me? Do you love Me?” Then, I put it together and I understand that I do love You because You first loved me. Then He says, “Well then, love him. Love him with all his warts and foibles and his sins and all the stuff that I see in your life. I want you to love him the way that I loved you, and feel.”

Brothers, relationships is the real core of the education of a child. As I plead for his heart, I recognize there are a lot of competing forces that go for a son’s heart. This happens all the time. This is not an automatic thing, to have your son’s heart. Sometimes it’s there; sometimes it’s not. You have to pray for it. You have to ask for it, and you have to spend the time.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 10:18 PM: Good stuff.
I think it’s a matter of quantity time, not quality time. Shepherding boys--somebody once said--a friend of mine had six or seven boys. He said it’s like duck hunting. You spend about three hours behind the blind for about 30 seconds of action. That’s kind of the way it is. You just hang out together, and you hang out together for hours upon hours upon hours, and then you get 30 seconds of action. You get a real good conversation, and you’ve got his heart.
ETA on 5/22/09 at 9:45 PM: Maybe.

--I liked this illustration, though, enough to blog it on Strategic Inheritance. I think there is a lot of truth there. Guys are not as prone to open, deep, soul-baring conversations as are girls and women (one of the reasons, in general, that I seem to prefer talking with women).

The world is after him. In fact, the Proverbs talk about binding the commandments of God around your neck and your wrist--taking the commandments of your father and tying them around your wrist. When it refers to the commandments of God, we know what that refers to. When it refers to the commandments of a father, brothers, it ultimately is the applications of a father. It’s the way the father incarnates and applies the Word of God to his family.

So what we learn, from our fathers, is a biblical application or enculturation of the commandments of God.

Let’s say there’s a son who says, “Dad, you talk about respect; you talk about honor. I’m with you there, Dad, but I don’t agree when you say I’ve got to say Yes, Sir or No, Sir. I’m not gonna tuck in my shirt at the table. I’m not gonna wear clothes that are clean and are presentable and respectful to my parents or to others. I’m just not gonna do that, because I don’t see anything in the Word of God about tucking in your shirt. Jesus never tucked in His shirt. They don’t have a Yes, Sir or No, Sir in the Bible, here. Dad, come on, you’re being legalistic with me.”

Okay. Your son gets all lawyer-like with you like that.

It’s because he doesn’t understand what the Proverbs are saying. When the Proverb says, Take the approaches, the dress, the attitudes, the perspectives, the language that your parents have incorporated, in order to apply the Word of God--in order to, as best as they can, express honor for others and for the parents--you just incorporate those into your own life. You tie those commandments around your neck and you walk in your parents’ ways, to the extent that they have, to the best of their ability, tried to bring about the commandments of God in their lives.

Now, as our sons honor us, and honor these applications--honor our culture--they will stand upon our shoulders. Now, if they dishonor, they will cut us off at the knees, and they will destroy the culture. So this is what we’re trying to do as we teach our children, as we are discipling our sons in the ways of God, and trying to apply the ways of God in our children’s lives.

Now, the last thing I have learned about these relationships is that I’m teaching my son how to live. My son is on the front-row of my life. He’s understanding the issues that I’m dealing with. He’s right there, and it’s hard, sometimes, to be transparent because if you’re transparent, and you’ve got a guy sitting at the front-row of your life, you’re gonna have to start stripping off layers of hypocrisy. You’re gonna have to start confessing your sins, in a humble sense, to your own son.

As we get older--as our sons get older, and they start walking beside us--we have to increase that transparency with our own sons. That’s difficult, and that’s a tug at my heart. That’s calling for humbling myself before my own son. But see, I don’t want to deal with his sins anymore, either. I want him to deal with his own sins.

When he was very young, he was behind me. I was fighting his battles for him. Now, he’s right beside me. I’ve invited him right beside me, and I see him battle. I can look at him across the entire room, and look in my son’s eyes, and tell when he’s battling with a sin; I know him that well. When he’s got pride in his life--I’ve been discipling him for six years; I can smell pride at 40 feet. I can tell when he’s got some selfish issues. I can tell when he’s starting to get this sin or that sin creeping up on him. I say, “Son, I want you fighting in this war. I want you engaged in the battle.” I hand him the sword, and he takes it, and I say, “Son, you stab it. Come on; bring the Word of God to bear. I want to see some blood on that sword. You’ve seen blood on my sword. You’ve seen me confess my sins. I want you to humble yourself, and I want you to start cutting out flesh, right there, right here. Let’s get on our knees, and let’s pray to God, that He would help us in this battle."

"Oh, God, help us” -- my son will pray in tears. “Oh, God, help me to overcome these things.”

Brothers, when you are in this kind of discipling relationship, you know that the stakes are higher.

I think somebody once said if you’re gonna teach somebody else’s children, you hardly ever raise your voice; you’re not getting angry. But somehow, you invite your own children into your life, and before you know it, you’re raising your voice. You’re getting upset. Sometimes, that’s anger, and sometimes, that’s just passion because you are impassioned that this child learn how not to be a scoffer as she studies her Algebra. You are intense. You want to see victory over these sins. You know what’s at stake.

Your heart is wrapped around that child because you’ve been walking with that child for the last 6 or 7 years, or 12 or 13 years.

So, brothers, there are times when you hit the wall; when you just hit the wall. We have corrected this sin for 478 times, and here we are, right together again; we’re correcting this child, on this sin, again. After all of these years that we’ve been working on it, here we are again, and that child turns to me and says, “Daddy, I can’t be good. I can’t be good.”

At that point, what do we say? "Yes! You got it! You can’t be good. Speak into the microphone. You can’t be good. Everybody, she can’t be good. But I know Somebody who can help you, there, and that is Jesus."

But what do you say, when they come to you and say, “Daddy, I don’t want to be good”? What do you say then? "O, God--O, God, help us now. There’s nothing I can do."

Brothers, we’ve got to come to the end of ourselves in the education of our children.


I started with the question: are you qualified for educating your children? Are you qualified? Well, what do the experts say? The experts said, “Unqualified persons should not perform brain surgery, and they shouldn’t try to teach children.”

I agree.

But we’re not performing brain surgery. We’re performing heart surgery, and nobody’s qualified for that. Amen?

This, my friends, is why what you’re doing is impossible.
Once more--though I, personally, would probably speak to my kids using language that's a bit more direct than Swanson's metaphorical references to the Bible as the sword of the Spirit with which we need to "stab" sins--I sense Swanson is "right on" in his analysis, here. And he has a message, I'm afraid, too many fathers (including this one!) really need to take to heart.

1 Swanson says the 50th percentile is "lousy." It is not. It is simply what it is: it is the mathematical average of all samples in the (large) group of American students. Period. Exactly the mid-point. 50% of all participants score lower and 50% score higher.

Now. Any smaller group may enjoy a mid-point/average that is lower, higher, or the same as the larger/national average. In the case of homeschoolers, it seems, the average trends high, indeed, significantly high--as Swanson says, by an average of about 36%--so that homeschoolers' 50th percentile is the equivalent of the 86th percentile for all students who take these exams in the United States as a whole . . . and the improved averages are consistent across socio-economic, racial, and other factors. Return to text.

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part III (The Principle of Individuality)

#9 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part II (Keep the PURPOSE in Mind). First post in the series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.


The following content is Part III (my divisions!) from Kevin Swanson's second speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision"--delivered on Friday, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from

Having stressed the need for education to have practical implications, Swanson moved on to what he called the "Principle of Liberty" or "Principle of Individuality":
The Word of God says, “If the Son shall make you free, you will be free, indeed.” [John 8:36 --JAH] . . .

Guys, . . . [t]here is nowhere in the Word of God where we read a 12-year-old has got to be reading Aristotle. There is nowhere in the Word of God where it says a 13-year-old has got to be able to read.

Parents that come to me and say, “Oh, Mr. Swanson, my little Joey is 9 years old, and he can’t read, and we have been bolting him to a desk, like the Department of Education tells us to, four compulsory hours, every single day, for 172 days out of every year, and he just sits there and he vibrates. He’s got ADD and ADHD and ABD – American Boy Disease – and everything else. What do I do?”

I say, “Here’s what you do: when that little boy is young, you just let him go out and plow the fields with dad all day long. Let him fish for an hour in the afternoon. He can come home; you read to him a little bit and put him to bed. Do that until he’s 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-years old. And don’t give him any television, whatsoever. And don’t give him any of those drugs.

"You come back to me when he’s 13-14 years old, and we’ll talk about whether he’s ready to learn how to read.”

Okay, now. Is there anybody in this room, right now, that says, “Oh, that’s illegal! Oh, the Department of Education’s gonna come after us, now!”?

No, brothers – if the Son will make you free, you will be free, indeed.

You are the parent, here. You are the father and the mother. There’s nobody who knows that child and loves that child more than you do. So if you come to me and you say, “My little boy can’t read. He’s not ready to read until he’s 13. Yes, his little sister’s reading at 3." --I say, “Great! Big deal about the little sister; that’s the way it is for her. She’s got gifts and talents and abilities that God has given her, and that’s just fine.”

See, my daughter, Emily, is a zero at math. And it was frustrating for me. At first, I was really getting all tight inside because she was slipping behind. Being as I like math and all . . . she was not performing. And I was getting pretty stressed about it.

We left Saxon Math in the dust, and we went with Math-U-See. We have the little block things, and you put the little block things together, and you can feel them and touch them.

That didn’t do any good.

Then we had her in CalcuLadders for a while, where the CalcuLadders – you just keep repeating it over and over again: "3+3=6. 1+1=2. . . ."

"It doesn’t matter what it means, just say, '1+1=2.' Just memorize that. . . . Whenever you see a one and one together, do something like this."

We worked on that for a while. And then, after a while, just out of the blue, Emily gets it. Just out of the blue. I don’t know how she got it; she just got it.

What I found is that children do not learn on a nice neat little line like this. Some learn like this. Some learn like this. Some learn like this. Some don’t learn anything for 14 years, and [then suddenly] they pick it up.

And some are like Rebecca, just the other day.

Rebecca has learned math very nicely, and then, my wife came to me and says, “Rebecca, yesterday, forgot everything she’s ever learned. Five years, gone.”

I said, “Well, just start over again, I guess. We’ll go back to one. It’s okay.”

Then, a couple weeks later, she picks it up.

It’s just the way it works.

Every child is completely different, guys. . . .

My little Rebecca Joy . . . My other kids are way ahead in some of their subjects (whatever ahead means). But on the standardized tests . . . In Colorado, we’ve got to take the standardized tests.

My older children were doing the 95s and 99s, and Rebecca Joy comes along, and she does the 56s. Of course, I’m Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado. I want to do something for the average.

You heard about Brian Ray’s study. You know, [homeschoolers a]re at the 86th percentile, and right now, [Rebecca Joy] has taken our average down to, like, 72. So, "Come on! Let’s go!"

I was concerned about this, but see, Rebecca Joy is just completely different from the other children. She’s just a very artsy person. She walks like this. She’s got a style to everything. She does dishes in an artsy sort of way, with her fingers up and stuff. It usually takes a little more time, but she’s got to do it artistically. It’s got to be right.

I’m watching her doing the standardized test. One year, I’m coming to her – she’s doing the fifth grade – and I’m coming to her. I say, “Okay, now I’m gonna watch and see how this happens.” Well, she’s doing this test, and she is – before she gets on with things, she’s got to do these little drawings on the margins of the tests. I’m sitting there going, “Honey, this is a timed test. Can’t we get on with things, here?” But she has to make it very pretty first.

That’s just the way she is. And you can’t rush her through these things, otherwise she gets all tight inside.

So we’d send the tests in for grading, and, do you know: they don’t actually even bother looking at the margins of the tests? The machines just kind of [ignore that kind of stuff].

Ask yourself: Is that fair? Is that right? My little girl, Rebecca Joy, has been so blessed by God with these talents, gifts and abilities, and these machines are not looking at her drawings! I just think that’s wrong. We ought to be respecting the talents and abilities that God has given.

By the way, at one point I was gloating over my son’s – he had the 99. He got the 99, and I’m saying, "Too bad they didn’t give us the decimal point – could have [come out as] 99.99 or something."

My wife, she nails it. She says, “Yeah, but you notice that they didn’t give him a mark on character, there, anywhere.”

What did we just say was preeminent in the education of a child, per God? Does anybody remember that far back? I think it was something to do with character, right? Isn’t that right?

Where are our priorities? What are we doing?

See, we have the wrong system, here. We have the wrong system.

You know that it’s parents that know and love their children the best, normatively. So I think it makes perfect sense why God has established the paideia of a child, and placed that child in the hands of parents. Moreover, the Principle of Relationships, I think, is the key issue, here.
--We'll continue on the theme of the Principle of Relationships in my next post in this series.

Once more: I think this is great content, good stuff we need to pay attention to.

I'm not sure I want to encourage parents to ignore all academic education for their "ADD, ADHD, ABD" sons until they are young teens. But, even there, I think Swanson is offering a useful counterbalancing/antidote to the extreme pro-academic perspective too often advocated in our world today.

Just last night, as we have been doing rather frequently lately, when our daughter and son-in-law came over, we read a few more chapters in Ralph Moody's astonishingly wonderful autobiographical Little Britches series of books.

We stopped at a certain point. Ralph's father dies in the first volume and we are halfway through volume 2. It seems a number of men in the community were smitten by Mrs. Moody. "So why is she so uninterested in them?"--the question seemed to hang in the air.

An interesting question. The men were all successful in their own ways. But none of them were educated (we're talking "book learning"). "Book learning" is obviously a high priority for Ralph's mom. (She won't let him drop out of school at 11 years old, though that would have been his preference and it was still legal in Colorado back in 1910 when this story takes place.)

"But Ralph's dad hadn't graduated from high school . . . "


So we talked about it.

Mrs. Moody was clearly not looking merely for a "successful" man--someone who could make lots of money and provide a (physically) comfortable life for her and her children. She wanted a man of high character.

And Mr. Moody--Ralph's father--had obviously been such a man. Maybe not school-educated. But he was smart and he had good character.

So she had married him.

But she had also recognized the handicap under which he had labored due to his lack of education.

So. My point: I agree with Mrs. Moody of a hundred years ago that I prefer character over book learning. But, frankly (honestly), I'd prefer both.

I wanted both in my wife.

If I were a woman, I would want both in the man who would be my husband.


Back to the primary subject of Swanson's speech, however: I agree with him: Parents (and other educators) need to concentrate on their children's (or students') unique, individual characteristics and pay less attention to whatever "the norm" is. Find your kids' strengths and maximize them rather than seeking to make them conform to the way "everyone else" is.


One last comment.

For what it's worth.

This comes from something I learned from Dan Sullivan in his Strategic Coach program program. It's explained rather thoroughly in the book Unique Ability and developed also in Now, Discover Your Strengths.

Basic idea: You don't have to become "good" or even "excellent" at the things where you lack natural ability. Indeed, you will waste a lot of time and energy (both physical and emotional) if you concentrate on improving your abilities in areas of weakness. Rather, you need to find ways to "manage around" your weaknesses so you can concentrate on your strengths to use them and make them stronger. Concentrate on your unique abilities rather than your myriad weaknesses.

--If everyone concentrated on maximizing their ability to use their strengths (what Christians might call "gifts"), the world would be a better place, indeed.

--For a little more on this last theme, see my post on the Strategic Inheritance blog titled Family wealth, unique abilities, and personal resumés and/or my post, right here on John's Corner, titled Strengths & Talents: Finding one's life mission or purpose.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part IV (The Principle of Relationships).

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part II (Keep the PURPOSE in Mind)

#8 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part I (Character in Academics). First post in the series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.


The following content is Part II (my divisions!) from Kevin Swanson's second speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision"--delivered on Friday, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from

Swanson spoke about the need to apply the knowledge one learns. Academic training ought to issue forth not merely in head knowledge, but practical knowledge. Thus,
[D]oing . . . is essential. In fact, brothers, if you guys are sitting through two or three days of these talks, and you guys are just absorbing a few things, but you’re not gonna go out there and do anything, you might as well have not have come to this conference. It’s just the way it works. It’s the way it works with the preaching of the Word of God. It’s the way it works with education; with knowledge and wisdom of any sorts, whatsoever. If we’re not doers of the Word, we’re wasting our time. What happens in education is you get, again, this very, very distinct separation from the inculcation of knowledge and the application of it.

We see this again and again, and this really came home to us one night. . . . We’re going to bed – the kids have been in bed for an hour – and [my wife i]s going, “Emily forgot to do her grammar today!” Kinda this panic thing. “What are we gonna do? The Department of Education’s gonna come and get us.”

I kinda got into the flurry of the whole thing for a minute or two. I said, “Well, let’s just get Emily out of bed and we’ll work –” which was kind of a stupid idea, on the outset. Then, sort of some better sense came back, and I said, “What was Emily doing all day, if she wasn’t doing her grammar?” She was doing something. It was at the time where Emily was writing a lot of letters.

My wife comes back: “She was writing a letter to grandma.”

She was writing a letter to grandma. That’s why she didn’t do her grammar today. She was writing a letter to grandma.

It was a three-page, single-spaced type [letter]. For a 9-year-old, that’s not bad, right? But she was writing the chronicles of the Swanson life, which is actually – turned out to be a little bit embarrassing because she liked to go through everything that happened in our house. But she was writing this letter to grandma.

So before we got everybody out of bed, I said, “Okay, stop. Stop. Why do we do grammar?” It’s one of those questions, right, that comes to your mind, occasionally. Not very often, but occasionally, you get the obvious question: "Why do we do grammar?"

Is it so that when you’re 25 years old, you get out of bed and say, “Oh, it’s time to do grammar, today. I’ve prepared, all my life, to do some grammar”? No.

The reason you study grammar is so that you can write letters to grandma. Duh.

But see, in our minds, we have so separated these things, brothers. It’s like we’re learning how to ride a bike by "taking Bike" for 12 years. We have Bike 101, Bike 102, Bike Accident Recovery Workshop, Bike Metallurgy, Bike Statics, Bike Dynamics. We get all the Bike, and yet, for 12 years, we’ve never really gotten on the bike.

When, a thousand years ago, we took education out of the real-life situation of family and church and business, and we put it on a sterile little island out here in the middle of nowhere called schools, where teachers teach, and where people say, “If you can’t work, teach. If you can’t teach, write a textbook,” and where, when you graduate, A students wind up teaching on the island, and B students wind up working for C students. You see, this is something fundamentally wrong with education. It’s fundamentally wrong.

We’ve got to bring the knowing and the doing together – the knowledge and the faith and the character into the academics of the education of our children, and teach them the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.

I think it begins with worship in the classroom – the worship of the living God in the classroom.

I'm not exactly sure what he means or where he intended to go with that last sentence. (He didn't follow up on it. He immediately transitioned to another topic.)

I agree, we want to worship God--indeed, we want to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to the LORD, which is, we are told, spiritual [or rational/reasonable] worship (Romans 12:1). We want to "love the LORD [our] God with all [our] heart and soul and mind and strength" (Mark 12:30). We want to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). "In everything," we want to "give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So, no question, since education, too, falls under life (offering bodies as living sacrifices) and has something to do with our hearts and souls and minds (and, possibly, strength); and since we don't want to cease praying or fail to give thanks in education anymore than in anything else: then I absolutely agree that worship is--or ought to be--integral to our educational regimen. May that be.

I "simply" don't understand why Swanson seemed to "throw in" that last comment at the end of his discussion of (what I thought was his bigger thematic element) the idea--as best as I could understand his point--that our educational program needs to seek practical application and not mere theoretical understanding.

I believe it can be very helpful to have the theoretical understanding. But, ultimately, the theory must give way to application.

Good stuff, it seems to me!

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part III (The Principle of Individuality).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Slow . . . or swift?

I've been enjoying my "through-the-Bible-in-a-year" reading program.

Early on, I got four days ahead of the pace. Sometime, recently, after a missed a few days and almost fell behind, I actually sped up and, as of this morning, finished the reading scheduled for May 27th. --I say all that in case you happen to be following a similar program and wonder why I would be reading in Psalms already. . . .

I titled this post as I did not to reference how slowly or swiftly I've been reading, but, rather, to notice Psalm 2:12:
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry . . . for his wrath is quickly kindled.

I thought:
Now, wait a second! Aren't we supposed to be "slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19)? . . . And, actually [once I looked up the phrase slow to anger on BlueLetterBible, I was reminded . . . ], "slow to anger" is one of God's fundamental characteristics according to Exodus 34:6-7 where God proclaims His Name to Moses:
[YHWH--Jehovah] passed before him and proclaimed, "[YHWH], [YHWH], a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."


So which is it? And/or, how are we supposed to understand these passages? Is David (or whoever the psalmist is) saying something by which we are supposed to understand we should be taught, or is he "merely" expressing a personal opinion? (I assume, when we have Moses actually quoting God, we ought to consider that portion of Scripture definitive.)
In sum, then: How should we interpret these passages when they at least appear to be in conflict one with the other?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha Computation Knowledge Engine

I heard a hint about this potential "competitor" to Google in a 10-second spot about a program that was supposed to air last Friday on NPR.

I never heard the program, but was reminded to look up "Alpha" (or was it going to be "Alfa"?) and "search engine" on Google.

Sure enough: That's right: Wolfram|Alpha--or WolframAlpha!

I don't see why NPR wanted to correlate it with--or against--Google. It seems to have a very different purpose: it doesn't do searches; instead, it does amazing calculations and manipulations of data.

Check it out. And see what it does by trying some of the "few things to try" over on the right-hand side of the page.

I tried it with my birthday, my current hometown, and some of the other raw suggestions they suggest (including some on the "more" page--like "1 apple + 2 oranges" . . . and some alternatives, that didn't work).

It seems rather limited at the moment, and not everything seems to be working. (Their introductory video, for example, isn't working as I write this.)

I don't have any burning uses for this engine quite yet. But I can see how it might prove very valuable for a number of scholars!

For more information, check out their FAQ page.

The potential is great, but we'll have to see how things pan out in the future!

I feel the need to update in a new post

I hate being scammed!

It appears the story about Ashton Lundeby I featured on Saturday falsely charges the federal government with malfeasance in his arrest.

Wired online tells the bigger story. (Important background detail: "[Mrs.] Lundeby confirmed that her son was known online as 'Tyrone,' a celebrity in a prank-calling community that grew late last year out of the trouble-making '/b/' board on 4chan."

And with that, now, you can understand "the rest of the story":
A former fan of Tyrone’s work helped lead the police to Lundeby’s son after the boy allegedly moved beyond pranks this year and began accepting donations from students eager to miss a day of school. In exchange for a little money, Tyrone would allegedly phone in a bomb threat that would shutter the donor’s school for a day.

“People would pay about five dollars, and they get to submit a number,” says Jason Bennett, a 19-year-old college student in Syndey, Australia. “It was getting way out of hand.”

Lundeby admits that her son received donations for his prank phone calls, but denies that he made bomb threats. She says her son was with her, coming home from church, at the time of the February 15 phone call that summoned a bomb squad and evacuated the mechanical engineering building at Purdue University in Indiana.
Something else bothers me about this story: Ashton/Tyrone is identified as a homeschooled kid! And while it is unclear whether his mother was fully aware of his bomb threats, she clearly was aware of his crude prank calling . . . and didn't seem bothered enough to take his calling privileges away.

Now I feel even sicker than I did before.

See the Wired article for more of the awful details.

Thanks to Luke who brought this to my attention.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A little more about evolution . . . and creation . . . and Intelligent Design

I haven't posted lately on this topic. Partially because I have been preoccupied with so many other subjects.

But I continue to read a bit on the subject. I've picked up a few additional books. . . . And I have continued to follow an email discussion list I'm on in which some highly educated Old-Earth Creationists (primarily ID advocates, as far as I can tell) discuss their views.

A few issues have bubbled high enough above the surface that I feel compelled to comment.

  1. I just discovered that Denyse O'Leary wrote a blog post at the end of last year in which she notes,
    Freelance reporter Suzan Mazur (Scoop, March 4[, 2008]) pulls back the veil on one of evolution's little known secrets--Darwinism is dead as a theory of evolution:
    It's not Yasgur's Farm, but what happens at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria this July promises to be far more transforming for the world than Woodstock. What it amounts to is a gathering of 16 biologists and philosophers of rock star stature—let's call them ‘the Altenberg 16’—who recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence. It's pre the discovery of DNA, lacks a theory for body form and does not accommodate ‘other’ new phenomena.
    Mazur explores the views of the Altenberg 16 "self-organization proponents" and their attack on Darwinism as they desperately search for another materialistic explanation for life in a six-part E-Book.
    Frankly, I am grateful for this post because it encourages me in--what I have been thinking I need to do--maintaining my generally agnostic view with respect to origins . . . at least with respect to physical mechanisms.
  2. I thought I should encourage you, potentially, to follow the reference to Mazur's e-book. Mazur writes, in her introduction:
    No one knows how life began, but so-called theories of evolution are continually being announced. This book, The Altenberg 16: Will the Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up? exposes the rivalry in science today surrounding attempts to discover that elusive mechanism of evolution.
    Nice start. Helpful summary of her subject matter.

    But look where she goes!
    Evolutionary science is as much about the posturing, salesmanship, stonewalling and bullying that goes on as it is about actual scientific theory. It is a social discourse involving hypotheses of staggering complexity with scientists, recipients of the biggest grants of any intellectuals, assuming the power of politicians while engaged in Animal House pie-throwing and name-calling: "ham-fisted", "looney Marxist hangover", "secular creationist", "philosopher" (a scientist who can’t get grants anymore), "quack", "crackpot". . .

    In short, it’s a modern day quest for the holy grail, but with few knights. At a time that calls for scientific vision, scientific inquiry’s been hijacked by an industry of greed, with evolution books hyped like snake oil at a carnival.

    Perhaps the most egregious display of commercial dishonesty is next year’s [i.e., at the time of writing, 2009's --JAH] celebration of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species – the so-called theory of evolution by natural selection, i.e., survival of the fittest, that was foisted on us almost 150 years ago.

    Scientists agree that natural selection can occur. But the scientific community has known for some time that natural selection has nothing to do with evolution. It also knows that self-assembly is real, that is, matter can form without a genetic recipe – like the snowflake (non-living). It does this without external guidance.

    And that the Hydra (living), for example, can self-organize its scattered cells even after being forced through a sieve. Yet, science elites continue to term self-assembly and self-organization "woo woo".

    Coinciding with the 2009 Darwinian celebration, MIT will publish a book by 16 biologists and philosophers meeting in Altenberg, Austria at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in July [2008 --JAH] to discuss a reformulation of the theory of evolution. That’s the mansion made famous by Konrad Lorenz’s imprinting experiments, where Lorenz got his geese to follow him because they sensed he was their mother.

    The symposium’s title is "Toward an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis?", although the event is expected to be the actual kickoff of an evolution remix.

    Some of the Altenberg 16 or A-16, as I like to call them, have hinted that they’re trying to steer science in a more honest direction, that is, by addressing non-centrality of the gene. They say that the "Modern Evolutionary Synthesis", also called neo-Darwinism – which cobbled together the budding field of population genetics and paleontology, etc., 70 years ago – also marginalized the inquiry into morphology. And that it is then – in the 1930s and 1940s – that the seeds of corruption were planted and an Evolution industry born. . . .

    But will the A-16 deliver? Will they help rid us of the natural selection "survival of the fittest" mentality that has plagued civilization for a century and a half, and on which Darwinism and neo-Darwinism are based, now that the cat is out of the bag that selection is politics not science? That selection cannot be measured exactly. That it is not the mechanism of evolution. That it is an abstract rusty tool left over from 19th century British imperial exploits.

    Or will the A-16 tip-toe around the issue, appease the Darwin industry and protect foundation grants? . . .

    --Bold emphases mine. --JAH

    I haven't read the entire e-book. I'm just sayin': It looks like it's got some fascinating content!


    Oh. Before I stop on this subject: I should probably note what actually happened at the A-16 conference since that was 10 months ago.

    I have to confess, I'm not impressed. Though perhaps I "simply" don't know enough. But here's what Massimo Pigliucci, the conference sponsor, wrote about it:
    By incorporating [a series of exciting empirical and conceptual advances that have marked the field [of evolutionary theory] in recent time] into our understanding of evolution, we believe that the explanatory power of evolutionary theory is greatly expanded within biology and beyond. As is the nature of science, some of the new ideas will stand the test of time, while others will be significantly modified. Nonetheless, there is much justified excitement in evolutionary biology these days. This is a propitious time to engage the scientific community in a vast interdisciplinary effort to further our understanding of how life evolves.
    Really. Truly. That's the "final statement emerging from the Altenberg workshop, agreed upon by all 16 participants"!

    Are you impressed?

    Yeah. I didn't think so. Nor am I.

    Oh. you wonder what the "exciting empirical and conceptual advances" might be?

    Here they are:
    The new information includes findings from the continuing molecular biology revolution, as well as a large body of empirical knowledge on genetic variation in natural populations, phenotypic plasticity, phylogenetics, species-level stasis and punctuational evolution, and developmental biology, among others.

    The new concepts include (but are not limited to): evolvability, developmental plasticity, phenotypic and genetic accommodation, punctuated evolution, phenotypic innovation, facilitated variation, epigenetic inheritance, and multi-level selection.
    Sorry, that still doesn't do it for me.
  3. Then there is this post about Philip S. Skell's Forbes magazine article, The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution.

    Skell writes:
    It is widely accepted that the growth of science and technology in the West, which accounts for the remarkable advances we enjoy today in medicine, agriculture, travel, communications, etc., coincided with the separation, several centuries ago, of the experimental sciences from the dominance of the other important fields of philosophy, metaphysics, theology and history.

    Yet many popularizers of Darwin's theory now claim that without the study of ancient biological history, our students will not be prepared to engage in the great variety of modern experimental activities expected of them. The public should view with profound alarm this unnecessary and misguided reintroduction of speculative historical, philosophical and religious ideas into the realms of experimental science.

    It is more crucial to consider history in the fields of astrophysics and geology than in biology.
    . . . And he goes on from there.

    I would recommend either Mats' blog post about Skell's article or Skell's article itself.


    As with my last comment: I should probably note that Mats seems like a very interesting person. He seems to be Italian Portuguese (see his Blogger profile and notice he lives in Lisbon; check out the "background" language on his site as well); yet he is very tuned-in to American society. It appears he identifies himself as an evolutionist (scan down to the very end of the post and look at item #4), yet he writes some of the most thoughtful and "deep" anti-evolutionary/pro-young-earth-creationist stuff I think I have ever seen. (Check out his recent Are Secular Geologists Ready to Consider a Global Flood? post.)
  4. From the email discussions: One member wrote,
    Here's my take on ID and Natural Selection:

    "Intelligent Design" is a tautology.

    "Natural Selection" is an oxymoron.

    The word "selection" is an anthropomorphism which implies intelligence - a series of items are evaluated against some standard and either approved or discarded. The term "natural selection" thus implicitly attributes such divine action to nature, causing the word "nature" to suddenly have two parallel and opposite meanings. It can mean "random, undirected process" or "intelligent, directed process", depending on the whims of the user. As such, the word "nature" loses its meaning. Linguistically, the correct terminology is "random patterning". While I believe that patterns still inherently reflect design, I am willing to concede this word to the evolutionists in order to have fruitful debate. At least "patterning" does not imply directionality, as "selection" does. And "random" in its popular usage cannot hold any implication of intelligence, no matter what noun it describes.

    TE's [i.e., theistic evolutionists] survive on this sleight of logic - they can truly and rationally talk of "natural selection", although issues of pan(en)theism inevitably crop up time and again, even if often hotly denied, then certain often indirectly implied.

    Darwinians should not be allowed to use the phrase "natural selection" at all and should be restricted to "random patterning". It would be interesting to see if any could manage to do so for longer than a few minutes at a time.
    I love that: "random patterning"! :-)
  5. Okay. Finally: I just got a copy of Denis Lamoureux's Evolutionary Creation. Whether he convinces me about the need to believe in a truly evolutionary creationism or not (something I am disinclined to expect at this time!), I am finding his discussion--even as I found Glover's and the Haarsmas' discussions--fascinating and useful.

    Just in Chapter 1, as he lays out the subject matter he wants to address, I think his distinctions are helpful:
    Today the origin of the universe and life is often seen in Black-and-white categories. For many people, the cosmos and its living organisms came about through one of two ways--either evolution or creation. In other words, the subject of origins is cast as a dichotomy. . . . It is an issue that is divided into only two simple positions. Regrettably, this either/or type of thinking fuels the popular perception that modern science and Christian faith are entrenched in an endless war. . . ..

    A critical factor that fuels the origins dichotomy is the popular use of the terms evolution and creation. These words are often merged inadvertently with concepts that narrow the range of meaning. This problem is known as the conflation of ideas. Defined specifically, conflation is the carelessly collapsing of distinct categories into one single poorly conceived notion. For many people today, evolution is blended with a godless worldview, and creation is dissolved into a strict six-day literal interpretation of Gen 1. Consequently, the common use of these terms limits thinking and traps the discussion and a never-ending evolution vs. creation debate. . . .

    For most people, the term evolution refers to a biological theory of molecules-to-people that is driven only by blind chance. this word is conflated with an atheistic worldview--the belief that God does not exist and that our existence has no ultimate meaning or purpose. Understandably, this popular use of evolution produces strong negative reactions within the Church. But for some Christians, evolution is simply the method through which the Lord created life, including humans who bear His Image. . . .
    What fascinates me is how Lamoureux goes on to distinguish two "types" of evolution, what he calls teleological and dysteleological evolution, the one having a plan and purpose (teleological more or less means, literally, "having an end" (i.e., goal or purpose)) and the other one having no plan or purpose, the one reflecting intelligent design and the other no intelligent design.

    Somehow, I find that simply having a precise vocabulary to describe a concept helps me to understand the concept.


  6. A few nights ago, I was thinking again about the issue of God's sovereignty and chance . . . as the Haarsmas discuss it here and here.

    I got thinking about this because Sarita has been following the Denver Nuggets as they pursue the NBA championship. She wondered aloud whether they had thrown Game 4 in their series with Dallas simply so they could come back to Denver and win in front of the home crowd. I mean, really: they are up by 14 points at the half and then they lose by two?

    Anyway. That's Sarita. She's a skeptic when it comes to these kinds of things.

    But I got thinking: Can anyone be sure whether the team threw the game or not?

    And what about the teams where, historically, we know they threw games--like the Chicago "Black Sox" scandal of 1919? Or the widespread game fixing that went on in college basketball in the late '40s and '50s. --Can the fans tell that this is going on?

    Often not!

    So--to borrow and modify a phrase from Ken Ham--if fallible human beings are able to fix games and throw games and make certain events appear totally "random" or "unpredictable" even while they are very intentional . . . why can't we believe that God could make physical events (mutations or "self-assemblies") appear "totally random" even though they are not?

    Just a thought.

Okay. I'm done.

Thanks for listening!