Category: Virtue

“Our problem [with education] today is not to enforce conformity; it is rather that we are threatened with an excess of conformity. Our problem is to foster diversity.” –Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._SchoolThe education reform movement has set forth a range of strategies to combat the leviathan of public education. Yet more often than not, those solutions are couched only with boilerplate about the glories of markets and competition.

There is plenty of truth behind such rhetoric, but as Greg Forster outlines in an extensive series of articles at EdChoice, a revival in education policy and educational institutions is going to require much more than free-market talking points and surface-level solutions.

“It’s not that the things we’re saying are wrong,” he writes. “We just aren’t getting to the heart of the matter because we are not challenging our nation to re-ask itself the big questions about education: What is the purpose of education? Who has final responsibility for it and why?”

Indeed, while our aversion to technocratic solutions has prodded us to focus on things like improving accountability, expanding competition, and removing barriers to information, many of the subsequent reforms have fallen prey to the same technocratic temptations. As Forster reminds us, in education, “technocracy fails more importantly because it is based on a wrong understanding of what education is for.” (more…)

Given the overpopulation of American jails and prisons, it would stand to reason that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump be pressed to explain how they would dismantle the unfortunate relationship between low-performing schools and the criminal justice system. Last February, The American Bar Association (ABA) released a report in the school-to-prison pipeline. According to the ABA, the pipeline is a metaphor for how the issues in our education system facilitates students leaving school and becoming involved in the criminal justice system. The process is a cycle of compounding issues ranging from low engagement, lack of relationships (including family breakdown), harsh discipline, and various problem with authorities in law enforcement and juvenile justice being involved in school discipline. For the ABA report, researchers conducted eight town hall meetings across the country to try and understand how the issue affected local communities by gathering testimony and exploring how bias plays a role in the system.

According to the report, minority populations are especially affected by the pipeline–a fact known across the academic world. Recent data from reports like this one show the magnitude of the problem, one that the ABA report says is “unacceptably large and out of proportion to the population of our young people.” The problem manifests itself during pre-k through high school years, from the juvenile justice system to adult prisons, and both for students of color and those with disabilities. For example, students of color, regardless of gender, were found to be disproportionately punished by harsher and more frequent methods, failed to graduate as often, had lower education retention and learning, and were more often referred to authorities for arrest. (more…)

Wall-E1Humans have a tendency to daydream about a day or a place where work is no more, whether it be a retirement home on a golf course or a utopian society filled with leisure and merriment.

But is a world without work all that desirable?

In a recent lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the question is explored by Dr. Hunter Baker, winner of the Acton Institute’s 2011 Novak Award and author, most recently, of The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life.

Countering the cultural priorities and pressures of the day, Baker outlines a robust Christian vision of work and the economy, drawing on thinkers such as Wilhelm Röpke and Lester DeKoster, as well as science fiction fixtures such as WALL-E, 1984, and Beggars in Spain.

“Work is a gift from God, not a curse,” says Baker. “…The science fiction dreams of human beings released from all labor should probably better be seen as nightmares…We are made to continually be in fellowship with one another, working, creating value, giving, receiving. This is who God has made us to be.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
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pearl-and-leavenIn its 2,000-year history, the church has actively integrated evangelism and social action in powerful and transformative ways. Yet for many of today’s Christians, we feel as though we must choose between a life of ministry and cultural engagement, that our vocational paths are inevitably torn between “saving souls” and “serving justice.”

In the Bible, however, we see both calls woven together — “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28) and “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). They were not meant to be taken separately, pieced apart and divided up among believers based on our individual strengths or giftings.

We are called to a life of holistic discipleship, filled with a faith that’s integrated with cultural witness. We are called to be both “a pearl and a leaven,” as Jessica Driesenga puts it in The Church’s Social Responsibility, a new collection of essays on evangelicalism and social justice.

“When we survey Christians’ posture toward the world, it can seem as though there is an either-or decision to be made: either choose to be a part of the world or separate yourself from it for the sake of the gospel,” Driesenga writes. “But these tasks ought to be seen as necessary counterparts to each other.” (A partial excerpt of Driesenga’s essay is available at Letters to the Exiles blog.)

Pointing to a metaphor used by theologian Herman Bavinck, Driesenga reminds us of Jesus’ parables comparing the kingdom of heaven to a leaven (Matt. 13:33) and a pearl (Matt. 13:45–46). “These two metaphors, mixed as they may seem, are Bavinck’s way of understanding the dual tasks given to humanity: to preserve and preach the good news of Christ and to take the world that has been given to us and make something of it.” (more…)

stranger-dangerMy mother would be mortified by my behavior.

Since before I could walk she warned me about “stranger danger”: Don’t get into a car with strangers; don’t accept candy from strangers; don’t’ go into a strangers house, etc.

What would she think if she knew I had taken an Uber to an Airbnb?

Growing up in the 1970s parents and teachers drilled into my young brain the idea that the most dangerous people in the world (aside from Commies) were “strangers.” People that you didn’t know were out to do you harm, so just stay away from them. The message took sunk in; I became leery of any interactions with people I didn’t know. Even as an adult I maintained the impression that when I walked out my front door I was entering a low-trust environment.

So it was with some hesitancy that I took my first Uber. But when I did a new world opened up to me. It wasn’t just a ride with a stranger (I had, after all, been in a taxi before) it was an expansion of my “circle of trust.” As economist Tim Hartford says, “One of the underrated achievements of the modern world has been to develop ways to extend the circle of trust by depersonalising it.”
Trusting strangers not only makes my life easier, it makes our country more prosperous. Hartford adds,
(more…)

Brooks-2x1500We continue to see the expansion of freedom and the economic prosperity around the world. And yet, despite having enjoyed such freedom and its fruits for centuries, the West is stuck in a crisis of moral imagination.

For all of its blessings, modernity has led many of us to pair our comfort and prosperity with a secular, naturalistic ethos, relishing in our own strength and designs and trusting in the power of reason to drive our ethics.

The result is a uniquely moralistic moral vacuum, a “liberal paradox,” as Gaylen Byker calls it — “a hunger for meaning and values in an age of freedom and plenty.”

In the past, American prosperity has been buoyed by the strength of its institutions: religious, civil, political, economic, and otherwise. But as writers such as Yuval Levin and Charles Murray have aptly outlined, the religious and institutional vibrancy that Alexis de Tocqueville once hailed appears to be dwindling, making the space between individual and state increasingly thin.

The revival and restoration of religious and civic life is essential if we hope to cultivate a free and virtuous society, occurring across spheres and sectors, from the family to business, from the church to political institutions.

Given the increasing attacks on religious liberty, Christian colleges and universities are standing particularly tall, even as they endure some of the highest heat. In a recent talk for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, David Brooks demonstrates the cultural importance of retaining that liberty, explaining how his recent experiences with Christian educational institutions have affirmed their role in weaving (or re-weaving) the fabric of American life. (Read his full remarks here.) (more…)

“We see immediately that grace is inseparably connected with nature, that grace and nature belong together.” –Abraham Kuyper

grace-renewsIn their new book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics, Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo offer a robust vision of Christian political engagement, one that neither retreats from the world nor accommodates to its ideological whims.

While many have sought to construct such a vision by trying to align “Christian values” with particular political programs, Ashford and Pappalardo begin by focusing on a more basic theological foundation. Before we even proceed with such questions, we ought to ask ourselves what the Gospel actually implies for all of public life. (more…)