Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dumb & Dumber


If we have compulsory education, then we have forced education. The term compulsory, if it has any meaning at all, means that the person has no choice about it. ~Peter Gray

I think most folks in America realize that by and large our government schools (a.k.a. the public education system) are failing. We could point out several, valid reasons for this declension—such as the disintegration of the family and the subsequent loss of authority; the secularistic, godless ideologies which underpin (or should I say undermine) curricula; and of course, the self-serving NEA which is entirely concerned with protecting and promoting itself even to the detriment of students. 

All of these things contribute to the downward spiral of government-run education. But I would like to focus on something which gets less attention: compulsory education. 

The philosophical question is this: Can a person be compulsorily educated (not to be confused with indoctrinated)? Certainly, we can—under threat of law—force a person to attend school. But can a student be coerced to think, to learn? I don’t see how.  

The pragmatic question is this: What does forcing students—who have no desire to be in school and have no intention of learning—do to the environment and morale of the school? Our would-be educators are required to play the part of peace officers and wardens. Presumably they want to teach but much of their energy is wasted in policing folks who don’t want to learn.  

In short, it seems to me that “compulsory education” is a misnomer. And it’s a dumb idea. (I use the word “dumb” in its informal sense meaning stupid or moronic.)  

But wait. There’s something even dumber.  

Not only does our government force people to attend school, it also forces schools to be, in a manner of speaking, fail-safe. In other words, our government says to the recalcitrant student, “You will go to school” and it says to the beleaguered school, “You will graduate every unwilling—or even unable—student.” 

No Child Left Behind! 

Consider the law’s absurd demand to prohibit the normal variability of human ability so that all children, from the unusually gifted to the mentally retarded, must achieve above the same “challenging” level of proficiency by 2014. The only way states could fulfill this requirement would be to define “challenging proficiency” at such a low level that even the least talented of students could meet it 

Mr. Duncan’s [the Secretary of Education] philosophy has been revealed: if a policy fails, the solution should be to do more of it. So the secretary is now kicking the ball down the road. States will be excused from making all children proficient by 2014 if they agree instead to make all children “college-ready” by 2020. ~Richard Rothstein

Bill Bennett once remarked: “The longer we stay in school the dumber we get.” Thus we have increasing numbers of people who are graduated but not educated. Surely, there’s a better way. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bible & Race

Last week I observed that human beings are incredibly tribal. By this I mean that all of us experience and express unity and diversity in a multitude of ways. Our tribalism is pervasive. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an area of life where we are non-tribalistic. 

Let’s briefly consider a few manifestations of our tribalism.  

First, there’s entertainment: Trekkies vs. Star Wars fans (Warsies?); Team Jacob vs. Team Edward; Lavern vs. Shirley—that sort of thing. Then we have sports (also entertaining): my team vs. your team, etc. Of course we have competing criminal enterprises and gangs—Republicans vs. Democrats—for example.  

Naturally, the supernatural divides us and so we have innumerable religious tribes from world religions to denominations to sects to cults. Then we have the likes of Ford vs. Chevy; Fox News vs. Obama news; labor vs. management; rich vs. not as rich; urban vs. rural; and so on.  

Obviously, humans are tribal by nature. So is it any wonder that we experience and express unity and diversity in regards to race? 

Since we are tribal by nature, and since—in the foreseeable future—races are here to stay; the tensions which result from our unity and diversity will remain. But can we do better? Can we ease the tensions between the races? 

The Bible gives us authoritative, but very general, principles which can, at the very least, serve as a framework from within which we can have the much needed, honest conversation about race. 

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him . . . (Genesis 1:26a, 27a). 

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26). 

The first biblical principle for our framework is that all human beings are the image bearers of God. This means we are of equal worth and dignity. Our lives have value and sanctity. Having more or less pigmentation does not correlate into being more or less the image bearer of God.  

Those who deny this truth can only exacerbate the race problem (e.g., Louis Farrakhan’s racist “white devils” rhetoric.) Unless we keep all men as God’s image fairly in view, racial tensions will not, indeed cannot, diminish. 

The second principle is biblical unity. The basis for human unity (the human race) is two-fold: We have one Creator who made us from one blood; one God, one man. Racists, like Farrakhan, tend to downplay or outright deny our true, biblical unity. What good comes of this? 

The third principle is biblical diversity. Here we are not speaking of the “human race” but of “races” or “ethnicities.” Many today—on the opposite end of the spectrum from those above—tend to downplay or outright deny our true, biblical diversity.  

They offer such platitudes as, “There no such thing as ‘races.’ There’s only the human race.” While this sounds noble, it goes against scripture and plain reason.  

Let’s apply this illogic to God’s work in nature, shall we? Premise 1: Eagles are birds. Premise 2: Cardinals are birds. Conclusion: Eagles are Cardinals. 

Isn’t the categorical mistake obvious? 

We need not resort to irrationality for any of God’s works in animals or in humans. We need not deny the “human race” to affirm the existence of various races or ethnicities. (We are simply using the terms “race” and “races” differently, according to disparate categories.)  

The races are all human but they are not all the same. 

Thomas Sowell agrees. He writes: “Race is not entirely in the eye of the beholder, but it is a social concept with a biological basis” (Intellectuals and Race, p. 1). The Bible is not ignorant of, in fact it is very much aware of, racial differences and the Apostle Paul teaches that these differences are “made from one blood” by God.
 
Though the Bible does not tell us when or how the races of man emerged, it is nevertheless my contention that God—not mindless, purposeless natural processes—is ultimately responsible for (immediately and/or by use of means) biological human diversity. 

So how do we—the fallen and sinful image bearers of God—affirm our unity and diversity with lessened hate and hostility? 

I think the answer comes in applying God’s law and gospel to our social ills.  

No more blame games. No more “repentance” for the sins other people committed. No more “suffering” for the crimes other people endured. Enough is enough. 

If we would have a conversation about race within the context of scripture, we must speak of each individual person as being a responsible moral agent; with God’s law to judge and guide, and His Son to heal and forgive.  

There’s no other way forward.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wrong Words of Truth


Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world 

Did you ever sing the words above? I sang them many times as a kid in Sunday School. I remember however, that a few of my fellow church-brats and I took great delight in altering the lyrics.  

Rather than piously intone, “Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in His sight” we proudly belted out: “Red and yellow black and white; put ‘em together & watch ‘em fight…” 

Certainly, we were singing wrong words—and loving it—but it seems to me that our wrong words were nevertheless very true. That is, human beings are incredibly tribal. And no matter how the multiculturalists try to reprogram us…birds of a feather still flock together. 

Thus, the conversation about race and race relations isn’t going away soon; maybe ever.  

Consider carefully the words of Thomas Sowell. 

This premise—that the racial problem was essentially one inside the minds of white people—greatly simplified the task of those among the intelligentsia who did not have to research the many behavioral differences between blacks and whites in America—or the many comparable or larger differences between other groups in other countries around the world—that have led to other intergroup complications, frictions and polarizations, which were in many cases at least as great as those between black and white Americans. . . .Racial problems could be reduced to problems inside people’s minds, and especially to racism, not only simplifying problems but enabling intellectuals to assume their familiar stance of being on the side of the angels against the forces of   evil . . .” (Intellectuals and Race, p. 89) 

Surely, Sowell is correct. The “race problem” is not merely mental and our difficulties cannot be simplistically subsumed—with little or no evidentiary substantiation—under the rubric of “racism.” In other words, humanistic, utopian reeducation and indoctrination will not solve racial dilemmas. 

Hence, liberals in government, media, and education need to stop peddling the false metanarrative of “white guilt and the victimization of people of color.” Furthermore, shameless race-baiters must cease treating race as “intertemporal abstractions” (to use Sowell’s term) where contemporary whites are held accountable for—and contemporary blacks are excused because of—things which none of them did or experienced. 

Intellectuals have all too often played a major role in promoting a sense of grievance over inequalities. The kind of society to which that can lead is one in which a newborn baby enters the world supplied with prepackaged grievances against other babies born the same day. It is hard to imagine anything more conducive to unending internal strife and a weakening of the bonds that hold a society together. When history shows how hard it can be to maintain peace and cooperation among contemporaries, why would we take on the complex, divisive and ultimately futile task of redressing issues between our long dead ancestors or pass on to generations yet unborn the seeds of strife to blight their lives? (Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race, p. 138) 

In the final analysis, as long as our national conversation is framed by “intertemporal abstractions” couched in terms of “white guilt” and “the victimization of people of color,” real progress is unattainable.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fear Factors


The homicide rate for black men between the ages of 18 and 24 is well over ten times that of whites. . . . In New York City . . . 83 percent of all gun assailants were black during the first six months of 2008, according to victims and witnesses, though blacks make up only 24 percent of the city’s population. . . . That explains why someone might feel a sense of trepidation when approached by a group of black youths. That’s not racism, it’s the reality of crime. ~Heather Mac Donald (quoted by Pat Buchanan, Suicide of A Superpower, p. 243) 

A District taxicab commissioner, Sandra Seegers, who is black, issued a safety-advice statement urging D.C’s 6,800 cabbies to refuse to pick up “dangerous looking” passengers. She described “dangerous looking” as a young black guy . . . with shirttail hanging down longer than his coat, baggy pants, unlaced tennis shoes. (Walter Williams, “Is Racial Profiling Racist?”) 

I’d like to offer a hypothetical which illustrates the thesis of my previous article (viz. that cautious behavior is based upon more than mere skin color and is therefore rational).  

******************* 

A white female is alone in an elevator, rather late at night.  

Suddenly, a very rough-looking white male, with shaved head, prison tats and a wife-beater, swaggers into the elevator. 

The woman is seized by fear and apprehension and subconsciously her body language conveys her dismay. 

Two floors up…two black males—looking to be in their forties—enter the elevator. One is dressed in a business suit with loosened tie and the other wears khakis and a buttoned down collar. 

The presence of these black gentlemen calms the white lady’s anxiety and she—almost visibly—relaxes as the tension leaves her body.  

Fully aware…the black men purposefully remain on the elevator until she disembarks. They want her to be and feel safe. 

*************************** 

The above true-to-life scenario demonstrates that the factors which act upon our instincts and emotions involve much, much more than pigmentation.  

Was the white lady—who distrusted the rather edgy, mean looking white man—thinking and behaving irrationally? And the black men who purposefully remained in the elevator for her benefit…were they thinking and behaving irrationally? 

I maintain that neither the white lady nor the black men were irrational in their thoughts and actions. In other words, there was reasonable justification for their concerns.  

Even so, was this white lady ever truly endangered by this brutal looking white man? 

Well, we don’t know do we. Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t. Either way, her alarm had a rational basis; the same rational basis for these black men’s chivalry.  

In the final analysis, fear factors aren’t color-blind; but neither are they racist.