Old Ideals Worth Renewing

“To train a man in mind and not in morals is to train a menace to society.”

(Theodore Roosevelt)

Glen was unusually silent this morning after reading what I had originally worked up for this post.   Each Friday morning,  he carefully reads my work, for last minute edits, and  I count on his enthusiastic stamp of approval. This morning was different. Yawning as he read, he showed little excitement.  Finally he remarked, “You’re supposed to write a blog, not a book or a research paper!” In my enthusiasm, I got carried away, cramming entirely too much information into a very long blog.  Somewhat dejected, I asked him, “Wasn’t it all worth reading”?

Inside I knew he was right but I did not want to admit it right then. Passionately wanting to share about the vital role of parents in education, I got impatient to include all my thoughts-  in one blog!

Instead, I have reduced them down to two points for today – still long, but thanks to my husband, it could have been much worse!  If you are a Christian parent of students in any school, please read and ponder these points and then respond with your thoughts.  Education is a hot topic and one we must be active in.

The first and primary point I want to make (again) is that you must be informed of and engaged in your children’s education regardless of the educational choice you have made.  Know what they are learning as well as what they are NOT learning and be the difference maker.  Whether you are an educator or not, you are your child’s primary authority and education takes up a whopping hunk of their time during their growing up years! You need to remain informed.

Be aware of the continual changes that take place in education. As a culture, we are completely caught up in a desire for new, believing that somehow “new” can magically transform. Advertising relies heavily on the message of new.  The “power of dreams” comes by purchasing a new Honda.  Some of you probably already own Apple’s newest “magical and revolutionary” ipad.  The search for new and improved has no end and has ushered in astronomic change in just one generation with far reaching implications on virtually everything.

In education, new math is being replaced by newer math. Each year officials promote promising new practices, changing best practices, and a slew of new strategies to usher in the new changes. Among other revisions, Obama is calling for major new changes in educational law, new changes in teacher licensure, and new revisions for the recently revised common curriculum standards.

But is new always better and is change necessarily an improvement?  Where are we headed in our pursuit of NEW and in this quest have we given up some vital tenets that are essential to recover?  I think so.

For one, God ordained parents to be the primary authority for their children, yet this role is being undermined in a cultural battle over influence in the lives of children. With kids at school during the day, and the TV and/or computer taking over the mentoring after school and into the evenings, little time is left for discipleship to take place within the home. Research data indicates that the average American parent spends a mere 15 minutes a day dialoging with their children. And by the time the average student graduates from high school, she will have spent double the hours watching TV than she spent in the classroom! Clearly school and TV combined are the primary educators and value shapers for many of today’s students. 

Very recently, President Obama proposed that American school children extend their time in class, either by lengthening the school day, or spending less time on summer vacation.  In addition the National Education Association (NEA) recommends a mandatory full day kindergarten in every school district across the nation. However, research to date on full‐day kindergarten has provided little evidence of long term academic benefits beyond first grade. (Public Policy Institute of California) Practical benefits however may likely drive the proposal through because in a society where both parents work, free accessible child care is clearly a practical benefit to the parent.

Thus public school children may soon spend more time learning and shaping their life in a “values neutral” setting.  While Christian parents are quick to point out that the state is taking away their authority perhaps it is more accurate to state that parents may actually be turning this authority over.  George Barna in Revolutionary Parenting considers our times a “crisis in parenting”.   He goes on to say that the “American culture no longer supports the notion of parenting being a full-time job.”  Instead the widely accepted way of life is for both parents to work while TV, schools, churches, and other community organizations raise and train children.  Yet, families need time together to form authentic lasting ties and parents need time with their kids to influence and disciple them.  If not you the parents, someone will influence and disciple your kids according to their values and ideals – teachers, coaches, youth leaders, pastors and very likely peers.

Which brings me to point two:

Know the worldview of their teachers, mentors and peers so that you can either support or counteract them. A non-biased, values- neutral education really does not exist. Everyone has a worldview, a set of presuppositions that affect the way all of life is viewed. A worldview is like a set of lenses which taint our vision and alters the way we perceive the world around us.

A values-neutral education puts the individual in the role of determining right and wrong, which in and of itself is a bias. If a student learns to think humanistically, in terms of himself, he will learn to act as his own god, determining for himself truth and error.  In the end, our children’s education and training will have missed the mark if it fails to inspire a pattern of thinking and viewpoint aligned with God’s truth. They must learn how to rightly discern and judge all things in the light of the Bible.

While change can bring about good things, our pursuit of change may actually be a desire to satisfy something lacking within. The search for change goes way back. In the Areopagus address in Athens, the Apostle Paul addressed philosophers who “spent their time in nothing else but either to tell of or hear some new thing.” (Acts 17: 21)  Athens was held in the grip of idolatry with a population sunken in superstition, gripped by fear, uncertainty, and inner turmoil.   When we allow our affections to follow after false gods – those things we pursue more passionately than Christ – we too will constantly be on the hunt for something new and different, in a desperate attempt to quell our inner turmoil.   Christ alone can fully satisfy the longing of our hearts.  Everything else is a broken cistern that cannot hold the living water our souls crave.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever and the purpose God created man for has not changed!  The events of human history have all been to this end – that people in every generation would be drawn to the Lord God. We are a nation of people, who God determined before hand to live within the boundaries of our land in this season of time and He is orchestrating our events so that we will seek Him and so that our children will seek and find Him. (Acts 17: 26-27)

There is a battle raging, and the enemy of the ages is in full combat fighting for our children like a “roaring lion, seeking to devour them.”  We must effectively engage ourselves in this battle, which require that we go against some core practices and assumptions of our current society.

Two ideals worth reviving: (1) parents are the primary authority for their children and (2) God’s truth is unchanging.  These two ideals are a necessary foundation for a “generational revival” and the path by which our culture can move back towards a design God ordained for his people.

Scripture:  Jeremiah 2: 11-13

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?  But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.  Be appalled, O heavens, at this: be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Good article at: http://www.gloriadegaetano.com/html_articles/parentintoday.

Gloria DeGaetano, CEO and founder of  The Parent Coaching Institute and author of Parenting Well in a Media Age, wrote in her book “I was stunned to find out for instance, that the daily four hours U.S. kids spend in front of a television prevented proper growth of crucial neural circuitry, limiting their cognitive capacities for the rest of their lives.  I was amazed to discover that the verdict on TV violence has been conclusive since 1976: violent images do contribute to aggressive behaviors, fear, and desensitization to real violence, creating a condition for an appetite for more and more violence in entertainment and in one’s environment. Most parents DeGaetano meets “are unaware that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one to two hours a day of all screen time (including TV, video games, videos and computers) for children age 3 and older and no screen time for babies and toddlers birth to age 2.  She quotes researchers Dr. Robert Hill and Dr. Eduardo Castro, who emphasize, “We can say with confidence that excessive television, particularly in young children, causes neurological damage.”

2010 D6 Conference  in Dallas, Texas:  A great conference designed to equip parents and church leaders to think biblically about how we foster Christian faith in the next generation.

11 Comments

  1. I didn’t realize that there were no long-term beneifts of full-time kindergarten beyond first grade… and never stopped to reflect on the fact that the true benefit is for the parent. Thanks for this!

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  2. It’s interesting to see research that suggests that children get no long-term benefits from full-time kindergarten… and even more interesting when you said that the only true beneficiary is the parent.

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  3. Wow! So right on! Our obsession for novelty is causing us to leave behind our identity!

    NEUTRALITY IS A MYTH–what an argument!

    A very scary quote: “With kids at school during the day, and the TV and/or computer taking over the mentoring after school and into the evenings, little time is left for discipleship to take place within the home.”

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    • Excellent article and reminder, Ellen. Thank you on behalf of us parents who have children in school settings where this type of counsel/parenting/christian/value based mentorship is not avaialble! Thank you for sharing your perspective and conviction on education with any one who “has an ear to hear and a heart to learn and pass around”!

      Do you have any practical advise on 1) how to go about learning the teacher’s worldview, aside from spending time in the classroom, which is very ltd in public school. And, 2) Where to get informed, on what a child should be learning as a baseline to measure what they are and aren’t learning in school.

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      • Leticia,

        Great questions. Next week’s blog will include tips, resources and suggestions that address your questions.

        Ellen

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  4. “We can say with confidence that excessive television, particularly in young children, causes neurological damage.”

    Wow, what a frightening statement! These days it takes purposeful effort to make sure that we limit the TV and other media exposure (especially computers) that our children take in each day – and that is not always easy. It seems that TVs are everywhere – from doctors’ offices to restaurants to vehicles and, of course, in our own home. Thank you for inspiring me to send my children outside to play and engage is some “old-fashioned” fun!

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    • So true Jennifer. TVs are everywhere. Even if your child is not watching, the noise and distraction is tough to ignore. My grandchildren are far happier and less agitated when they have ample time outside.

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  5. During the last week of our first year in public school, my 5th grader came home and told me they had been watching Planet of the Apes… so they could see how they had evolved.

    It was in this moment that I realized that all throughout the year that God, in His grace, had revealed things to me going on in the classroom I would’ve never known had my children not shared it with me. Discipleship from the parents they trust is what helps them to identify the truth in the culture we live in. Great blog Ellen!!!

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    • Toni,

      Your statement “discipleship from the parents they trust is what helps them to identify the truth in the culture we live in” is powerful.

      Bless you.. Ellen

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  6. ellen,
    i have been trying steadily to cut down on screen time, particularly TV. did you encounter any findings on whether or not some of the damage had been/could be reversed in young children (hopefully since their little brains heal and grow so fast)?

    thanks,
    meni

    Reply
    • The research is promising in that our brains, even as adults but especially as children are now known to be pliable and trainable. The book “Distracted” by Maggie Jackson is a fascinating book about research into our brains.

      Reply

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