Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Andrew Brenner Got it Wrong, part 3

Let me establish something right off the top.

I don’t know State Representative Andrew Brenner of Ohio. I’ve never met the man. I don’t even live in his state. I have nothing against him, personally. He seems like a nice guy, as much as an internet personality is reflective of a real person. Our “relationship” consists of two articles he wrote on education and a twitter feed. He was kind enough to follow me, I reciprocated. I’m just an education nerd finishing up a dual master’s degree here in Texas who is discovering a passion for education reform and education policy.

So when I say that Rep. Brenner “got it wrong” it really boils down to my disagreement with his viewpoint on education and education reform, and recognizing that his views represent other views. I’ve given two reasons why I disagree with him in my first and second posts. Here’s the third, and it’s a philosophical one (but don’t check out on me now, I can keep this easy).

A simple question: in a democracy that requires all students to go to school until a certain age, are those students entitled to a free public education, or a free private education?

Advocates of the school privatization model for education reform are basically arguing that students (and their parents) should “shop” for the best education for their money just like any other product or service. Once they find what they like, they should pay into that particular program and assume that the program will produce an outcome suitable for the student to become a productive and informed citizen. They often point to higher education as an example of how this model can work successfully. Market forces will allow the best educational programs to succeed and the worst to fail.

Here’s the problem with higher education as your standard: higher education assumes (sometimes wrongly) a certain baseline knowledge in its students. Higher education is based on the premise (again, currently wrongly) that the students are already trained as a productive citizen capable of contributing to the common good and public interest. Higher education is supplementary to the education a citizen receives, it is not required. I think that, in education, it against the best interests of the public to allow the weight and influence of corporate dollars to operate as the sole voice and engine for deciding what kids learn, and I think if you privatize education, that’s exactly what will happen.

This brings us back to the fundamental question: do we honestly believe that we can privately decide what will produce the best citizen, or is that a public conversation?

I think that’s a public conversation, guided by federal standards, enforced by the state, and implemented by counties (or cities). I don’t want Dell, Microsoft, or Citi solely setting the agenda for what my child should or should not know. I’m not against school choice. I’m not against competition. I am against oligarchy and plutocracy in a democracy. That thinking runs counter to the whole democratic experiment. I’m concerned that the school choice model will push us further in that direction. School privatization doesn’t solve the real problem(s) in public education and introduces another aggravating factor.

Thank you, Rep. Brenner, for sharing your ideas in a public forum. Thank you for your service in a public office. I fervently hope that as you continue to interact in the public square regarding that you would incorporate ideas from outside of your typical political viewpoint.

Advertisements

Comments Off on How Andrew Brenner Got it Wrong, part 3

Filed under Uncategorized

How Andrew Brenner Got it Wrong, part 1

I tried to resist, but I’m writing this blog in response to an article that Rep. Andrew Brenner of Delaware County, Ohio wrote.

His main issue with our educational system as it stands seems to be that, “our public education system is already a socialist system.(sic) and has been a socialist system since the founding of our country.” He also believes that school teacher unions are to blame for our current state of affairs, while acknowledging, “Over 40 years ago, public school teachers felt like their ideas were not being listened to, that their pay was inadequate, and that classroom sizes were not appropriate; so they unionized against the bureaucratic machine known as our public education system.”

So in summary, socialism = bad, teachers unions = bad, and therefore socialism + teachers unions = really bad.

His solution is, “to move to a more privatized system,” since, “In a free market system parents and students are free to go where the product and results are better.” In Rep. Brenner’s article, education is a product that should be bought, sold and traded to the highest bidder. In his view, the free market will force education to be better and to perform better. His perspective of education as product is unsurprising given his background. According to his bio, Rep. Brenner has no formal training in educational policy, theory, or methods. Instead, his training is in business administration, with emphases in marketing and economics. I suspect his knowledge of education as a legislator comes from people who paid to have access to him, and therefore come with an agenda. And yet, he is vice-chair of Ohio’s education committee.

So yes, I think Rep. Brenner got it wrong; because this is my blog, I get to tell you why.

Rep. Brenner stated, “While one room school houses (which were also used in many cases as houses of worship) worked well 100 years ago when most students graduated by the 7th grade, the same system does not work well today.” His implication is that we still operate under the one-room school method. Here’s the problem: I don’t know of one-room school houses that exist in the United States today. While students in primary grades generally stay in one home room, many schools will rotate specialists in and out. For example, my father worked as a science teacher for an elementary school before he retired, and he rotated in and out of teachers’ rooms to handle the science load. I understand that the kids also rotated into other classroom for arts and music education, in spite of the push for cuts in the face of the well-documented benefits of arts education.

In this case, I think Rep. Brenner put forth a straw-man argument, making the case against something that doesn’t actually exist. I would agree with him that we do use certain antiquated philosophies and methods in education. I think, in the realm in which he attempted to argue, the issue is related to our model based on modernist methods in an increasingly post-modern society, and industrial age techniques as we’ve passed (or are passing into) the information age.

So, Rep. Brenner, I applaud your desire to reform education. I hope that you would be more fair with your objections to the current problems so that you can offer a real and effective solution.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Fury Behind the Furor

In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict (not guilty), I found myself in quiet reflection, wondering why exactly this case bothered me. Black children (children of all races, actually) die tragically and unjustly every day and yet those don’t bother me. As a side note, that’s a sad indictment of me and my indifference to human suffering. Still, why did Zimmerman’s verdict stick with me for some time?

Two things disturb me greatly, three make me angry (with apologies to the Hebrew poets for borrowing their literary convention): the deafening silence from the evangelical community, the counterattack by non-blacks who suggest that racial disparities don’t exist, and the reminder that my son will grow up in a hostile legal system.

  1. To be fair, some evangelicals did respond. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, had a great blog post where he recognized that his talk with his son will be different than mine. The Gospel Coalition had several people reflect on the results (although at first blush, many seem to be African-American bloggers). However, in the conservative evangelical circles that I live day-to-day, life moved on. I heard more people talk about their planned missions trips overseas than about the death of a teenager killed while standing his ground against a stranger. By implication and action, the (mostly Caucasian) people around me simply didn’t care that Trayvon died. Predictably, only the few African-Americans in my circle found the results disturbing, and all of us for similar reasons.
  2. It didn’t help that, pretty consistently, when African-Americans brought up the racial disparities, the public has responded that (a) racism doesn’t exist, nor does injustice nor white privilege. Unfortunately, the record of Supreme Court decisions indicates that the courts have consistently ruled against fairness for African-Americans and, as just one example, even the U.S. Higher-Education System Perpetuates White Privilege. In other words, our social and legal system are document-ably against African-Americans. Telling me that it’s just my imagination that women in the place that I work and live clutch their purses when I’m around and move between me and their children, or tell their daughters they’re not allowed to be romantically involved with me (an actual experience for me, circa 2008) doesn’t help .
  3. It bothers me that I have to explain to my son one day that the reason that parents snatch up their kids when he goes to the park and suddenly leave, or move to swings on the opposite side of the park (both true, actual, experiences within the last three months of this writing) is because of his skin color. If he stands up for himself, the public and the law will first vilify him and then justify his attacker. In spite of the guaranteed constitutional rights, the courts will not support or protect him in many cases, or it will take years before the courts recognize the wrongs perpetuated against him.

And that makes me angry.

Comments Off on The Fury Behind the Furor

Filed under Justice, Uncategorized

Submission and Sensibility (with apologies to Jane Austen)

I recently stumbled across and article (or blog, can’t really remember) arguing that κεφαλὴ, translated as “head” in most Bibles, is better translated as “source” in Ephesians 5:22–33. I had vague understanding of this argument so I read the article in more detail and then went to look at the associated verses myself. At the end of my study, I came to the following conclusion: who cares?

Paul opens Chapter 5 with the admonition to live in holiness (Ephesians 5:1–5), then reminds the reader not to participate in the “deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:6–14). Immediately, he calls his readers to submit to one another as a wise way of living (Ephesians 5:15–21). In this context, Paul gives his (near-infamous) instruction for wives to submit to your husbands as unto the lord (22). As many will (and should) point out, the Greek sentence doesn’t have submit in that verse; the word submit appears in the previous verse (21) in the command to “submit to one another.” In a somewhat literal translation, the verse reads, “wives, to your own husbands as to the Lord.” He then goes on the the husband is head/source as Christ is head/source.

Some want to soften the submission aspect by clinging to the source translation, while others want to reinforce male authority by emphasizing headship. Firstly, it seems to me that, whatever the translation, Paul is using a metaphor here, and we should therefore avoid a wooden one-to-one analogy. Secondly, the head/source analogy comes as a clarification of “wives to your own husbands [submit]”, implying that regardless of what you may understand κεφαλὴ to mean, wives must still submit to their own husbands.

I wonder if Paul has the not-uncommon orgies in mind when he makes the qualifier in 5:22 (and as he clarifies later for husbands to love their wives). Consider: in a culture where a group orgy is a possible reality and where someone of his audience had likely participated in such an orgy, Paul commands them to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I can see how he might see an immediate need to clarify.

Paul: “Okay, so before you take this too far, let me give you some more details: wives, submit to your own husbands. Just like Christ is the κεφαλὴ of the Church, so husbands are your κεφαλὴ. In the same way the church submits to Christ, wives, do the same to your husbands. You husbands, love your own wives just like you would love your own body. If you love your body, you love yourself, so take care of your body, just like Christ takes care of his church. By the way, do you see what I did there? Body of Christ/body of husband? See, I’m really talking about the church/Christ relationship.”

All I’m saying is that I can’t see how we can avoid the wives submitting to husbands part, but I would also point out in the same way that all Christians submit to one another, this is the way in which wives submit to their husbands. So if you’re going use this verse to say that husbands have the “final say” in marriage, then you also have to say that other Christians have the “final say” as well.

Please, lets have some sense as we continue to consider male and female within the church.

Comments Off on Submission and Sensibility (with apologies to Jane Austen)

Filed under Theology, Uncategorized

“Biblical” Womanhood and Manhood

In his concept of biblical womanhood and manhood, John Piper describes “the heart of biblical manhood as ‘a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.'” Firstly, and with respect to Piper, this is a description and not a definition (as he will call it elsewhere in his book). Secondly, Piper (and Grudem) argue for protection as a pre-Fall mandate. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have someone explain in an adequate manner how they see the protection mandate in a pre-Fall environment. From what danger was the man supposed to be protecting the woman? Some will say the temptation of the serpent (as if the man is the woman’s overseer) or from her own ignorance since God gave the command not to eat to Adam. Unfortunately, this falls short since Eve’s response indicates she understands eating the fruit is a Bad Thing.

In his explanations goes on to describe what I would identify as specific cultural expressions of masculinity. For example, he says “Consider what is lost when women attempt to assume a more masculine role by appearing physically muscular and aggressive. It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation. The more women can arouse men by doing typically masculine things, the less they can count on receiving from men a sensitivity to typically feminine needs. Mature masculinity will not be reduced to raw desire in sexual relations. It remains alert to the deeper personal needs of a woman and mingles strength and tenderness to make her joy complete.”

  1. Regarding his “hasty and volatile” point, I’m going to suggest that—within the bounds of marriage—hasty and volatile sexual encounters can lead to much satisfaction (and fun) for both parties if done correctly. As a wise woman once told me, “if you know what you’re doing it doesn’t have to take all day.” Granted, a steady diet may lead to dissatisfaction, but I’d say the same thing about cookies. I love me some cookies, but I can’t make a meal of it. But every now and then…
  2. Moonlight walking is well and good—if you’re into that sort of thing. What if a woman doesn’t like moonlight walks? Does that mean she isn’t a woman according to Piper’s understanding? Also, what about my athletic sisters who enjoy running and working out? Will he assert that they should stop running and take up some other, more sedentary activity? I’m proud of one of my friends and former co-workers who just posted that she ran 35 miles this month. I think its an awesome accomplishment, and in no way detracts from her femininity.

Ultimately, want I want people in the BWaM camp to remember is that the particular North American, Caucasian, suburban, protestant, expression of masculinity and femininity may not be (and should not be) the standard by which we measure what is good and right. If you’re going to claim the Biblical adjective, then please stick to the Bible.

2 Comments

Filed under Foundations, Uncategorized