Tag Archives: modernism

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.

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Why I am not an Apologist

Every now and then, I’ll get into a discussion with someone about the rise of apologetics as a field of study for Christian Education. In recent years, several universities or seminaries have built or added apologetics degrees including Biola, Houston Baptist, and Denver Seminary, all of which have highly respected faculty and programs.

Personally, I think it won’t reach most students’ learning goals.

Okay, so that’s a strong statement, but let me explain. Many people value apologetics because they feel it helps them spread the gospel. In their view, they want to gain answers to any and all questions in order to be prepared to give a defense. Unfortunately, I believe they’re preparing to answer the wrong questions, and will therefore give the wrong answers.

Most of us in the church have been educated according to a Modernist mindset wherein the major philosophical category is epistemology. In simple English, when we encounter issues or problems, we first ask “Is this true?” before moving forward. Therefore, we gravitate to degrees like apologetics because it helps us to understand the truth, to argue about what is true, and to see the truth.

We live in a post-Modern era wherein the major philosophical category is axiology. When a post-modernist encounters a problem, they first ask, “Is this valuable?” before moving forward. A post-modernist wants to understand issues of importance, value, or good. This is why many people will respond with, “Well that’s your truth,” when you tell them about something you understand as true. What they’re really saying is, “You may think that’s good/valuable/important, but I don’t.” You may have every argument for the authenticity of the Bible, every philosophical proof of deity, all truth in all of existence about the veracity of what you have to say, but if you do not convince them that what you have to say is good, they will never accept it as true.

In short, I feel that apologetics degrees and approaches suffer because they ask and answer the wrong questions. A post-modern apology for Christianity must defend the notion that (1) God is good, (2) Christianity is good, and (3) what Christianity produces is good. If your apology (defense) neglects any of these, I feel that you will not reach this generation. As a side note, I’ll also point out that actions speak louder than words in this case.

I respect those who take the path of the apologist. I respect those who teach apologetics to others. I observe, however, that arguing over the accuracy of this or that New Testament manuscript may not have the effect you think it does. As the old saw goes, no one every became a Christian because they lost the argument. And what is good? “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you:He wants you to promotejustice, to be faithful,and to live obediently before your God.”

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