Ask The Principal

Monday, May 29, 2006

So why are you a public school principal?

Good question! All I can say is that if I had to do it over again....well, I wouldn't. But that isn't really the point because God is indeed sovereign over the lives of men. I believe that my experiences are part of the weave of the fabric of my life as God has ordained. Part of a tapestry of grace (guess which history curriculum we use :-)

So how do I reconcile what I am doing as a profession with my personal convictions? I reconcile it by applying my training to a system of education that dominates this country. As an administrator I have a fiduciary responsibility to the community and school board I serve. I am charged with providing the best educational experience that the faculty and staff at my school can provide to the children that attend. It is kind of like being a musical conductor, but everyone marches at a slightly different beat. Nevertheless, I have to keep things moving. It is time consuming, physically and emotionally draining, but it does have its rewards as you see various successes occur as a result of your efforts from an organizational point of view.

The part that is difficult (if not impossible) to reconcile is this: how do I enforce the breaking of the first commandment on a daily basis? "You shall have no other god before Me" becomes "You shall serve any god save the Lord God". Sure there are "student led" exhibitions of Christianity, but the faculty and staff need to keep a great distance by law. Obviously this distance varies from school to school/community to community, nevertheless the fact remains, with the current interpretations of the separation of church and state, to cross the line is to break the law. And for what? To have equal access to children of all parents for a Christian agenda that the pagan has for his secular agenda? No. I don't think so. That's fighting the battle on the terms of the enemy, so to speak. I won't go there in an overt manner personally. I believe strongly in the sovereignty of the family, and would resist the influence of anyone over my family without my consent. Hence I homeschool to prevent that from happening

That said, it is still a missionfield. It must be approached though as a missionary approaches a new setting. Light shining, Fruit of the Spirit exhibited, Christ glorified in our work, speech, actions, and the gospel shared with great wisdom and understanding as opportunity presents itself, so that the goodness of God is demonstrated through us. I come from a reformed perspective so that when the Bible says we are "dead" in our sins, I believe it means "Lazarus" dead, and only Christ could call him forth. So if Christ in us, the hope of glory, happens to call someone forth when we're around, to Him be the glory all the more.

I have shared my faith and prayed with Christian staff members at school and it is not a secret that I am a Christian. Christian parents expressed gratitude at counsel I give in various situations because they recognize the Biblical wisdom in it. It is my belief though that a reformation of education is necessary, but it must start at home, with the family, and in the church.

Well intentioned organizations like Gateways to Better Education are doing their best to keep Judeo-Christian values from perishing from the public education venue. I have used their materials. I cannot fault them completely in their efforts, though I would still strongly encourage Christian parents to remove their children from the public schools.

So here I am, well trained in running a public education institution and do so with Judeo-Christian values and blogging about taking one's Christian students out. I will continue in what I am doing, though my plans are to bring about a personal change. If and when the opportunity arises I am determined to go to seminary in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree and a pastorate. A few have emailed me and encouraged me to stay because of a positive influence I might have on the school I serve, but God has been pulling me in this direction for a couple years now. He knows who the next principal at my school will be already, good or bad, He is in control. I need to follow the calling He has placed on my life.

On another note, I have completed a batch of questions for David Boskovic's website Onewaypurpose which he will be posting near the end of the week. His current interview/remarks on mathematics and a Christian world view is very good. It's worth a look.

Friday, May 26, 2006

II Timothy 3 and the public school playground...

Check out II Timothy 3 here and give it a read.

Note: If you are using Firefox or the new IE beta with tabs, open another tab with the Bible link so you can quickly cross reference the scripture.

In vs. 1-5 Paul is talking to Timothy and giving him sound counsel in practicing discernment with regard to the type of men he is to avoid. Interestingly as I read this list of sinful behaviors it sounds like the conduct demonstrated on the playground at school. We might think that if we see these behaviors as adults in the sanctuary or amongst the members of our fellowship, that we should avoid these men and we would be right to do so. Now, put your child in the middle of another sort of sanctuary...that being the fenced playground. Willingly many Christians place their precious children into this "sanctuary" and expose them, to varying degrees, to each of these vices mentioned. Not just once or twice a week, but several times daily, for 180 school days of the year. In light of this scripture would you consider this to be a right thing to do? (you decide)

Paul then describes the victims of these men as "always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth". (v.7) Believe me, these playground children are learning all the time. The question remains, what are they learning? I dare say that most learning at school happens on the playground. It is the learning of the type we as Christian parents want to protect our children from. Why do you think the "socialization" argument is so prevelent? The world wants to conform your children to itself.

The final point that I want to make is at the end of the chapter. Yes we have heard II Timothy 3:16 a lot because it is a key verse regarding the application of scriptures to all of life, but note verses 14-15:

"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus"

We see that Timothy was read from childhood in the scriptures to such an extent that from his knowledge of the "sacred writings" along with his training he is able to receive wisdom that leads to salvation.

I try to be wary of reading too much into a scripture and I don't try to apply every scripture to every situation regardless of context. I will make two observations though. Firstly; Paul instructs Timothy to avoid men that, among other things, are disobediant to their parents. Secondly, Paul reminds Timothy of his Godly training.

I suggest that for our own children it would be a very good thing to:
  1. Keep them from the company of other children that, among other things, are disobedient to their parents;
  2. Provide for them the Godly training that would result in the ability of our children as they reach adulthood to "have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus". Calvin in his commentary of this verse makes note of the "kindness of God, if any person, from his earliest years, has thus aquired a knowledge of the scriptures". I suggest that for the most part this is not happening in the Christian homes whose children attend public school.

A post script; I changed the template of the blog because the old one had too much pink, and, being a teacher, I couldn't stand that the title was not in capital letters.

I have also been invited to participate in an email interview over at Oneway Purpose.

I'm not sure when it will start but I encourage you to drop by this young man's blog and give it a look. I really like what he is doing. I've been given my first question and I'll be answering it and sending the replies to him to post. Sounds like it will be an interesting exchange over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Textbook Adoptions

I received a timely email from a reader (Thanks "R") about textbook adoptions. It is amazing the religious zeal felt from those intent on "spreading the word" to the kids in school. Again, raising the children in the nurture and admonition of .....anything Godless (generally known as "the criteria"). You can read the article here. Timely for me because my district is in the middle of an adoption right now. I copied and passed out the article to teachers in the committee who found it insightful. It was nicely written and I was surprised at how well it caught the candor of the state board of education members. What is scary is that these people are so self-righteous that they don't realize how ridiculous they sound.

It was my intent to write a little more in depth on the matter but it is crunch time before graduation and its long hours for students, parents, teachers, and me of course. That is another huge drama in itself. I wrote about that a few minutes ago, but lost it. I'll chalk it up to Providence because it didn't turn out coherently.

Posts will be shorter and less frequent until the human drama of "get everything done at the last minute so I can graduate with my peers" plays out on June 8th.

How to make public school look like home?

This summer throughout the country, from Maui to Colorado to Florida, tens of thousands of teachers and administrators in the public education arena are going to attend conferences to learn the latest research and hear motivational speakers that will bring tears to their eyes, and then go back to schools changed, charged, and ready to go. It's almost like going to church camp. You hear a message that is life changing, you repent of your old teaching methods, and you go back on that high that lasts until about parent conference time.

Interestingly what teachers and administrators are being taught more and more is to make the classroom setting more like a healthy home setting.

From the ASCD blog (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) we see the following observation made by experts to help combat the 8th and 9th grade student that is at risk for not graduating:

Solutions mentioned included having small groups of students monitored and encouraged throughout high school by one adult; using data of all types to inform instruction; providing computers and instruction for both students and teachers; and greatly decreasing labeling and tracking of students, including labeling of student groups as "minorities."

So let's see here. We can take the above advice to work with the at-risk student in a modernistic public school setting in loco parenti (in place of the parent), or....we can take out the words "adult" and "students" and replace them with "father" and "brothers" (or "mother" and "sisters"). The mention of the computer is just a PC thing. One simply cannot have a classroom without a computer mind you. Shelves and shelves of great books is wonderful, but the computer.....well, we just won't let our minds go's just too painful. What incentives will we give the good kids if we can't let them play games and blog on "myspace"?

Sorry for the momentary digression into a pet peeve of mine.

Don't tell me that the homeschool parent doesn't know their child inside and out...there is your data, not a nationally norm-referenced test to compare your son/daughter with the rest of the nation. (Oh look! Johnny is smarter than 51.23 percent of the nation in mathematics and 48.32 percent of the nation in language arts!)

As far as labeling and tracking...well those sorts of things came out of a necessity to allow an industrialized production method to educate those that didn't fit in the norm-referenced tests given...more specifically, to create production methods that would allow these anomalies to do better on the tests, thereby validating the worth of the child (in the eyes of the system and society) and of the system itself.

Labeling occurs in the homeschool environment though. The labels are the first or endearing nick- names of the children. As far as minorities are concerned, well there generally has not been a documented case of race segregation in the homeschool system that I know of...certainly not one that required a supreme court ruling in 1954 (Brown) These "labels" are spoken in nurture and in admonishment, but always with the unequaled love and concern of a father and/or mother.

So folks, there you have it! Make the public education system look like the successful homeschool and you will have reform like no other, save of course, real homeschooling.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In the Nurture and Admonition of .........Their Peers?

As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I don't have cable or satellite TV service. Besides saving $40 a month, it saves me from having to worry about how I spend my time. I know that when I come home whipped after a day of putting out fires that turning on the tube is a great escape. No conflicts that I have to resolve, complete distraction from my responsibilities (though a certain youngster of mine can provide a powerful distraction with his ability to notify the senses of a soiled diaper!)

So I get my little video fix by watching the video clips online of news-stories and commentaries. I hate having to watch the little commercials before the clip, but I do because it won't let me fast forward them. Anyway, I just finished watching a newsclip (already forgot what it was about, but that's another discussion under "dumbing down America") but I remembered the was from the "Parents, the Anti-Drug" campaign. It has a girl leaving the house in the morning shadowed by her mother reminding the girl to exercise the manners (thank you) and safety cautions (look both ways before crossing, put on the safety belt), etc. When the young lady closes the door of the car she is riding in she is offered a "hit" by one of her peers in the car. The mother who had been shadowing her disappears, as if that was the one thing she never spoke to her daughter about. The ad leaves us there with the hope we as parents will speak to our kids about drugs so that when we send our kids out the door into the world to be raised, taught, influenced, nurtured, and admonished in the ways of the world they will at least say no to drugs.

Think about this for a moment. As a culture we widely have accepted as a norm that we send our kids out daily to receive all kinds of instruction. It would be naive to think that our kids are receiving only that which the school factory deems necessary to meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress, an NCLB thing). In fact the child will receive input from a plethora of sources. Every glance, every snicker, jostle, push, tug, sneer, grin, burp, smell, poke, whisper, note, wink, game, etc, ad infinitum. As parents we worry often enough about the good example we make to our kids. What about the kids that intentionally make themselves an example to your children?

Just think of the movies and TV shows that have a school setting that are aimed at the youth market. What is the primary influence? Peers. Barbie peers, jock peers, Goth peers, bully peers, victim peers, nerd peers, smarty peers, smoker/doper peers, etc. Throw in the teen version of the violation of the 7th Commandment and you have yourself a summertime teen movie hit. You have the occasional made-for-big-people movies that glorify the adult influence (Mr. Holland's Opus), but that's the big-person world. Not the world of a 5, 6, 7.....15 year old.

I have seen parents throw royal conniption fits if they did not get their favorite teacher and yet remain clueless to the fact that all may come to naught in a 2 minute playground tragedy. Remember the little girl in St. Louis last week? I have seen awesome brain research and incredible intellects perfect various teaching methods, and yet the primary influence in a kid's life when he or she comes home at the end of the day will be what happened on the playground in the morning.

My challenge will be this to parents sending their kids to public school: Ask your child about his/her day. My guess is that most of the recollection will be of the social aspect of the day, what Julie said to Robbie, what Juan wrote on a note, what Billy did to Sally, etc. You will give them a little moral lesson about it and in 3 minutes the day is another part of a building reinforcement of alternative behaviors that wouldn't be allowed at home but seen all day at school. Eventually your child will grow weary of the lessons and discussions and will stop talking about the day and hope the response of "nothing special, we just had a test and I think I did ok" will suffice.

Continued exposure of our children in public school system actually trains them to be bi-cultural. There is a culture at home, and a culture at school They are different as night and day sometimes. I'm going to wrap up this post with part of a comment I posted on Spunkyhomeschool blog a couple weeks ago, and was the catalyst for me starting this blog. It was in response to the prompt "Can schools be fixed"

Can public education be fixed? It has become the venue of the pagan and the sanctuary of the loathsome. It is primarily the place where students learn first their "socialized status" and its implications in the pecking order of peers. Academics come only after as sense of "social survival" occurs in the being of the child. Innocence is diminished and another culture develops in the mind of the child separate to the culture fostered at home. It is a culture of survival. Students respond differently, whether with power or prowess amongst their peers, or hiding in a sub-group that provides protection from the unwanted.

Can a system that forces this to happen to the child be fixed? Should it? How often, I don't know, a parent has told me that the child I described to them is not their own, until confronted with irrefutable evidence, followed by disbelief, tears, and cries for help.

The system as it exists forces a separation in the family whose multi-faceted wounds are difficult, if not impossible, to heal. What the system needs is fixing, like you do to an animal that you don't want to reproduce.

Finally, even a public school administrator can put a Bible verse on his blog:

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

You shall bind them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

There is no better model of a family teaching method than this. I note how this is an all day affair and the teaching is directed to "your sons" (not pupils in general). Note also how the "school" is adorned. I propose that as Christians we train our children in these "schools" that have "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" bound to the doorposts and gates. This teaching is directed by parents to their children, and there is not a mention of sending their children into the pagan cultures so that they could be missionaries to the children of pagans.

This all said, a prayerful consideration may be in order for your family.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Stupid in the NEA

Hs'ing mom of two asked in the comments about my experience w/the NEA national convention and whether or not I have seen Stossel's piece on ABC (Stupid in America). Well, I haven't seen the show (we don't have cable or satellite, mostly because I'd be watching History Channel and my wife those home makeover shows, and the kids...would be somewhere doing something that wasn't interrupting our viewing :-) but I've heard about it. Was it unfair? Does it matter? It's hard to trust anything you see on TV. If the NEA didn't like it though, well, I'd say it hit a home run. Which brings me to the 1994 NEA national convention in New Orleans. I have to say the best thing about it was the bread pudding served by the caterers in the back of the convention center. The convention was interesting , enlightening, and there were a couple times I thought I better leave before the brimstone came out of about blasphemies!

The convention center was huge (yes the infamous convention center of hurricane Katrina fame) and I haven't seen so many people under one roof ever. Seems like it was about 12,000 or so. Hillary Clinton was the keynote pushing her healthcare ideas. What I remember most, besides the dozens of measures passed (and the bread pudding!) that didn't seem to have anything to do with education, was the march against the state of Louisiana because of their "repressive" laws against women's reproductive rights. Convention staffers passed out little purple and white ribbons to the delegates to wear on the delegate badges. Because I was working with a pregnancy counseling center at home I happened to have an extra pair of those little gold feet that represent an unborn child's sized feet at 10 weeks. I attached my ribbon to my badge with those tiny gold feet. This symbol was completely foreign to the delegates there (Except the NEA Educators for Life Caucus, which I attended that year) and I got a lot of great kudos for the way I attached my ribbon....until I replied confidently and with a huge smile " Yes! I believe in reproductive rights for unborn women!" The reactions were priceless. Nothing threatening though. It really was the most fun I'd had in a long time. It's not often one feels complete license to be onery. Anyway, before the march took place, the Educators for Life Caucus was treated with great caution and concern (compared to the often disinterested reactions given the other delegates representing various measures), the president conducting the session brought special attention to the issues brought to the floor by Educators for Life Caucus just in case "they got one by". ELC did make some points uncomfortable to the NEA leadership though.

When the march was about to take place it began thundering outside. It rumbled the whole convention center. When the president (Keith Geiger) mentioned God and that "she" was speaking it provoked a huge roar of approval from the audience. I have never been anywhere before or since where such a huge crowd seemed to relish and even savor the jibe against the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. I wasn't going to join the march but at this point I left. I couldn't stand it. The mockery at that level was beyond my capacity to endure. I kept thinking about Sodom and Gomorrah, yet I also kept thinking about the incredible mercy of God. I also knew that if I were HE....well, it's a good thing for everyone there I'm just a mortal like them. Still, it did rain on their parade, and I got a little satisfaction out of that. All those people standing in the rain outside singing emotionally "We shall overcome...." was marvelously pathetic though. You had to shake you head and smile.

The rest of the time was left wing politics and walking through crowds of sometimes hundreds of educators chanting silly slogans and holding signs endorsing different delegates running for NEA national posts. Rows and rows of booths catering to left wing agendas through out. It was so incredibly distasteful (except for the bread pudding of course!) that I began my Master's degree program in Education Administration that fall. I did my duty though as a delegate an voted my conscience on each of the measures.

I hope this gives you a taste of the NEA. A hugely powerful organization that feels complete license to malign anyone that challenges their agenda. You know, God was going to save Sodom for even 10 righteous. I know there were about 50 there in the Educators for Life Caucus, so maybe the NEA isn't quite as bad as Sodom, but that was 12 years ago. I don't think they've gotten any better.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Should middle school kids pick a major?

Picking majors in middle school. Yes, I've heard of such a thing. It wasn't that long ago that middle school did not exist. It wasn't that long ago that the concept of adolescence did not exist. Fathers apprenticed their sons or paid tutors, mothers trained their daughters in the art of keeping the home. Then came the industrial revolution. Everyone moves to the city, becomes illiterate and then godless. So an industrial revolution response to educating the masses is born sired by feminism and nurtured by modernism and humanism. Socialism kicks in because this new system of education is the perfect venue for it to reproduce and voila, you have a governor (Jeb Bush) running an education factory system trying to apprentice the boys and girls, usurping the father's role (usually by default) to "reform" an already failing system.

I am being overly simplistic, but the general idea is this; you have a production system and you want to produce items that will be good for the company, but...from a production methods standpoint you have a failed system. So you try to introduce some of what worked in the past but force it into parameters (defined by political correctness) that doom it to failure. Then to see if it works you test each widget (child) to see if the production methods are effective. If not, then you tweak the system, call it alternative ed, magnet school, charter school, etc. and find alternate methods of measuring that....well, I'm rambling. I really hadn't used my undergraduate degree in Industrial Management until I became a principal.

Educators and administrators follow what the latest hype is. There are genuinely inspirational and motivational leaders in education who do create a "successful" educational programs. They are the ones that foster an environment that comes closest to the “healthy nuclear family” (albeit according to a redefined model) They include in the language of their success the vernacular of what is currently politically correct and it is promoted to the forefront of the public education world by those in power who want to foster a "change" that benefits their worldview. Notoriety follows and so do copycats who really do want the best for the kids in their schools, but can't think through the pre-suppositional problems that doom it to failure. Sometimes it is research based and sometimes not. I was trained as a teacher in "whole language instruction" and we had kids that couldn't read. The whole state did that and we're still suffering for it. Then the big push in phonics and kids could decode like crazy but couldn't remember what they read or thought about it. You have waves of thought, methods, "reform" that tie into some things that are good, but are destined to failure because they lack the whole truth in some way or another.

The worst part about the whole thing is that it is the unions, teachers, and left leaning politicians that are fighting it. Not because it is failed, but because it does strangle their unbridled influence. It should be the parents responding by taking home their children and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is the father that needs to take hold of his boy's education and allow choice within the boundary of demonstrated responsibility. It is the mother that needs to take hold of her daughter and raise her to have the rock-solid character that it takes to be a I Peter 3 woman. Both father and mother in a marriage covenant raising their children in the roles Godly wisdom and knowledge would dictate.

A father is a Christian (by God's grace) who is a carpenter, he raises his son to be a Christian (by God's grace) , who becomes a carpenter (or whatever his father guides him to be), even if he may not really like it, but his occupation doesn't make him what he is or fulfill him as a man, his God does. It really is just that simple, even if it isn't all that easy.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I'm here...

I've been a teacher, an assistant principal, and now a principal. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in public education. I've been a participant in "emerging educational alternative methods" (namely a high tech classroom in a mall, 3 doors down from the main entrance to Sears and across from the Radio Shack), a union representative, an elected delegate to the NEA national convention, a union negotiator, member of various school district and county level committees, a trainer of trainers, 504 coordinator, and have been up to my eyeballs in it since 1987. I've done all this to be "salt and light" in the public school system. And I am a homeschool dad. I can say this. God is sovereign. He has had me in the palm of His hand from the getgo (vernacular for "from before the foundations of the world"). I am at the point now where the message for me is to say .........

OK, I'll tone it down a bit, use a "cooler" color, and allow those that think I'm too enthusiastically reactionary time to catch up.

Nevertheless the transistion from public to homeschool can be a shocker, but not nearly the shocker that comes with the realization of what happens in the minds and souls of our children in the public school system in a post-modern, pagan friendly system.

This isn't an easy decision to make if one hasn't made it yet. Most want to make informed, biblical, well thought out decisions about this. I hope to be able to provide informative articles, personal anecdotes and responses from the inside of the public school system to those contemplating an exit of their children out of the public school system. To do so with informative advice from someone who has "been there and done that" can be helpful. Plenty of pundits can speak to the issue, but few from my perspective.