Be Careful How You Use The Word Uneducated

The word uneducated has been thrown around a lot over the past couple of days. It’s one of those words that can’t really be used in a nice way. We don’t say that children are uneducated. We just say that they’re in the process of getting their education. Usually, when we use the word uneducated, we’re trying to find a nice way to call people dumb. The only problem is that it’s not too nice. And it’s, well, an uneducated thing to say.

A while back I was driving my 1990-something automobile down a busy road at night when smoke suddenly started coming out from under the hood. I jumped out at a red light and tried to correct the issue. About a mile down the road, my 1990-something automobile reminded me that I don’t know anything about cars. The smoke got worse but I managed to guide the dying automobile into a church parking lot.

I got out and said a prayer.

And then I made a phone call.

The guys who came to help me don’t carry any initials after their names. They’ve never been asked to write a book about anything. They’ll probably never give a commencement address. I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of years in school. When I finish my current degree I will have spent almost as much time in school after high school graduation as I did before.

But standing next to that dead car of mine, guess who the uneducated one was.

Some of the most brilliant people I know have never been to college. Have you ever watched a carpenter work? A good one is one half Michelangelo and one half Mike Rowe. He’s an artist with dirt under his fingernails and blisters on his hands and drive in his heart. And he’s far from uneducated.

There are many times in my life when I don’t know what my next step should be. When I find myself in that situation, I don’t go looking for the guy with the most degrees. I go looking for the guy with the most wisdom. The two are not the same. Typically, the guy with the most wisdom has more gray hairs and wrinkles than he does degrees.

A while back someone asked me if it was a requirement for a pastor to go to seminary. For me, it was. I needed the discipline and rigor. But that’s not the case for all ministry leaders. Some of the best ones I know have educated themselves through interaction with other wise leaders and reading a lot. On the other hand, there are those pastors who can’t keep track of all of their degrees but who also couldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit from a graduation robe.

This is not to say that degrees and higher education do not matter. They do. If you’re getting surgery, you want the guy holding the scalpel to have tons and tons of initials after his name. A good, formal education is a necessity for some. But not for all.

We have to remember that we’re all different. We have different roles. And those different roles don’t make some better than others. Society needs doctors and carpenters. The best example for us is the Trinity where we see one God made up of three distinct yet equal persons. The Holy Spirit is no more or less God because he’s not the one who died on the cross.

No matter who came out on top in the election, I knew I wouldn’t be happy about the winner. I can’t remember the last time that I was happy with the outcome of an election. Maybe one day I will be. But I’ve never called in sick to work or asked for the day off from classes because I needed to cope with the bad news. There are a lot of highly educated people who did just that this week. I know a mechanic, a guy who some in our media would refer to as uneducated, who wasn’t too thrilled with this week’s election results either. But he went to work the next day.

It goes to show, there’s a difference between being uneducated and miseducated.

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Grafitti

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Dr. Cindy Mallory was a scientist. She taught Physics and Biology at Dooley High School. She found more pride in calling herself a scientist than she did a teacher. That’s why she made her students call her Dr. Cindy Mallory.

The few things in life that were true got that way because they were proven. Science was the way that they were proven. Science was her religion and thinking things through was her holy sacrament. As Cindy saw it, teachers just gave homework. Scientists found the truth. Dr. Cindy Mallory was a scientist.

As much as she loved science, she hated the routine of her life. It was the same almost every day of the week. Teach class. Meet with parents. Go home to her son. Eat. Read. Sleep.

Jack was her son. She never married and had no contact with Jack’s father so it was just the two of them. When Jack was a baby, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was a badge of honor for her to wear with her feminist friends. Look at what the empowered woman can do all by herself. Who needs a husband? But, as time wore on, the pressures of parenting proved more than she could handle. Jack was in the 8th grade now. He thought that he was 21. Dr. Cindy Mallory did everything she could to remind him that he was only 13.

It wasn’t enough.

There was always something new with Jack. Children of pastors sometimes like to show the world that they are exactly the opposite of their holy fathers. Jack wanted to show the world that he was the exact opposite of his intelligent, feminist mother. It wasn’t that Jack was stupid. He was actually very smart. He just did stupid things.

Like trying to rob the ice cream truck with a water pistol.

And locking two stray dogs in some random car in the school parking lot.

The real intelligence problem came up last Monday afternoon. It was far from anything that Dr. Cindy Mallory had ever expected. It made her question everything that she had ever believed, not just about parenting but about science as well.

Jack got home from school an hour earlier than his mother. That 60 minutes of unaccompanied recreational activity usually gave Jack the occasion to create quality havoc. This particular afternoon was no different.

Jack had taken a few cans of spray paint from his art class. They had spent the day discussing graffiti. For once, Jack felt like studying the lesson further at home. And so, with a rainbow of colors at his disposal, Jack went to work. The one blank wall in his room was his canvas. As he created, he looked more like a professional painter than a prankster. His eyes were focused. His vision was certain. He knew exactly what he was creating and he was sure of how to get there.

What he was creating was vile. Some might even call the picture pornographic. Jack just thought it looked neat.

Less than an hour after he began, he was finished. He fell back on his bed and admired his obscene creation while he breathed in the remaining smells of spray paint that still lingered in the air. Jack was proud of what he had created.

As usual, he never thought about the consequences of what he had done. As soon as he heard his mother open the front door, he realized that he had a problem. He knew that Dr. Cindy Mallory, scientist and feminist, wouldn’t share his feelings for the newly created art on his bedroom wall.

Her heels tapped loudly down the tile hallway to Jack’s room. She could smell the spray paint. She stuck her head in Jack’s door and saw him kicked back on his bed with his headphones on. She motioned for him to take them off. The faint sound of Twenty One Pilots could now be heard.

“What’s up?” his mother said in her usual direct fashion as she walked in to face Jack.

“Nothing.” That was Jack’s usual response.

“How was school?”

Jack shrugged is shoulders. Another usual answer from Jack.

“What is that smell?”

Dr. Cindy Mallory, the scientist, was on the job. Whatever was causing that spray paint smell, she would find it. She never took her eyes off of Jack and she was completely unaware of the vile graffiti on the wall directly behind her.

“Jack! Are you sniffing paint? Jack, I swear to you that I will call the cops on you. Do you have any idea what that can do to your brain?”

Jack laughed.

“It’s not funny, Jack!”

She put both hands on her forehead and closed her eyes. She wanted to say something else but all that came out was a groan. She put her hands back down, opened her eyes and locked them in on Jack. She was going for one of those motherly looks that guilts the child into submission. It didn’t work. It never did.

Jack just smiled.

When Dr. Cindy Mallory turned around to leave the room, she caught something out of the corner of her eye and suddenly realized the source of that spray paint odor. She backed up to let the full picture sink in. Her hands moved back up, this time over her mouth. Tears filled her eyes. She began to shake.

There are men who spent 20 years in the Navy who would have been offended by the picture that Jack painted on his bedroom wall. Dr. Cindy Mallory was never in the Navy. She was a scientist. But she was also a feminist. Nothing could be more offensive to a feminist than the picture on Jack’s wall.

A million cuss words ran through Dr. Cindy Mallory’s scientific mind. None of them came out. Instead, one question did. Calmly, but with anger boiling inside of her, she turned around to her son.

“Where did this come from?”

Jack shrugged again.

“Jack!” She had never screamed so loud. She controlled herself before she got louder or said something she would later regret.

She asked the question again almost as if each word was it’s own sentence.

“Where did this come from?”

“Don’t know. Just got there I guess.”

The boiling emotions inside of Dr. Cindy Mallory got more intense. She was no longer a parent or an offended feminist. Now, she was a scientist searching for the truth. And she was going to find it.

“Jack, honey, things don’t just appear.”

“This one did.”

She laughed but it wasn’t a fun laugh. It was one of those angry laughs that someone does to keep from committing a felony. The scientist spoke again.

“So you’re telling me that the paint inside of those cans somehow magically escaped and, on it’s own, conspired together to fall on your bedroom wall in just the exact order to result in this… this filth?”

“Sounds like a good theory to me.” Jack’s eyes bounced back and forth between his angry mother and his beautiful work of art. His pride in what he had created grew.

Dr. Cindy Mallory sat on the corner of Jack’s bed. Now the scientist was really on the job and it was time for a lecture.

“Jack, dear, don’t be a fool!” She cringed at calling her son a fool but it was already out there. She would deal with it later. “Things don’t just happen. They have a cause. A source. Creation is evidence of a creator.”

She stopped. It was liked she had seen a ghost. She wanted to say, “And the evidence tells me that you, Jack, are that creator,” but she couldn’t. She just froze.

Dr. Cindy Mallory, sitting on the corner of her son’s bed and under the dim glow of the pornographic graffiti on his wall had just realized her hypocrisy. She had spent her entire career as a scientist teaching teenagers that they, and the world they lived in, were victims of chance. That they had just happened. Evolution was the norm for intelligent scientists like herself. Creation was a theory for weak and close-minded fools.

But now, when her teenage son used her same argument to explain away his creation, he was somehow the fool.

Dr. Cindy Mallory stood up slowly. Her expression did not change. Jack’s did. Suddenly, he was concerned.

“Mom, are you okay?”

She said nothing in response. She took one last look at the creation on Jack’s wall as she walked out of his room. Her heels tapped loudly back down the hallway, into the kitchen and to her purse.

She grabbed her phone and called Dooley High School.

“This is Cindy Mallory. I’m going to need a sub for the rest of the week. I’ve got to think through some things.”

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Disregard Warning Label, Jump Anyway

My son could have broken his arm. Or maybe one of the tiny bones in his foot. But that was sort of the point. It’s why I told him to jump.

He was about three-years-old and we were playing on a swing set. He had grown bored with the slide and swings and wanted to move on to something else. Something more dangerous. The kind of thing that they write warning labels telling you not to do.

He wanted to jump off of a platform on the swing set. It was only about four feet up in the air. For him, I’m sure that it seemed like skydiving. When he worked his way over to the edge and looked down he started to have second thoughts. The warning label in his mind was telling him to go inside and lay on the couch.

“Dad, can I get hurt doing this?”

“Yes. But jump anyway.”

When his feet finally hit the ground, he looked back at me with a smile. Even though he was only three, I knew that he had just taken one small step towards manhood.

Monday morning was his first day of school. Not his first day this year. His first day ever. My wife and I looked like members of the paparazzi. We both had cameras and took pictures of his every move. Thankfully, he was a much more willing subject than Sean Penn.

We had all been looking forward to his first day of school for a while but as the day drew closer, he started to get nervous.

Over the weekend he and I were riding around in my truck, listening to one of his favorite guitar players. Maybe it was all the blues riffs but things started to turn confessional.

“Dad, I’m a little nervous about starting school.”

He was jumping off of the swing set all over again. I wanted to tell him that there was nothing to worry about. That there would never be any bullies, twice his age and size, who would try to scare him. That there would never be a girl who breaks his heart. That it would never seem like school was more than he could handle.

But I couldn’t.

So instead, I just told him to jump anyway.

It’s not my job to protect my sons from every potential harm or heartache that could come their way. Some, yes. But not all. In fact, sometimes, it’s my job to put them in situations that seem a little scary. Situations where they would rather believe the warning label.

Those are the golden opportunities.

They are the times where they can become more reliant on Immanuel, God With Us, as fear looks them in the eye. They are the moments where they learn not to allow what could happen to keep them from what needs to happen.

Before my son went into his classroom, he stood with his brother, his mother and me and we prayed. I prayed for God’s blessing and protection to be on him. When I finished praying and opened my eyes, I expected to see him crying. He wasn’t. He was smiling. And then he turned around and walked into his classroom. With no tears and smiling in the face of fear, he jumped anyway. And took one small step towards manhood.

It was a different story for the rest of us as we walked back to our car. There were plenty of tears. On the way home, flipping through the stations, I heard a familiar guitar riff. I turned up the volume and started to sing along with my oldest son, like always. But then I realized that he wasn’t in the car. He was busy being brave and taking the next jump.

For just a second I hesitated, wondering if I had made the right decision.

And it was then that I remembered that sometimes the kids aren’t the only ones in the family that have to disregard the warning labels and jump anyway.

Strong Rock, Bad Dreams

A little girl’s dreams have been crushed. There’s no doubt about that. The only question is, who did the crushing? Popular opinion is that it’s all the fault of a school. A Christian school, mind you.

Maddy Paige was a starting defensive tackle last year for a recreational football team. Next year she wants to play for her school, Strong Rock Christian School. The private institution has a policy prohibiting girls from playing on all boys teams. As a result, everyone who is everyone is mad at the school.

Sexism is alive and well down in Locust Grove, Georgia!

The Bible Thumpers are at it again!

And so on and so forth with all of the expected moans and groans.

What do we want? 

Seventh grade girls to play football!

When do we want it?

Now!

But no one wants to look beneath the rhetoric, at the core, where the real problem rests. Isn’t that where one can usually find the painful truth? Maybe that’s why so many people prefer the surface arguments. They’re not nearly as painful as the truth. On the surface, I can play the victim. It’s beneath the surface where we find the real culprit. And we may not like what we find. Hooray for the surface!

The school isn’t the problem here. Yes, I know. They’re the ones crushing a young girl’s dreams. But is it the job of an educational institution to inspire kids to follow their dreams? Absolutely not. An educational institution, as well as a family institution, at least the good ones, the ones that care to look beneath the surface, see that their responsibility is to give guidance, not continual and groundless affirmation. Not all dreams are worth following.

Parents and teachers are there to narrow down dreams for kids and help them to see which ones are worth following. So in a very real sense, parents and teachers are supposed to crush dreams. Gasp! But the fact that nobody wants to be a dream crusher is why so many young adults find themselves in a quarter-life crisis. All of their lives they’ve been told by parents and teachers that they can do anything they want to do and nothing can stand in their way, even gender or a lack of talent. As a result, they end up following their dreams, however wild and irresponsible they may be, only to see them crushed by the hard realities of life. Better to have a wild and crazy dream crushed at 10 than 25.

As you might expect, Paige’s mother is furious with Strong Rock’s dream-crushing policy.

“What they’ve done here is they’ve taken Maddy – they let her have that cake, then they took it from her and they smashed it.”

Fair enough. But wouldn’t it have been easier if mom and dad had done the smashing long ago. Or perhaps, I don’t know, not even let her have the cake to begin with? Maybe a different piece of cake?

Look Maddy, football is for boys. That doesn’t mean that boys are better than girls or that God loves boys more than girls. He just created them to have different roles. It’s sort of like the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit each have different roles but they are still equally God. Hey look, a softball!

Oh, but I can hear the arguments already.

Do you honestly expect a parent to talk to a sixth grader about the Trinity?!

No. But it would be nice. Besides, if we think that our little ones are old enough and responsible enough to be activists, maybe they can handle a little theology better than we might expect.

And that’s another thing that’s lost in cases like this. The child. Parents have to know that this cannot end well for the child, whether it’s in the seventh grade or in the NFL. Strong Rock said that Maddy’s presence on the middle school team “may” cause boys to have impure thoughts.

May?

May!

Seventh grade boys have impure thoughts looking at a can opener. Imagine what happens to the minds of those little seventh grade boys when they are told to wrap their arms around young Maddy’s waist or push her in the chest. Go ahead. Imagine. I can guarantee you that a group of seventh grade boys already are imagining. And that’s the thing that no one wants to talk about. When it comes to the blurring of gender lines, imaginations are given the opportunity to become actions.

In our culture we are quick to make accusations about sexism. And institutions usually, over time, cave to those accusations. That’s why there are women in our military fighting side by side with men on the front lines.

But we can’t have our cake and eat it too, to borrow a phrase from Maddy’s mother.

We cannot then be surprised when the real sexism takes place. The sexism that leads to a powerful man raping a woman under his command while on the field of battle. Or the sexism that takes place when a seventh grade boy with a wild imagination and a camera phone spends the better part of the afternoon tackling a girl.

Maddy says that Strong Rock Christian School has taken away her dreams. Maybe so. But maybe, in taking away those dreams, Strong Rock Christian School is protecting something that is much more precious to Maddy.

Her innocence.

The Case Against Melissa Harris-Perry’s Collective Parenting

“Aren’t you worried that your kids will turn out, uh, well, uh, how do I say this, weird?”

I always get some variation of that question when people find out that my sons are homeschooled.

I never mention it out loud, but when people bring up the weird factor, I always think about the tenth grade.  I had a mullet in the tenth grade.  I was socially awkward in the tenth grade.  And I was in the public school system.

One day, a friend didn’t show up to English Literature class.  Towards the end of class the principal made a strange announcement over the intercom.  Our teacher looked concerned.  This was nothing new.  She always looked concerned but that was mainly because other students always said Sir Mix A Lot instead of Sir Lancelot.

I knew that this time was different when the teacher walked over to the door, locked it and told us that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.  We spent the rest of the day locked in that classroom.  Later, we found out that a student walked into the principal’s office with a shotgun.  It appears that my friend, the one who didn’t show up for class that day, had had enough.  He was picked on his whole life and so he convinced himself that violence was his only solution.

So I sort of laugh and think back to the tenth grade when I hear those concerns about my kids growing up weird.  Homeschoolers aren’t the only ones who struggle with social skills.

Melissa Harris-Perry works for MSNBC.  About once every three or four months she says something crazy.  This quarter’s installment involves public education.

The basic gist of this short promo is that we need to be spending more money on public education.  This is typical for progressive thinkers.  For them, more money is always the perfect answer just so long as the question is not, “What do you get when you work hard and invest wisely?”

Harris-Perry explains that part of the problem with public education is that we need to do away with the old frame of mind that says that kids belong to their parents or families and embrace the idea that “kids belong to whole communities.”  Again, like a lot of progressive rhetoric, this sounds good at first.  But what if the whole community decides that your kid needs to be pumped full of some experimental new medicine that will help him not to lean back in his chair or fall off of his bike?  Are parents in this country really ready for whole communities to be making vital decisions about the kids that they are charged with raising?  Sadly, for many, the answer is yes.

Harris-Perry continues.

“Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household, then we start making better investments.”

I’ve lived in neighborhoods where there were kids that were everybody’s responsibility.  They were everybody’s responsibility because the birth parents, while still sharing the same geographical space as their children, forfeited their responsibility of raising those children.  As a result, we had three and four-year-olds sitting out in the middle of the road at 11:30 at night.  Isn’t collective parenting lovely?

Even the best parents need a little help from time to time but if it takes a village to raise your kids, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

In most cases, this communal parenting seems to never end.  The three-year-old who is raised by the community has a way of becoming the thirty-year-old who depends on that same community for food, clothing and shelter.  Or even worse, the people are forced to pay in order for that now grown child to be locked away so that he no longer harms the community.

There are good kids, teachers and administrators in private, public and homeschool settings.  It’s not my place to say which is the better option for all families.  But, as a parent, it is our place to take responsibility for our own children and ensure that it is we the parents, not they the collective, that is doing the job of raising men and women.  No matter what educational options we choose for our kids we have to remember that the task of shaping those boys and girls into men and women has been given to parents, not the United States Department of Education.

I’ve had a few opportunities to go on field trips with my two sons and hundreds of other homeschooled children.  On every one of those field trips, I encounter a kid who is, well, uh, how do I say this, weird.

But, for the moment at least, it’s good to know that parents have the right to raise their own kids the way that they choose, even if the collective thinks it’s weird.

A culture where every child is normal is one that has abandoned individual liberty.