Archive for category Opinion

If Work Had Mandatory Homework, I’d Quit

The school I work with and that my youngest son attends is resuming in-classroom teaching today for the first time in over a year. (Well, only in some grades to start with.) For the past year, students have been doing online schooling, which to be honest is not that great. I have huge admiration for what the teachers I know have accomplished with very difficult circumstances, but it seems to me (and this is about all schooling, not this particular school) that online school is missing out on the best of both worlds of traditional and home schooling. Home schooling allows for a great deal of flexibility. Traditional schooling has very clear boundaries.

Oh wait. Maybe not. Now that I’m thinking about it in these terms, I find a renewed dislike of “homework”. When one of my children complained about the arbitrariness, the difficulty, or the tediousness of their education, I would remind them that its purpose was to prepare them for adulthood. Yes, there are parts you don’t like; but if you don’t develop habits that allow you to tackle tasks you don’t like, you will be miserable as an adult. I would also say that everyone needs some useful purpose in their life. Adults have (among other things) careers. Children are not equipped, yet, to pursue careers, so going to school to prepare to be useful is their use in life, at least temporarily.

But thinking about how school normally works, it occurs to me that we are now asking kids to put in something quite close to a full day’s work at school, and then come home and do more work. Every day. In my adult world, sometimes I bring work home. But it’s a choice. And in a lot of jobs, that never happens at all. When you’re off the clock you’re off the clock.

Why can’t schools just get their work done in the time already allotted to them? I hear it when teachers argue that homework helps concretize lessons, that it is important for students to have time on their own to process and work through learning. Great. So let’s carve an hour out of the instruction that’s already happening and instead designate that “work alone time”. And put it somewhere in the middle of the day, when their brains are still working optimally.

Maybe homework made sense when students were only spending mornings in the classroom. But these days the average student is spending close to seven hours a day at their school, and then coming home to do three or more hours of homework that same day. This is dramatically up from twenty years ago. Not many adults would put up with work conditions like this. I know I wouldn’t.

Now, I’m happy to say that my child’s school is actually fairly good about their attitude towards homework. But even here I sometimes wonder if we are asking too much of the kids.

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I Don’t Hate the Super Bowl, But It’s Not Great

That headline was intentionally constructed to increase clicks, by the way. I’m playing a dumb game with my blog post titles right now, so if I come off as a bit more inflammatory than you’d expect, that’s probably why. However, it is true that I’m not super excited by the super bowl. But I’m not trying to tell you that your enjoyment of it is somehow bad or wrong. Far from it! And no, I’m not making yet another dumb sarcastic “Go sportsball!” type post that is so common this time of year every year on Twitter.

In fact, I think football is a very entertaining sport. I played it for most of my high school years, and a bit in elementary school as well. I grew up in the household of lifelong Eagles fans (insert obvious joke here), and never thought my parents’ season tickets were a waste of money for them. I saw how much fun they got from going to games for years and years. And when the Eagles themselves won recently, I loved it!

But most years, I only halfway pay attention to the super bowl, even if I watched some NFL games leading up to it. So you could say I’m kinda neutral on professional football in general. I can take it or leave it. When I do watch it, I have fun, but I often don’t bother. (Ice hockey, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether…)

Thinking about this got me wondering how much of a minority I’m in, here. I mean, I know that on the global stage the American obsession with the super bowl annually irks lots of people who think football is played without using your hands on a “pitch”. But here in the U.S., what percentage of people, like myself, didn’t watch even the half-time show?

As it turns out, about 42%. Or rather one can say that about 58% of TVs were tuned to the game. (Increasingly I wonder how much TV ratings diverge from actual percentages of homes engaged in something as more and more turn to other methods of consuming video content.)

Anyway, this is interesting and also not that surprising. And it’s a smaller number than it once was in years past. In fact, total viewership of the annual championship has been down for a few years, now. It peaked in 2017 at 172 million total viewers, and in years since has faded below 150 million. Still, that’s the majority of America. But here’s my real question:

How many cultural “touchstones” do we still have today? Is the Super Bowl one of the last ones standing? And will it, too, some day be something a majority of Americans do not experience?

And I have a follow-up question:

Is that a good thing, a bad thing, or just a meaningless bit of trivia good for blogs and think pieces but not much else?

I honestly don’t know. I have an instinct that immediately offers me answers to these two questions, but I don’t know that I trust my gut on this one.

Hm.

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Dealing with Social Distancing During the Pandemic

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Mercy

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Reflections on “Charter Day” 2009

Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

Ethan Daum Band rehearsing, Charter Day Sunday

As I write this, it is the Monday morning after Charter Day weekend. I am still feeling very happy from my experience at the ANC Charter Day Sunday Worship at 10 a.m., yesterday. In particular, the music from that service has been echoing in my heart, reminding me of how wonderful I felt as I opened the Word, having heard great music from the Ethan Daum band, Malotte’s version of The Lord’s Prayer by the high school choral group, and Psalm 62 sung by the entire congregation. By the time I opened my mouth, it felt to me almost like I could just read from the Word, say a prayer, and be complete.

But I really enjoyed the topic, too. We kicked off the second week of Living Courageously with the story of Elijah being fed by the Widow of Zarephath. Elijah told the widow to feed him first, and only afterwards herself and her son. She obeyed, and rather than hastening her starvation, it ended it. Sometimes it feels as if we, too, cannot afford to serve the Lord first, when in reality, we can’t afford not to! In the Old Testament, the Lord commanded that the first tenth be given to Him, not because He needed to receive it, but because people need to give it, so we could be reminded that everything good–all of it–belongs to the Lord.

True Christian Religion 746:1 begins with the statement, “To live for others is to perform useful services.” When we live for others, we are living for the Lord; what greater gift can we as a church give our heavenly Father than to usefully serve His children? Every parent wants their children to be loved, the Lord more than any other.

I talked a little bit about how the Academy was a movement before it was an institution. And a selfless movement, at that. A handful of people determined to serve the Lord, the world, and future generations through the growth of New Church schools and churches. The Academy was founded for the sake of training a new priesthood, translating and publishing the Writings, writing and publishing related books, furthering New Church education, and establishing a library. And not for themselves alone! I challenge you to count up the number of lives transformed by the Academy movement since its start. Or the number of people positively changed as a result of the planting of a church here in Bryn Athyn.

Creating institutions and planting churches are selfless acts. These things take sacrifice and hard work that can never show a “return on investment” for those who do them. And now, how can we repay those who gave us what we have–the Academy of the New Church, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and New Church congregations scattered across the world?

All movements fade in time, and successful ones leave behind communities, institutions, and other organizations. Our churches and schools are good things, gifts from the Lord through the agency of people no longer living. I believe it is time to “pay it forward”–to recognize what we have freely received and find new energy for passing even more on to the next generation, and to the larger world around us. It is time for a new movement.

Just something to think about this week, as we contemplate what it means to put God first, and to live for others.

[This is also appearing as this week’s “Pastor’s Box” in the Bryn Athyn Post.]

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