Monday, December 26, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back in Indianapolis

I've been a week back in Indianapolis now. Apologizes for the lack of blogging. I have been sick and taking a break from blogging. I hope to give a detailed update on my trip back and concluding thoughts on my Australia experience. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Packing Up

These past two months have been too short. I'm going to miss Australia. Packing is always miserable, it's like tearing off a band aid. I am worried about coming back and realizing how much I and Indianapolis have changed.

I have learned a lot about myself while here both as a person and teacher. Most importantly my relationship with God has deepened. When you live in a foreign country you have no safety net. Sure people will help you out but your family and close friends are thousands of miles away. Also, I have made some great friends, but there hasn't been someone who's been in my same position, a young single male American teacher in an Australian school. I've been forced by my circumstances to talk with God about how things are going. Also, I've had to trust God a lot more. Whether it's just getting to some place or feeling out of place at school, God has been a constant aid. Living in a foreign country has forced me to rely on him.

Those are some beginning thoughts on my experience, more to come. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beach Cricket!

This evening I will be playing beach cricket with the Repse family, who I've been living with for the past two months. It's my first time to play beach cricket. I've been explained the rules, and it looks like an interesting game. I don't understand how people will play it days on end. That seems a bit extreme for me. I've always been interested in learning new sports. I'm glad to add cricket to my list.

This morning and afternoon I was at a staff metting and luncheon. I had to say goodbye to everyone at Maranatha. It has been such a great experience teaching there. I wish I could have stayed, but I'm being called elsewhere.

The last week has been probably the hardest week I've spent in Australia. It is hard saying goodbye to people. With classes ending, it's been a very light week. I'm beginning to reflect on my experience in Australia. At some point I'll write some thoughts on my experience. Right now I'm doing my best to just enjoy the last couple of days. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The End is Near

I can't believe there are only four days of school left, and I come back to America in seven days. Time has flown for me here in Melbourne. I have learned a lot at Maranatha and am leaving with some great experiences and friendships.

I haven't blogged for a long time because I was at camp for five days. We lived in tents and were in the Otways, a beautiful area. It was a mix rainforest, forest and coast all on hilly terrain. We got some beautiful views. It also goes along the Great Ocean Road. We lived on food we brought. My diet was English muffins, oatmeal, some bars, water and 2-minute noodles. Glad to have real food now.

The weather was a mix of rain and sun shine. It was sunny one minute and as we started to put on sunscreen it started raining. Other then some bad weather we also kept awake by koalas. Those animals make the worst noises at night, even worse then the students who stayed up all night.

The students were well behaved overall. There were fourteen of them, both girls and guys. Of course there were moments that I was an unhappy teacher. Yet, overall it was a good experience. We had some good times and good memories. I'm glad I went. It has helped me become a better teacher and leader. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On Friday I had the 2nd best Cup of Coffee in my Life

On Friday I went in to the city to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, walk around and had the second best cup of coffee I have ever had at Brother Baba Budan. The best I had was at Bewleys in Dublin Ireland. This cup was really close, and it's rather hard to compare the two, but yeah, I want to get another cup before I leave the country on December 12th.

I'll be gone for almost the whole week. I am going with the year 9 students to the Otways for a camping trip. It'll be an exciting time of rafting, mountain biking, bush walking and trying to survive. I had to pack all my food for the week. I hope it goes well.

Happy late Thanksgiving. I was able to celebrate two thanksgiving. One with a fellow teacher at his home on Thursday and another on Saturday over in Geloong with the Fishers, Blackwoods and other RPers. There is much to be thankful for! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Slow Week

This week has put me in a bind. There is almost no teaching on. Currently grades 7-9 are in exams for the week. Years 11 through 12 are in early commencement. (This is when teachers begin introducing their new subjects to the students. Hard to introduce something that you won't be teaching because you won't be there.) Hence, I'm stuck in an office all week doing curriculum development on the Vietnam War and marking exams. Can't say this is the best week of my life.

Other then a slow week, I've begun to get to know the students a lot better. It was hard at first because I didn't know any of the students or staff. Though it's hard because I won't be teaching here next year, I've been able to develop a rapport with some of the students. I think that's what I enjoy most about teaching right now, is the relationships I've been able to have with the various students and staff. I thought I was more interested in content. Though I still enjoy it a lot, it's really cool taking concepts and ideas and giving them to students. It's a great feeling when a student tells you that they were learning while you taught or when you see their faces light up when they understand a concept.

The staff are very enjoyable. Aussies like to make fun of each other a lot, which is more in tune with my personality. I really enjoyed getting to know the staff when we went on camp. It was some very good times. It'll be hard to leave in a couple of weeks now.

I've put up some pictures on my google+ account, most of them are of camp. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Relying on God in Australia

Living in a foreign country is an adventure. Certainly, Australia is not a third world country, and the Aussies speak English, kind of. So, it's not extraordinarily difficult to live here. Yet, I am away from family. I have no real support group. Yes, I have made friends, and people look out for my welfare. But if something happens I'm pretty much on my own. No one can make medical decisions for me, no one can tell me if I should get a job here. I can communicate with family, but that takes a while. Also, talking face to face with someone is different then gchat.

Living in a foreign country has forced me to rely more on God. Living by yourself does that to you. You hope you make the right decisions and that things fall into place, but only God can make sure things work out okay. It's been a good life lesson. I think any time we are put outside our comfort zone away from people we trust and love, we are forced to rely more on God. It's hard to learn because it's not easy, but growth in Christ comes about through these types of times. It's like weight lifting. You have to break down your muscles in order to get stronger. It's a bit counter-intuitive and painful, but we become stronger from it. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

100th Post

This is my 100th post on Glory and Love. It's been a good 100 posts. I hope there are more to come.

Currently I've had some issues with hay fever, back pain and heart burn. Thankfully we don't have school today so I've been able to recover a bit. Also, I finished my portfolio for student teaching which is rather exciting since it takes a lot of work. If it doesn't pass I can't pass student teaching. I hope I did a good job. Very happy I'm done. Now to finish a couple books.

Currently I am reading "Moby Dick," "The Imitation of Christ" and "The Scottish Covenanters." I'm hoping to finish Covenanters by the end of the week. Don't ask me why I'm reading Moby Dick, I don't know why either. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Camping with the Aussies

It's getting close to the end of the school year. At the end of year, different grades will go on various camps. On Monday I left school for Phillip Iland on a three day adventure with the year 8 students. The camp had "cabins" so we weren't roughing it or anything. The students got to go canoeing, on a high ropes course, surfing and on a giant swing. It was good fun. I was able to go surfing for the first time in my life, and I am proud to say that I successfully got up. I now understand why people become addicted to the sport.

I am of course rather tired from having to stay up late a couple nights in a row and then having a full day with excessively energetic kids. Year 8 kids are a fascinating bunch. They're about to embark on the epic voyage of high school yet still have brains of primary school kids (elementary school kids).

Next week all the school will be taking tests or are in revision so I get to do something very cool. I get to work on curriculum development, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. All of this will be from an Australian perspective, but it'll be fun. Though I am not an expert on either era, I love developing curriculum.

I'm hoping to go on the Great Ocean Road this weekend, but if I don't, I'll try to do something exciting, perhaps ride a kangaroo.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Relaxing on the Weekend

The weekend is here. I have 29 days before my return trip home. It's been a good learning experience. I learned a lot about Australian education. It's been a bit tiring, but I noticed that because I have fewer students (12-20 students in class as opposed to 20-33 students.) I am less tired on the weekends.

Today I visited the Immigration Museum. I took a train to the city. With the exception of a slight detour because of rail work, not much happened on the way there. The museum itself wasn't to exciting. A lot of it was repetition of the same thing. There were some interesting stuff though. For me it was good to get a better knowledge of immigration in Australia. Australia is coming out of a history of a very racist immigration policy. It was good to learn more about this background. I'm still processing Australian culture. There is a very western, you could say traditional, culture, but it is also a very diverse countries. I saw a lot of different types of dress in the city.

I also went to the Queen Victoria Market where I bought a couple things including some fruit. The market is pretty cool. They sell a lot of food and other random stuff like clothes and trinkets. It feels kind of like the state fair but no cows.

On Monday I'm going on a camp with the students to Phillip Island. I will be learning how to surf so it should be an exciting adventure. Apparently, there are a lot of sharks there. My students at Westlane made sure to remind me to be careful of sharks, and I shall! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Just Do Something" - Book Review

Recently I read Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. His thesis is that God's will for our lives is to be holy. His divine plan for our lives is not something we should be searching out. Rather we ought to be focused on living a Godly life, seeking first His kingdom and righteousness. This quote summarizes DeYoung's point:
God's will for your life is not very complicated. Obviously, living a Christlike life is hard work, and what following Jesus entails is not clear in every situation. But as an overarching principle, the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God. (61-61) 
DeYoung begins the book by looking at the amount of decision making our generation has to make and compares it with other generations. He explains how this, combined with a misconstrued understanding of God's will for our lives, creates "directionally challenged" Christians. We often sit on our hands waiting for God to show us what to do rather then go out and just doing something with our lives. He explains that God is more interested in us living holy lives rather then following his plan. Ultimately, what we do is a part of God's plan in the first place so we ought to stop worrying about it. 

Wisdom plays an important part in this. DeYoung isn't advocating running out and doing something foolish. DeYoung explains that it is by having wisdom we make decisions, both small and large. He suggests that we look to the scriptures, good friends/mentors and whether doors open as ways to deciding what to do with ourselves. 

DeYoung mentions Jerry Sittser's book, God's Will as a way of Life, which I found to be very helpful in this area. It's also along the lines of Francis Schaefer's book True Spirituality

My Thoughts 
I found DeYoung's book readable and enjoyable. It was also short. DeYoung makes a great point of explaining that the key to making good decisions in life is by having wisdom, not having the will of God. Really, it's a bit ridiculous to say that you know the will of God for future things. God hasn't revealed the immediate future to us. I found this point to be enlightening and helpful. We often find ourselves asking, "is this the will of God" when strictly speaking we cannot know. 

It may appear that DeYoung is coming across as flippant and is advocating just doing anything under the sun. He isn't, and really hammers the point across that we do need to make good decisions in our lives, but it takes wisdom to do this, not the secret knoweldge of God's will. 

It was good for me to read this book at this time in my life. I am coming to a major crossroad. Right now God is teaching me to be patient. This book was helpful because it helped quiet my worry of not knowing what God wants to do with my life. 

I encourage people my ages, college students and early 20s people to read this book. I think you will find this helpful as I did. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


During lunch break today there were miniature cupcakes and doughnuts in the staff room. Australia is making me fat. It was trying hard to resist. In the end, I limited myself to about four.

My lunch breaks at Maranatha is usually spent in the staff room eating (usually not sweets) and talking with other staff. It's usually when I learn about the interesting Australian lingo and then forget the moment I walk out the door. I have learned to say "lollies" and "chocolate" rather then use the umbrella term "candy." Aussies enjoy poking fun at people so my American expressions have become the object of humor a couple of times, all in good fun of course, I think. The favorite so far is "I'm gunna go to the mountains over there." I'm not quite sure why that's funny.

When I am in class with the students, occasionally a couple students will break out into laughter and it's usually because I've said something "American." Believe it or not, Aussies think that the midwestern non-accent is an accent.

This week has been pretty busy with various stuff, including figuring out Australian phrases. I taught year 8 and year 9 this week. Year 9 had a test! Tomorrow I am going on an "excursion" with year 9. We're going to be going to some memorials as part of remembering the 11th of November, the date of the end of World War I. It should be a good time. I'm not quite sure we're going. It is a good thing I am not the one in charge.

Just to note, I have not been able to post pictures online because 1. The internet at school blocks facebook. 2. It takes up a lot of bandwidth to upload them at home, and we are only given 20 gigabytes a month. I don't want to use up all that to post photos. At some point, I will try to upload some photos, but currently, you will just have to see my words. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

How I am Personally Doing

Currently I am sitting in my room at the house of the family I'm living with. My family is very kind and loving. They are a Christian family. Right now they're talking in the other room, and I can almost make out their conversation, but it's still a bit of a struggle to understand their accent. For the first week, I said "I'm sorry, what?" a lot.

Since I've been here for almost four weeks now, I've started to feel a bit more adjusted. The first two weeks were hard. I felt physically dizzy with everything new going on around me. So much is different. Now that I am a bit adjusted, things are going much better.

It's been tough adjusting to the schedule here, and learning how Australians communicate, specifically non-verbally. It's extremely hard for me to read body language and facial expressions here. Of course it's easy to spot obvious ones, but it can get really hard sometimes in conversations. Also, Australians don't get to know people right away. They are a bit distant. They'll joke and talk, but you can tell their is a certain amount of distrust that one has to overcome.

Everything is going by very quickly. I can't believe I'm already almost halfway over! I have only five weeks left. At first I didn't think much of Melbourne. It was just another city, but during the past two weeks, it's really grown on me.

This next week, I'm switching up classes. I'm going to be teaching year 7 (7th grade), a combination of environmental science and english. They're going to be researching the Canadian wilderness and are reading a novel called "Hatchet." It'll be an exciting and tough switch. Junior high is a different world. The week after that, camps get started.

I'm also reading "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas A Kempis, "Just do Something" by Kevin DeYoung, "The Love of Wisdom" by Spiegel and Cowan. All are good books so far. I'll probably be posting a book review on DeYoung's book soon.

In conclusion, here is a quote by A Kempis that I have found to be very good:
"What is the reason why some of the saints were so perfect and contemplative? Because they laboured to mortify themselves wholly to all earthly desires... We seldom overcome any one vice perfectly and are not inflamed with a fervent desire to grow better every day; and therefore remain cold and lukewarm in religion.... If we esteem our progress in religious life to consist only in some exterior observances, our devotion will quickly be at an end. But let us lay the axe to the root, that being freed fomr passions, we may find rest to our souls. If every year we would root out one vice, we should sooner become perfect men." (Ch. XI)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What is Melbourne like?

Today I helped take the year 10 geography students on an excursion to the city. We went to the Eureka Tower and then the Victoria Market. It was a good time. The group of students were fun to hang around. I got to see more of the city though I had been there once before. Melbourne is an interesting city.

People walk a bit slower in Melbourne. They don't walk as fast as Americans do, especially teenagers. The other teacher and I had to call back to keep some stragglers from falling behind. Australians seem to be a relaxed group of people compared to Americans. They're also not as competitive, though they are competitive about AFL.

There was a horse race today so we saw a lot of people who were dressed up. When I mean dressed up, I mean your nicest suit and tie and flashiest dress. Plus, some men and women both wore fashionable hats, like those hats you'll see the queen wear. It was quite a culture shock to see so many nicely dressed people walking around the streets. It was like everyone was coming from church.

Also, Melbourne is a very diverse city. It is the most livable city to live in according to The Economist. It's a very diverse city in terms of its ethnicity and nationality. Around 35% are from abroad. There are many Greeks there as well as Asians. There are also many Sudanese and Egyptians who are starting to come, fleeing from political unrest in Africa. I have a couple students from those countries. I never expected to have such a high diversity of students. On the excursion alone, three of the students could speak two languages. (Vietnamese, Hungarian and Arabic.)

Over the weekend, I went on a camping trip with the Frankston Congregation. It was a good time to get to know them, and begin to get to know what it's like in "the bush." I saw some cool insects though no crazy animals. And yes, I have seen quite a few kangaroos though they don't live in people's backyards. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Does God Believe in Atheists" - Book Review

Pastor Ed Blackwood recently gave me a book to read called "Does God Believe in Atheists" and asked if I would review it for him. I gladly complied in spite of the size and length of the book (720 pages long).  

According to wikipedia, John Blanchard is a Canadian director. This is not the John Blanchard who wrote this book. Blanchard is a British writer and apologist. He also preaches. His focus is "popular apologetics." He has written thirty books, two of which have been well received, including "Does God Believe in Atheists." (Hereafter, "Atheists.") It has "voted 'Best Christian Book' in the 2001 UK Christian Book Awards." It seems to be very popular, at least in the UK.

Blanchard has three theses in his volume, first to trace the history of atheism in western philosophy. (Blanchard does dive a little into eastern religion but not much. This is a volume of western philosophy.) Second, he provides an account of negative apologetics. Third, he moves into positive apologetics.

I appreciated Blanchard's bullet point summary of his definition of God. This is a slippery definition, and I think Blanchard does a pretty good job, kind of.

His first thesis is interesting. We often hear about books tracing the history of God or people's belief in God but not of atheism.

Also, Blanchard's reading style is easy, fun and fairly clear.

Lastly, kudos to him for writing so many pages. It's a big book.

Minor Issues
That's all that the nice things I have to say about "Atheists." Two things need to be noted. When I began reading this I was expecting a very good book since it has received such high acclaim. Second, somewhere in the introduction Blanchard mentions this is a higher level book, for those on the collegiate level. Hence, I was expecting a good book.  My expectations were not fulfilled.I was a bit shocked by some of Blanchard's citations and lacking sources. This is the opinion of someone who just has a B.A. in philosophy and these criticism don't alter Blanchard's argument but our perspective of his argument.

I was surprised that when Blanchard quoted one of Plato's dialogues, he didn't even cite a translation but a British newspaper. Throughout the book, I noticed, Blanchard quoted from this same paper, the Daily Telegraph. Maybe it's just a British thing, but I didn't know it was okay to rely on a newspaper for your citations in an academic book.

Also, Blanchard's sources were poor. He quotes from R.C. Sproul, Gerstner, Geisler and others of the same sort. Thumbs up. Great guys to quote. No problem. I got uncomfortable when Blanchard failed to cite authority's on Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus, Kierkegaard, Comte or Sastre. It's not that these writers are bad writers or thinkers. It's that you should be quoting much more widely then them and cite authority's of the writers your'e dealing with. For instance, if Blanchard discussed and cited what writers were saying about Plato and Atheism then it would have made for a better read. Instead, Blanchard gave just a light showing of what Plato thought and how it relates to atheism.

So far, my criticism's of Blanchard's book are a bit petty. I mean so what if his citations and sources are poor. What about his argument?

Before  I get into my criticism of Blanchard's argument, I want to note that their is a bit of wisdom we ought to think about. Luke 16:10 says "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." The general idea is if you can't do well with the little stuff, how can we trust you with the big stuff?

Blanchard is not careful with these small things, so why should we trust his argument?

On to the Argument 
As I said before, their are three theses in "Atheists." I will deal with these three arguments in two parts. First, his history of atheism.

Why, as a theist, read a history of atheism? Hopefully it is to acquire a better understanding the intellectual history of that belief. In the case that I would want to have a better understanding of this narrative, wouldn't I want to read an account that is friendly to atheism? Certainly Blanchard doesn't fail to give an account, but I don't see the point of it.

My intention would be to read about the history of atheism and acquire an understanding of it. Why would I want to read a history that is going to paint atheism in a poor light? That's not going to help my understanding of atheism. Certainly, it'll influence my thoughts on not wanting to be an atheist. But I don't see the reason to read the book to learn about Blanchard's first thesis.

Blanchard's two latter theses have to do with positive and negative apologetics. Cool. I didn't notice anything unique about Blanchard's various arguments. I think if you opened up a basic intro to apologetics, you would find pretty much the same thing.

So instead of going through 700 pages to listen to these arguments, why don't you read something a bit smaller?

In conclusion, Blanchard's book had some great potential. It could have been very interesting, but because of a lack of research and not being unique in it's content, I would not suggest this book to anyone.

If you want to find out about the history of atheism  why don't you read an atheists perspective on it? If you want to learn about apologetics, why don't you read a smaller book? 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Weather is Getting Warmer

In my last post, I mentioned that I got a sunburn. The sun in Australia is much more intense then in Indiana. To me, it's even more intense then in Florida, where I have received some extremely painful burns. 

I was told the sun is more intense because the ozone is not has thick down here. I thought it may be because of the differing distance from the sun, but it turns out that Melbourne is almost the exact same latitude as Indianapolis, except one is north of the equator and one is south of the equator. 

Whatever the reason, I'll be buying a larger hat in the next week or so and wearing sun screen a lot more. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

School Load and other Comments

School has been hectic this past week. The honeymoon stage of my placement has ended though it is still a very enjoyable experience. It's definitely a lot less stressful then I thought it would be. Right now I have three preps, with one prep having two classes. (This means I am teaching four groups of students and have to prepare for three different subjects.) This may sound like a lot to American educators, but it's not actually a full load.

Teacher Class Load
Teachers at Maranatha usually take a few more classes then what I have, but they do less grading and don't have as many loopholes to work through. I haven't heard any teachers complain about lots of grading to do or bureaucratic problems. Also, their are fewer students which makes the load a lot more manageable. Generally with a smaller class you can go through material quicker, grade faster and have less discipline issues.
note: I don't feel comfortable saying Australia has a better education system then the States because:
1. They are VERY different systems. 
2. They have different cultures.  
3. I am at a private school and so most of my students come from two-parent homes and better living conditions, generally speaking. This changes the atmosphere of the school. 

Main Struggles
My two biggest struggles so far have been understanding accents and learning how to properly discipline students. For my first two weeks I had to ask people to repeat themselves a lot. I'm understanding better, but occasionally I'll struggle to understand a phrase. Discipline has been an issue. I am a bit surprised since I did not have much of problem in the States. The main reason for this are the student's attitudes.

I am used to students not doing something and having to tell them about four times while threatening consequences before they comply. The students here are compliant yet they still try to get away with stuff. They're a bit more sly. Their rebellion tends to be quieter. For example, the biggest issue I've had to deal with is students talking out of line and not listening while others are talking. That's not to big of a deal, but I haven't learned the right way to get the students to consistently be quiet and listen to each other in class.

I don't want to come down too hard so I've avoided dishing out detentions, calling home and raising my voice. On the other hand, glaring, snapping my fingers, waiting and looking at them isn't working consistently. As I continue to adjust, I think I'll discover various ways to communicate what I need the students to do and not do in a better way.

Schedule for the Weekend
Melbourne has a public holiday on Tuesday for the Melbourne Cup (A major horse race) so we have a four day weekend coming up. I'm planning on going on the camping trip with the Frankston RP church. It should be a good time as long as I avoid getting a sunburn. The sun is much stronger here. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peaking and Thinking around Melbourne

Since the Aussies don't have school on the weekends, just like Americans, I was able to go out today and visit downtown Melbourne a little bit. A fellow teacher, Mr. Peter Anderson, took me to the bay and local aquarium. We had a good time. I was able to see some of the city and get a better feel for it. The weather was rainy (It was a "four seasons in a day" weather.) so I didn't take many pictures except for a couple fish and fat sharks. (Yes the sharks were fat.)

For lunch we had some fish and chips. I think fish and chips in Ireland and also England are better, but I haven't been told where I can get the best fish and chips in Melbourne. So, I'll refrain from making a final judgment on the quality of Aussie Fish and Chips.

It was an enjoyable time. On the way back a tantalizing question popped up in my head. "What is a road?"At first I thought it could be a piece of land that has been flattened with asphalt, but there are roads that don't have asphalt. Also, it can't be a piece of land which many people travel on since trails are similar, and you have to provide some sort of number which is a bit absurd. So now I am stuck with this major philosophical quandary. The dictionary helped a little saying "a way leading from one place to another" but that would then have to include airspace and waterways which I'm not sure if they should be included in the definition.

If arguments about what is a road aren't very interesting, it may be interesting to know how people turn left in Melbourne. (The equivalent of a right turn in the U.S.) Instead of getting in the left lane and simply turning like most cities, some streets in Melbourne have the car turning left get in the middle lane, stop in the middle of the intersection, wait until the light turns red and before the other cars begin coming, turn and go. It's a bit strange but according to Peter Melbourne is the only city in the world that does this. I'm not sure if it's a very practical way of turning, but perhaps it has something to do with being on the left side.

I have driven in Australia for the first time. There was no other cars around, and I did a good job. Peter Repse, who I live with, said that he had a good time laughing while I drove. I found it very strange and almost scary, like a nightmare. After I finished, the whole right side of my body felt overstimulated because you drive on the right side. It was an experience. I didn't crash so I think I'm ready to take on the highways. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I saw a Kangaroo, and a lot of Kangaroos

This evening I went on a nice cool run with Pete who I live with along with his family. On the run I saw  my first kangaroo and then a bunch more. Kangaroos are protected animals in Australia so there are a lot of them. We saw them in a national park that's near the house. Kangaroos don't live on the streets of Melbourne. In the national park there are a lot of them. Kangaroos are quite odd animals. They have big hips, big feet and really big thighs. It's really neat to see them jump around because they're very fluid and smooth. Also their ears can turn completely around. They are very strange animals. Pete told me he has hit a couple with his car. I hope we don't hit one while we drive to school.

On a more educational note, I thought that it would be good tell how Maranatha's daily school schedule works. It was extremely confusing for me at first. Once I realized that it's similar to a college schedule I began to understand it a little better. The teacher and students don't meet at regular times or places. They meet for a total of five periods a week, but it's mostly at different times and places. For instance, today I met with my year 10 history class for periods 6 and 7. I'll next meet with them for period 1 on Thursday. We won't meet on Wednesday. Sometimes I'll meet with them in a different classroom. It's a bit of a struggle to plan since it's hard to wrap your head around that type of schedule. Overall though I think I'm starting to figure it out though. It gets more complicated when you look at the whole term, but that will be for another post.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Footy, Sports and School

Today I had my first opportunity to play the sport of footy, otherwise known as Australian Rules Football. I also scored my first goal. It was exciting, but I didn't know what to do half the time except kick or hit the ball toward the opponent's goal. Footie is kind of like soccer, rugby and a bit of lacrosse mixed in together. It's hard to catch on unless you play. I certainly didn't appreciate it until I played. In looking at sports in general though, it is interesting how sports in Australia are played in schools.

In Australia most public and private schools are not big on sports. Unlike the United States you don't have major rivals or huge powerhouses. Rather, if you want to be really good at a sport, you have to join a club or a special school. It's an interesting adjustment for myself, but I kind of like it in a way since the students are more focused on school and not sports. Yet, you don't have the comradery that comes along with having a team.

With that said, I'm glad I scored a goal today but not happy with how sore I'll be in the morning. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Impressions

Today is my third day in Australia. It has been a very interesting learning experience. I am still working on adapting to a different culture and school environment. The students began their last term yesterday, and I begin teaching tomorrow. So far, I am teaching two different classes on the Vietnam. My teacher wants me to take on one more prep. We'll be deciding what I add by Friday.

I have found the Aussies to be a very humorous group of people. They are very dry and a bit harsh in their jokes. It's rather funny. Last night at the dinner table with my host family I laughed quite a bit. It's very true that you can judge how much an Aussie likes you by how much they make fun of you. They are also a very chill group of people. They're not work alcoholics like Americans. They do their work, but it doesn't seem to consume all their lives.

Very surprisingly, Australia is a very diverse country. I went to the mall, or shopping center, and I heard about three languages. Because the Australian government recently changed their immigration policies, there are many more immigrants from places like Asia, Chile, Africa and the Middle East. Yet I haven't noticed an animosity or outrage against immigrants like the U.S. is struggling with on the Hispanic immigration issue though some illegal immigration occurs, especially out of Indonesia. Lots more to tell, but I'm stil dealing with jet lag so I've been going to be early. Tonight is no exception.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

To Australia!

For over a month now I have been teaching at a wonderful school, Westlane Middle School. I taught 6th grade Humanities and learned so much. Later this afternoon, I'll be getting on a plane for Melbourne, Australia. I'll be teaching at Maranatha Christian School. I'll arrive on Monday and school starts on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Thought on Sleeves

The other day I was running in the sun, and I was wearing my t-shirt. Like all t-shirts, this one had sleeves. I suddenly realized a major problem with my t-shirt. Why on earth does it have sleeves?

When it is cold outside we often wear coats or long-sleeved shirts. Perhaps sweaters as well. When it is warm, we exchange or warm clothes for cool clothes. T-shirts are one of them. Yet these pieces of cloth that hang on to the body of our clothes appears unnecessary. Is it because of modestly? I wasn't aware that you might morally stumble because of the lack of covering over the region of the upper arm.

As I began to question my sleeves, I noticed that they lacked more then a purpose. They also are a nuisance. I was quite hot, and those sleeves held in heat. I thought we wore t-shirts for the purpose of keeping cool yet sleeves keep heat in! Not only are sleeves purposeless they inhibit our comfort.

Therefore, I propose we take scissors and snip off these pets from our cool clothes. Let us be free of the sleeves.

(I am not responsible for anyone irrationally cutting all their t-shirts nor am I responsible for people making poor wardrobe choices. Furthermore, I am currently wearing sleeves.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Why You have a Bible Study Notebook

At the end of each semester, I take time to review my bible study from the past semester. It is a bit time-consuming since most of the time I'm struggling to decipher my handwriting. Yet it is spiritual encouraging. For me, its like getting a dose of encouragement. I'm able to see how God has worked through my life in ways I was not expecting him to be working. Also, it is a good reminder of how I failed, like forgetting to fulfill certain applications I've made.

My Dad does a yearly review of his bible study, but I've found a three quarter system to work well. It lightens the workload that comes with reviewing my bible study. Though the process of going through past studies is time-consuming it is encouraging and exhorting. Bible study notebooks exist for a reason so we can review what we have written down.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Does having a Racial Identity lead to Racial Conflict?

When dealing with the issue of racial identity, sometimes people decide to deny or reject identifying with their race because of the conflict race has caused. One does not have to look far in order to see that having a strong racial identity can lead to racial conflict. For instance, the civil rights conflict of the 1960s in the United States. One should note that when I say "racial identity" I do mean just the color of your skin, but also the culture, ideals, philosophy behind your specific ethnic group(s).

Does racial conflict justify rejecting the idea that it is important to develop a racial identity? I don't believe that the above argument works. There are many things that bring about conflict. For instance, the existence of the nation-state brings about conflicts between groups of people. Obviously, this isn't justification for ridding the world of nation-states. Just because something can bring about conflict, it does not mean we should reject it.

It is important to see that having a racial identity does not necessarily bring about conflict. In fact, I would argue that the more we think and discuss this issue the less likely conflict will come abou. The reason being, people will have a better understanding of what other people are thinking. (Though this is not always true, and we should be careful to avoid making our racial identity the core of our identity.)

Also, there are sad consequences for rejecting our racial identity. People forget their history when they don't have a racial identity. The past helps us discover who we are and what is best for the future, and it is tragic when this is lost. Lastly, we can't rid ourselves of our racial identity. Our race is a part of who we are and denying that it exists, denies a part of who we are as human beings.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Three Things I Wish I did in College

I had a great college experience. Because it was a human experience, there are things I wish I did Here are three things that I wish I did in college.

1. Divide my time more carefully and intentionally.
There were times in college were I dedicated too much time to being in the library, doing school and making sure my grades were up to par. On the other hand, there were times where I was lazy, didn't work hard and wasted my time. I wish I had balanced my time more carefully between doing school, spending time with people and having some "alone" time.

2. Invested deeply in one extracurricular activity with other people
I did a lot of different things like study abroad, the cycling club, ethics bowl and go hear different speakers, but I never invested a large amount of time in one organization or project during my time at Taylor that included other people. Looking back on it, I wish I had chosen a project my freshman or sophomore year that I was going to invest in large amounts of time that forced to me work with other people.

3. Explored More
I did a lot of exploring while I was Taylor but not enough. In way, I don't think you can do enough exploring while in college. There are different ways I could have explored more. One way to guide yourself in your exploration in college is to head in directions you're not comfortable with. See what it is like to be outside of your comfort zone. College is a great place to explore so take a class that you know nothing about and get to know people you'd probably never get to know. (This doesn't mean through out common sense or your conscience.)

I have had a great college experience, and have very few regrets. These are just some small things I think would have made my experience better. It doesn't mean everyone should do these things. Rather, they are just reflections on my past.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American History X, a Thought on Race

I just finished watching the movie, "American History X." In some ways I thought the movie was shallow in that it did not deal deep enough with the issue of reconciliation between races in the United States. Also it looked at an extreme in racial tensions. I would appreciate a more nuanced view. Though, in the ways that it did, I thought were very good. Overall, a phenomenal movie. In this post I want to talk about one particular scene that I believe represents what white Americans are struggling through.

The main character, "respected" white supremacist Derek, tells his younger brother, Danny, that he has given up on the "race war." He has quit hating people. After their conversation, Derek and Danny arrive home and in their bedroom. On the walls are posters of Hitler, white supremacy and a large Nazis flag. The scene is shot showing them calmly taking down all the posters and flag. A bare wall is what remains. This scene struck me.

It struck me because this is what has happened to many white Americans. In an attempt to avoid or get rid of racism and hate, we have torn down the things that have caused so much pain. In result, we have lost our identity as white Americans. Like the brother's bare wall, many Americans lack a strong racial identity because their race has represented so much hate. They shed much of this identity because they don't want to do anything with what it has represented. The result is a gap in their identity. Derek and Danny are no longer racist so who are they? I think many white Americans are struggling with this very question.

My Thought
I believe that it is possible for a white American to being content with his/her race, to say that he/she would not want to be any other race but the one he/she has been given. Furthermore, I think that it is important that as a white American I develop this identity in a healthy way mainly through history.

For instance, I am reading David McCullough's book "John Adams," a great biography of our second president. As a white American I can look at figures in history like John Adams and build my racial identity. Of course Adams had flaws, but he is a part of the white American past (NOT to the exclusion of other races!) and can help us begin to discover more of what it means to be a white American to the benefit of ourselves and those of other races.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Currently I am in the midst of finals week. I am struggling to find the purpose of finals week except that it is to torture students. You don't learn anything because your goal of the week is to be survive the week since huge tests and projects are due. The pressure is great so no learning occurs. I'll be glad when this week comes to end. Perhaps I will have "better" blog posts.
note: if you become a professor don't have accumulative finals. In fact, don't have any tests.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Last Class EVER

Currently I am in my last class of my college career, and yes I am writing my blog while in class. I'm not sure that follows the lines of "finishing strong," but I am definitely one tired college student. I have five finals. Two of them will be a challenge but the rest won't be too hard. After that is graduation, home and work.

This summer I will be doing a summer internship with my church at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. I will also be taking two classes and doing four triathlons. My summer reading list includes John Calvin, Nietzsche, David McCullough, Derrida and Booker T. Washington. I need some more novels on my list so I am open to suggestions. I only have one right now, "The Surrendered" which was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Swimming and Discipline

Last night I went swimming. I looked like the tiger above. Since my shoulder has healed, I have been able to begin training for triathlons this summer and part of my workout regimen is swimming and looking like that tiger. I have begun working on alternate breathing with my freestyle. It is when you breath on both your left and right side. It can be disorienting when you first try, and you have to hold your breath longer. I'm at the point where all of my sets should be done with alternate breathing, but it is still hard.

Alternate breathing is like a spiritual discipline. It is possible, and doing it a couple times doesn't take much work. When alternate breathing becomes repetitive, it begin to wear on you. Usually half way through my sets, it will become tempting to begin breathing to one side. By the end of my sets, I have to focus extremely hard to just get my body to just do one lap of alternate breathing. Spiritual disciplines are similar.

When we first start, spiritual disciplines are not hard. They can in fact be pleasant. As time goes on, the wear and tear begins to set in. That's when it truly becomes a discipline. Like in a workout, you don't start breaking yourself down until the pain and tension starts. Similarly when we first begin a spiritual discipline, we are not truly in the act of discipline until it become uncomfortable. A discipline by its nature is something that we have to work toward because we naturally don't want to do it. We rather be in a state of comfort and ease. A discipline will get us out of that comfort zone so it can take time for what we intend to be a spiritual discipline to become a spiritual discipline.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Definition of a Man

I am coming to the end of my last semester on campus at Taylor. I have enjoyed the five years I spent here. Looking forward is sometimes terrifying and exciting all at the same time. It's like looking down a huge cliff. I have learned so much and am taking away a lot of good things Also, I have accumulated a lot of things I wish I had not seen, heard or said. As I grow older, I develop a greater knowledge and a part of that knowledge is evil.

Where ever you go to college, you will encounter evil in its various forms. Some of it will be ugly and revolting. Some of it will look deceitfully beautiful and seductive. All of it leads down a sad path.

I read a book called, "Eric," by F.W. Farr, over Easter break. It's about a young boy who goes to school living in Victorian England. It was written, for high schoolers and junior high, but I think those in college can learn a lot from it. The book talks a lot about what happens in college and the evil found there. In one section of the book, the main character asks his teacher whether it would be good if his brother came to school. He was worried that the evils (drinking, swearing, crass behavior) in the school would corrupt his brother. This was his teacher's response:
The innocence of mere ignorance is a poor thing; it cannot, under any circumstances, be permanent, nor is it at all valuable as a foundation of character. The true preparation for life, the true basis of a manly character, is not to have been ignorant of evil, but to have known it and avoided it; not to have been sheltered from temptation, but to have passed through it and overcome it by God’s help. (p. 113)
This is a great quote, especially for men, because it contains, I think, the core of what it means to be a man. What makes a man is someone who has known evil but avoided it. In this context, to know, does not mean to have participated in. Rather it means you have known about evil, know where you can find it, get it and have it yet avoided it. I think that's what makes a man, someone who has known evil but avoided it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

So Bin Laden died. US forces killed him. Soon after, on facebook arguments have erupted regarding whether we should celebrate his death. I agree with those who say we shouldn't celebrate his death. When a person dies, there is a loss. It does not follow that we shouldn't be excited or be content with justice.

I've come up with a term to describe this state, a solemn satisfaction. We should be satisfied, glad that justice has been dealt, but we shouldn't be jubilant. Someone has died. Death is not cause for celebration. So it is solemn yet at the same time, it is satisfying that justice has been carried out.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What You Need at the Library

I have two homes at Taylor. The first is my apartment. The second is the library. I have spent more time at the library then in my apartment, much less sleeping in my apartment, like many "good" students. (The really good ones don't goof off watching youtube and play chess.) There are a couple things I have learned about the library, and I wish to bestow my wisdom to those who, like myself, will be living in the library in the future.

1. Don't "live" in the library.
The purpose for going to the library is to get work done separate from home/dorm/apartment life. It allows you to concentrate. When you begin to live at the library, this separation is broken down. So leave your pillow, your movies and popcorn. The library is a place for you to get work done.

2. ALWAYS have with you:
  • Ear plugs - good ones. Having complete silence and a barrier to distracting chatter helps you concentrate on getting your work done quickly and efficiently. See this article on silence and concentration.
  • Miniature white board - I was surprised how helpful it was to have a small white board to draw/write out ideas or review information for tests.
  • A pen and paper - it is very irritating to arrive at the library and realize you forgot the most basic tools of school.
  • You Power cord - I hate it when my computer battery dies out, and I don't have my power cord with me.
  • A Timer - I have found that having a timer motivates me to get work done. It becomes a race to see if I can complete a task in a certain amount of time. It cuts down on procrastination and improve efficiency.
3. Find a Good Location
One of the most frustrating things you can have at the library is when you get to your favorite spot, you sit down, get all of your stuff out and start to work but realize after the fact there are four big 'o football players next to you who don't understand the concept of silence. Your glares don't help either. (And yes this has happened to me. Four big 'o football players.)

Location is key in the library. There are about three areas in the library that I enjoy studying in, but often these spots are either taken or overrun by noise. So I found three other backup places that are harder to find and more out of the way. In fact I know one of them is almost aways free because of the uniqueness of the location. These spots are sometimes found in the basement, miscellaneous stairwells or in a corner of the library. It's important to scout out locations before you take one. Make sure the people around you aren't going to start talking to friends or aren't actually working.

4. Types of Good breaks

It can be hard to decide what is a good break. For instance, starting to watch youtube videos or getting on hulu is not conducive to a good break. Five minutes often turns into thirty minutes. I have found that walking about looking at books is often a good way to take a break. Sometimes I'll just pick a book off the shelf that seems interesting and read a couple paragraphs.

This is something I wish I did more often. It's easy to take a break at the desk and play around on your computer. This isn't a real break. A real break means getting out of the place where you're studying and putting yourself in a different environment. Switching from a computer screen to real print can be great. If you're doing a lot of reading, get on one of the library computers or find a magazine. The key is to get out your seat. Get away, but still keep your mind active.

Tips and techniques only get a student so far. You reach a point where you have two choices. One to do your work and other not to do your work. Being a Christian is helpful at this point because if you commit your works to the Lord, your thoughts will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Start an Epidemic

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point." I think he should have titled it "How to Start an Epidemic" because he outlines a theory of how social epidemics are started in society, from unnatural suicide rates in Micronesia, the success of Sesame Street to the dramatic drop in crime rate in New York City and implicitly explains how you can start one.

Instead of going into an analysis of the book, I am going to suggest that two types of people read this book: pastors and teachers.

Why Teachers Should Read "The Tipping Point"

When I first started the book, I noticed that one of the rules for what causes a "tipping point" (The point at which a social epidemic occurs in society.) is "The Law of the Few." This rule essentially says that there are certain people in society that work to promote certainideas. These ideas will eventually reach the tipping point and become social epidemics.

There are three types of people: connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors are people who everyone seems to know them. Mavens are people who know everything there is to know about a certain topic. Salesmen are people who are really good at convincing people about an idea.

Teachers, in my opinion, should look at these types of people and see themselves to be like them, in a sense. Certainly, not everyone is a "maven." Yet because of their unique position, teachers have a great place to fulfill these important roles.

Furthermore, this book deals with the issue of why certain ideas tend to "stick" in people's heads and why others don't. That's right up the alley of education, getting ideas to stick in people's heads. If a teacher can apply the concepts in this book, I think his/her students will become better educated. Specifically, the question is "how can I communicate ideas (concepts, skills and content) to students so that they remember them?" I think Gladwell helps answer this question.

Why Pastors Should Read "The Tipping Point"

When I was reading this book, I kept thinking that the person who should read this book is a pastor. A pastor's calling is to disseminate a specific form of information to his congregation and the world. "The Tipping Point" is a book just on that topic. It explains, in a way, why revivals occur and why they don't. It explains why some people listen to you and why some people do not. It explains how society changes, improves or falters. Why wouldn't a pastor want to know more about that?

One might say, "its the Holy Spirit that works in people's hearts. It's not these foreign 'rules' put forward by Gladwell." I don't think that Gladwell is demystifying the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, I think he is giving an explanation of a way that the Holy Spirit works through to bring about the will of the Father. Furthermore, Paul says "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Gladwell gives pastors a means to better apply Paul's example.

A Possible Objection

One may be suspicious of Gladwell's book because it appears to give an all-encompassing explanation for everything that occurs in society. My response is first, this is not a book explaining everything about society. It is explaining why social epidemics occur. For example: why was Sesame Street such a great success for so long.

Second, Gladwell makes a great point at the end of the book. He says "All of these things [his theory] are expressions of the peculiarities of the human mind and heart, a refutation of the notion that the way we function and communicate and process information is straightforward and transparent. It is not. It is messy and opaque." (pg 257) If anything, read this book so that you acquire a more nuanced and thoughtful understanding of how communication occurs in society, even if you don't agree with the theory. It certainly has helped me think more carefully on how I see society.

p.s. It's not a hard read.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Public Letter to Rob Bell

Dear Rob Bell,

I hope you're having a great day. I like great days. When I was a young child I used to count out how many good days I had. Today was a good day, I used part of it to read your book. I'm so sorry about it. I bet you feel awful about that terrible mistake you made. I know it is hard to admit mistakes. It happens to me all the time, but I think it's really important you tell people about this. A lot of people respect you and listen closely to what you say. I think if you announce it like you did with your latest book, that trippy video, things will be fine. I like those glasses by the way. Mine are just like them, kind of but not really. I have really bad eye sight.

In the video, start out with how your day went and how excited you were about writing out all the notes for your new book in one afternoon People would be excited to hear the story of how your book was written. You could explain how much time you spent that afternoon writing out all those notes and were exited about how big your book was going to be. Then you transition into how you decided to email your notes to someone. I don't know who you were trying to email them to. You should probably say who. Also, figure out a really neat transition, perhaps take off your glasses in one epic shot. Those are sweet glasses. Taking them off will only add attention to them. Once that's all through, tell us what really happened when you sent that email. You accidentally sent your notes to the publisher who thought it was the final book and then published it! That's why everyone is so confused and frustrated.

I realized this when I got about halfway through the book. Giving just one line to "beautiful" or "this age" didn't seem to flow well. I hope you can come clean though. With your glasses, everyone thinks you're cool, and I think people are starting to think I'm cool since I have glasses kind of like yours.

For your actual book, could you please cut out a couple of your jokes. They're not funny. Also, in the section where you allude to you going to an Eminem concert, I would take that out. People might be shocked that you went to one of his concerts. And if you want to leave in all your jokes you can. Please just be careful. Your flippancy might get you in stuck in a theological morass, but theology isn't really the issue in your book at all. Your readers might get side-tracked by your jokes, and that's terrible! I spent about 2 seconds trying to figure out the Kincaid-Dante joke. I could have gotten through a couple more lines in that amount of time. (I'm not sure if I still get it.)

Lastly, I am worried that your actual book might be too long. I think as you expand on these notes, perhaps you should leave out discussing some of these topics, narrow it a bit. I had a philosophy professor suggest to me about writing papers that it is important to "narrow, narrow, narrow your topic. After you think it is narrow enough, narrow it even more." Also, there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are bad questions. Comb through your notes and think to yourself, "does this question progress my thesis?" I hope this was a good letter, and you enjoyed it. Good luck with your actual book. I'm looking forward to it.

David Pulliam

p.s. Is it okay if I suggest to your future readers not to read your notes and go read "The Weight of Glory" instead? It's free, short and much more uplifting. I mean, all we have right now are your notes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Purposes of Theology

Lately, I have heard people indirectly talk about three different purposes for theology. The first is one of preserving the truth and continuing church tradition. The second is to try to see God better and the last is to enjoy God.

In my personal experience, the reformed tradition of Christian theology consistently promotes the first purpose. Other theological traditions may hold to this view, but reformed people tend to promote this purpose vigorously.

The second view is found in my personal journey with other students at Taylor. In our class discussions and paper writings, I have noticed that we have been clawing at the doors of mystery, looking for the lock and key so we can get in and see more of God.

The last view was opened to me by a friend who explained that because we have the blood of Christ and Christ lives in us, we have nothing to fear when doing theology. Rather, we have so much to enjoy.

These three views of the purpose of theology often try to contradict each other though no logical contradiction exists. There is no contradiction in carrying on the tradition of truth and enjoying truth. Nor is there a contradiction in trying to see God and enjoy God.

Often those who carry these individual purposes add on personal vices that inhibit their ability to appreciate the other two purposes. Those who claim to carry the truth often are afraid of trying to discover new truths that seem, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “puzzling or repellent.” Those who are trying to find that key hole to see God often are frightened of not finding it. They are needlessly weighted down by the anxiety of ignorance. Lastly, those who attempt to think theology is for the enjoyment of God look down on the past. They see tradition as something broken-down and impersonal. The first one is cowardness, the second is depression and the last is “chronological snobbery.” All three of these vices are not fit for God’s holy people and put a veil over the value each purpose has.

These three purposes are complimentary. How can one better enjoy God by digging into the thoughts of the great thinkers of the past? How can you be depressed at not finding more of God when you have already found God? Tradition, enjoyment and searching are three purposes of theology that makes the experience more fulfilling. Underlying each is the fulfillment of part of God’s purpose for man. He wants us to carry on the ideas of those who have gone before us. He wants us to search and discover. He wants us to enjoy him forever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Westlane Middle School - My School

Westlane Middle School is located in the Washington Township in Indianapolis. Two famous people went to school there. Most recently, it is now the location of my first placement for student teaching in the fall. My second place is at Marantha Christian School in Melbourne Australia. In this post I will providing an outline of the demographics of Westlane Middle School.

The school is 50% African American and 32% white. 8% are Hispanic and 7% are multiracial. Lastly, .8% are Pacific Islander. What I found interesting was that 49% of students had paid lunches and 11% of students have reduced lunches. This means that around 60% of the school come from a lower-socioeconomic background. (This is only an estimate.) 14% of students are in special education and 6% are non-English learners.

Sadly, the school has failed its AYP for the last three years. 65% of students passed the ISTEP but the school was supposed to have 90% pass. Given my experience at my present middle school placement, this will be a tough placement. Middle school students are a handful. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Christians Should be Concerned about the Burka Ban

On Monday the burka ban was put into place in France. It is the first European country to do so and is a very controversial subject. This NY Times article shows the dislike of the Burka.

I haven't paid very much attention to the Burka ban until I read this article because it helped me realize why Christians should be concerned about this ban. The title of the article says the ban is a victory for "tolerance." I found that to be very odd since the ban is being intolerant to a way of dress. My question, what's next? Will minarets be banned? (Switzerland.) Why not ban the whole religion? What are the boundary lines for religious practices?

Christians may applaud the burka ban since we perceive Islam to be in opposition to Christianity. I find it to be disconcerting for two reasons. First, we have democracies that claim to give people the freedom to be who they want to be yet this ban is obviously saying you can be anything you want to be, just not wearing a burka. Second, there is a disgust not of just Islam that I sense behind this ban, but a distaste for religion in general. Read the end of the NY Times article:
Secularism is taken seriously in French society... Schools are strictly non-faith, and all public bodies must be free of religious influence. As recently as 2007, a public outcry resulted from the disclosure that a senior government minister had sought informal advice from a Catholic priest on matters of policy."
The force behind this law is not an attempt to promote women's rights but a protection of Secularism. I am not going to go into the very complex reasons for the burka and whether it is the suppression of women's rights. This is a complex discussion because Islamic women are being forced to wear burkas and in western society this is unjust, but some women choose to wear the burka for religious reasons.

I think that part of the reason for the burka ban, though some of it may be for the promotion of women's rights, is to suppress religious practice. We ought to be concerned as Christians about such governmental action because there could be laws like that against Christians. This doesn't mean that I support forcing women to wear burkas or be against the burka ban. Rather, Christians ought to be concerned about the underlying reason for the ban and question whether such action could be taken against Christians.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A plea to Teachers

Please never ever do these three things as a teacher:
1. Give a test with 83 questions on it.
2. Give a test with content that:
a. was not discussed in class
b. is random
3. Give a test with wordy questions and answers.

The purpose of a test (or most tests) is to assess or find out if the students know the material. Their grade should reflect the degree they know the information. If a teacher does one of the three things above then they are not fulfilling the purpose of a test and so are not accurately assessing student performance.

Therefore, I plead with teachers to not do the former three things.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Commodification of Women Conference - Shalom

Today I went to the Commodification of Women Conference here at Taylor University. John Stackhouse was the key-note speaker. I thought he had some very good things to say. Right now I have a lot going through my mind regarding the conference. For this post I will develop only one of Stackhouse' thought.

It's the concept of shalom. To develop shalom, according to Stackhouse, is the idea of universal flourishing, everything fulfilling its potential. Because everything is interconnected, the flourishing of one person contributes to the flourishing of another. When you're happy I'm happy.

Stackhouse explained this idea in terms of why he spends so much money on his kids. He's spent enough money on his kids to buy a couple of cars. One may ask why. His response was that he loved them. When they are happy, he's happy. He wants to make them happy.

I was surprised that Stackhouse didn't take this and say "now we need to help women who are in great need," or "women don't have shalom, and we need to empower them." He didn't even use the term, I think, "the commodification of women." Yet, he dealt with the issue squarely. When we attempt to bring about shalom into this world, it is no longer just about us, but "the other." (Those who are not like us, completely different from us.)

I think you can take this theology into many different ways, but one obvious way, for me, was looking at it in terms of the doctrine of Christ's kingdom. As servants of the king, aren't we battling for this universal peace? Don't we want our king to rule a world full of shalom? So when I work to see women as humans and not just objects, I am bringing about shalom, bringing about Christ's kingdom here on earth.

No longer is trying to bring about justice in the world, for the sake of stopping injustice. Its about bringing something very special that God intends for us to enjoy and to increase his dominion here on earth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Academic Cheating, Why its Wrong

Cheating is becoming more and more prevalent in education today. As many as 76% students have reported to have cheated on at least one examination or essay. Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article written by a professional plagiarist. There are odd stories about how plagiarists are caught. Also, people have lost their jobs and reputations when they were caught plagiarizing.

Part of the reason for the increase in academic cheating is because it is so easy. For instance, I could easy cut and paste most of this blog post, or any of my blog posts from other blogs and claim the work is mine. I just wrote an essay this past weekend, and could have simply copied part of a wikipedia article or online source if I wanted to. No one would know.

There is controversy as to what plagiarism is and if it is wrong. In ethics, there are dilemmas and gray areas, cheating is no exception. But in this post I want to discuss two harms that occur with plagiarism.

Real World Harms
First, when one is outside the academic world, the consequences for making mistakes can result in a loss of large amounts of money and death. (This is not to say that the academic world is not important or its an ivory tower.) Furthermore, when one cheats, the consequences can be extremely great. Enron is a great example and if one attempts to cut corners in the medical field the consequences can be catastrophic. The point, in the real world, cheating can cause great harms.

When you're in the academic world, you're most likely being trained to use your skills in the "real world." If you cheat or plagiarize, the likelihood of these activities developing into habits that follow into your career are more likely. For instance, if you're a pre-med biology major who cheats occasionally on your labs, on small stuff of course, what's wrong with you then carrying that habit over into medical school, then when you're working as a nurse, doctor, surgeon or whatever people in medicine do?

Second, when someone is publicly caught cheating, the institution is publicly embarrassed. When Steve Glass was caught for plagiarizing many articles when he was writing for The New Republic, it was a grave embarrassment. When Floyd Landis was caught cheating, his team, Team Phonak, was dropped and a couple years later, skeptics to the legitimacy of professional cycling have increased tremendously.

If the academic world allows cheating to occur or does not engrain their students with the ethical habit of not cheating then the above consequences are just as embarrassing for universities. The point, cheating causes harms for society and so the academic world should not budge on holding to high standards regarding cheating. It is my personal opinion that cheating is never worth a better grade or a job. One's conscience is of greater value then any grade or job that one can hold.