Category: Paideia

To Think About: A Practices Audit

Especially Traditions, Everyday Traditions, Faith, Paideia January 29, 2016

So, the question is, Are there habits and practices that we acquire without knowing it? Are there ritual forces in our culture that we perhaps naively immerse ourselves in–and are thus formed by–that, when we consider them more closely, are pointed at some ultimate end? Are there mundane routines that we participate in that, if we are attentive, function as thick practices aimed at a particular vision of the good life?

To get at this requires quite a bit of patient reflection and analysis, both introspective and communal. Consider taking some time this week to engage in a bit of self-inventory > a “practices audit” < perhaps journaling about it. Then talk about these issues with friends. Use the following questions as prompts:

  • What are some of the most significant habits and practices that really shape your actions and attitude–what you think and what you do?
  • What does your time look like? What practices are you regularly immersed in each week? How much time is spent doing different sorts of activities?
  • What do you think are the most important ritual forces in your life? And if you were honest with yourself, are these positive (forming you into the kind of person who embodies the kingdom of God) or negative (forming you into someone whose values and desires are antithetical to that kingdom, oriented toward another kingdom)?
  • What do you think are some of the most potent practices in our culture? Or, if you have kids, what are the culture forces that you don’t want your children shaped by? And why on both counts?
  • If you step back and reflect on them, are there some habits and practices that you might have originally thought were neutral or thin, but upon further reflection, you see them as thicker and more significant?
  • Is there any way in which you see worship as a thick habit? How so? How not?
  • If Christain worship is a thick practice, what do you think are its most significant “competitors”?

J A M E S  S M I T H | DESIRING THE KINGDOM (Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation)

What About Socialization?

Paideia August 31, 2015

If you have homeschooled for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably been confronted by someone who is quite concerned about your children’s socialization. The minute you begin homeschooling, well-meaning relatives, friends at church, neighbors, clerks in the grocery store, waitresses, pediatricians, trash collectors, school board members, legislators, reporters, and folks who have never noticed you or spoken to you before all feel compelled to ask you about your child’s socialization.

As a homeschooling mom, I often wondered how Jesus would have answered the question “What about socialization?” As I pondered this early one morning, it dawned on me that Jesus had an interesting way of dealing with people’s questions, especially those of a critical or hostile nature. Consider these examples:

Question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10).

Jesus’ answer: “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? (Matthew 12:11).

Question: “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” (Matthew 15:2).

Jesus’ answer: “And why do you break God’s commandment because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).

Question: “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

Jesus’ answer: “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authorityI do these things. Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 2:24-25).

In every one of these conversations, Jesus answered a question with a question. Interesting, isn’t it?

We, of course, don’t have certain advantages that Jesus had when He answered these questions with questions. We can’t perfectly discern the other person’s motives. We don’t always know more than the people questioning us. We are not divine authorities on any issue. Jesus can call someone else a hypocrite because He is perfect; because we are far from perfect, we had better be careful about pointing fingers.

Despite these factors, I do think we can effectively employ some of Jesus’ techniques in dealing with other people’s questions about our children’s socialization, so long as we maintain a proper attitude.

Years ago, I started answering these questions with questions of my own. The questions I ask vary depending on whether I am talking to an educator, a neighbor, a legislator, or a prospective homeschooling parent. Here are a few:

  • What is your definition of socialization?
  • Are you pleased with the socialization your children are receiving where they’re in school?
  • Do you think all socialization is positive?
  • What do think causes negative socialization?
  • What does negative socialization cost our society?
  • Who should socialize children–their peers or their parents?
  • What does the Bible say about socialization?

Sometimes people who ask about socialization just want to know if your kids have any friends or if they ever get out of the house. But socialization is a much deeper issue. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines socialization as “the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.”

I believe the biblical response to this definition of socialization is discipleship. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe everything He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus’ call to discipleship certainly includes discipling our children. Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary gives this definition of the verb disciple: “To assist and mentor new believers to mature in the knowledge of the Lord through continual oversight of their life and through edification and discipline.”

Lawrence O. Richards, author of The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, simplifies the concept further:

Jesus defined the goal of discipling when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Likeness to Jesus himself is the goal God has for you and me.

What a magnificent goal for our discipleship efforts–to have our children become more and more like Jesus!

Homeschooling is a powerful marriage of education and discipleship. We can teach our children two commandments most important to God–to love Him and to serve their neighbors–as we teach them academics, as we do chores together, as we go out into the community, and as we worship together. Most socialization in a traditional school environment leads to peer dependence and a self absorbed focus on popularity. At home we can emphasize the importance of loving God and putting others first–we socialize our children by discipling them.

This emphasis on discipleship over the traditional view of socialization doesn’t mean our kids won’t have friends or know how to conduct themselves in a variety of social environments. On the contrary, most homeschooled kids are very involved in activities in their neighborhoods, communities, and churches. They play sports, sing in choirs, participate in 4H clubs, play in orchestras, volunteer in campaigns, take mission trips, teach Sunday school, and enthusiastically embrace life (most of the time). More and more, college admission personnel actively recruit homeschooled students. As counterintuitive it may seem to some, homeschool students show a strong propensity for leadership.

When all is said and done, we want most for our kids to love Jesus. This love will propel them to be involved in the lives of others–to engage and improve their culture for the good of their neighbors and the glory of God. We want our kids to know what it means to learn, live, and defend their faith. That is socialization at its finest.

Z A N  T Y L E R (Director, Apologia Press)

Forward: The Liberal Arts Tradition

Paideia July 27, 2015

1. It’s “divisive.” It’s not what everyone else is doing. It marches to the beat of a different drummer. It cultivates excellence rather than conformity. Yes it does. And this is actually sometimes used as an objection rather than a selling point!

2. It’s old, outdated, unfashionable. Yes it is, like honor, courage, integrity, and honesty. It doesn’t try to tell the truth with a clock; it doesn’t practice chronological snobbery. In an age which has embraced every novelty, the true rebel is the traditionalist.

3. It’s not in line with modern philosophies: skepticism, cynicism, subjectivism, relativism, naturalism, positivism, scientism, socialism. That’s exactly right. It’s not. It’s counterculture. It harnesses teenagers’ natural proclivity to rebel and turns that force against “the bad guys” who are now the “establishment” instead of against “the good guys.”

4. It’s “judgmental.” It believes there really is good and bad, true and false. The typical modern education is judgmental only against being judgmental, and skeptical of everything except skepticism.

5. It’s small. It’s private. It’s grassroots. It’s implemented mainly in small schools, not big ones. This is true, and it’s another plus rather than a minus. “Small is beautiful.” The bigger the school, the more the person tends to get lost in the system and get identified with his or her race, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, or political party.

6. It seeks truth for its own sake, not primarily for pragmatic uses. It aims at wisdom, not wealth. It makes its graduates philosophers instead of millionaires. This is also true. But it’s not a fault. As Chesterton says, “Man’s most practical need is to be more than a pragmatist.”

7. It’s not specialized. It doesn’t teach underwater basket weaving or pickling and fermentation, so to speak. It doesn’t teach you clever ways to outguess the government, or lawyers, or your teacher, or the standardized tests. It just teaches you how to think and how to live. But businesses, law schools, and government agencies don’t want specialist drones; they want people who can read read and write and think logically and creatively.

8. It’s religious. It’s Christian. And, just like the other seven silly objections to it, this one too is really an advertisement for it. Yes, it doesn’t pretend that the most important man who ever lived never lived, as our public education now does. It assumes that the supernatural is not the enemy to the natural, that grace prefects nature rather than demeaning it, as light perfects color.

If this gives you pause, ask yourself, “Have I been indoctrinated in the public school system.” Believe it or not, the public school is the established church of secular society. It neglects the whole person. For a life that is free and not slavish, we need something else.

It is The Liberal Arts Tradition.

The Shared Wonder of Film

Paideia January 9, 2014

“Evidence suggests that humans in all ages and from all cultures create their identity through some kind of narrative form.

From mother to daughter, preacher to congregate, teacher to pupil, storyteller to audience; whether in cave paintings or the latest uses of the internet, human beings have always told truths through parable and fable. We are inveterate story tellers.

But where in our increasingly secular and fragmented world do we offer communality of experience unmediated by our own furious consumerism? And, what narrative, what history, what moral code are we imparting to our young?

Cinema is arguably the 20th centuries most influential art form. It’s artists told stories across international boundaries, in as many languages, genres, and philosophies as one can imagine. Indeed, it is hard to find a subject that film has yet to tackle.

During the last decade we’ve seen a vast integration of global media now dominated by a culture of the Hollywood blockbuster. We are increasingly offered a diet in which sensation, not story, is king.

What was common to us all 40 years ago, the telling of stories between generations, is now rarefied. As a filmmaker it worried me, as a human being, it puts the fear of God in me. What future could the young build with so little grasp of where they’ve come from and so few narratives of what’s possible?

The irony is palpable. Technical access has never been greater. Cultural access, never weaker.

Purists may feel that fiction dissipates the quest of real human understanding, that film is too crude to tell a complex and detailed history, or, that filmmakers always serve drama over truth. But, within the reels lie purpose and meaning.

As one 12 year old said after watching The Wizard of Oz, “Every person should watch this because unless you do, you may not know that you too have a heart.”

We honor reading, why not honor watching with the same passion? Consider Citizen Kane as valuable as Jane Austin. Agree Boys ‘N the Hood, like Tennyson, offers an emotional landscape and heightened understanding that work together. Each a piece of memorable art. Each a brick in the wall of who we are…an opportunity to discover what it is to be human and no less helpful to understanding our life and times as Shakespeare is in illuminating the world of Elizabethan England.

(Our young) they are neither feral nor myopically self absorbed. They are like other young people, negotiating a world with infinite choice but little culture of how to find meaningful experience.

We appeared surprised at the behaviors of those who define themselves by the size of the tic on their shoes, yet acquisition has been the narrative we’ve offered. If we want different values, we have to tell a different story. A story that understands that an individual narrative is an essential component of a person’s identity. That a collective narrative is an essential component of a cultural identity, and without it, it is impossible to imagine yourself as part of a group. Because, when these people get home from a screening of Rear Window and raise their gaze to the building next door, they have the tools to wonder, who, apart from themselves, is out there, and what is their story?”  – B E E B A N   K I D R O N

Other films mentioned in Kidron’s TED talk:
Miracle in Milan – “…to pass the button of concern and hope to the next generation.”  – B K  Commentary on slums, poverty and aspiration.
Mr Smith Goes to Washington – “…values independence and propriety. It shows us how to do right, how to be heroically awkward. It is also an expression of faith in the political machine as a force of honor.”  – B K
Slumdog Millionaire
Hotel Rwanda – “…explores genocide of the most brutal kind. It provoked tears as well as incisive questions about unarmed peacekeeping forces and the double dealing of a western society that picks it’s moral fights with commodities in mind.”  – B K
Schindler’s List
Pickpocket – “…starts a debate about criminality disenfranchisement.”  – B K
To Sir With Love – “…ignites a teen audience celebrating a change in attitude towards non-white Britain’s but railed against it’s restless school system that does not value collective identity unlike that offered by Sydney Poitier’s careful tutelage.”  – B K

Review questions to ask after watching a film:
Who was right?
Who’s wrong?
What would you have done under the same conditions?
Was the tale told well?
Was there a hidden message?
How has the world changed?
How could it be different?

DO FilmClub – An education charity helping transform young lives through film.