In the most recent Mad Max movie, one war boy blurts out a memorable quote: “If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on the fury road!” (Nux. Mad Max: Fury Road. 2015, Warner Brothers). His confrontation with mortality (he was sick, and thus in need of a blood transfusion from Max) reminded him that we all die eventually, and he wanted to do something “historic” along the way.
Universities are fatally flawed. They are required to neglect half of their core mission, or face elimination. The biggest casualty of this flaw is teaching and student learning. If you understand this basic fact of the university, you will be way ahead of the pack in being equipped to accomplish something during college. Let’s start with a metaphor.
On A Prairie Home Companion Garrison Keillor reminds us that in Lake Wobegon “all the children are above average.” Apparently the opposite is true in college, where all the students are bad test takers. At least it seems that way from my frequent encounters with students who try to explain their poor exam scores or low aptitude scores with the familiar refrain “I’m a bad standardized test taker” which is often followed by “but I do well on all my homework.” Like the above average intelligence of the children of Lake Wobegon, it is a statistical impossibility that so many college students are bad at taking tests. Even for most individual cases, the person in question is not a bad test-taker. What does that phrase even mean? It’s an argument that the exam cannot reflect their true knowledge, skills, or aptitude because something interferes during the test that makes their score inaccurate. This is not true in most cases. What is really going on?
I had not intended to bring a portable solar charger to India. But my friend Rich introduced me to “Doc” Giltner who is a philathropist. He had provided low costs computers to Rich when Rich went to Uganda, so I was hoping to get some free/cheap computers for India. When we met he said he was no longer in the computer donation business, as his supply had dried up. The new thing was solar chargers. Apparently he has spent the last 10 years trying to find affordable and practical solar power for developing countries, and this is the first thing that has worked. It will charge a cell phone or tablet, or can run LED lighting adequate for a small home. After meeting with Doc Giltner I took a chance and bought one to bring on my India trip. He donated more batteries and light bulbs. I verified with India Gospel League that they would find a use for it in a remote village and left it there. I wrote a guest blog for SunJack. I won’t repeat it here; read it on their site. This was one of my unexpected adventures in India.
Prognosticators predict the decline of the modern university as we know it. Tuition rises faster than inflation (and even healthcare costs!) as state subsidies fall. By 2030 state support of higher education will reach 0% as our aging population drives healthcare costs to 100% of state and federal budgets. OK, I exaggerate, but healthcare costs will asymptote out at the maximum level possible and conversely state support for education will bottom out. Meanwhile, students owe $1.3 trillion in federal and private education loans. Concurrently, the rise of distance learning and contingent faculty are transforming the economics of “credit delivery,” as colleges go to great lengths to promote retention and degree completion. Will the secular university survive? That’s a topic for another day. Here I want to consider whether the additional pressures faced by the sectarian institutions place them at greater risk. Specifically, will restrictions on freedom of religion harm Christian colleges?
My friends just started their new blog site: pretendtobepoor.com. It’s based on Proverbs 13:7 “…there is one who pretends to be poor, but is rich” and is intended to promote financial freedom and flexibility through frugality. I am by no means frugal, but hope to be one day. It’s aspirational for me; like wanting to be a runner or a published author or lighter (by about 25 pounds to be precise). However, I look around my house and it looks like an ocean wave receded leaving behind a lot of plastic. I am so tired of debris, and do not want to accumulate more stuff. This is a real struggle for me, because too much stuff both reflects a lack of simple living and makes life more complicated. For decades I just haven’t thought about it; too late now! How many hours do I spend each year cleaning and organizing and searching through the basement junkyard for the thing I actually need? So here are some gift ideas for the frugal, who do not want stuff (some also work for the frugal who do not want to spend much).
Note: One year the mandatory summer reading book was “This I Believe.” Since I was teaching freshman orientation at the time, everyone had to write a “this I believe” essay. I wrote one and sent it to my students as an example. As Christian professorman, I wanted to be “spiritual” but not over-the-top so that perhaps discussions could follow. This was my attempt.
Labor Day weekend camping at East Harbor State Park with 100 of my closest friends was ample inspiration for a “this I believe” essay. The chaotic sprawl of tents and pop-up campers looks like some sort of refugee camp, but not from some genocidal war or natural disaster. Instead, little clots of upbeat people roam around the group camping site, playing volleyball, playing Frisbee, riding bikes, eating camping food, everybody talking, and many drinking out of red cups. We have definitely exceeded the maximum occupancy of these sites. Not even counting how many dogs people brought.
Note: Since my blog is new I am going to post a bunch of things real fast so it will be worthwhile to read. Then I intend to post something weekly. Here is a blog that recently appeared on Andrew Wilkinson’s blog http://andrewsafari.blogspot.com/. I call this “cross-pollinating.” Go check his site and hopefully his followers will check mine.
By the time you read this, Kobani, Syria will probably have been overrun by the Islamic State death cult (aka IS/ISIS/ISIL). The Arabic name for this city is Ayn al-Arab, and including the surrounding villages it was home to about 400,000 people. There are Christians in Kobani, mostly in Syriac Churches. Before a city is overrun ISIS, refugees flee. When a city falls, genocide begins. Christians are especially at risk, as there have been reports from the Middle East of forced conversions to Islam, enslavement, shootings, beheadings (including children), and even crucifixions.
The persecution of Christians is nothing new, and well-documented in modern times. For example, the non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization Voice of the Martyrs has been cataloging persecution and working with local churches to provide aid for decades (http://www.persecution.com/). This horrific humanitarian crisis seems unthinkable in the modern era, and the international community is wringing its hands and saying that we just can’t allow another city to fall to ISIS. Amid the shrill cries for escalating military action, it’s hard to know what to think or do besides pray.
I used to blog somewhere on my church blogomicrosphere that you will never find. No one read them. But I am starting over. This is my public site-where I will blog about things that are not relevant to my “day job.”
I will blog about:
- Campus ministry
- Church planting
- Whatever else strikes my fancy
Good news! I found my old blog site that is buried in Neoxenos’ blogosphere. I’m gonna edit and republish most of that, as well as things I wrote for Church Planter Magazine (http://churchplantermagazine.com/).
More coming soon…