Alberta considering draconian, anti-family “tolerance” law

I just read an alert in the weekly update I receive from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that described a chilling law the Canadian province of Alberta is looking to pass.

Here’s a summary from the HSLDA which includes what appears to be a quote from the bill:

The legislative proposal known as Bill 2 in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta would explicitly require that all instructional materials “reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.” The bill further requires not only public schools, but also private schools and homeschools to comply with these requirements (§ 1 “interpretation of school”).

The alert also includes this quote from Alberta Minister of Education, Thomas Lukaszuk:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences.”

…and this quote from his assistant director for communications, Donna McColl:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences… You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life; you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

Please understand: I’m not one to jump at conspiracy theories, and I hear my share. I’m not one who believes all the governmental “Straw Man” arguments, 501(c)(3) lunacy, etc. But these comments should be chilling to anyone who cherishes their ability to act on God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:6-7,

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

English: self authored by chen siyuan. release...
Teaching your kids that certain behaviors are sin? The Alberta Legislature might have something to say about that... (Image via Wikipedia)

Actually, these comments are both disturbing and revealing in a number of ways. For instance, it seems to make a magical distinction between “family life” and education and instruction–the exact opposite of what Deuteronomy 6 says, which describes instruction as interwoven with family life, teaching as you sit, walk by the way, lie down, rise up. Those who think that “family life” and “educational life” are two completely distinct things have fallen for a lie meant to weaken the family. (Not that they invented the lie or purpose to do wrong in their heart. It is from the father of lies, and those who believe it often think they are doing people a service.)

Also, it forces families schooling their children at home to be hypocrites. For instance, if Alberta decides that tolerance for homosexuality should be taught and the parents believe that it is a sin, the parents are somehow supposed to teach “affirm in their family life” that the the choice to engage in homosexual practices is to be avoided as displeasing to God and not to be respected as an allowable choice on the one hand while simultaneously actively teaching that homosexual lifestyles are to be respected and upheld as just as good as proper sexual relations within marriage.

(It would be nice if Alberta allowed that a family could teach that truly respecting a person doesn’t mean one has to tolerate the presence of sin in their lives but that, quite the contrary, truly loving a person means being willing to warn them about the dangers of that sin in their lives and describing that sin for what it truly is: something noxious to their Creator. If someone in Alberta could help me see that this is what they mean by “respect,” I’d be much obliged.)

Of course, the comments are also irrational and misleading. After all, “disrespect for differences” is all over the place in both law and common society and is widely approved. Those who differ from the rest of us on how ownership should be understood are arrested when they steal. Those who differ on what constitutes “consent” in sexual matters are still arrested when they break applicable laws. How are those differences “respected”? It is a matter of what differences the government gives you the right to disrespect, of course–part of the ungodly idea that government determines right and wrong instead of God. The words “right and wrong” may be removed from the discussion, but they are implicitly present all the time in such legislation. As better men than me have noted, proclamations of government and legislature are inherently moral in spirit and tone and it is folly to pretend otherwise. This is often all the more blatant in laws dealing with education.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

As English literary giant Samuel Johnson once noted, “The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things–the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit.” Alberta’s proposed bill seeks to rob from parents the right to teach their own children how to distinguish the good from the bad and how to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit. And worse still, it seeks to force parents to be the instruments of the state in indoctrinating their own children in the government’s ideas about what is good and bad–forcing the parents to be agents in teaching their children to believe things they do not themselves believe. How satanic.

More could be said, but I don’t have much more time–and it’s probably best that way, as my ire would probably keep me going for a while. As I have said many a time here on my blog, I am not political in the sense that I do not participate in the political life of any country (e.g., I do not vote, do not endorse political candidates, do not seek to affect legislation) — nor does anyone who shares my faith. I believe that Christ has called me out of that. But sighing and crying over the state of things is another matter (cf. Ezekiel 9:4), as is crying aloud about them (Isaiah 58:1) and looking forward to being empowered with Christ at His return to make a real, lasting difference (2 Cor. 10:4-6, Rev. 20:4, 6).

Unless HSLDA has done the worst job humanly possible in describing Alberta’s Bill 2, it truly does represent a horrendous moral attack on the integrity of the family, homeschooling or not, and for the sake of those families living in our wonderful neighbor to the north who are striving to teach their children godly morals that go against the grain of government-approved values, I pray that the bill fails. And I pray, too, that politicians in our own country don’t get any ideas.

Two Lawyers and God’s Government

Having given some sermons recently on God’s approach to government as depicted in Scripture, the passage I came across in an article I read tonight was just too good (in my opinion) not to pass along.

It was an article in the magazine The Home School Report, sent out regularly by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) of which we are members.  The article “The Mississippi Five and the Case of the Missing Case” was a really good one illustrating how some judges can too easily assume much, much more power than they actually have (thankfully, the Supreme Court of Mississippi saw it the same way), and one detail in the article seemed written with God’s approach to government in mind.

Oddly, perhaps, it wasn’t anything related to the actual “governmental” issues on which the article focused. Rather, it concerned the relationship between two of the HSLDA lawyers working on the case (or, as it were, the non-case, which was the issue at hand).

The unique legal situation in Mississippi demanding immediate action was brought to the attention of HSLDA Director of Litigation and author of the article, Jim Mason (as he says in the byline: No relation to Perry).  Realizing the scope of what they would be dealing with, he brought it to the attention of HSLDA Board Chairman and one of its two founding lawyers, Michael Farris.  After Mr. Farris, a very busy man, read the information brought to him by Mr. Mason, he looked up and said, “I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day.”

Without going into the details of what they had to address and had to address quickly on behalf of homeschoolers in Mississippi (which they did successfully, by the way), let me simply say that it required immediate action to create necessary filings the very next day involving analysis of a very novel situation.

That said, it was Mr. Jim Mason’s description of how he and Mr. Michael Farris, his boss, worked together — in that instance and generally — that grabbed my attention unexpectedly:

“After working on dozens of cases together, Mike and I have developed a working relationship that lends itself to quick, decisive, but careful action. Mike is bold, aggressive, and optimistic. He immediately sees the big picture and focuses on the pros.

“I am more cautious, worry about the details, and think about the precise legal theories and all of the objections to each. My mind runs quickly to the cons.

“These early legal discussions tend to be vigorous, freewheeling, sometimes heated, but always collegial and respectful. Mike does me the great honor of listening to my objections and taking them seriously. He knows that I in turn will cheerfully defer to his final decision and work hard to carry it out even if a few minutes before I was vigorously arguing against it.”

That working relationship, so described, was so good a picture of something I’ve tried to describe that I was surprisingly excited to read it.  In particular, it was that last paragraph.  Mr. Mason speaks of the freedom the two of them have to be honest with each other and to express strong opinions, even if different.  He speaks of the fact that although Michael Farris is the one who will ultimately call the shots he listens sincerely to Mr. Mason’s objections and disagreements to consider them seriously.  And he points out that Mr. Farris, in turn, knows with confidence that once he makes the call, Mr. Mason will devote himself to making that call work, even if it was not at all the way that he recommended it should go.

(Actually, my “summary” of their relationship is longer than the one Mr. Mason wrote, and his description makes the points better!  Forget you read that last paragraph and go read his last paragraph again.  The last three sentences are gold.)

That is exactly what God wants to see in the governments that He ordains.  There IS a head in those governments.  There IS someone who must, when it comes down to it, call the shots!  Such a person should listen to those under him — listen to their advice and counsel (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6) and search out their perspectives (Prov. 20:5), even if the resulting opinions differ greatly from the one he brought to the discussion.  Then that head makes the call.  (Because someone always has to make the call!)  Once he does, those under him work to make it happen, even if they had been advising the opposite the moment before.

That this arrangement exists in the God Family is clear and in God’s design for the human family is clear (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Luke 22:42, et al.).  That such principles apply in the New Testament Church — just as surely as they did in the “Old Testament Church” (e.g., Exodus 18:13-26) — is unpopular to say, but that doesn’t make it false.  Nor does the unpopularity of the principle remove the truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and that it is only sensible to think that the government that He has experienced since eternity, that He personally placed within the family, and that He will be implementing in His Kingdom during the Millennium and for all eternity, would not be the same one that He would implement within His own Body, the Church.

(Side note: Some might say from this, “What if the ministry goes ‘off the rails’ and begins to apostatize? You’re demanding that we follow them over a cliff and put them before God!”  Please.  1 Cor. 11:1 is still in the Bible!  Just because a wife is commanded to submit to her husband does not mean that she must murder, steal, etc. at his command, right?  And yet, do such situations nullify God’s clear commands about government in marriage?  Sincere questions about how one can determine that a government has abandoned God and, thus, abandoned its legitimacy can be profitable to discuss, and I enjoy such discussion — and, thankfully, the Bible gives us guidance and direction.  But sadly questions like these are too often used to justify throwing out these principles, not understanding them more clearly.  And that’s a shame.)

I know I’ve written about such things before, but seeing in print these principles at work in these two lawyers was encouraging.  If they can get it, others can, too.  Like gravity, God’s approach to government works whether you believe in it or not.

Every boy remembers his first nationally normed standardized test…

image of scantron form
march of the bubbles

Well, my children (all except Boy #4) have finally taken their first nationally normed standardized exams, the California Achievement Test.  It is a change to our homeschool routine necessitated by Ohio law.  Well, actually, it won’t be necessary until next year, but I wanted them to have experience with such exams before one came that counted.  Even in Texas and Missouri, I was hoping to add standardized tests to their experience, I just didn’t think it could come as a necessity any time soon,

It went really well.  I was able to proctor the exam myself, which was a strange experience.  Not that it was strange because I have never proctored standardized tests before.  Quite the contrary — both as a school teacher in Texas and as an actuary, I’ve administered my share of such exams!  And, as I explained to 13-year-old Boy #1, I, personally, have taken approximately 13 billion such exams, myself.  So in that sense it was not a novel experience.  But the last exams I administered were actuarial exams which, once they got started, were full of vast amounts of time (really, hours) in which I, as the proctor, had nothing to do but listen to the scratching of pencil on paper — and, of course, to the weeping and wailing of those who discovered they had not prepared adequately.  (Sure, the weeping and wailing is in their heads, but having been there myself I could hear it. 🙂 )

In these cases, each portion of the exams is relatively short — 10-20 minutes — so there is more interaction.  Also, Boy #3’s exam was at a lower level, which required even more interaction.  With his exam, a new sample problem is reviewed immediately before problems of that sort are tested, so, for instance, on the math computation you do an addition sample together before the addition problems, a subtraction example together before the subtraction problems, etc.  For Boys #1 & #2, there was no such requirement.  Actually, even though Boy #1 & Boy #2 had different tests for different grade levels, the instructions and timings for their exams were exactly the same, which was a pleasant surprise.

I think they were intimidated by the thought of doing the exams, so going through this first one was a great opportunity to realize that these kinds of exams “ain’t nothing but a thing.”  If anything, I think they are a bit more confident about what they know, having gone up against a national exam and realizing, “You know what? I actually know things!”  So it was a good experience.

Now the long wait for the results!

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Non-Newtonian Fluid Day

Today’s science class for Boy #3 was a fun one:

The boys playing with non-Newtonian fluid

As seen above, his class of one quickly became a class of six (Mom and I jumped in, as well).  Nothing brings ’em in like non-Newtonian fluids!

This one was the standard quick mix: two parts cornstartch to one part water.  Temporarily-solid fun!

[UPDATE: For those who’d like to watch the Mythbusters play with this stuff, here you go.]

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Religion in history class? Why not?

Wow — it has been a LONG TIME since I have written anything out here!  And I must admit: I have been enjoying the break.  I have certainly had enough going on to justify not spending any time in the blogosphere!

However, this article caught my eye today as I wandered through the day’s news, and I thought it worth a mention, especially with my own experience as a teacher in the Texas public schools.

The article is “Texas Curriculum Review Sparks Debate About Religion” with the subtitle “Does Religion Have a Place in American History?”

The question forming the subtitle is easily answered: Of course.  The problem is with how both sides of the issue seem to want to twist the question.  And it is an issue with potential nationwide impact since, as the article points out, Texas is the second largest school system in the U.S. and its decisions have a great deal of influence on textbook makers.

Anti-religious fanatics see the inclusion of any talk of religion in history class as a violation of the “sacred” wall of separation between church and state.  This is absolutely ludicrous.  The fact is that history — even from a completely secular and 100% atheistic perspective — cannot be taught properly unless you include discussions of the religious motivations and worldviews of those who made that history.  Frankly, that should be uncontroversial.  And I have heard from many who are surprised when they learn how supressed discussion of religion is in some history classes in America.  (Actually, it’s usually “social studies” instead of “history” — something I have a strong opinion on, but which I will keep to myself for now.)  After all, if an explorer’s motivations for exploring were God, Gold, and Glory, then how accurate is out instruction if we are only willing to teach about the Gold and the Glory?  (Or, in a more watered-down form of nonsense: teaching about the Gold & Glory while including a token mention of religious motivations.)

Wouldn’t such an approach communicate a faulty sense of the tides and flows of history?  Wouldn’t it hamper the critical thinking and analysis that we are expecting of students, let alone pass along a false history?  Should American History be renamed American Fiction?

Now, I admit in this that there are those on the other side of the debate who would take things further than simply discussing and educating about the powerful influence of religious factors in the shaping of history.  Some would want to discuss God, Himself, as the Shaper and Shepherd of History.  Rather than discuss the religious motivations and ideologies that were actively brought into play in the creation of the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, some would rather the public classroom discuss the motivations of God, Himself, in bringing together the influences that crafted our nation.  Or, in a different take, some want to paint the Founding Fathers as if they were a religious monolith, unified in their religious beliefs and convictions as if they had all walked out of a modern Evangelical “worship service” together and decided, “Hey, let’s make a constitution!”  I exaggerate, of course, but hopefully the point is still made.

Do I think that the role God has actively played in history is essential to a complete understanding of history and to a full grasp of what history should teach us?  Absolutely.  But I suspect I would disagree with many a public (or private) school teacher’s ideas about the mind of God and Christ concerning the events of history.  That’s one reason, among others, why my wife and I homeschool our children.  I want to give them not only the Big Picture, but the Full Picture.

However, history teachers can surely teach about the religious beliefs of the explorers of our world, the kings of our kingdoms, the leaders of our wars, and the founders of our nations — beliefs which had, and continue to have, a POWERFUL influence on the direction of history AND the holding of which are often established historical fact demonstrable in the writings of the individuals involved — without claiming to divine the mind of the Divine, as well.  Right?  I understand the nervousness of some about the latter — what I don’t understand is the nervousness about the former.

For our family it’s simply an academic matter since, again, we homeschool.  But for those who do not, I encourage you to be a very active part of your child’s education: An accurate history education may truly require that you walk boldly in those places where public school administrators fear to tread.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
[In the event someone comes across this and is interested in some free booklets that might help in educating your children — such as our booklets
The Bible: Fact or Fiction or The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy — check out our website, www.tomorrowsworld.org.]

Gender-differentiated education being “rediscovered”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice article today about the growing popularity of separating boys and girls into different classes to teach them with an eye toward inherent gender differences.  You can read it, too: “Dividing boys, girls grows exponentially” — Currently, it is the cover story on the STLtoday.com website and includes a gallery of photos showing scenes from the boys’ and girls’ separate classrooms.

Given that we have four boys and zero girls here at the Smith Academy for Boys, we are, of necessity, gender-differentiated.  While it is an old idea, it is exciting to see that more schools like Carmen Trails Elementary are giving it a shot.  The fact is that boys and girls are different.  When God said that he made them “male and female” it is because he really did make them differently.  Boys are boys and girls are girls, and trying to cram them into the exact same educational setting seems an absolutely ludicrous idea if you really hope to give them the best.

Having been on both sides of the public education scene, I know how difficult it can be to provide truly individual education to students.  Really, it’s impossible when one considers the inherent “assembly line” nature of the school systems.  As valient, talented, and dedicated as a teacher may be — and I have known many who are valient, talented, and dedicated — given a mob of kiddos one can only “individualize” so much.  (One of the many reasons the Smith family homeschools, by the way.)  Yet, in the differences that naturally show up between boys and girls, it would seem to me that there is a huge difference that can be taken advantage of — that is, by at least recognizing the difference between how boys and girls tend to learn and think, once can get an enormous bang for the buck.  I would suspect, actually, that more potential benefit can come from recognizing this easy to make distinction and actually acting on it than most other steps toward individualizing education an institution might take.

The fruit of these schools’ labors is still being examined, but I anticipate good things.  The idea that there are no real, significant differences between the brains (and minds) of boys and girls — and men and women — is a ship that fills its sails with the most ignorant of winds and that falters against the rocks of both common sense and scientific study.  If it is headed toward the dust bin of history, may its journey be a swift and permanent one.

How would you advise the new President?

The Smith Family took off yesterday for inauguration day.  I was out of town all day Sunday for ministerial visits and counseling, so I decided to try and give back to my family a bit yesterday by running around with them doing grocery shopping and such before an evening appointment that I had.  But before that, we watched the swearing in of our new President and Vice President and decided that today would be a “day off.”  (Nice thing about homeschooling: we are in charge of our own “holiday” schedule!)

My wife commented that she doesn’t know why the schools she went to (before she was homeschooled) didn’t give kids the opportunity to watch inaugurations.  Regardless of whether one’s side won or lost, they are important moments for our country and something you would think that a school would want kids to watch — given the stress on being civic-minded and such.  I mentioned that I’m sure some schools do (I think mine at least let us watch Reagan’s inauguration), and that maybe hers was an exception.

We did not watch all the festivities — which thankfully meant missing Mr. Lowery’s horribly inappropriate prayer.  (Although I did hear Mr. Warren’s prayer.  Seemed to me that in places he stretched so hard to be inclusive that he might have pulled a muscle, but at least he had testosterone enough to pray in Jesus’ name against calls to do otherwise.  I could say more, but I am straying…)  But we did watch the swearing in, itself, and some of the procession and fanfare preceding it.

Today, though, not counting the many hangovers that are surely lingering at this hour in Washington, all of that is past, and the President must get to work.  Which, of course, means we must get to work as well.  Like him or not, Barack Obama is now the President of the United States, and 1 Timothy 2:1-2 is still in the Bible:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

My questions today are two:

(1) What are you praying for concerning this President, and…

(2) If you had the opportunity to advise this President, what would you tell him?

I have my own answers but am more interested in yours. 🙂

Did… Did you REALLY just ask that? SWEET!!!

“So, Dad — what’s your favorite equation?”

Wow! Has ever a father received a more inviting or wonderfulicious question during dinner on a Friday night!?! 🙂

Seriously, I cannot explain how excited I was to hear that question. My kids and I have talked about that subject before, and I have discussed it here on this blog, as well (right here and here). For those who did not read that post a couple of years ago, my favorite equation is…

e^{i\pi}+1=0

[As I added last time, in the event that your browser cannot display the equation above, it should say e ^ (i π) + 1 = 0, where “π” is pi and “^” indicates “raised to the power of”.]

I know it is not very original for a mathematician to claim that particular equation as his favorite, but it is and I have to be honest (there is a commandment about that, you know). Besides, it’s hard to beat Euler’s little gem. (Again, you can read my previous ranting and raving here and here).

Anyway, this led to all sorts of great follow up questions and discussions, including walking around on the floor discussing what it could mean to take “i steps”. (The kids and I have discussed this before, but it has been a while.) What a great Sabbath start, at least according to our tastes. 🙂 Discussing the creation is always a pleasant and appropriate Sabbath activity, and I do think mathematics is a beautiful part of that creation — one of my favorite parts, in fact.

All of this leads me to my question for you… A common question to ask for Tabletopics at Spokesman Club meetings is, “What do you do in your family to make the Sabbath special?” I must frankly admit that my family currently has no special routine or frequent Sabbath activity, and tonight’s mathematical adventure was a wonderfully pleasant but entirely random occurrence.

But what about you? If you have a family — especially if you have children, but also if you do not — do you have any special Friday night or Sabbath morning tradition? If you’re single, feel free to jump in, as well.

Not looking for anyone to seize an opportunity to “out-righteous” everyone else (“Why, I recite the Psalms from memory to orphaned children while cuddling the foster kittens I am voluntarily rearing to serve as comfort for lonely seniors…”) — just curious to know what folks out there are doing! Feel free and comment below.

Regardless of your answer, have a wonderful Sabbath!

LEGO Sue vs. Real Sue

Got back in late yesterday (thanks to those who prayed for our safe travel!), and we’ve been running pell mell ever since.

Had to face Boy #4 this morning and tell him that Dad did not have time to build a LEGO® Sue the Tyrannosaur with him until later since he had to work.  (Mentally insert downcast face of Boy #4, here.)  However, my Beautiful Wife reminded me that I was going to be out counseling from about 6:00PM tonight until past bedtime, so Dad found a few moments this morning before breakfast to produce this masterpiece:

I will let you compare and judge my (*ahem*) talent for yourself:

Brilliant, huh?  I will admit: I would much rather see the real Sue than the LEGO® Sue.  Unless, of course, they were alive.

Although the kids don’t start their core homeschooling coursework until September 1, the day we took at the Field Museum was definitely educational and a worthwhile field trip.

Still, it’s good to be back home!

Homeschooling in Germany? Lose your children, go to jail.

Knowing that much of my heritage is German (on my maternal grandmother’s side), I have always had a fondness for the nation.  Knowledge of the nation’s ultimate role in prophecy has only added to its profile on my radar screen (as readers of this blog are certainly aware).

But as one homeschooling his children, I must say that I thank God for the freedom I currently have here in America.  Details can be read about here on the HSLDA website: German Court Keeps Five Kids Because Parents are Homeschoolers.