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I am usually not too emotional about things, though I can be. This morning I was wiping some tears away not of sorrow but of incredible peace. In a conversation with my pastor, Dean Delfosse yesterday, he suggested that I listen to the podcast “Coram Deo, The Daily Liturgy.” Coram Deo is a church in Omaha led by Bob Thune and they have been a great resource in Christ-centered teaching and ministry. Those who know me will affirm I am a lover of “dead theologians” and the writings of the Puritan era. I have for many years in my personal reading of the Scripture used the resource of the McCheyne reading plan. Robert Murray McCheyne was a Scottish pastor in the 1800s who wanted to increase the Bible literacy of his congregations so he came up with a reading plan. It ends up in this podcast, they use a similar model of readings from several spots in the Bible daily, yet with common threads often times. In addition to readings from the Scriptures, the podcast interjects prayers and contemplation from resources such as “The Valley of Vision” and “The Book of Common Prayers” among others. The podcast was only 10 minutes but I felt like I had experienced a journey into a personal holy place. I’m hooked and recommend you give this a try too. It is available on all the media links to podcasts. Just 10 minutes but if it results in tears in your eyes, I do not recommend you listen to it while driving. 🙂
Tonight begins an old but new trail of encouraging and training people in the area of leadership. The emphasis at first will be in the area of strengthening our hold of sound doctrine. We will use the wonderful tool of biblicaltraining.org and the wisdom of Dr. Bruce Ware’s lectures on “Understanding Theology” supported by Dr. Wayne Grudem’s book “Systematic Theology.”
By calling it Theology Matters we are taking the root meaning, “theos-logos,” the study of God, and stressing what A.W. Tozer once wrote, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” It is critical in our lives and critical for the church. Also matters refers to topics and situations under consideration. We will discover that theology impacts every area of our lives and every area of the church. We cannot escape theology and so we better get it right.
We will begin tonight with an introduction to systematic theology and discuss why teach this for leadership. We will also begin our first topic, the doctrine of Scripture. It will be great to be back in the saddle again and train up another group of people to proclaim the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and see how this matters in our lives and in the church.
I am reigniting this blog site in order to inform and hopefully encourage others in areas of interest and developing leaders. I have not written anything for four years and in the time away I have been involved in many areas of leadership and teaching.
Besides some articles of interest, I will be including information to a course of study I will be facilitating at my home church, Country Bible Church in Bennet, Nebraska. The course is titled “Theology Matters” and is designed to strengthen people in various areas of leadership. Hopefully it will encourage others as you read what we are doing and learning.
In a discussion from the article I posted yesterday, it was noted that I used Jenner’s name Bruce and now he goes by Caitlyn and also I used masculine pronouns when most are using feminine. How do we deal with this confusion? Denny Burk who is a professor at Boyce College gives a good answer that follows the line of thinking of my previous article and will be helpful when we face someone (and you will) who makes such a claim of being transgender.
Bruce or Caitlyn? He or she? Should Christians accommodate transgender naming?
By Denny Burk
How should Christians respond to transgenderism in general and Bruce Jenner’s “transition” in particular? I think Christians are at their best when they recognize a need for both compassion and truth-telling. Compassion for those who experience painful alienation from their own bodies and truth-telling in the face of fictional accounts of gender identity.
As I have written before, transgenderism is a denial of God-ordained differences between male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). It is an untruthful suppression of the sexual binary that God has encoded into every cell of our bodies. When a person feels their gender identity to be out of sync with their sexual identity, the problem is not with the body but with the mind. To steal a phrase from Sam Allberry, the conflict is evidence of how sin distorts us not of how God made us. Thus, it is unloving and contrary to human flourishing to deny or obscure these truths.
I have seen one issue popping-up in the commentary this week that appears to be unresolved among Christians writing and commenting about transgenderism. How do we refer to people who have adopted a transgender identity? Transgender ideology says that we must refer to transgender persons by their assumed name, not by their given name. It also requires using pronouns that match their transgender identity and not those that match the sex they were assigned at birth. Should Christians go along with this or not?
Just yesterday I saw Christians coming at this question from opposite directions. On the one hand, Marty Duren writing in The Washington Post refers to Jenner with the name Caitlyn and with feminine pronouns. Duren explains, “How does insistence on calling Caitlyn by her birth name help me reach Lisa who now goes by ‘Fred,’ or Tom’s kid who remains confused?” Duren believes that we close-off opportunities for evangelism if we don’t go along with the way transgender people want to be named.
On the other hand, Doug Wilson refuses to go along with transgender naming, saying, “I am afraid that I am not going to be addressing him as Caitlyn — the most accommodation I will offer is that of calling him Jenner.” Thus Wilson rejects both feminine pronouns and the name Caitlyn.
(I could perhaps mention a third way. I have heard arguments from people I respect that take a somewhat divided approach. They agree to use a person’s legal name, whatever that may be, but refuse to adopt pronouns that contradict a person’s birth sex.)
These are just a couple examples that I read yesterday. I could marshall many more. The questions is, however, which one is right? I am still thinking through these things myself, so consider the following a first draft of my thinking on this. Above all, I aim to be biblical in coming at this question. So here are the principles that have guided my thinking thus far.
- Avoid unnecessary provocation.
Paul writes, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18). That means that offensiveness doesn’t necessarily equal faithfulness. Offensiveness might be an evidence of fidelity to the gospel. Or it might be an evidence that we are pugnacious. And we don’t get brownie points for being angry jerks. The fool is the one who “speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword” (Prov. 12:18), but the wise “ponders how to answer” (Prov. 15:28). In short, the foolish person offends people with his words because he’s self-absorbed and thoughtless. The wise person is persuasive because he’s constantly strategizing how to use his words to bring healing and life (Prov. 16:24).
When it comes to gospel witness, we need to build bridges wherever we can. And of course that includes how we speak to and address sinners with our words. Paul modeled this for us at Mars Hill in Acts 17 and broke it down for us in simple terms in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”
The practical upshot of this principle is that Christians should not adopt the posture of a scold. If you can avoid conflict over this point and still speak truthfully, then do so. Wilson’s “Jenner” accomodation seems reasonable to me under this principle. Under this principle, one might also avoid certain pronouns in order to postpone a confrontation that is better left for a later time.
- Embrace necessary provocation.
Truth-telling is always necessary for the Christian (Eph. 4:15). We are not allowed speak in ways that are fundamentally dishonest and that undermine the truth of God’s word about how he made us and the world. Transgender ideology is fundamentally a revolt against God’s truth. It encourages people–sometimes very disturbed and hurting people–to deny who God made them to be. It traps them in a way of thinking and living that is harmful to them and that alienates them from God’s truth. We do not serve them or love them well by speaking as if transgender fictions are true.
We are called not to participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead to “expose them” (Eph. 5:11). That means we must always “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 5:18). We must realize that real love always, always, always “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). So loving our neighbor means telling them the truth, even when that truth brings an unpleasant confrontation.
The doctor does his patient no favors by speaking in ways that conceal an unpleasant diagnosis. Likewise, we do our neighbors and loved ones no favors by speaking in ways that conceal the truth of God. The proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). That means that an enemy will tell you what you want to hear, but a real friend will tell you what you need to hear. Sometimes saying the right thing is hard, but we won’t shrink back from the confrontation if we really love our neighbor.
The practical upshot of this principle means that I must never encourage or accomodate transgender fictions with my words. In fact, I have an obligation to expose them. For me, that means that I may never refer to a biological male with pronouns that encourage him to think of himself as a female. Likewise, I may never refer to a biological female with pronouns that encourage her to think of herself as a male. In other words, I have to speak truthfully. And that includes the choice of pronouns that I use.
It seems to me that the use of a legal name may present a special case. What if the only name you know is the assumed legal name and not the birth name? Aren’t some names ambiguous with respect to gender? It may be that a consistent application of the principles above would allow the use of the assummed name in some situations and not allow it in others. I can only say that the principle of truth-telling in love always has to determine whatever choice you make.
There may be scenarios that are not covered by the principles as I have articulated them here. I’m open to being persuaded from the Bible that another approach is better or that I need to consider another angle. So I invite any feedback aimed at helping us to think and speak with greater biblical faithfulness.
Like you, I have been reading much about Bruce Jenner the past few weeks and seen the pictures. So how do we think of this and the doors it opens through the lens of the gospel? Jon Bloom of DesiringGod ministries has put together one of the best articles I have read thus far so I share it with you so that you can consider this first for yourself. Then this must be talked about to your children for they will be exposed to this and it soon will be a “common” event. Jon wrote:
Former Olympic champion, and current pop celebrity, Bruce Jenner, revealed in a recent interview his lifelong struggle with gender confusion. This week he announced that he is changing his public identity from male to female, his given name from Bruce to Caitlyn, and celebrating his gender transition by being featured in a photo shoot and cover article for the July edition of Vanity Fair.
Jenner has suddenly become the most well-known transgender person in the world and has brought transgender issues into the headlines and cultural conversation.
So how should we, as Christians, respond to Jenner’s transition?
In 1976, Bruce Jenner won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. Instantly, he became a global mega-star. But when making public appearances afterwards, no one knew that sometimes under his suit, this handsome, muscular, charismatic epitome of masculine virility and success was wearing a bra and pantyhose.
Jenner was nine years old when he first secretly tried on his sister’s dress because he felt like he wanted to be a girl. He didn’t understand his strange desires and had never heard of anyone else who felt this way. He had no one to talk to. He was a little boy carrying a secret shame that made him feel isolated from everyone else. He always felt like a fake — like he was constantly pretending to be a boy, even though he was one.
A gifted athlete, Jenner excelled in every sport he played throughout his teens, eventually becoming world-class in track and field in his twenties. But no one knew that part of what fueled his fierce competitive drive was a desperate effort to prove he really was a man. Always present in his consciousness, sometimes screaming at him, sometimes whispering to him from the shadows, was an inner voice telling him that he was female.
Adding to his confusion, his gender and sexual-orientation voices were dissonant: He had a heterosexual attraction to women. The inner conflict of his disordered desires, though not the sole cause, contributed significantly to the break up of three marriages.
None of this means that Jenner’s decision to self-identify as a female is okay. There are important reasons why it’s not okay (see the links below). Compassion does not mean compromising biblical truth. But sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it. We must seek to understand their painful stories before we speak into their struggles. The more we know, the more compassionate will be our truthful response.
“Sexual identity must be for us more than an abstract social issue. Real souls have endured real anguish over it.”
Christians are equipped to respond with real compassion for such struggles. We all understand from experience the distressing disorder of the inner man that occurs because of indwelling sin and the brokenness of the fall:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15, 21–24)
Bruce Jenner, and every person who deals with gender or sexual-orientation disorders, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul. The first compassionate impulse we should have is to pray for them. Jenner professes to be a Christian. Whatever that means, he at least may have potential openness to biblical truth. Let us pray that the truth of the gospel will set him free (John 8:32), knowing how much Jesus loves to redeem and restore sin-broken people.
With Greater Understanding
Growing in our understanding of the nature of transgender and sexual-orientation disorders is necessary so that we don’t hold ignorant assumptions and say erroneous and insensitive things to people. And it would be wise for us to anticipate the possibility of discovering someday that our child, grandchild, cousin, nephew, niece, friend, co-worker, or possibly a parent is enduring such a struggle. If that should happen, we want to be safe people for them to talk to.
“Jenner, and every person who deals with gender disorder, bears the image of God and has a priceless soul.”
Beyond that, gender issues are only going to grow in prominence in our society. The nations of the West have fully legitimized many of them and are working them into the legal codes. The past cultural restraints are gone. We will increasingly be called upon to explain and defend the biblical position. We need to know what the Bible actually says about transgender and sexual orientation and why the church throughout history has held its positions. Greater understanding will make us both more compassionate and more articulate. (I’ve prepared a list of places to begin at the end of this article.)
With Truthful Love
If we are compassionate, prayerful people who reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them, we are in a good position to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth is itself a form of love, even if a person doesn’t receive it as such initially. But “in love” also means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means a willingness to love strugglers with deeds (such as hospitality), not just words (1 John 3:18).
Regarding Jenner’s transition, it probably means being slow to speak, especially on social media. And if you do speak something truthful, seek to be an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Jenner is not likely to read your remarks, but maybe someone you know who is guarding a tender, shameful secret will. Speak as you would to a friend.
But pray for Jenner, that God will send to him one or two who will speak the truth of the gospel with Christ-like love and that he will have ears to hear. Jenner’s hope is that “as soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I’m free.” But we know he will not be free. After some period of euphoric relief, he will find that he is still a “wretched man” who needs to be delivered from his body of death (Romans 7:24).
That is precisely why Jesus came: to deliver people like Bruce Jenner and us from our domains of sinful darkness (Colossians 1:13) and our failing, disordered bodies, and give us glorious, powerful, disorder-free resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is a greater hope than gender identity can provide (Romans 7:25).
It is Jesus’s truth that sets all of us free (John 8:32).
- Is It Okay to Be a Christian and Transgendered?
- Is Sexuality Identity My Choice?
- Counsel for Those Considering Transgender
- Genitalia Are Not Destiny, But They Are Design
- List of Articles from The Gospel Coalition on Transgender
- List of Desiring God Articles on Sexual Orientation
I don’t know what to think about video games. I find them frustrating for when I find a student involved with one when they should be doing something else, they seem to be mentally lost for a time. It reminds me of trying to train my puppy right now. He gets locked in on a scent and suddenly can’t hear me.
Douglas Wilson has been one of my favorite writers on issues. I do not understand his humor all the time but you do not read him without being provoked to think. This is an article by him about our children (and sometimes spouses) and video games. He writes:
Video games might well make your son ignorant and corrupt, but they won’t make him stupid — although I trust this might require further explanation. I have recently received some requests from parents about how to govern or regulate their sons’ taste for video games, and so here goes. But before rushing to the question of how to govern or regulate, we should begin with the question of how to think about themConcerns about the influence of video games usually reduces to two categories — morals and education. If someone asks if all this gaming is “good for” my little Johnny, these are usually the two categories they would have in mind.
The question about morals can’t really be answered unless we are talking about specific games. It is like asking whether your son will be negatively affected by “books” or by “movies.” What books? What movies? Grand Theft Auto is a cesspool of corruption, and the video game of Pilgrim’s Progress isn’t.
Note that I am not here talking about whether clean games are lame, but am simply noting that clean games are clean. Nothing too controversial there, I trust.
So it should go without saying that wise and godly parents will not let their kids play games where they are picking up hookers and blowing fellow drug dealers away. “My son, if sinners entice thee, Consent thou not” Prov 1:10. Entertainment is in fact capable of corrupting a young heart and is not, as so many imagine, an all-purpose moral disinfectant. The fact that it is cool doesn’t mean that it is not putrid.
But what about the life of the mind? What about education? Do video games rot the brain? The answer is no, but we need to make a distinction first.
There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity. One of the characteristic failures of the modern education system has been its inability to keep standardized test scores from sliding ever downward. Periodically the tests are re-normed to hide the decline, and the whole thing is a tragic mess. People have rightly noted that this is an educational failure, but they have too quickly assumed stupidity when what they are looking at is ignorance. When you see an interview with a young person on the street expressing bafflement over who George Washington was, this is a problem of ignorance, not stupidity. That same kid is the one his grandma — who knows who George Washington is — has to ask to help her change the channel.
In other words, what we have seen is a radical alteration in the content of our cultural curriculum, and tests which presuppose the old curriculum really are bringers of bad tidings. Now I have dedicated a good part of my life to the proposition that the old liberal arts curriculum is worth preserving and saving, and hence our efforts in restoring classical Christian education. But I am doing this, not because the kids today are stupid, but rather because they are being robbed. They are very smart, but they are being educated as though they were idiot savants. While test scores that measure our educational system have been going consistently down, IQ tests, which are measuring something else, have been going consistently up. It is called the Flynn effect, indicating something else entirely, and I am convinced that video games are part of it.
While many modern kids are ignorant of that body of knowledge that their great-grandparents would have considered the sine qua non of being educated, they are quite capable of navigating many parts of the modern world that their ancestors would have found utterly bewildering. If you want to read two books that will pull you helpfully in two opposite directions, resulting in what I think would be a place of admirable balance, I would suggest these — Amusing Ourselves to Death and Everything Bad Is Good for You. Make sure you read both of them in the same month.
One time, in the very early years of personal computers, I was messing around with some Texas Instrument contraption. I am not even sure what it was. It was the kind of thing where I would labor at the programming in order to get colored bars to march across the screen. Rachel, who was just a toddler, wanted me to be done one time, and so she came up by my chair and said, “Papa, push function quit.”
At the same time, what video games are capable of doing (destructively) is creating a huge opportunity cost. A son who is holed up in his bedroom playing video games every available hour is not becoming stupid — quite the reverse. But his intellectual RPM is not being applied to certain things that would prove to be a much greater blessing to him in the long run.
Though he is not becoming stupid, there are a number of ways in which he is becoming ignorant — because the time being used on video games is not being used in other productive ways. These productive pursuits have been identified as such over many generations, and they should not be lightly set aside for the sake of extra flashes on a screen. We should not forbid those “extra flashes,” but we should take special care over what they might displace. This is not because video games are malum in se — they are not evil in themselves. But it is indisputable that video games take up time, and that time cannot be spent on one thing here and also on another thing there.
So let me highlight four areas where you should not want video games to take up all the available oxygen. A young teen-aged man should be a diligent student in his formal studies, he should make sure he is current with his extracurricular piano and lacrosse practices, he should have time for the family to read aloud together, and he should have time to visit with his sister. And all this assumes that he gets to bed at a reasonable hour.
That said, that accomplished, I don’t see a problem with video games at all. So if all that is happening, and if the video game/s in question is not some vile bit of nastiness, then I really wouldn’t worry about it. One of the things that parents might do to help keep a regulator on the whole thing is allow an eager adolescent devotee of video games to earn time on the games through time on the piano. An hour of piano practice gets him a hour blasting the space pods. And if his GPA drops below a certain level, he finds that video games at home are just like the basketball squad at school. No think, no play. No games until the next report card, and we will see then. The problem is not what he has been doing, but rather what he has been doing instead of other things that his family values.
But he doesn’t earn any video game time by talking with his sister. That would be mercenary — but he still needs to talk with her.
As a veteran, I appreciate it that recently that there are many times we are being recognized for our service. One time it is a bit uncomfortable is during Memorial Day only because the day is to recall those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. This article is a grim reminder of what it has cost our nation. It is by Michael Avarmovich
Memorial Day is the most solemn of our national holidays. The solemn tribute began in 1866 when three Christian women from Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers there, and at the same time laid flowers on the graves of the Union soldiers buried in the cemetery. At the insistence of his wife, General John Logan, then Army Chief of Staff, issued an official order shortly thereafter proclaiming Memorial Day an annual day of remembrance for our nation’s war dead.
From the days of the Revolution, through the struggles of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War and the present War on Terror, the strength of our nation is in the spirit of its men and women who fought and died for a nation determined to know its ancient liberty. 4,435 combat deaths in the Revolutionary War, 2,260 in the War of 1812, 1,733 in the Mexican War, 140,415 on the Union side in the Civil War, 74.524 on the Confederate, 385 in the Spanish-American War, 53,513 in World War I, 292,131 in World War II, 33,667 in the Korea War, 47,393 in the Vietnam War and 148 in the Persian Gulf War. Over 4,491 have died as a direct result of hostile action in Iraq since March 19, 2003, with 2,357 more in Afghanistan. The loss of life to American military men and women in all of our nation’s wars exceeds 1,340,000.
On the first few days after D-Day in June 1944, 6,603 Americans died in combat; 4,000 alone on the first day. Iwo Jima, lying midway between Guam and Japan, is less than five miles long. On that island, Japanese troops were ordered to dig in the mountain fortress and to die to the last man. The assault on Iwo Jima was the fiercest landing fight the world has ever seen. The Japanese kept up an incessant rain of death upon the attacking American troops on the beaches. Navy and Marine casualties exceeded 22,000; the Japanese counted more than 20,000 dead. On the sacred soil of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the battlefield was a sea of carnage. In three days of fighting, Confederate losses were 3,900 killed, and 24,000 wounded and missing; Union losses were 3,100 killed, and 20,000 wounded or missing. Those soldiers listed as missing simply vanished, ground up in battle disappearing into the soil. In November 1863, several months after the battle of Gettysburg, its military cemetery was dedicated, at which President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.
Today, there are 120 national military cemeteries in our nation. From Arlington on the Potomac to the Golden Gate , from St. Augustine in Florida to Sitka, Alaska, as well as on many other burial grounds elsewhere around the world. The war cemeteries in Normandy, one of which appears in the powerful closing scene of the film “Saving Private Ryan,” holds the remains of 9,386 American soldiers. The cemetery of Meuse-Argonne in France contains more than 14,000 American military dead from World War I, the largest number interred in a single place in Europe. France has 11 American cemeteries, the most outside of the United States; Belgium has three, the United Kingdom and Italy, two, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, one. A number exist outside Europe; the oldest is the Mexico City National Cemetery, which dates from 1847 and is the burial site of nearly 750 unidentified American soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War, and later from the U.S. Civil War and Spanish-American War. Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines is the largest overseas cemetery, with more than 17,000 Americans who died in World War II’s Pacific Theatre. In 2003, former General Colin Powell, responding to a remark by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who had been critical of American “hard power,” said, “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan, and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in.” More than 125,000 U.S. war dead are buried in these overseas resting places.
On this hallowed soil, as in the hearts of the American people, the memory of these gallant men and women, who made the supreme sacrifice, is enshrined forever. In a letter written by President Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons in the Civil War, the President wrote: “May our Heavenly Father assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” On this Memorial Day, amidst the travel, barbeques, and shopping, let us not forget to thank God that such brave men and women as they lived and died for our freedom.
It has been nearly two years now that I have immersed myself once again into the culture of teenagers. Though in a Christian school environment, there is enough of the world about them that I have a pretty good idea of what is happening. One thing I would say is that teens are on overload. Their lives are far more complicated than when I was their age or even 15 years ago when I stepped away from the school culture. I can say that from the school perspective it is not likely going to get any easier.
I found this article fascinating and the results not so surprising. I share it because though it is not likely it would provoke much change in our school system, but you should think about your home life and the decisions for activities and schedule that you have control over? Think about it ..
THE FINNISH SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL STUDENT by Tim Elmore
Yesterday, I posed a question on whether a loaded childhood—chalk full of activities, high stress, and low margins—actually delays healthy adulthood. In other words, if a kid never gets to be a kid when they’re young, they’ll want to be one in their twenties or thirties. I’ve seen it far too many times.
Today, I want to share some research on one secret that educators in Finland have discovered that enables their students to experience healthy childhoods… which, in turn, leads to engaged adolescents and healthy adults. I was inspired by this information after talking to several teachers, including Kelly, who’s on a Fulbright research scholarship in Finland this year.
Every educator I’ve met who’s taught in Finland has echoed the same conclusion. Finland doesn’t have the most innovative classrooms. They do not deliver the most brilliant lesson plans. They, in fact, follow the same formulas for pedagogy that many other industrialized nations follow. However—they’ve found a way to lead the pack in many K-12 test scores and produce self-directed students who succeed more often than our American kids. You can look at the scores yourself.
Their secret? They simplify life.
Let me outline just a few examples of how adults in Finland have chosen the “less is more” approach with students (and how it’s paid off big time):
Less formal education.
Although they’ve led the way in test scores, they actually start kids in school at age seven. In America, parents often think age five is too late and launch them into pre-school. Finland believes kids need to be kids early on, so when they begin school, they are really ready (especially boys). Everything after ninth grade is optional.
While every culture has the rich and the poor, as a whole, Finland’s less materialistic than the U.S. They live in smaller houses, buy fewer clothes, and don’t overwhelm shoppers with 300 choices of cereal or bread when ten will do. Men don’t buy big trucks and women wear less make up. Simple is better.
Less classroom hours.
Unlike our schools, Finnish schools actually start the day between 9:00-9:45 am. In fact, the government is discussing legislation that would prevent schools from starting any earlier, knowing that adolescents need more sleep to perform better. The school day ends between 2:00-2:45 pm. They typically have three to four 75- minute classes a day with several breaks in between. Kids stay engaged.
Fewer teachers per student.
Unlike our schools, Finnish elementary students stay with the same teacher for six years in a row. Obviously, those teachers really figure out the learning needs of each child and have a vested interest in their success since they don’t pass a troubled kid off to a new instructor next year. They ARE the instructor next year.
This one is huge. Finnish schools have the least amount of homework in the industrialized world. Teachers actually believe kids can and should get the work done in class. According to one teacher, it’s as if faculty have an unspoken agreement: “I won’t give you homework if you will work hard on this assignment in class.”
Believe it or not, Finland actually covers fewer subjects in school and in less hours. Why? Because the parents, teachers and students trust the system and engage it. Instead of being suspicious of each other, they say to kids: This is your chance to get it. You better grab hold of it. Kids are not overwhelmed — they are engaged. One teacher said he often had to push students out of class at the end of the day because they wanted to stay and finish their projects.
Wow. Maybe “less is more” after all.
Question: How could you help simplify the life of your students? (Or child???)
Thanks for the chance to share about the importance of families worshiping together last week at church. I said I would give you the order of worship each week but you can access it yourself at http://www.countrybible.net/ and then open the “resources” folder then click on “Sunday’s order of worship.” This is posted each week and note the links on the songs so you can get access to the lyrics and music. Also be sure to review the section of Scripture with your children. You are still welcome to check this site each week as I will place articles and sometimes some fun stuff as is below. … Shalom