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It’s Not so Easy

Guest article: Mark Kennedy, ACSI Canada

Soviet dissident and author Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote this about a

fellow prisoner in the Soviet gulag during the Russian Communist era:

“Before the war Anatoly Vasilyevich had graduated from a teachers’

college, where he had specialized in literature.  Like me, he now had about

three years left before his “release” to a place of banishment.  His only

training was as a teacher of literature in schools.  It seemed rather

improbable that ex-prisoners like us would be allowed into schools.

But if we were—what then?

“I won’t put lies into children’s heads!  I shall tell the children the truth

about God and the life of the Spirit.”

“But they’ll take you away after the first lesson.”

Vasilyevich lowered his head and answered quietly: “Let them.”

I couldn’t help wondering ‘what if every evangelical Christian teacher in secular schools in Ontario and the Maritimes decided to follow Vasilyevich’s example? What if they committed to tell their students the greatest and most important good news all on the same day, irrespective of consequences?’ Unlike Vasilyevich, they wouldn’t be put in jail, not in our pseudo-tolerant culture. But I doubt if their unions would defend them from being fired or put on probation and severely reprimanded. Of course it’s easy for us to raise that scenario from the relative safety of Christian schooling. Our jobs are not at risk when we share all of God’s truth with our students. We aren’t hazarding the loss of generous salaries and comfortable lifestyles by expressing our faith at school. Christian teachers in secular schools would need extraordinary courage and faith to follow Vasilyevich’s example. In the real world, courage isn’t all that common. 

And what about us in Christian schooling? What would we do if our jobs and even our schools’ existence depended upon us teaching values that we know are false – like say, affirming the homosexual lifestyle? Most of us know that’s not out of the question in Ontario at least in the not-so-distant future. Although at present we have constitutional protection to teach our values, how would we react to the leverage of, for example, new elementary and high school provincial accreditation standards and even the possibility of provincial government funding? ‘Your school will be accredited/certified/funded only if you teach  ……….,…’

“We would never abandon our convictions for those things!” I can imagine us  saying. But talk is cheap. That statement is uncomfortably like Peter’s promise to Jesus prior to the rooster’s convicting crow.

The voice of uneasy compromise tells us, “Well at least we would still be able to present the gospel message, so our students can be saved.” But what does that do to our Christian integrity? And that would just be the beginning of the compromise, with many more to come down the road. Accepting compromises is a bit like eating potato chips. It’s hard to stop at just one.

 Courageous actions are a lot more difficult than courageous words, especially if the consequences of those actions might threaten our personal security. In the past few months I’ve been praying for the Lord to give us in Christian schooling, and me specifically, real courage in the face of opposition from an increasingly antagonistic media and culture- Anatoly Vasilyevich’s kind of courage.

Mark

 

 

 

You Can Do This!

Girl_computer_success_good_news_winYou Can Do This!

By Zach Clark

A recent post by Barrett Mosbacker entitled, “I Just Returned From the Future” has certainly sparked some dialogue among those we’ve shared it with. Responses have ranged from frustration and despair to enthusiastic choruses of “let’s do this!”

The post certainly challenged my own thinking and I thought I would share my notes after praying and thinking about this issue of leading our Christian school leaders and teachers to understand where all this may be headed for our students.

1. It is true that great teaching isn’t defined by technology.

But, teaching (great or otherwise) that fails to help students demonstrate subject mastery using contemporary technology tools will produce students who lack the skills to integrate their knowledge and wisdom into contemporary mediums. Are we successful if we graduate students who can think deeply and critically, who are well written problem-solvers but don’t have a clue how to utilize contemporary tools in relation to others?

The basics of great learning and the utilization of contemporary tools and mediums are not divorced. But, for some reason we school folks treat them like they are.

We would never teach the principles of great writing and then have students get out a stone tablet and chisel. But, nowadays, we have students still print out their papers for peer editing and teacher editing. There are few excellent companies in America today that would utilize that approach to collaborative editing and final editing. The lack of productivity would be unacceptable. We must be focused on growing top tier teachers who understand that their jobs now utilize different tools today because students will be utilizing different tools in their future.

2. Dear reader, don’t get frustrated with me, but I still hear too much talk about teaching PowerPoint, Word, Excel, video editing, and other so-called technology skills.

We should be talking instead about expecting students to communicate visually, with integrated communications tools. We should be helping students use contemporary technology to unleash the power of groups in projects, collaborate over long-distances, and dialogue with peers across the hall or across the globe. My face flushed hot with embarrassment for a teacher in a high school classroom I visited in another Christian school this week to see that students had been producing fourth grade elementary-style crafts projects to demonstrate their knowledge of biblical integration concepts. Unbelievable! Unacceptable! I know I’m not as good an educator as you, but I’ll take bets on how much better some teams from your local businesses could help students actually learn to utilize today’s technologies in how they work together, communicate, and demonstrate mastery.

When I think about the skills that some Christian school educators believe are “technology skills” I shudder. Students, get out your three-ring binder notebooks! Let’s not use Evernote or OneNote. Students write in your planners! Don’t use your iPhone calendar or Google calendars. Students take this essay question home and write me your answer! Don’t text me your answer. Don’t email me your answer. Don’t post your answer. Students, please turn in your drafts! Don’t upload them for my comments and edits. Students, please help me pass out the thirty copies I printed this morning of our sheets! Don’t ask me to post in online and review it with you on the projector screen, so you can access it from home later. Students, please add to the class discussion! Don’t upload an audio comment on what you actually think. We are dealing with a generation of teachers/leaders who think that technology is a “thing” an “add-on” rather than a change in the tools we use to actually live and work.

Continue Reading…

Biblical Integration Lite: Telling it Like It Isn’t

Feather colour panteneGuest Article by Mark Kennedy (ACSI Canada)

When someone tells me that his school’s Christian character “goes without saying” I can’t help thinking, ‘that school may be in trouble’. Too often what goes without saying gradually goes without being, until it is simply and completely gone. It’s so easy for an educational institution to drift from its foundations with hardly anyone noticing. Historically that happened to some of North America’s most prominent universities and independent schools. Although they were once fervently Christian many of them are now completely secular or just superficially religious. They may be wealthy and respected institutions – places like Upper Canada College and Harvard University- but the Christian distinctive that so strongly marked their early years have vanished. A classic example is the entire public school system for the Province of Ontario. Founder Egerton Ryerson once declared that instruction in his public schools would be “but a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal when not founded upon and sanctified by the undefiled and regenerating religion of Jesus Christ.”* How tragically prophetic.

These days the erosion of a school’s Christian character can start when it abandons the quest for authentic biblical integration and settles for ‘integration lite. On the surface ‘integration lite’ looks just fine. The word “Christian” is in the school’s name. The teachers are all born again and they believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. And when it comes to teaching a Christian worldview, well that’s covered by using Christian school textbooks. But there is a lot more to genuine biblical integration than that.

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A Prayer for Japan

This prayer was posted on the website Desiring God. This prayer may be worth sharing with students and staff as a way to teach a biblical worldview in the midst of a horrific disaster.

A Prayer for Japan

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

I Just Returned from the Future

clip_image001I just returned from the future.

In one of the strangest experiences I have had in a while, I lived the future as I read about it! I did not realize it for a while but then it struck me suddenly over dinner—”I am what I’m reading!”

Let me explain.

As I write this I am nearing the end of my annual Think Week (you can read details about Think Week in these two articles: How to Reduce Stress While Getting More Done; and in How To Find Time to Focus, Think, and Work). During my Think Week my primary focus is prayer and reading. On this trip I took several books with me including Humility (Andrew Murray), The Culture Code (Clotaire Rapaille), Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (John Piper), Derailed (Tim Irwin), Death by Meeting (Patrick Lencioni), and Generous Justice (Tim Keller).

I also took Anywhere: How Global Connectivity is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business (Emily Nagle Green). This is the book I was reading when I realized that I was living the future. I will summarize some of the key points of this book and their implications for our schools in a subsequent post but for now let me simply state the theme of the book;

Within the next ten years the global ubiquitous digital network will connect most of the world’s people, places, information, and things, which will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, teach, and learn.

The author, Emily Green, knows what she is talking about. She is the President and CEO of the Yankee Group—one of the world’s premier research firms on the impact of the global connectivity revolution with operations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book is her description of five consumer segments: Analogs, Technophytes, Digital Shut-ins, Outlet Jockeys, and Actualized Anywheres (AA’s). As I was enjoying my dinner and reading it suddenly dawned on me just how much I was exhibiting the characteristics of the Actualized Anywheres. The short description of AA’s is that they “bring the concept of a ubiquitously connected consumer to life.” This is when it struck me—-I was literally living the future she was describing!

Here is how I know. I wrote down how I was handling my recreational and work related tasks during Think Week. Here is a short list.

Continue Reading…

You Have to Watch Out for the Pork on Thursdays!

By Mark Kennedy, ACSI Canada

Head_in_Sand_Denial_IgnoreMy childhood friend Bill grew up to be a respected and successful bank executive- a man who occasionally helps financial institutions beyond our borders. A few years ago while consulting for a bank in Dublin he made his temporary GHQ in a small hotel that boasted a dining room for its guests. On a Thursday evening he ambled down to this quaint eatery for a taste of Celtic cuisine not suspecting the violent conflict that would arise later in his stomach.

“I was sick all last night after eating in your restaurant!” He told the manager the next morning.

“Well what did you have for dinner?”

“Roast pork!” said Bill.

“Ah yes,” replied the manager philosophically in a lilting Irish brogue, “You have to watch out for the pork on Thursdays.”

You can imagine the questions in my friend’s mind when his initial shock wore off. Maybe foremost was

“Why didn’t someone tell me?!?”

Sheltering someone from reality can be dangerous. And sometimes the consequences can be much more serious than a minor case of food poisoning.

Consider the effects of an education that intentionally shelters students from the most important realities about life and living- a secular education where the daily presence of the living God is ignored and the authority and guidance of scripture is dismissed- an education that edits out the creator and sustainer of the real world.

Continue Reading…

Does Success Spoil or Sanctify Our Students?

Spoiled_brat_selfish_parent_child_begBy most measures you and I are "successful." We live in a land of freedom and opportunity. Notwithstanding any financial stresses in our lives, we have shelter, clothing, and food. We have family and friends. Most of us are in good health. Compared to most people in this world, you and I are very "successful." We live in relative ease. So do our children!

And therein lies one of our greatest dangers. We and our children are easily spoiled. Success and ease tend to make us self-absorbed, self-sufficient, self-righteous, and self-seeking.

  • We come to believe that "we are owed a life of success and ease."
  • We and our children come to believe that "life is about us."
  • We come to believe that "we produced our success."

We become autonomous, thinking that we do not really need God. We may not say we don’t need him but the way we live?a weak prayer life, a weak devotional life, inconsistent worship on the Lord’s Day, and the constant compromises we make in disobeying God’s clear commands?all reflect what we really believe.

This is the danger facing Israel. They have won great victories and are now preparing to settle down in peace and prosperity. The danger is that their success will spoil rather than sanctify them.

There is a wonderful passage in Joshua following the wars in Canaan. The Israelis have just conquered their enemies and are preparing to settle in the new land flowing with milk and honey. They have been successful and are now preparing to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Matthew Henry describes the scene this way, "The war being ended, and ended gloriously, Joshua, as a prudent general, disbands his army … and sends them home, to enjoy what they had conquered, and to beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning-hooks … And, now … Joshua publicly and solemnly … gives them their discharge."

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Josh.: 22:5)

Although these are somewhat synonymous for the purpose of emphasis, there is value in considering the particular meaning of each verb: Observe, Love, Walk, Keep, Cling, and Serve.

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