Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Which Republican would I like to see President?

As you may be aware, there's a presidential election next year, and there are a few people who are interested in the job. I am aware of some of them, being somewhat involved with the Republican party here in Michigan. There also happen to be a couple democrats, including the junior senator from NY and the junior senator from IL and a few others who would like George W. Bush's job.

I have already been asked, "Which one do you like?" "Do you support any of them?" And I have to this point made no allegiances. I prefer to choose who will receive my vote by looking at several criteria and seeing who matches them best.

Here are some of my criteria:

  • What is their stand on basic moral issues? Do they support traditional marriage—and only traditional marriage? What is their stand on abortion? If a candidate favors the legalization of this wicked practice, he or she is highly unlikely to receive my vote. After all, if one cannot be trusted to protect the right to life, what confidence should we have that the same will protect our rights to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or anything else?
  • Does the candidate support the Constitution and what it upholds? This would include those pesky issues like freedom of speech and religion, right to bear arms, un-twisted interpretations of "the equal protection of the laws," and so forth.
  • Does the candidate support the Bible, both in principle and in his or her own lifestyle and speech?
  • Is the candidate consistent? Do they support the same things today that they supported yesterday, or ten years ago, or that they will support when they visit their next target demographic? In a related issue, does the candidate better resemble an unflinching eagle, standing on principle, or a slinking chameleon, changing colors in the prevailing winds (i.e., the junior senator from NY on various Iraq-related votes)?
  • Has the candidate done a good job at whatever he or she was doing before? Was the candidate a good representative, senator, governor, businessman, or bus driver? Hard worker, or slacker? Someone you're proud to know, or someone who brings embarrassment?
  • What does the candidate want to do with my tax money? How much of my money does he or she want? I prefer candidates who want as little of my money as is reasonable, who want to spent it frugally, and who want to eliminate the mass of useless, foolish, wasteful, or flat-out unconstitutional programs our state and federal governments spawn.
There are other criteria, too; I'll probably remember more of them later after I post this.

So how does the current Republican field look from here?
  • Giuliani: He's OK with abortion and weak on family issues, so he's not too OK with me. This saddens me, because despite his persona, I kind of like the the mayor of the city in which I was born.
  • McCain: Today, he's the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Seven years ago, he was no friend of the Religious Right [Aside: Does anyone remember his disdain for Bob Jones University in 2000?] and was openly pandering to moderates and independents. And then there was that whole McCain-Feingold thing—perhaps the only piece of legislation in the last decade Republicans caved on that was worse than No Child Left Behind. I would have a hard time voting for him to be my president.
  • Romney: He's popular here in Michigan, because his daddy was the governor way back when and he grew up an hour north of my house. One wife, several kids, family man. But his record as governor of Massachusetts gives me great pause. Do I believe what I know he was then, or what he says he is now? Of the "top three," I'd pick him. That Mormon angle, though, is problematic.
  • The Rest of the Field: Do any of them have a chance? Probably. I haven't studied them enough yet. A couple, like Ron Paul and Chuck Hagel, are already scratched off. Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson and Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback and Jim Gilmore and Tom Tancredo are all possibilities that will merit more attention in the days to come.
  • The Not-Yet-In-The-Field crowd: If it weren't for the three marriages and that nasty affair/divorce a few years back, I'd already be ordering "Newt Gingrich for President" paraphrenalia. I like him. I like Fred Thompson, too. His record as Tennessee senator was a good one. They're both going to run, by the way. Mark my words.
  • For the record, I have not yet announced my own candidacy for the office of the president, nor have I formed an exploratory committee at this time.
Thankfully (or not so much?) there's still plenty of time to study matters! But in summary, the Republican I want to vote for has two key things I like:
  • He thinks like I do.
  • He thinks like God does.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On the Use of Calculators by Students

As a math teacher for most of the past fourteen years, I get a lot of questions about when, whether, and which calculators should be used by students. This subject gets a lot of attention from time to time when someone or some company recommends that little kids (even kindergarten students!) should be given unfettered access to calculators...of course, the littlest students maybe should just have 4-function calculators with jumbo buttons.

Most people older than me have a predictable (and generally correct) response: Ludicrous! These children should have to learn their math facts and computation skills the old-fashioned, tried-and-true way: By doing it manually!

Let me share a few bits of wisdom on this topic:

1) The older generation is right about this: There is no good substitute for making students learn to do basic mathematics in their head, or on paper with pencil. They need to know addition facts, times tables, and, yes, even how to divide two fractions. Everyone should know these, for one cannot really have "mathematical functionality" in our society without such basic skills.

2) There is a place for calculators. In the elementary school, however, it is a small place. Calculators can be occasionally used by the discerning teacher to emphasize, review, or otherwise augment a lesson. I think most elementary students actually like the novelty factor of using a calculator from time to time, and this is healthy. [Aside: My children received a couple of $1 dollar-store calculators for Christmas gifts—one of the most fun-per-dollar-spent gifts ever given in our home. They love them, but Daddy still makes them learn their facts without it.] And given the fact that most standardized tests now (or likely soon will) allow for calculator use, there is a benefit to students being able to function with them. In the junior high, calculator use should still be occasional, but as students (by this point) should be fluent with computation, using valuable class time to slog through basic but time-consuming calculations is not usually efficient.

3) In the upper grades, calculators are a useful tool. In some cases, they are necessary (how many of us know what the square root of 67 is, or cos 34°, or ln 11 ?), unless you want to go back to using books of tables, as was common practice 45 years ago. But here is the danger: High school students' knowledge of basic computational facts seems to be inversely proportional to their calculator usage! I have told my junior and senior students that I wanted to see them in a mental math face-off with the 5th or 6th graders. I think they're scared! I think the 5th and 6th graders have a real chance of beating them!

In summary, all students need to be fluent with basic computations and estimations. Students ought to be able to calculate change mentally, estimate simple interest with or without a pencil, and know how to find 30% off the price of that sale item in the well as the sales tax they'll pay for it. Perhaps in another entry, I'll discuss the merits of graphing calculators vs. other kinds.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian: An Introduction

As I mentioned in my previous post, next Sunday I will be beginning a summer-long series of lessons from the book Thinking Like a Christian by David Noebel. Each week I hope to add to this blog a summary of the lesson for those who are unable to attend Faith Baptist Church in Mattawan, Michigan, to hear it in person. The topic is of primary importance to Christians.

The introductory lesson discusses the importance of the topic. The textbook defines "worldview" as any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relationship to God and the world (p. 6). Furthermore, every worldview has an answer to the three most basic questions:

  1. Where did we come from?
  2. What's wrong with the world?
  3. What is the solution to man's basic problems?
The worldview promoted by the book (and by me, of course) is biblical Christianity: The worldview that comes directly from the Word of God. It answers all three questions clearly, and does so in a way that offers hope and eternal security to every man and woman.

Everyone has a worldview. Most can't explain their own worldview clearly or concisely, but everyone has one. Many Christians today are not taught, and frequently do not even consider, the importance of thinking biblically...which is probably why most Christians are not functioning as salt and light, and most are having little influence on the world around them—some, sad to say, have little influence even among their own families and friends. Most Christians today are more impacted by the world's worldviews than by the Bible's. If we are to reach the world for Christ, this must change.

The textbook divides a biblical worldview into ten categories, around which the text and the lessons are organized:
  • Theology
  • Philosophy
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Ethics
  • Sociology
  • Law
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • History
We will forego any discussion of whether a more suitable organization exists, except to say that many of the topics do overlap in our world, and all are important for the Christian to understand and discern. I think this organization works well.

Each of these ten categories is addressed in the Bible. Each has ramifications in our own lives, and demands that we understand how to biblically interact with it. Each impacts the others, and each demands some basic assumptions about the nature of reality—the reality of the creation in which God has placed us. We will see in subsequent lessons that each of them is dealt with even in the earliest chapters of Genesis and throughout the Bible; furthermore, Christ is manifested in His Word as having significance in each area.

Once upon a time, America, for the most part, had a biblical worldview. That is clearly not the case today. Every topic in the list above, in our country today, is dominated or under attack from perspectives which eminate from non-biblical worldviews. We Christians lament this. But we shouldn't just whine and lament: We need to educate ourselves, our fellow Christians, and the world about what the Bible says on these things! Sure, the world needs Christ, and we need to share the Gospel with everyone, as Scripture clearly teaches. But we also need to be making clear what the Bible says about the other aspects of life; the Holy Spirit can use this kind of teaching, too, to impress upon the hearts of the unsaved the truth of His Word and the need of His salvation. Think of it as teaching the "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

1 Peter 3:15 says that we must "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." Understanding and having a Christian worldview will help you to do that. Remember, too: There is no difference between the sacred and the secular in the Christian's life; all of life is sacred to the Christian.

The other worldviews do not provide satisfaction. Colossians 2:4-8 reminds each of us that the "wisdom of this world" will "spoil" you—literally, it will carry you away captive! Only in Christ and His Word can mankind find joy and happiness, as well as a rational, adequate, and consistent explanation of reality. It doesn't require a Ph.D., nor immense intelligence. Even a child can understand the teachings of the Bible.

Learn the biblical worldview. Live it. Share it with others.

Friday, May 25, 2007

To Think With a Christian Worldview

All too often, we who claim to be Christians make decisions and take actions without making reference to the principles of the Word of God. This is most unwise. Christians today are increasingly behaving like the world, looking like the world, and thinking like the world.

Next Sunday, June 3, I am beginning a series of Sunday School lessons from the book "Thinking Like A Christian," which focuses on teaching us how to have a biblical worldview. It's an important topic. If you have any wisdom to share about it, I would appreciate hearing it.

I have entered the world of the blogosphere

Dear Friends,

I have entered the world of the blogosphere. Stay tuned for occasional truth from the Word, observations of the realm of mathematics, and political commentary—hence the title of the blog. Enjoy!