Back Issues

Volume 16, Issue 4: Sharpening Iron

From Us:

We are that slug. The sneaky one. The brazen one. The one too large for this hemisphere. Scientists have not confirmed sightings of us, and when you call the Humane Society, they refuse to pick us up. We are not a dog, and the man with the caged truck won't believe we're a legless daschund pup. Too much shiny stuff.

We're quicker than we look. We come and go. Silently. Leaving a criss-crossed trail like the moving rocks of the Mojave. We are a mystery. Not windblown. Inexplicable as the tides, though still moon-effected.
We have been salted. They are salting us now, the fat children on the porch. Slugs in their own right, friendless and bored. They envy us, but we aren't sure why. We are happy to have them as enemies. We have been salted before and it merely hardened our hide.
Do you see these scars? They come from our more dangerous years. The years in which we ate presbyterian starlings. It was not difficult. We would bask beneath the trees, allow ourselves to be pecked. Mother and father birds, community leaders, would join together and tote us to a nest. The beaks of the young birds stung our salt-trained skin, but they were the ones consumed. Bird after bird, we grew larger. Now we sit beneath the porch and watch your joyless children, armed with catechistic salt—their own enemy—hoping to make us shrivel but merely feeding our strength. We have marked their windows. Do not let them rouse us. We prefer the porch's shade to bloodshed.


From You:

Dear Editor,
I have been pondering the necessity of the curse word you put in Abraham'smouth on page eight of your excellent article [16.3] and cannot figure out why. Can you enlighten me?

Helen Stokes
Sulphur, LA

Douglas Jones replies: Actually, the article doesn't place the word in Abraham's mouth at all. We, collectively, are the subject there. No one I hang around uses that language commonly, and so, when it's used, it's rare and pointed and dangerous. I used it there to express a deep awe and humility that can't be expressed in common language. No other expression seemed to hook the attitude at that moment of being blown away at the utter brilliance of God in contrast to our lack of creativity.

Dear Editor,
Your decision to feature the carcass of an animal on the cover of your most recent issue, immediately following an issue in which you turned the pointing of the judgemental finger away from the homosexuals and toward the Church, reminded me that your magazine is indeed unique.

It also reminded to make a contribution. Please keep up the good work. We will attempt to do our part by thinking more often.

Donald B. DeLoach
Roswell, GA

Dear Editor,
Our four year old daughter became quite intrigued with the latest C/A cover art. I had the opportunity to answer many questions she had regarding the picture, one of which being if she could take the magazine to bed with her at nap. I said no.

The next morning, she was playing
with her sweet, pink, sparkly little pony named Cotton Candy. She proceeded to stiffen and straighten out her fingers on one hand to make a gate for her pony. She went to her mother, placing the pony halfway over her gate, and announced that the pony had been caught on the barbed wire fence and died. My wife had no sooner expressed her sadness over the loss when our daughter quickly rescued the pony, who jumped with vigor off the fence as healthy as a horse.

Derek Davis
Lynchburg, VA

Dear Editor,
I read this article a few days ago. (I somehow missed it when the otherwise brilliant C/A, 16.3 showed up last month.) Perhaps I'm not the first to remonstrate. But having been home schooled 1980-1992 and a loyal C/A reader ever since, I must register disappointment that you've changed your earlier position that home schoolers and Christian schoolers need have no controversy. It may be true that institutional schools have been a part of covenant child-raising for thousands of years, though I'd like to see the documentation that in the pre-exilic Hebrew and medieval models this amounted to much more than a tutor in later childhood. But the fact that parents are primarily responsible to teach and train their own children is clear in Deut. 6:6-9, and the fact that they need not delegate this is clear from the silence of Scripture on such an argument.

It may be true that some people are treating home schooling as a fad. But it's no less true that many people are treating classical education as a fad. So?
It may be true that some home school parents are irresponsible in picking curriculum; that they merely follow the latest fad. But it's no less true that fads in curriculum make their rounds in institutional settings where the laws of systemantics decree that the poor choices will be much harder to remove.
It may be true that some home school parents are so incompetent that they ought to delegate training, not just teaching, even in the early years. But it's no less true that some institutional school teachers and administrators have serious flaws in character and integrity that hinder the growth of many children.
It may be true that some home school parents are unteachable. But are there not institutional teachers, and administrators, who are as well?
It may be true that parents can grow old and proud in their teaching positions, and home school because they trust no one else and believe they are God's gift to the educational arena. But home education is inherently a humbling experience, since anything that goes wrong points directly to you. And parents are God's gift to their children.
It may be true that institutions can be more thorough and efficient in academics than many parents. But after all, who would you rather have to teach your children? Their parents, or some social engineers?
What are we to make of these unsubstantiated criticisms? The "Scriptural, historical, and educational facts do not matter anymore" to home schoolers? Come now. You may disagree with their conclusions, but they argue that those facts are exactly why they are home schooling, because they show that institutional schooling is simply a recurring "fad."
Home education is a "modern experiment on the children," brother? Parents have been educating their children since they first existed.
And the crowning slam, that
"twenty years later. . . their former pupils struggle with the simplest of tasks." Has this really happened often enough to mention, much less to set up as the clincher of your argument? You really must document such a claim, which is contradicted by so many people's plain experience.
For what my own anecdotal testimony is worth, I keep close track of about a hundred home school families over the eastern U.S., many of whom started 15-20 years ago, and I only know of one that produced such results, academically. I'll grant you, such parents ought not to home school. But such parents almost never do! If the relative educational and character success rate of the modern home schooling "fad" (?) is not familiar to you, I would recommend Brian Ray's book, Home schooled and Now Adult, available from NHERI.
Teaching and training are completely interconnected. Both are given to parents. In some cases, abnormal by Scriptural standards but common enough today, parents may have to delegate one or both to others. But ought we not to be working towards a culture where delegated teaching (institutional schooling) is as exceptional as delegated training (foster parenting)?
It really sounds, my friend, as though you've had a recent run-in with some glassy-eyed defender of sola homeschoola, and now any stick is good enough to beat them up. I know how that feels. They can be obnoxious. But to keep your last sentence from applying to yourself, you really should control these gratuitous insults. As a matter of fact, if the au pair was poisoning the children, I think we would all at least question that extra-biblical institution.
On other fronts, I've always loved the magazine and often loaned it out, and I'm now missing a few back issues. Do you still have any? Keep it up. Thanks.

Michael E. Owens
Ephrata, PA

Douglas Wilson replies: Your letter (and others) indicate I did not make myself clear enough, so I'll begin by repeating something I said in the course of the article. "Home schooling is often a godly choice, and in our day it is frequently the only godly choice." I deny that there has been any change from my long-held position that homeschoolers and those who use Christian schools need have no quarrel. Hundreds of children are involved in both forms of Christian education in our church, and we all praise God for it. But in order to keep the peace both sides have to agree to refrain from saying things like, "your way is inherently disobedient." We must all affirm that both ways of educating covenant children are lawful, and that the way problems creep in is through the way the job is done, which need not be the way it has to be done.

It is quite true that many also treat classical Christian schools as a fad. But the response to this cannot be a shoulder shrug ("So?") because the end result of all faddishness (at home or in the classroom) is that the kids get ripped off and scrambled. I could write a small book on Classical Christian Schools from Hell, and someday I might. They are certainly out there, and I speak out against them regularly. I do this for the same reason I critique bad homeschooling (not good homeschooling).
I do not believe we disagree in principle, although there is a difference of perspective. Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that dedicated homschoolers working with other dedicated homeschoolers are dealing with those who are doing what they ought to be doing—encouraging, learning, correcting, and so on. As a pastor and conference speaker, I have seen some pretty horrendous things in homeschool settings also. The things I was attacking in the article are not hypothetical, and they are not rare.

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