Thursday, February 09, 2006


That's a fightin' word to a lot of people concerned about freedom, apple pie, and the American Way. And as it should be. It's so important that it is embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution (makes you wonder sometimes why they didn't think of it while writing the Main Body):

"Congress shall make no law...(controversial bit about restricting religion here)...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press..."

We should be always on our guard against having our freedoms curtailed or removed. Creeping loss of freedom can happen through censorship and the restriction of the Free Press, thus why it was encoded into the First Afterthought of the Constitution.

But what is Censorship?

Merriam-Webster (online) says, in its first definition: 1 a : the institution, system, or practice of censoring b : the actions or practices of censors; especially : censorial control exercised repressively.

Who are these "censors" referred to here? Following the M-W link gives: 2 : one who supervises conduct and morals: as a : an official who examines materials (as publications or films) for objectionable matter b : an official (as in time of war) who reads communications (as letters) and deletes material considered sensitive or harmful.

They don't link to a definition for the word "official" but this is the key to my thought here. An "official" is, to me, someone in the Government at some level, be they President, Senator, Mayor, City Public Library Administrator, School Board Member, or whatever. Someone selected to represent some number of citizens in some matters. If this is an acceptable sense for "official" then the meaning of "censorship" is when Government supervises the content of published materials (books, newspapers, radio, TV shows).

Accepted forms of censorship have been, for example, restriction of what words cannot be said on television or radio and images of what things cannot be shown on television. Although there is some discussion about these, and continual observation that the rules have changed over the years, they are generally accepted. The authority the government uses to do this is based on the fact that the broadcast medium for television (not cable or satellite) and radio (not satellite radio) is the public "airwaves" which are regulated by the government as a "public good" (look that up in an economics textbook). The moral basis used for the disallowed words and images are, at least indirectly, based on public opinion as expressed through elections. If we were to overwhelmingly elect politicians to office who think no content should be restricted, then I would expect the FCC rules would more quickly change to restrict no content. Maybe not immediately but that would be an Inertia of the Bureaucrats issue only.

So why the thoughts on censorship? This morning on the way to work I heard a discussion on the only local Talk Radio show in this area that had to do with some outcry about a planned Will and Grace TV show episode that was to include what was presumably a blasphemous treatment of the Crucifixion of Christ (I missed the description and picked up what I know from the subsequent discussion). The talk centered around whether it was right or not for "religious" groups to "pressure" the producers into removing a segment of a show that the groups thought was morally wrong.

What really set me off was the the radio show producer, who normally is silent, working the phones, but occasionally chimes in, did so with statements not once but several times labeling this as "censorship" and saying how wrong that is. TV shows, in his opinion, should be "allowed" to show whatever they want. I think I know how this guy would vote in the hypothetical elections mentioned above, but I digress. Other than I'm not a good toe-to-toe debater and I didn't have time to wait on hold, I would have called in and challenged his use of the word "censorship." The TV show example was NOT a case of anyone in government suppressing content. Nobody was "disallowing" the TV show to produce the content. It was an example of how market pressure comes to media producers and how they respond to that market pressure. He seemed to think that the religious group (or groups, I don't know who it was) "forced" the producers to cut the offensive scenes. HA! Not a chance. They CHOSE to cut the material. They weren't going to be sent to jail if they did not. Consider for a second how market pressure works.

Here's an easy one: If I don't like how a particular packaged food tastes, I don't buy more than the first one. Assuming I'm representative of many other consumers, they all buy one and never another as well. The product doesn't make enough money to pay for its own shelf space...stores stop ordering it from the manufacturer...and the manufacturer stops making it. End of offensive product. This is easy because as consumers we have direct, unequivocal feedback to the producer. We vote with our wallets and since we do not have a centrally planned economy (that's called Communism, by the way) but instead a Free Market economy, producers take their signals from the marketplace mostly on sales volume at price levels.

This one's harder: If I don't like the social policies of a particular company and I don't want those policies to propogate in our culture, what do I do? Assuming their internal policies are not illegal and there is no way we could get those policies made illegal, there is nothing the government can do. I can't afford to buy the company and change its policies.

The only way I can "get at" a company is through the Free Market economy. I can decide that I will not buy their products any longer because I don't want to add any of my money to their offensive internal practices. The problem is that these internal policies have nothing directly to do with their product and, in fact, their product may even be superior in the marketplace for what it does. How can this be effective? I'm just one consumer and my individual purchases from this company won't add up to the cost of the ink contained in a period at the end of one sentence in their company policy handbook.

So what I do is talk to my like-minded friends about this company's policies and they agree that they are offensive and we collectivelly stop buying their products and if I have enough like-minded friends, and we publicize what we're doing so they know it's going on, it's possible that the company will lose enough sales to correlate that with our protest and maybe they'll stop their internal practices. This, of course, is a sort of definition of a Boycott.

Did we censor them? Absolutely not. We just stopped buying their products and told them why we were doing that. They chose what to do based on the results.

Here's the hardest one of all: A TV show broadcasts material I consider offensive to my morals and I don't like the fact that it can not only enter my home without my permission (it is broadcast over the public airwaves) but I consider it a bad influence on others around me that may not be conscious of that bad influence. What do I do?

I'm not directly purchasing their product so I can't boycott with any effect. I certainly boycott in the form of not watching the show but since my TV does not have a Nielson box on it, nobody is going to know I'm NOT watching the show except me. I can go talk to all of my like-minded friends again, who hopefully are not thinking I've become a wacko political activist that they will have to consider not hanging around with any longer, and tell them about the offensive show. They can all agree and stop watching the show as well. But since they don't have Nielson boxes on their TV's either, we are only a smug, little group that doesn't watch a particular show. In fact, who has those Nielson boxes, anyway? But I digress again.

Now I have two recourses left to me, assuming that the material I consider offensive is not illegal to broadcast. First, I can find out who the major sponsors of the show are and boycott them, making sure they know why our group is doing it. And again, the effectiveness of the boycott depends on how big my group of friends is and how well the public image of those sponsors can hold up when compared to the offensive material they are paying to have broadcast.

My second avenue would be to have representatives from my group of friends contact the media producers directly and inform them that we are not only NOT watching their show but we are either actually boycotting their sponsors or planning to if they don't modify their offensive material. The effectiveness of this is, again, dependant on the same factors. If I have a small group of friends or if the offensive show is about Vampires and is sponsored by the Blood Bank then we may have no effect.

But, did I or my group of friends "censor" the show? Not at all. We are not a government official. We can't "censor" anything but our own speech. Any response by the producer of the material is chosen by them. They're still not going to jail either way.

Instead, we exercised Market Pressure in a market where the consumer has no direct methods for feeding back to the producer. Certainly, if a show is so bad that the mythical Nielson people don't watch it, it usually winds up being cancelled. The radio show producer thought that this was "proper" and OK. But since I don't have a Nielson box, these other routes are the only way I can make my voice heard to the producers.

Maybe I should apply to be a Nielson family.

Nah. I'll just keep not buying Levi's jeans until Pat Robertson says it's OK again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why We Homeschool

I am a product of the Public School systems of America. So is my wife. We used to think that we are relatively well-adjusted members of society and were reasonably well prepared by that self-same system for the challenges of adult life (maybe our parents had something to do with that, too).

After we were saved years ago, we found out the truth.

It turns out that we are relatively well-adjusted and well prepared only by the grace of God who protected our hearts and minds while we came through that System. Perhaps it's because we came through the System some years ago as well, before things seem to have come completely unglued.

As we grew in our faith and understanding of God's Word, before children, we began to think about school choices for when the day came.

Well, of course they'll go to public school. That's what EVERYbody does, isn't it? That thought got shot down right away. We had already heard enough about the state of public schools to be wary. But, what else was there?

We'll send them to Christian school! Guaranteed to raise Biblical Children, right? Totally immersed in Scripture and Doctrine all day long. No way this could go wrong. But it would be expensive. Hey, no cost is too great to GUARANTEE my children would grow up saved and blessed. We began to hear other voices, though. Voices saying that kids still struggled with all the same moral issues in Christian school as in Public School. Sure, the classroom may teach from a more Christian perspective, though surprisingly even that's not guaranteed, but many/most times their character is not directly addressed.

Gosh, what else is there?

We went to a Greg Harris seminar at a local church in North Texas, where we lived at the time, where he presented reasons why Christian parents should consider Homeschooling as a real alternative to either Public or Private school. It was too many years ago for me to remember the reasons now but suffice to say that when I left that seminar, I felt that if we did NOT homeschool our children, I would be sinning against God.

Afterward, we pondered and pondered this thought. We had already committed to living on one income and having my wife stay home but this was a huge change in the scope of work expected of her. Not to mention the question of how on earth I would explain that decision to my mother who was a public school teacher since I was in grade school myself.

We let God's Word guide our decision.

Pv 22:6 says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." So if a set of schoolteachers trained my children, the children would likely go where they trained them. If I or my wife trained them, they would likely go where WE trained them. OK that sounds reasonable.

Who does the Bible say should train/teach our children?

Dt 11:19 says, "Teach them [the Words of God] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Wow, this is pretty clear that it is the parents' responsibility. I wouldn't expect a public or private schoolteacher to be lying down or getting up with my children!

Furthermore, Dt 4:9 says "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." And Dt 20:18 says "Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God." Not only is it our responsibility but there are consequences to our children if we goof this one up. And I care about that responsibility because 3 John 1:4 says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." The end of all this is to have our children walking in the truth. Not only our children but for generations, since Joel 1:3 says, "Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."

Oh, we can teach them the Word of God in the evenings and on the weekends, right? What if we sent our children to public school anyway? Mt 18:6 says, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." And Leviticus 20:2 says, "Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him." Yikes! Not only is it my responsibility but if I lost my children because I carelessly sent them off to an institution of learning that caused them to sin, the weight of punishment would also fall on me!

Is public, or even private school really that bad? Why don't we send the children there to be witnesses for Christ? Lights in the Darkness? 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." And Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." Is there anyone out there who can say with a straight face that there is no "bad company" or no fools in the student bodies of our public and even private schools today? Certainly not ALL the students, but enough? Why should I send my children into venues of learning where they will without doubt be around those of low or foolish character? The gamble on them being effective witnesses during the time of their spiritual training is not worth the risk that they would not be ready to make such a witness and would instead suffer spiritual harm.

So what's so bad about traditional schools?
  • They teach a godless view of the Universe. The principles behind what is lumped together as Evolution are a view of Origins that does not require a God. The underpinning philosophy is antithetical to Christian theology (I would call it Truth). Everything is "millions and billions of years" without exception. Witness the ID and Creationism debates that simply want to have a one-liner inserted in a single class period to mention that there may be other ways to explain Origins than through natural means.
  • Age-segregated classes do not promote wisdom. Peer children are, by definition, fools in the moral sense. Through the school-age years they are forming the basis for moral decision-making but won't have that basis fully in place until about the age of traditional high school graduation. No wonder foolish and bad things happen in schools when the vast majority around a child are morally immature. That's just not a good environment for learning the truth. See above the guiding Scriptures on this. This one is true of Christian schools as well as public schools. Having a teacher who may be a Christian does not magically make the whole class of children instantly morally mature.
  • The founders and proponents of public education, back in the days when it became mandated, openly embraced Humanism which rejects the concept of the Christian God. They setup the system in order to train the children of America in their own beliefs, heavily shrouded in principled-sounding prose about "education." The fathers of Soviet Communism knew that if they could just get the children early enough, they could form society into any mold they wished.
  • It's not exactly safe all the time. This is a bit of a weak reason but valid nonetheless. I don't NOT send my children to public school because of Columbine High School but when you add up all the bullying and negative peer pressure that never gets publicized, it makes for a dangerous environment. Granted I went to school many, many moons ago but even then, I had problems with those issues. In Junior High I was bullied simply because a few other boys in the class didn't like how I looked. I was accosted after school and provoked. I had personal effects stolen. One year I had to share a locker with another student who cornered me in the hall with a knife one day, accusing me of "stealing his comic books." Of course I hadn't stolen his comic books (good grief). The Guidance Counselor, when my parents and I had a meeting about the incident, told them that I should learn how to stand up for myself. I guess she wanted me to kickbox the knife out of his hand. Of course, then I would have gotten in trouble for fighting. I concluded that school was a place one had to survive so I spent those years avoiding all the bad characters I could identify. What kind of life lessons does this teach? Fight back or run away? Is this what I want my children to be exposed to, let alone learn as responses?

OK, so this was pretty heavy so to conclude, let me list some of the advantages of homeschooling:

  • The whole family is together for a huge proportion of any given day. We all learn how to get along and love one another if nothing else but because we can't get away from each other and escape the learning.
  • The children learn at their natural pace of learning. This means they all learned to read at an extremely young age and all have a love for reading which is not gender-based. Our three boys love books almost as much as their older sister although the youngest has not actually learned to read yet. All other "subject matter" is covered when and how they are ready, not forced because of an artificial Scope and Sequence guide formulated by Washington bureaucrats. Our children are not being left behind, they are being formed into the mission God has for their lives.
  • We are totally free of external schedules except for specific commitments we make, and those we make consciously.
  • I was free to take an expatriate work assignment for two years in Europe because we were not tied to a school calendar. We just took the books with us and learning continued no matter where we were.
  • We can schedule family trips and vacations to suit ourselves. This allows us to take advantage of cheaper times to go places. See my rant below about Disney. I may have struggled with total enjoyment of the time there but we saved a bundle by being able to go at the cheapest time of year (that's an extremely relative term in this case).
  • And there are more but this is long enough already.
One last note, James 3:1 says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." On the surface, this would seem to indicate that not everyone should homeschool but I don't think so. Teachers will be judged more strictly but the biggest benefit of homeschooling is that because of the weight of that responsibility, we work constantly to make sure we are teaching the right things the right way and at the right times. And homeschooling forces us to our knees to make sure we are on track with His plan for our children.

After all, children are a blessing from the Lord and we are merely stewards of their care, representing Him to them. We should aim to please Him who sent them, including in this area of education.