And Another Thing…

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“Odgie, MSW” or “The Last Edumacational Interlude”

And that, as they say, is that. After 4 years, 60 credit hours, 390 class meetings (give or take), 1200 hours of unpaid labor internship, 5000 pages of reading, 150 or so papers of varying length and depth, and about $XXXXX total, I walked on May 15th.

Apparently, I wore this stupid grin the whole ceremony

Apparently, I wore this stupid grin the whole ceremony

It was a long strange trip; alternately challenging, rewarding, exasperating, exhausting, and I wouldn’t take anything for it. I had certain expectations going in, both good and bad; fortunately, most of them were wrong.

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While I Was Out

I got caught up on a couple of things at my internship and the instructor for the only class I am taking cancelled one of our major assignments, so here I am. What’s more, hundreds many a handful a couple of my beloved readers have written to ask when I plan to return, so here I find myself. What did I miss? Well: This twitter thing has caught on something fierce, a development which I absolutely did not expect. I won’t be taking this up, however. I can’t imagine that my life is that interesting minute by minute, even to me. I’m sure that I missed blogging on some other things, but for the life of me I can’t think of them right now. Consider this an invitation to do an open thread in the comments.

Books

I recently finished Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler. I think whether or not this book is for you will depend on your response to the title, because it delivers exactly what the title promises: an action-packed post-apocalyptic satire set in a future US where the most powerful business, bordering on a fiefdom, is a strip bar franchise. The humor is dark but the characters are endearing. Right now I am reading L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker. So far, it is a good read with an interesting plot and believable characters. More after I finish it (maybe).

 TV

Battlestar Galactica came to its eagerly anticipated ending, and the results were interesting: neither the GREATEST ENDING OF ALL TIME as some critics have trumpeted nor a complete failure as other critics insist. Spoilers below:

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Filed under: Books, Faith and Religion, Geek Stuff, Movies, Music, Politics, School, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

First Stupid Thing I’ve Heard in 2009

Hair-splitting semantics run amok:

School bans the word ‘school’

By ROBIN PERRIE

THE head of a new school has banned the word “school” – in case it upsets pupils’ parents.

Watercliffe Meadow is known as a “Place for Learning” because staff say “school” has a negative impact on some mums and dads.

The new £4.7million academy in Sheffield, South Yorks, replaced three old schools.

Its 481 pupils, from nursery to Year 6, are allowed to wear slippers instead of shoes.

Headteacher Linda Kingdon said: “We decided we didn’t want to use the word ‘school’.

“One reason was many parents of children here had very negative connotations of school.

“Instead we want this to be a place for family learning.

“There are no bells or locked doors. We wanted to de-institutionalise the place and bring the school closer to real life.” 

What negative connotation does the word “school” have exactly? Where did Ms. Kingdon get the idea? Did the parents demand the change? If not, how did anyone draw this conclusion?

I love the quotes about letting the children wear slippers and not having any locked doors, especially since these things are a part of “bringing the school closer to real life.”

Where, in the real world, is anyone allowed to wear slippers outside of their home? Where in the real world do we not have locked doors? This reminds me of some of the things that my friends at state schools used to say to me about attending a Christian college, such as “How do you learn anything about the real world?” Apparently, this was the real world where Mom and Dad paid for everything, you got to sleep in every day until 10, and nobody cared about your appearance when you went to work.

But hey, I’ll play along. I don’t know if England’s public schools are in the same sorry shape as ours, but based on the work stories some of my teacher friends tell me, maybe the U.S. should try some alternative names for our schools:

Gang Recruitment and Initiation Center

Facility for the Cultivation of Unwarranted Self-Esteem

Parental Failure to Discipline Correctional Unit

Place for Junior-League Responsibility Aversion Training and Sociopathy Development

Metal Detector Testing Site

Well, you get the picture. Any other alternatives you care to suggest?

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A numbers game

Last night, I turned in my final assignment for the semester at the final class meeting for the fall. I now have…

  • 152 calendar days
  • 53 days (371 hours) at my internship
  • 15 class meetings
  • and 5 papers

…until I graduate. But who’s counting, right?

calvin-n-hobbes-733953

Filed under: School

Duck and cover, someone’s being religious

Several years ago when I was working as a counselor in a group home for adults with mental illness, one of the clients (whom I will refer to as “Joe”) came into my office to complain about something. The exchange went something like this:

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Sigh

Even as the dust settles from the recent election, the spoil sporting continues. It appears that Abilene Christian University has come under fire in a recent column in The Abilene Reporter News by one of her alumni because the student paper, The Optimist, endorsed Obama.

Steve Hemphill, the author of the column, is surely within his rights to criticize his alma mater and to disagree with the student paper, even to take his toys and go home refuse to pay for his children to go there and to stop sending donations. However, I think that his logic is faulty on multiple levels. Consider:

Loyal donors aren’t going to be loyal to a “Christian” school with liberal, anti-God endorsements.

I recently asked an ACU professor, “What if I told you I had just come into some money and was interested in giving $300,000 to ACU or Harding, and ACU would get it if they (The Optimist) withdrew their endorsement of Obama?” He replied he would recommend not accepting it. He indicated that money shouldn’t influence a political decision or affect a moral position. I agreed. Moral positions shouldn’t be changed for monetary gain. But now we have a problem. That’s exactly what The Optimist did. It endorsed Obama, noting the primary reason as the economy.

Sadly, this is the state of the union — economy over morals.

First, the school did not endorse Obama. The student-run campus paper did. Second, his differentiation of economy and morals rings false – how we spend our money is a moral issue. Furthermore, as Mr. Hemphill notes, in a campus poll, the majority of students stated their support and intention to vote for McCain. Of course, Mr. Hemphill takes issue with the paper over this as well:

This minority endorsement is a reflection of that. The campus majority favored John McCain (in an Optimist poll). The paper didn’t reflect the feelings of the majority…

Granted, it’s only a campus newspaper. And while we could certainly debate the merits of any newspaper offering an endorsement of any candidate (personally, I’m against it) is any paper, even a student paper, obligated to adopt the majority stance? And are Christian schools (or any other school, for that matter) obligated to censor all editorial content in their papers?

There is also the disturbing phrasing he chooses in the top quote, “liberal, anti-God”. So I guess that everyone who voted for Obama is a liberal, and anti-God (why even separate the two, when in this fellow’s mind liberal politics automatically equals anti-God?). Good to know. Has it ever occurred to this gentleman that people might be more than their politics? That people other than registered Republicans can cast votes from spiritual convictions? That politics is an inherently sleazy enterprise and to seek pillars of faith among the elected is a waste of time and energy?

Next, he offers one of the most unctuous guilt-trips I have ever read (and I used to be a youth minister!):

One day, we’ll have to give an account, we’ll have to face those 45 million American aborted babies in eternity and explain ourselves. Somehow, I don’t think we can change their minds by saying, “I’m so sorry for voting for a man who supported abortion, but he was the best choice for the economy — I’m sure you understand.” They won’t. And God doesn’t.

I have already explained why [Comment 9] I put little stock in any presidential candidate’s stand on abortion ~ I have yet to see an compelling evidence that a president’s position on abortion has any effect whatsoever on the number of abortions performed in this country. I have also stated that Obama’s double-talk on this issue was a deal-breaker for me. But suppose that Obama actually delivers on his promise to lower abortions in the US through some of his policies…is Mr. Hemphill ready to eat crow over this?

He goes on:

The school paper is a reflection of ACU, and it endorsed a political candidate who supports abortion and homosexuality.

I can’t help but snicker when someone is accused of “supporting” homosexuality. I imagine someone running around yelling, “C’mon straights! Let’s try a little switch-hitting! Its fun!”

Next, he quotes Proverbs 14:34 (in the NLT no less): “God-devotion makes a country strong; God-avoidance leaves people weak.” The NASB translation is probably better: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” I certainly wouldn’t quibble with any of the wisdom to be found in Proverbs; but I wonder if he realizes the broad application of this verse? As a graduate of a Christian college, I can assure any reader that our campuses are, sadly, rife with sin; we just hide it better. I wonder if Mr. Hemphill is as concerned with the binge-drinking, casual sex, sanctimony, and hypocrisy rampant on our campuses as he is with the subjective endorsement of a handful of students. Does he care that Harding University, which he holds up as some moral light shining in the darkness, pretty much allowed intercollegiate athletes to do whatever they pleased without consequences (at least when I was there), just like those anti-God state schools? Favoritism is a sin too, kids.

My point is simple: Who is Mr. Hemphill, or myself, or you, or anyone to judge another’s faith, especially by how he or she votes? That is a dangerous game for any of us to be playing.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, Politics, Rants, School, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, so much for that

I was saddened to learn that Cascade College, the only institution of higher learning in the Northwest affiliated with the churches of Christ, will shut down at the end of the spring 2009 semester.

Despite not having attended there (I was already a college graduate when Cascade first opened for business in August 1994) I have several memories of the place. The summer before my senior year of college I interned as a youth minister with the church of Christ in Richland, WA. I took the kids in the youth group to GNEW (Great Northwest Evangelism Workshop). Over the course of the week I got to meet a bunch of people who were going to be involved in the opening of Cascade. They seemed so excited about what they were engaged in. I was so envious of them. I remember thinking, “What a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to help build a college from the ground up.”

A few years later, during my tenure as a youth minister in Portland, OR (where Cascade is located) I got to know more faculty and staff from the school; people that I was pleased to count as friends. I am sorry for them and the students.

So this leaves our fellowship with Rochester College, Pepperdine University, and Ohio Valley University as our only schools outside of the Bible belt. I wonder how they are staying afloat. I suppose that Pepperdine’s approach is to be super-expensive, but what about the others?

I think that Christian colleges can be a good thing, a real boon to the kingdom. I do have my quibbles with how they do things, but that doesn’t mean that I would throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t like the hypocrisy of the rules. I am more than a little uncomfortable with some of our schools’ readiness to hop in bed with a certain political party. And I detest the recruitment rhetoric that administrators and admissions counselors use to try and guilt our teenagers into attending these schools. I once heard a Christian college president say that “Every college student in the church should be attending a Christian college.” Screw you, state school campus ministries! Who needs you? [Ron Clark, a church-planter in Portland, has an interesting take on this]

I have often wondered why our fellowship is so provincial. Why can’t we get a meaningful foothold anywhere outside of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas? What do you readers think?

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37

So I turned 37 on Tuesday; not a big deal except for me and those that love me. 37 is not one of the cool birthdays, like officially being a teenager at 13, being able to drive at 16, being able to vote at 18, being able to drink and buy guns (a favorite combination of mine) at 21, or having your auto insurance rates drop at 25 (if you’re a white male).

Knowing that my actual birthday was not going to be a good day (I started my internship and had to work my paying gig that night) Chris and I decided to celebrate on Labor Day. We got together with some friends for a righteous feed at Famous Dave’s and then had desert with them at our place. There were a lot of stories exchanged and a lot of laughter and a good time was had by all (I hope). Carl and Shayna win the award for the best card of the evening, as it featured the one and only David Hasselhoff.

The internship: I am working for the local Department of Family Services in the Child Protective Services division. I opted for this placement for several reasons: it is a gap in my experience, I want to see what exactly they do and find out if it is for me, and I think that looking after at-risk kids is a necessity and a calling. Also, my field instructor is the supervisor of his division and being his intern will allow me to get into some policy and administrative work. My first day on the job was not bad; everyone is very helpful and I got to go out on a call. I will share what I can of my experiences, so watch this space if you are interested.

9/2 was not a total bust; my brother was in town so Chris and I got to have dinner with him and hang out a little bit, which was cool.

Oh, I almost forgot: Chris got me 4 great CDs – John Hiatt‘s newest, Same Old Man; it’s not his greatest album ever but the fact is the man hasn’t released a dud in more than 20 years. All of his songs demonstrate the same warm, witty, and insightful writing that has made him one of the most covered artists of the last 30 years, and Same Old Man is no exception.

She also got me 3 CDs by the late, great Danny Gatton; the best American guitar player of the past 50 years and possibly the most underappreciated guitarist of all time. There is a reason that his colleagues called him “The Master of the Telecaster” and “The Humbler.” If you don’t believe me, check out some samples of his work on his webpage or over at Amazon. He’ll make your ears bleed.

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The First 2008 – 2009 Edumacational Interlude

School is back in session and last night was the first meeting of the only classroom course I have left, Advanced Practice. I was ambivalent going in (I didn’t even know who the instructor was) but left with more enthusiasm than I expected to muster at this point in the program. The instructor seems like a sharp cat; he is a career Army social worker, an engaging speaker, funny, self-deprecating, and he demonstrates a desire to promote active learning on our part.

Last night he broke us into groups for a “values clarification” exercise. Usually, I hate these types of things but this one was pretty good. If you are curious and/or want to try it, is below the fold.

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Irony, thy name is NPR

I have absolutely no regrets about going back to school get my MSW. It has been a mostly pleasant experience, i’ve enjoyed the work, learned a lot, and I have made some great friendships in the process. However, like any other educational experience, one must take the meat and leave the bones.

For instance I have learned a great deal about behavior, mental disorders, public policy, statistics, research, and families. This is the meat. On the other hand, I have also had to resist indoctrination (in some classes and among some peers) about how the rich white cabal that secretly runs this country does everything in their power to continuously oppress women, non-whites, and every other person besides the destructive and over-privileged rich white male. Being a white male, I have yet to experience the phenomenon that my professors keep talking about where the world is handed to me for no other reason than my being a white male. This, obviously, is the bones.

I don’t deny that times are hard. I don’t deny that the power-brokers of our nation are pathetically out of touch with the working class. I don’t deny that honest, hard-working people sometimes get hosed. All it takes is a catastrophic illness or being downsized by their employer to push a lot of families into desperate financial straights. I believe that poverty is largely cyclical, passed on from generation to generation like a curse. I don’t even deny the existence of residual, institutionalized discrimination, although I don’t believe it is as widespread or prevalent as some would have us believe. And I believe that any civil society must make provisions for those at the bottom in the hopes of helping them transcend their circumstances. This idea goes back at least as far as the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to leave some of their crops unharvested so that the poor would have access to them.

However, I also believe that people must participate in their own survival. I believe that any honest work, even work that is below one’s capacities, is more honorable than not working. I believe that welfare, while sometimes necessary in the short-term, robs people of their dignity and self-respect in the long-term.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I present this story from NPR. Read the story below, giving special attention to the part at the end where it talks about buying groceries, then click underneath it for a picture of the folks profiled in the article. One hopes that NPR photographers will be more careful about how they take pictures of the subjects of articles in the future.

For Some Ohioans, Even Meat Is Out Of Reach

Her father worked at General Motors for 45 years before retiring. Her mother taught driver’s education. Nunez and her six siblings grew up middle class.

Things have changed considerably for this Ohio family.

Nunez’s van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Nunez and most of her siblings and their spouses are unemployed and rely on government assistance and food stamps. Some have part-time jobs, but working is made more difficult with no car or public transportation.

Low-income families in Ohio say they are particularly hard-hit by the changes in the economy, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. Two-thirds of lower-income respondents, or 66 percent, say paying for gas is a serious problem because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly half of low-income Ohioans, or 47 percent, say that getting a well-paying job or a raise in pay is also major problem.

‘I Just Can’t Get A Job’

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

Hernandez received her high school diploma and has had several jobs in recent years. But now, because fewer restaurants and stores are hiring, she says she finds it hard to find a job. Even if she could, she says it’s particularly hard to imagine how she’ll keep it. She says she needs someone to give her a lift just to get to an interview. And with gas prices so high, she’s not sure she could afford to pay someone to drive her to work every day.

People tell Nunez her daughter could get more money in public assistance if she had a child.

“A lot of people have told me, ‘Why don’t your daughter have a kid?'”

They both reject that as a plan.

“I’m trying to get a job,” Hernandez says. “I just can’t get a job.”

Hernandez says she’s trying to get training to be a nurse’s assistant, but without her own set of wheels or enough money to pay others for gas, it hasn’t been easy.

‘What’s Going To Happen To Us?’

Most of their extended family lives in the same townhouse complex. The only employer within walking distance is a ThyssenKrupp factory that makes diesel engine parts. That facility, which employs 400 people, is shutting down and moving to Illinois next year.

The only one with a car is Irma Hernandez, Nunez’s mother. Hernandez says that with a teenage son still at home, the cost of feeding him and sending him to school is rising, and she can no longer pay for the car.

She’s now two car payments behind.

“I’m about to lose my car,” she says on her way to pick up one of her daughters to take her to Toledo. “So then what’s going to happen to us?”

So Nunez and her daughter are mostly stuck at home.

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

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