Veritas Press Epistula

 Contents

 

Feature Article The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Gregg Strawbridge

Educational Helps by Laurie Detweiler and Ned Bustard

Free Offers

Q&A

Announcements

 

May 2007

 


Feature Article

 

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

 

Summer is near, and during these days it is windy in Pennsylvania. For most of us, summer means that we are taking a break from the rigor of schooling. This is needed. Classical Christian education is much more work to accomplish than most of us knew when we began. Labor in the Lord, however, brings joy and meaning, not futility. “Our toil is not in vain in the Lord,” writes St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:58). In this article, given our education labor, I wish to point out several trends in our society and how we should respond. 

 

Where are we on the voyage to our educational vision? If we climb to the crow's nest on our ship and take a wide look, we are in the midst of a sea of cultural change. We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity in many respects. Many drive a Lexus, which has become for some a kind of symbol of prosperity. Yet, a not-too-penetrating look at our society will find many crises just below the surface of our ordinary lives. Perhaps some already feel the strain of this on several levels, educational, familial, economic, and spiritual.

 

A shared area of concern is education. Perhaps the reason why you are reading this is because you have seen the crisis of modern education, especially in American government schools.  I need not remind you of the infamous words of the “Nation at Risk” report which said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Our classical and Christian emphasis in education is a direct attack on this.

 

We also see all around a crisis in terms of family, as well. Our families are the primary context for education, yet American families have undergone radical changes. A Cornell University professor looked carefully at societal changes and identified nine critical shifts. These indicate nothing less than a crisis in family trends when viewed from a Christian perspective:

 

1. Fathers’ vocational choices which remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.

2. An increase in the number of working mothers.

3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.

4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.

5. A steady decline in the extended family.

6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).

7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.

8. The isolation of children from the work world.

9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

 

If we think through this list, most of them touch us and our families quite directly. Because of the last factor, the study described the current U.S. educational system as “one of the most potent breeding grounds for alienation in American society.” This study, however, was written in 1974. Every point on this list could be greatly expanded today.

 

Moreover, just beneath the surface of the U.S. economy is a major movement. This directly relates to our goals in education because of the shift in vocational opportunities. Thomas Friedman explored this in two books relating to globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization and The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. He shows that the vocational playing field between, say, the U.S. and India, is now being leveled because of the speed at which information can travel across the world. This “outsourcing” is becoming a trend for many more jobs than you might imagine. This is not just about speaking with a Pakistani on technical support for your Compaq computer. While I don't agree with all Friedman's conclusions and recommendations, it would be unwise for our educational plans not to be mindful of these major shifts. No wise educator today can expect the same kind of manufacturing, industry and information jobs to be available as they were yesterday. This is a significant change even in the last twenty years.

 

We also live in a sea of changing religious views. One example is the so-called “emerging church.” This is a movement away from traditional (and contemporary-styled) churches. It involves unchurched and “post-churched” people experimenting with a non-dogmatic conversational approach to faith. One prominent writer describes himself as, “post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.” The whole groundswell is bound up with a postmodern outlook which no longer sees the static structures of society as stable. This leads to a radical kind of individualism which desperately seeks community. While critics point out how this leads to unorthodox theology, relativism, and syncretism, my concern is to observe that we clearly have the winds of change blowing. “The times, they are a changin'” (Bob Dylan).

 

To the winds of change, which wail at our children, our families, our future, and our faith, how should we respond? In a word, “We are to be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). The Scripture says, “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table . . . Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!” (Psalm 128).

 

There is a blessedness to happy labor and a blessedness to a happy home that give us hope, regardless of the surrounding change. When the storm winds of change blow around us, we are to draw nearer together and batten down the hatches. According to the Psalm, the product of the fear of God in our lives is fruitfulness, regardless of the changes around us. The image of fruitfulness is not a Lexus, but an Olive Tree. Our children are pictured as olive plants around the table. It may take as long as forty years for an olive tree to mature and fully produce fruit. Olive trees are long-lived, with a life expectancy of as much as five hundred years. They’re tenacious, easily sprouting back even when chopped to the ground.  The fruitfulness that we must be after is a long-range crop. 

 

During the school year, we often do not have time to fully assess where we are on our raising fruitful olive trees. Sometimes that is due to the business of life and making payments on the Lexus. Sometimes that is due to our own degraded routines which fail to cultivate the fertile ground of the olive plants and appreciate the blessedness of a believing home. Being mindful of changes all around us that affect us and shape us, the approaching summer is a wonderful time to reassess family life, relationships and our faith.

 

Our family will travel together for several weeks in June to see extended family members. The closeness of traveling together is an opportunity. We have already begun to think through what we will be doing to enhance and refresh our children in the process of this unique time. We can do all this knowing that our work in the Lord is not in vain. Still, we need reprieves. I trust that summer opportunities bring the kind of refreshment that hardworking educators, families and olive plants need.

 

Gregg Strawbridge

 

Gregg is the pastor of Alls Saints Presbyterian Church in Lancaster County, PA, and the author of the pamphlet titled Classical and Christian Education, as well as several Omnibus chapters.

 


Educational Helps

 

The Q&A section below answers a question about summer time reading. Children that are just learning to read, in particular, should definitely be encouraged to read over the summer. A three month break is much too long for a child to retain much of what was learned. When school starts back up in September (if you are on a traditional calendar), young students will have to spend extended time reviewing much of what they already learned. And it goes without saying that summer reading contributes to the habit of being a life-long reader. This takes developing good habits in young ones. My parents did a wonderful job with this. In fact, I now have a dream job where reading is my main occupation. Summer is a time to encourage children to read about things that interest them. Go to the library or your local bookstore and walk up and down the aisles till they see something that grabs their attention. All of our children were very different when it comes to reading choices. One likes Shakespeare, another fantasy, one always chooses sports. Just encourage them to read. On our web site you will find a file containing some coupons that will add incentives for those reluctant readers (the file will be available starting on May 3rd; our graphic designer is goofing off today.) Click here to access our download page. Then click on the Reading Coupons link under Free Helps. Children that are goal-oriented usually do well with this. Explain to the child that after they read five books they will have earned a coupon for a trip to the local ice cream shop, or maybe after ten books they are awarded a trip to go bowling. You understand the idea. Hope this helps, and enjoy the beginning of your summer vacation.

 

Laurie Detweiler

 


Free Offers

 

Free Study Guide for Letter from a Christian Citizen
Books attacking Christianity have recently been a mainstay on the New York Times bestseller list. Douglas Wilson, Fellow of Theology at
New St. Andrews College, has responded with a lively refutation entitled, Letter from a Christian Citizen. This defense of the faith provides a concise and energetic example of how Christians should interact with unbelievers in apologetic settings. Written in the form of a letter, responding to atheist Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation, Wilson demonstrates that the art of apologetics blends together both logic and rhetoric for a potent combination. When preaching the truth, there is nothing so threatening as being unthreatened.

For the first two weeks of May, every purchase of Letter from a Christian Citizen (item #035-470) will be personally signed by Douglas Wilson. A free study guide for the book is available on our web site. Click here to download the guide. For further reading on defending your faith, and for a debate between Douglas Wilson and atheist Theodore Drange, go to the New Saint Andrews website at www.nsa.edu. Below are two reviews of Doug’s book.

“Douglas Wilson has done the near impossible. He made me glad that Sam Harris wrote his anti-God tract because it provided an occasion for Doug to write such a literate, compelling, and engaging response. I hope Bible study groups and Sunday school classes across the country set aside their normal lessons for a few weeks and gather together to study and discuss Wilson's Letter from a Christian Citizen.”
Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D.
Director, Master of Arts Program in
Christian Apologetics
Biola University
, La Mirada, California

“Douglas Wilson has written a book that can give Christians a place to stand in regard to Sam Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation. The primary usefulness of Wilson's book is that it gives readers a point-by-point response to the arguments advanced by Harris in an engaging and compelling way.”
Dr. Leland Ryken
Professor of English at
Wheaton College


Q&A

 

Q. I am looking forward to receiving my new catalog. I am always excited when I see all the historical fiction, but never know what to order? Can you help me?

A. As you can tell, we love historical fiction. It brings alive those things that the children are memorizing. In the Veritas Press catalog, at the end of the description of many of the books, you will see a colored number. This represents the number of the flashcard that best matches the time or subject of that particular book. Choose a variety of books that go with about ten to fifteen of the cards throughout the year. Of course, you could save yourself time and get the Scholars lesson plans where all this is already done for you.

 

Q. I am interested in having my children read over the summer but don’t want to choose books from the catalog because I want to save them for school. Any ideas?

A. One of my favorite memories from my own childhood was buying books as we traveled in the summer. Whenever we went to a museum, I always was allowed to purchase a book in the museum store. Then I had it to read as we traveled to our next stop. Also, many libraries have summer reading programs for grammar school children that provide incentives for reading. Book clubs are a great way for teenagers to learn the enjoyment of sharing a good book.

 

Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to info@veritaspress.com.

 


Announcements

 

Two Williams is Here!

If you’ve been waiting for the third installment of The Monroe Family Chronicles, it’s here. Click here to see or order it. This fictional series covers the history of America through the eyes and experiences of the faithful Monroe family. Two Williams is the action-filled thriller set around the events of the Battle of Cowpens (c. 1781).

 

April Contest Winners

Congratulations to Carol Lau of Dublin, Calif., who won a free year of books and lesson plans in our new Veritas Press Scholars Program from our April contest. And congratulations to the Dyer family of Menifree, Calif., and the Davis family of Houston, Texas. Each family won a free registration fee for an online course through Veritas Press Scholars Online.

 

Online Sign-Ups Continue at Rapid Pace

We are amazed at the number of students registered for online classes. If you are thinking about registering students for some classes don’t wait too long—they are filling fast. For information on the offerings, click here.

 

Opening at Veritas Academy

Veritas Academy is seeking a highly qualified person to serve as a Director of Institutional Development. The Director will be responsible for development of long term relationships with individuals and institutions which will lead to an increase in recognition of Veritas Academy, increase in funds for scholarships and endowments, and a general recognition of institutional excellence. The applicant should possess strengths in interpersonal relationships, marketing and fund raising. Demonstrated teamwork, project management, organizational skills, strong work ethic, problem solving, and professional demeanor are critical to the applicant's success in this position. The salary is commensurate with experience and vision for the task. Resumes and inquiries may be sent to Scott Forbes, Veritas Academy board member, at sforbesdsl@dejazzd.com.

 

Veritas Academy Teacher Training

Dr. Leland Ryken will be the featured speaker at the 2007 Teacher Training Conference July 18–20 in Lancaster, PA. To learn more about Dr. Ryken, click here.

 

Those who choose to take advantage of this foundational learning opportunity will leave invigorated with clear tools, methods and plans to teach and administer a classical Christian education in their school or homeschool. We will also be offering Latin-in-a-Week July 16–20th. If you did not receive a brochure, send your name and address to conf2007@veritasacademy.com.

 


If you prefer not to receive the newsletter, simply click here to let us know.

 

Visit us on the web at www.veritaspress.com or call us at 1-800-922-5082.