Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Standardized Testing

Ah, the joys of homeschooling!  As headmaster of the school, I am not responsible for the day to day teaching of our students.  I am, however, responsible for filling in, printing, and filing paperwork with our local school district.  Every year, we need to submit some form of evaluation of our children's progress.  This also is my responsibility.  For the last two years, we have used the Iowa tests, given in the spring to submit tangible proof of the education of our children to the district. 

The Iowa test is a battery of tests that are 'standardized'.  This means that grades are not computed on percent of answers right, but grades are computed based on where the student's score compares to other students in their age/grade level.  A child is then labeled by 'percentile' in each area of the test.  A child may score a 98%, meaning that they scored better than 98% of children at their grade level.  Standardized tests are nice because they show how well a child is progressing compared to their peers.

But a standardized test has it's drawbacks.  A standardized test has the drawback of only being useful in comparison to another person.  This works decently for education purposes, but it fails completely when it comes to our walk with God.  A standardized test grades on 'the curve': a normalized distribution of grades under a bell shaped curve.  In a normal distribution 68% of individuals fall within 1 standard deviation of the norm.  68% of people are characterized as average.

When we carry this over to our walk with God, it is easy to think that if we are average, we must be doing OK.  This would be the case if God's standard was the 'norm' - or the average of all behavior.  But God's standard is absolute holiness.  That means that the bell curve can be thrown out, because no matter where we fall compared to others, we fall far short of God's absolute standard. 

In school, there was at times pressure from some in a class for everyone to 'throw' a test.  If it was known that a test was graded on a curve, it was believed that if everyone did horribly bad, then everyone would get a good score.  I never knew this to work perfectly, because someone always did their best.  In that case, someone who only scored a 70% could get the highest grade in the class! 

Since God's standard is different, we ought to pressure one another to do better, we ought to rejoice in the spiritual victories of others.  They don't 'throw off the curve' for the rest of us, but as we grow together, we can encourage one another to press on towards God's holy standard.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
 - I Peter 1:15-16

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yes We Can!

Today is special election day in Massachusetts - I hear the turnout so far is incredible as many go to the polls to either keep the seat in the Democratic Party, or to try and derail the health care bill working it's way through our government.  We truly live in a blessed country where we have even some control over who gets into office.  I have heard many times, "Why can't we just put it to a referendum and let the citizens vote on health care reform?"  More than probably any other nation out there, we already have. 

Each November, our citizens are given the privilege to elect officials into office.  Whether you agree or disagree with the Electoral College system that we have for Presidents, we have much more control than anywhere else in the world over what takes place in our government.  I suppose at this point I could say that we have gotten what we deserve through our careless approach to the freedoms of choice we have in this country, but that would not do justice to the point of my blog - taking the things in this world that can get us down, and using them to look up.

With that in mind, we have no more, or less control over the affairs of our government than anywhere else in the world.  In studying Daniel chapter 2 for Sunday School this past week, we have to realize that the hearts of the Kings (Czars, Emperors, Presidents, Dictators, etc.) are in the hand of God.  He reveals what He will to who He will to accomplish His plan.  And as Scripture tells us "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD," It would be foolish for us to ask the question "How could this be God's will?"  And as we are instructed to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," it would be foolish to not participate in the election process that our government has to allow our voice to be heard.

"Yes We Can" may have been the rallying call during the last election cycle of our current President, but it is also a truth for those of us who live in the United States.  We can have a voice in the political process, but more importantly, if we are children of the King, we can trust Him no matter what things look like in the affairs of men.

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision"  - Psalm 2:1-4

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I suppose that the discipline shown in my blog would make the title of this blog seem a bit out of place.  When we think of how many areas of discipline we have in our lives, it is almost overwhelming to try to get them all under control.  Trying to keep up a blog to organize thoughts and lessons learned, eating right, exercising, flossing (one of my least favorites), personal and familial devotional times, patience, love, sympathy, time schedule, work & family responsibilities - to say nothing of disciplines that other people's blogs remind me of.

So which discipline do I work on first?  Well, that is the easy question.

"For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." - I Timothy 4:8

In thinking of discipline, I have come to the conclusion that discipline breeds discipline.  Discipline in one area of our lives is bound to influence other areas of our lives as well.  But when I think about the discipline of godliness, I'm hard pressed to find an area of discipline that I should have in my life that it doesn't address.  Since there is no area of our lives that is not addressed by the truths of Scripture, there is no area of discipline that remains untouched by a commitment to godliness.  Even beyond that, a pursuit of godliness will correct any deviant disciplines in our lives.  Are we disciplined to increase our wealth?  Scripture will correct that.  Are we disciplined to watch a particular show?  Or to entertain ourselves?  Scripture will correct that. 

I'm not a fan of new year's resolutions.  Partly because they are often made with a "doubt I will do it" attitude, and partly because the "new year" is just another day.  But each day we can resolve ourselves to discipline ourselves unto godliness.  And at the end of the year?  I can guarantee that we will have progressed much better than any other resolution could take us.  The Bible's words actually guarantee that for us.

Happy New Year! :)