Sunday, February 18, 2007

School Scholarships/Vouchers

One of my nephews is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. This means he falls into the range of diagnoses for autism, but he is high functioning. His parents have struggled to find him schooling and therapies. Not every private or public school is anxious to see him walking through the door. Recently his mother locked up her business, and his father relocated his so they could move across state to a school district where he could be enrolled in a school that provided services for him. Not all children with his developmental disability are able to enjoy such privileges. If the school he currently attends should restructure or lose funding for his services in the future, his education may be threatened.

Texas parents of children like my nephew are rightly frustrated. Currently they are met with numerous roadblocks that look like an obstacle course of Catch-22’s. Not every school district is equipped to serve autistic children. Those who are unprepared yet attempt to do so anyway often do more harm than good. Parents are geographically “locked out” of enrollment in districts where good services for their children is available if they do not live in that district. If parents place their children in private schools, then special needs services are likely impossible to receive for a variety of red-tape reasons. Yet the parents are still tax payers, providing the funds for services that go to public school attendees.

These Texas parents are banding together in an effort to correct the system. They are fighting for legislation that will provide autistic children with scholarships allowing them to attend the school of their choice. This is similar to the voucher system. You can read about it here and here. Ohio has already adopted this plan. Connie Sadowski of Austin, TX, has a chart demonstrating how successful the scholarship/voucher program has been where it is being used. It's an idea worth considering in other states, if yours doesn't already.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Der Struwwelpeter

He’s baaaaaack—that rumple-headed, slovenly, ill-kempt little boy known as Struwwelpeter. Dover Publications presents the German morality poems of a century and a half ago translated into English with the original delightful drawings by Heinrich Hoffman. The original German text by Hoffman is included in the appendix.

Der Struwwelpeter was one of my childhood books when I lived in housing like those above. Hoffman’s tale of Johnny Head-in-Air was one to take seriously if I wanted to dodge the gifts of the sheep after they’d been through the valley, our favorite playground. I didn’t care much for Conrad’s demise. I began reading Der Struwwelpeter when I was five, and the sight of a child with his thumbs whacked off was discomforting. Harriet’s final hours suited me no better.

I got over it, and I’m better for it. Der Struwwelpeter eventually became the dearest book of my childhood. When my mother returned to Germany several years ago she asked what she could find for me. One thing only: a copy of that beloved and long lost book. Eventually I even found it in Hebrew. Alas, it has been sadly “PC-ed”—cleansed of the story of Agrippa and his mighty ink pot teaching rude young hooligans

Boys, leave the black-a-moor alone!

For if he tries with all his might,

He cannot change from black to white.

Surely concession, if not understanding, can be made to Hoffman for his use of “black-a-moor,” for he means no insult to race by it. The young child referred to is simply a black Moor, and Hoffman’s era was not so very politically correct in language as our own. What is important is the lesson he teaches about teasing and verbal abuse.

One of these books from Dover Publications remains at home with me. The other is in my classroom where I introduced it to my students. At first they looked at the pictures and delighted in the gore. This is a generation hooked on Freddy and Jason, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and all manner of torture and mayhem without a reason even at a very young age. However, the purpose of fairy tale and morality stories is not gore and gruesome for its own sake, but to do the work of the Law in us. With very little coaxing, these well-catechized children were soon finding the Ten Commandments in the poetry of Dr. Hoffman. “Conrad should have listened to his mother. That’s Fourth Commandment.” “Harriet burned herself… Augustus won’t eat… that’s Fifth Commandment.” When the Law has its way with us, the Gospel can then have us by the ears. Morality stories have a place in Christian libraries for this reason.


Available: Dover Publications

Grade Level: 4 - 7 (ages 9 - 12)

ISBN: 0486284697

Page Count: 32

Cross posted: Luther Library

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Communing With Howie

Howie is my friend. I really admire that man. He can do just about anything there is that can be done with tools. Given the chance, I’d follow him around for a day just to see what-all and what-for he does. It would be a real learning experience. Then maybe he’d sit back and have a long drink of beer or tea or whatever with me and just talk. That would be the best part of it all. He has a simple wisdom about him that is precious in a not-cute way.

Howie explains Closed Communion this way: Folks don’t mind having a Sam’s card, do they? Well why do they object to Closed Communion? At Sam’s they treat you like you’re going to rob the place before you even get in, and you had to pay for that piece of plastic in the first place. Then they’ve got folks always watchin’ ya, an’ followin’ ya, an’ eyeballin’ ya whatever you do. When you try to give ‘em more money for what you want, they ask to see that bitty piece of plastic you’ve already paid for that tells them you have a right to be in their store in the first place once again—as if you didn’t have a right to be there—and then they don’t even act nice when they take your money. Top it all off, they act like you’re tryin’ to steal ‘em blind when you’re leavin’ the store with stuff you’ve already paid for. Now folks just line up and crowd up to get into Sam’s as if it was the best thing to be abused like that, and never once complain that they’ve been insulted. But let the pastor tell ’em how the Lord says things ought to be with his Body and Blood and they act as if they’ve been made a fool of before the whole world. Come Sunday mornin’ the pews are pretty near empty, to boot. I just don’t get it.

Howie’s the man!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Geo vs. Helio or Christcentric?

Last year my oldest student was studying models of the universe as a part of his Greek, Roman, and New Testament History lessons. This naturally led to learning of the geocentric vs. heliocentric debate. Aristotle taught the geocentric system, Earth being at the center of the universe. It was not until Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler that the heliocentric theory was developed, with the Sun at the center of the universe.

Now that man has sent orbiting devices from Earth into space with cameras attached, the perspective of the photograph could sway the debate toward Aristotle once more – though with modifications on his original model. From a particular angle, Earth is the center of the universe as we know it.

Looking through the lens of scripture, a whole other perspective is gained. John 3:16 tells us “In this way God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Greek word used is “kosmos,” or universe. God sent his Son to the Earth to be born of a human woman (Ga 4:4), in order to die for the sins of all mankind. From God’s perspective, the universe is Christocentric.

So last year we made models of the universe with Styrofoam balls, glitter, paint, and wooden picks. We only made the number of planets Aristotle knew. Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, the Sun and Mars revolve around the Earth with her Moon. A tag hangs from Earth with John 3:16 written on it, just to keep everything in proper perspective.