People vs. Ideas

Finding the balance between ideas and people...is it even possible?

So I was scrolling through the old Facebook news feed this morning and saw a provocative post by our hometown Patch: "What do you think of Georgia's waiver to the No Child Left Behind Law. Will this help our schools or hurt them? Anyone have an opinion I can use in a story on Loganville-Grayson Patch?"

And being an informed citizen, I naturally had no clue what the post was talking about. So I headed over to the local newspaper's website (oxymoron?) and found an article detailing the latest--that President Obama has used an Executive Order to grant waivers to at least 10 states that allows them to avoid the NCLB law's 2014 deadline, provided those states submit a comprehensive plan for meeting the law's standards sometime in the near future. Georgia is one of the ten states receiving such a waiver.

Now, as a parent of a public school kid, I'm kind of torn on this. On the one hand, I want my child to receive a quality education from our public school system. I want teachers who are there to simply collect a check (meager as it may be) gone from the system. I want teachers to be held to high standards. I want kids to be encouraged and challenged in their learning. I want my child to succeed.

But as the spouse of someone who used to be a teacher, and the friend of many who still are teaching, I also know that instead of teaching our kids, our teachers spend a lot of time prepping them to pass tests. That may be generalizing (in fact, I'm pretty sure it is), but when my kid comes home with more homework than I had when I was in the third grade, something seems a bit off.

Regardless of whether you like the No Child Left Behind law or not, education reform is something that we've batted around over the last 10-20 years and still not gotten quite right. In fact, if you read the link to the story about the waivers, you'll consistent read or catch the implication that the current bill is fatally flawed and, though everyone agrees it needs repair, the two parties can't come to an agreement on how to fix it.

No suprise there.

What's truly heartbreaking is that our elected officials have no problem coming out and saying, "We're not gonna get anything done because this is an election year. There's just no way to get anyone to compromise during an election year."

We've gone round and round on the matter of politics on the Patch lately (just read , , , , or ) and the general consensus seems to be: things suck. We're stuck in a quagmire where ideas have primacy; our leaders, and to some degree we as the vox populi, are content to choose our ideas over people. , we have sacrificed the common good for pure ideology, and as a result nothing gets done.

I taught my students on this only a couple of weeks ago. There's a brief passage in the Bible where Jesus was presented with this dilemma; a woman, caught in the midst of adultery (a death-penalty offense in those days), was brought before him by some of the religious leaders. They threw her into the dirt before Jesus and gave him this test: We caught her sinning, and the Law says we should stone her to death. What do you say?

The Bible says that Jesus knelt down and started writing in the dirt. The religious leaders waited for his answer. The woman waited too. Finally Jesus looked up and said, "Let the one without sin cast the first stone."

The religious leaders, ashamed in their own hearts, quietly slipped away, beginning with the oldest. Finally, they were all gone and Jesus was alone with the woman. He looked at her.

"Do you still have accusers?" he asked.

"No," she replied.

"Then I won't accuse you either," Jesus answered. "Go--but sin no more."

I love this passage of Scripture because Jesus does what seems impossible: he maintains the Law and Grace. He didn't declare her innocent, because she wasn't; she was guilty under the Law and had to be judged accordingly. But he didn't grab a stone and start chucking because he knew she needed forgiveness, since humanity is incapable of keeping the Law in its own strength. In his wisdom, Christ was able to keep both in balance because he had come to satisfy the Law and its demands within himself thereby offering Grace for our inability to do the same.

It's the deep mystery of the Christian faith: a Holy God dying for unholy sinners.

And here's the carryover into real life, where rubber meets road: sometimes, we have to set aside our ideological purity in order to find a real life solution. And other times, we have to set aside our high-minded compassion in order to establish a foundation for change. Lately, it seems, that ideology has won out over people: whether it's conservative ideology or liberal, doesn't matter--when you let the law of your ideas drive your compassion out of you, you have lost both the people and the integrity of your ideas.

Life is hard. We are constantly challenged by the decisions we face, and quite often it's easier to live life on the poles than it is to find balance. Sometimes we need to hold hard and fast to our ideals; sometimes, we need to think more about the people. Circumstances can dictate, but not as much as our own will; what we often blame on circumstance is really just our own failure to choose against our own interests.

The fatal flaw in our system of government rests in the words of Lincoln: "government for the people, by the people". Do you see the flaw?


Imperfect, occasionally myopic people.

But the flaw is also it's strength. Here's hoping that as we move forward this election cycle, we can remember that people matter as much as ideas.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sharon Swanepoel February 10, 2012 at 03:44 PM
10:44 am on Friday, February 10, 2012 Wow, playing devil's advocate can certainly open up a whole can of worms. But civil discourse is what it is all about. Imagine how boring it would be if the world was named Stepford.
Gail Lane February 10, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Jason, honestly, that's where I draw my line at teaching creation. If the churches around here aren't doing it, then there's something wrong with the church - not the schools. If appropriate time were spent teaching basics IN THE CHURCHES, there would be no need to augment it in a public school setting. I'd not want my children taught about God by someone who may or may not be qualified to teach it according to MY belief. And which version of the Bible would they be using as a textbook? And Churches are 501(c)3 by choice of their membership, for the benefit of their membership. By the Constitution, the CHURCH is already tax exempt; taking the 501(c)3 status makes contributions tax deductible ... and therefore puts them squarely in line with other non-profit corporations. And yeah, subject to governmental regulations. Can't have it both ways.
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Understood. Just pointing out that the wording was sufficient enough for argument in a court of law. Churches do get some breaks from the exemption, but what the church doesn't have to pay, I certainly do as a minister. My taxes are greater as a self-employed minister than they were as an employee of a traditional NFP...but that's just me being sour. :) And any church that's listed as a 501 (c)(3) is subject to audit at any time. Particularly if the main pastor is politically active...
Grant February 10, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Kris... The "beliefs" of those "numerous" "scientists" are irrelevant without some quantifiable supporting proof of their "theory".To date there is exactly none and until those "numerous scientists" find something their beliefs are simply beliefs. "Faith" if you will . Obligatory link pukeage for real perspective The List of Steves http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/steve/
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Agreed--on both the church's responsibility to teach its doctrine to its adherents effectually and on the 510 (c)(3) stuff.
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 03:57 PM
And I believe this is a record for most comments on any of my posts. I feel so...special. And yet somehow dirty...
Grant February 10, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Clarification on the 501(c)3 issue as applied to churches. The 501(c)3 regs do indeed install some governmental oversight into what might be said from the pulpit. Churches are ,however, exempt from the financial review required of every other 501 (c) 3 "According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A): Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations. (a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status. (c) Exceptions. (1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to— (A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.
Sharon Swanepoel February 10, 2012 at 04:41 PM
When we have that Loanville-Grayson one-year anniversary get together, should I ask if they can serve some Valium with the coffee?
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Don't be silly, Sharon. You'd need something MUCH stronger than that...
Grant February 10, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Obviously we need to meet in a church, with an open bar .. Maybe I can set those pews up at Moe's ....and get him a tax break to boot!
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I'm pretty sure Moe already tried that. Reverend Lovejoy shut him down for copyright infringement.
Grant February 10, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Actually , thats kida of my point . As a minister I can declare some or all of my friend Moe's non residential property "a church" and BOOM , he's no longer on the hook for property taxes. I dont have to hold services ,provide any real or imigined benefit to the community or even prove anything to the government as long as I claim membership in one of the government's "established" tax free religions and even that requirement is tenous. The only reason I havent done such a thing is my own personal integrity and moral compass.
Sharon Swanepoel February 10, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Hey, doesn't Cooper's Corner offer something like that?
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I appreciate the moral compass and integrity, but I do take offense at the idea that churches don't "provide any real or imagined benefit to the community." As someone who has sat by the bed of numerous sick people, served as a comforter for countless mourners, and been officiant at who knows how many weddings (something we share in common!), to say that the church offers nothing to the community is asinine. That's not counting how many various community groups meet on church property to offer support for various illnesses, life circumstances, or just human struggle, or those civic minded groups who meet together in an effort to make things in a given community a little better. True, you don't have to be part of a church to provide or receive those services, but to saying the church offers nothing to a society is just willfully looking at the church in the negative. I don't mind pointing out the things the church needs to improve upon or even laughing at our own silliness. I think that's healthy, fair and much needed. I actually like hearing your point of view and think it's well articulated. But please, pull the rhetoric back just a bit. Not everyone who worships God falls under the broad stroke you just painted.
Grant February 10, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I think you misunderstood Jason , no intention of offending I'm not suggesting that some churches arent a boon to their communities, certainly many ,maybe even most, are . The point that I was trying to make is that " churches" dont HAVE to provide any real or imagined services to get the tax free cookie..Meaning a guy like me with less integrity and upstanding moral values can easily bilk the county (and by extension the citizens) out of their money by nothing more than a simple declaration. There is no oversite like there would be on other non profits, simply say you are a "church" and BOOM you are a church regardless of what , how , who you worship or what if any benefit you might provide to the community in exchange for your tax free status.
Jason Brooks February 10, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I did misunderstand, Grant, and I am truly relieved by the clarification. I must say, it seemed a little more--strident--than your usual musings, and I should have given you the benefit of the doubt. Man, my head hurts. Maybe our Patch soiree should also include free neck massages...
Grant February 10, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Would it be wrong to plug Escape Relaxation Clinic? Assuming it's not wrong to plug Escape Relaxation Clinic I highly recommend Escape Relaxation Clinic as the ultimate in awesomeness .
Kathy February 10, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I for one am happy to see GA as part of the first ten states to be let out from under the yoke of NCLB. Yes, I have mixed feelings about not having federal oversight and hope the politics of education do not leave GA public school in tatters. FWIW, I work on a lot of teachers who are buried under incredible mountains of paperwork due to NCLB. Every teacher I have met feels a huge responsibility to complete the paperwork with integrity which takes a great deal of time. The paperwork alone is staggering and it takes many of them away from actually teaching the kids. The penalties for the teachers, administrators and schools for not completing these giant mountains of paperwork are enough that they all understand the paperwork is must get done. Which means the actual teaching of the kids takes a backseat. There absolutely HAS to be a better way. Yes, NCLB was created with good intentions but the end run has saddled the schools with even bigger problems. Oh and Jason, give me a call and I'll help you with that neck issue. :0] For those who are interested... Escape Relaxation Clinic http://loganville.patch.com/listings/kathy-mackay-lmt
Kim Roberto February 11, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I forgot what the original topic was! But here's my 2 cents anyway. As a speech -language pathologist in a public school, the part of this that galls me is that since we are no longer tied to NCLB, a teacher's evaluation now has to be tied to student achievement. (Race for the Top) Just how am I going to be evaluated compared to a classroom teacher? If my students have noun-verb agreement and proper syntax at the end of the year? If my students can say their /r/ sounds at mid-year and their /r-blends/ by the end of the year. Really? What about art, music, PE? How will they be evaluated? Who drew the best picture, who plays the oboe the best, who can run a 5K without getting out of breath? I mean, really. So, now that one mess is gone (NCLB), another can of worms will open up. And don't get me started on non-motivated students, ELL students, students who change school as often as their underwear.....and the list goes on and on............No matter, my performance (and all types of teachers; classroom and support) will be linked to their success..........OK, I'm off my soapbox (for now!)
Jason Brooks February 11, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Kim - seems like teachers get hosed no matter which way they turn! I didn't realize that Race to the Top was that much of a flop; in your opinion, which system (NCLB vs. RTTT) is best for teachers? (Of course, the answer just may be neither!)
Jason Brooks February 11, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Kathy - thanks for the comment (and the offer of help!). :)
Kim Roberto February 12, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Jason, you're right, I'm going to say "neither." :) But sad to say, I don't have a solution either. There are so many factors to concider, but in order to get funding, rules and demands and unattainable goals are put on teachers. Teachers need to be able to teach. Period. There are so many good ones out there that are bogged down with paperwork and outlandish demands, that they are discouraging kids from even going into the profession. Granted, there are some poor ones out there too (just like in any job) but they get all the press, so the opinion is that teachers are lazy, horrible people, and they only work 180 days (UGH!) I think more time and energy needs to be placed on the "average" student, because they get lost in the shuffle of the gifted (how to challenge them) and the remedial (how to make them meet standards and graduate) so they linger. More emphasis is needed on teaching the trades instead of pushing everyone towards college. And don't get me started on the use of technology in the classroom - it may be well and good to teach how to USE technology, but now so many subjects are taught using the white board, computer games, quizzes on-line etc. that the social aspect of communication is getting lost. (There's another column for you!). I love my job, and want to help all students get a better grasp on improving communication skills and speech proficiency, but at times it is an uphill battle. Now, aren't you sorry you asked!! :)
Tammy Osier February 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
to say that the church offers nothing to the community is asinine. Let me see....feed the homeless, visit folks in jail, pay their families' rent and help them find a job, go around the world and the country building dental clinics and doctor offices, fixing cleft palates, ....all of this free of charge, without government help or $$...got to stop here, but if a person is not actively involved with what a church actually does, they shouldn't speak to the subject. And no referring to the churches and people that make the news media. That's 1% of churches. Every entity has their devils, even the church.
Tammy Osier February 12, 2012 at 01:14 PM
kim, well said.
Tammy Osier February 12, 2012 at 01:16 PM
...and Kathy! Well said as well. Both hit the nail on the head.
Grant February 13, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Tammy writes "to say that the church offers nothing to the community is asinine" Maybe you were "left behind" in Reading Class as NO ONE SAID ANYTHING OF THE SORT , go back and actually READ before you go off.. What is asinine is your assertion that churches dont receive government help or money.. Hello? What is it about "tax free status" that you dont understand? Have a nice day
Tammy Osier February 13, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Uh...scroll back about 10 posts...I cut and pasted it from jason...lol
Grant February 13, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Now read the part where he misunderstood the original comment
Jason Brooks February 13, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Allow me to step in and reiterate that I did, indeed, misunderstand Grant's initial comment above. He was speaking of what he could do hypothetically, not what all churches do de facto. Between his reply to the comment you quoted, Tammy, and my own re-reading of his initial comment, I realized that I had misread the intended point.
Karsten Torch February 14, 2012 at 11:02 PM
That's it - good idea. Think I'm gonna start the "Church of the Fonz" and run with it....


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