What’s Ahead for Education in 2014?
One of the four questions challenging educators in 2014 is “Will schools come up with a plan to stop cheating?” Some of the stories and stats about cheating at every level of our education system are horrifying. But Academia is fighting back:
A college professor named James M. Lang published Cheating Lessons: Learning From Academic Dishonesty. It argued that the best way to combat cheating is to make learning complex and compelling enough that students won’t be able to cheat easily—and that they won’t want to. The new president of Princeton University was so alarmed by the rise of cheating in schools and universities that he assigned incoming students to read philosophy professor Anthony Appiah’s book Honor Code, about the history of morality. People within academia are obviously trying to understand why people cheat and coming up with solutions. Hopefully 2014 will be the year a clearer, more widespread plan to fix this problem emerges.
I’m afraid they’re fighting a losing battle. Without a God-consciousness, fast fading from our society, students will always find ways to cheat the system and beat the teachers.
How Should We Teach the Bible in Public Schools?
This article might just explain the previous one. It begins:
This past summer marked the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Abington Township v. Schempp. That case is most famous for its prohibition of school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools, but it also figures prominently in American educational history for its endorsement of the academic, nonsectarian study of religion in that same setting.
The article critiques some schools for the way they considered “the teachings of the New Testament through the lens of faith,” for teaching Christian apologetics, and for including creationism.
On the other hand it praised schools that “treated the biblical material in ways that respected constitutional limits and diverse religious sensibilities” and goes on to list eight ways they did this, including:
- They recognized the importance of biblical texts as ancient historical sources without lapsing into a tone of assumed historicity.
- They discussed the Bible’s moral and theological claims without presenting them as authoritative for the students.
I accept that public schools must respect the law, that they are not missions or evangelistic campaigns, and that they are not the place to proselytize followers of other religions. However, I do wonder if it would do less spiritual damage to simply drop the Bible teaching from public schools altogether, rather than have it taught like this as just one option among many valid options that you can take or leave at your leisure.
Where Life Has Meaning: Poor Religious Countries
Research indicates that lack of religion is a key reason why people in wealthy countries don’t feel a sense of purpose.
Previous research has shown that wealthy countries typically rank higher on life satisfaction, which is not the same as meaning. Satisfaction has to do with “objective living conditions,” the researchers say, which is why wealthy countries with relatively stable economies and political conditions rank higher. But meaning is more subjective.
The Gallup data showed that countries with lower GDPs ranked higher for meaning. Toward the top were Sierra Leone, Togo, Laos, and Senegal, all of which were in the bottom 50 countries in the world for gross domestic product per capita in 2012. Poorer countries also had lower suicide rates.
When all other factors were accounted for, the researchers found “it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning….Even among countries with similar GDPs, the more religious ones reported higher levels of life meaning.”
Interestingly, in a 2013 Gallup poll, “75 percent thought the country would be better off if more Americans were religious.” Unfortunately, “77 percent of Americans thought religion was losing influence in the U.S.”
Virtue at GQ
Another more uplifting story. One of the most popular blog posts at Gentlemen’s Quarterly Magazine (GQ) in 2013 was a commentary giving men 10 reasons to stop viewing pornography. Anthony Bradley comments:
On GQ’s website the piece registered 24,000 thousand “likes” on Facebook in just a few weeks. The popularity of the post could be a signal that Americans really are interested in discussing moral issues and perhaps GQ should take advantage of this opportunity to include more posts that offer moral direction even if some might ultimately disagree.
He ends with this appeal:
Our world is groaning for virtuous men. Men who reject empty lifestyles characterized by greed, apathy, pride, envy, and gluttony in exchange for a life that pursues the virtues that make our relationships, families, businesses, schools, and communities extraordinary.
Virtuous men are the ones we remember. They inspire us. These are men we want our sons to become and the ones we want our daughters to marry. GQ certainly has an opportunity in 2014 to do something that no other popular magazine seems willing to do by regularly promoting the characteristics that make gentlemen virtuously “smart.”