David’s rhetorical question from Psalm 11:3 has been heavy on my mind for several weeks: “If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” Last week I urged readers to faith even in these troubled times when it seems certain that the foundations of all we know to be true are being destroyed. I am confident in calling God’s people to faith because verses 4 through 7 of Psalm 11 remind us that God is still in control, He is still the standard of righteousness, and He loves His people who perform righteous deeds. I encouraged readers to marinate themselves and their children in God’s word as a way of increasing faith.
Any sane person consuming news media during this first half of 2020 is likely to feel discouraged right about now. A pandemic would be more than enough to cast a pall over any year, but the response to the pandemic of 2020—politicized as it has been—has in some ways been worse than the virus itself. Add to all that uncertainty the civil unrest of recent days and the surprising Supreme Court rulings of last week, and we have more than enough reasons to think all is lost.
I met the most amazing young woman last week. She is a graduate of Baylor’s Honors College, specifically the Great Texts program, and is two years into her teaching career at Live Oak Classical School in Waco, Texas. It is not uncommon for classical educators to meet at conferences in the summer, but coronavirus has cancelled any such opportunities for the summer of 2020. Fortunately, this young lady is the niece of a Trinitas parent and was present at a social gathering to which I had been invited.
Graduation is such a special time in the life of young adults. In the present age it has become arguably the most important rite of passage into adulthood. Eighteen-year-olds across the nation stand on a threshold: thirteen or more years of compulsory schooling is behind them, and the whole world lies ahead. Education, career, marriage, everything is ahead of them, and finally they get to make their own decisions about where to go and what to do.
The “Preacher” in the book of Ecclesiastes is adamant about there being “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). Yet, the whole of humanity, or so it seems, only sits up and pays attention at the promise of something new. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly are introduced to new i-phones with some regularity, and every fall without fail new car models are unveiled in Detroit. Fashions are renewed every season, and some of us can hardly wait to see each season’s new look on the runways or in stores. No, I think it is unlikely the wise Preacher doubted the progressive nature of invention; rather, he speaks of something deeper.
As quarantine restrictions begin to ease all over the world, we should be able to start making some observations about how our weeks of sequestering have affected us. Oh, I don’t mean to enter the conversation about whether quarantining has worked to “flatten the curve” or whether it was the right or wrong action to take or what it has done to the “Economy.” I mean only to make a prediction about how staying locked in our houses and away from the world has affected our humanity.
If we surveyed 100 Americans in the year 2020 for their understanding of vita bona, or the good life, we probably would not get 100 different answers. In fact, we would likely get an overwhelming consensus. Our popular conception of the good life, according to Francis Schaeffer in his timeless classic, How Should We Then Live, is peace and affluence. We desire to live in undisturbed comfort with every possible convenience at our fingertips. We have developed an uncanny ability (or maybe we were born with it) for justifying anything that helps us maintain peace and affluence. Change is not in our nature and especially if it means taking a contentious or unpopular position or diminishing our wealth. But Jesus came with a sword, not peace (Matt 10:34), and he commanded us to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-20).
As COVID19 school closures continue, Florida is being held up to the nation as an example of how well internet based instruction can be done. Still, in almost daily briefings I receive about Florida’s schools, administrators and teachers are dealing with problems ranging from poor connectivity to students simply not showing up for online class. To say teachers, parents, and students everywhere are just trying to make the best of a nearly impossible situation would be the epitome of understatement.
Last week I decided to write about the downside of internet based instruction in an attempt to offer some balance to the idea that online school is the next best thing to being there. I am convinced it is not. Still, the internet does offer schools another tool to overcome the new hurdles we are all facing. In full disclosure, even since I posted last week, Trinitas has increased its online instruction for 9th – 12th grades. Most classes are now offering the option of meeting at least once a week online for some face-to-virtual-face time with instructors. Technology offers us a tool, and we are using it sparingly, cautiously. I suggested last week that the carryover from using the internet for entertainment will taint its use as a tool. Three detrimental effects particularly concern me as an administrator and teacher: passivity, shortened attention span, and diminished imagination.