All posts by Wintery Knight

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Bobby Jindal pushes education reform in Lousiana

Governor Jindal speaks about budget reform
Governor Jindal speaks about budget reform

Last year, my favorite Governor, Bobby Jindal, passed several laws to address discipline problems in the schools. One bill’s goal was to re-establish discipline in classrooms by empowering teachers. Another bill sought to protect teachers from frivolous lawsuits. A third toughens penalties for students who are absent or tardy. That was a great start, especially since it was miles away from the typical teacher union plan to spend more money without any guarantee of better student achievement.

But he goes even further here, in a post dated 2/17/2009. First, he expands the laws governing discipline in the classroom even further.

We will give teachers more authority to remove students from the classroom for unruly behavior, require that parents be notified when their child is removed, and administrators will have to give their teachers feedback and management skills to help them work with misbehaving students.

Additional plans to increase discipline include requiring that suspended students make up missed work, permitting courts to help our schools hold parents accountable for attending mandatory intervention programs with their kids, and to allow schools to work with the courts to enforce truancy penalties. These steps will ensure that not only teachers and administrators will be taking a more active role in discipline – parents will be held accountable as well.

He also proposes to strengthen charter schools.

…we will require that our public elementary and secondary education boards use a high-quality third party review process for approving charter school applications. By ensuring that all applications are measured by the same high-quality standards, we can make certain that only the best applications are approved.

The regulation of charter schools is OK because as I understand it, charter schools are public schools. And lastly, he proposes something that the teacher unions and children will hate, but that parents and taxpayers will love: teacher and student evaluation criteria.

…we will work to implement a comprehensive value-added assessment model, which will aid our schools in better determining teacher effectiveness and student improvement. Our state has completed nationally recognized research, which was recently praised by the National Council on Teacher Quality, dealing with the use of value-added data well-positions in teacher preparation programs to improve our current system. This model takes student achievement into account, which better informs our parents, teachers, and kids on the progress our students are making.

The article also mentions a dropout prevention program that is coming out soon. The press release goes on to discuss budget reforms and coastal infrastructure. He proposes web sites to make budget expenditures transparent to the taxpayers, as well as subjecting all spending to accountability standards.

Bobby Jindal, along with Mark Sanford in South Carolina, are my two favorite governors. Being a person of color myself, it is a real joy for me to see an Indian-American man universally regarded as the savior of the Republican party. In the Republican primaries of 2008, I favored Fred Thompson, because he had good ideas. But Jindal is a policy genius. And at 38 years old, he has youth, charisma and passion. What we need in the Republican party are compelling ideas, and people who are willing to debate with our opponents in order to convince them.

To find out more about Bobby Jindal, check out these links:

Interview with Michael Medved (audio, 25 minutes)
Interview with Rush Limbaugh (PDF)
The American Spectator: Hope Floats on the Bayou
RedState.com: Bobby Jindal Saves Louisiana
Townhall.com: The Future of Conservatism (Isn’t Running for President)
The Weekly Standard: Jindal All the Way
The National Review: The Governor Is Right
The Wall Street Journal: Bayou Boy Wonder
Townhall.com: Want real hope and change? Try Louisiana

12-year-old pro-life girl stuns pro-choice establishment with speech

This amazing 12-year-old girl delivers a defense of the pro-life position using reason and evidence. Be sure that you check out this video of her speech and read the full story here. She’s definitely bound for greatness!

Excerpt from the article:

“She was also told that if she went ahead with that topic, she would not be allowed to continue on in the speech competition,” Lia’s mother wrote in the email to the Moral Outcry blog.  “Initially, I tried helping her find other topics to speak on, but, in the end, she was adamant. She just felt she wanted to continue with the topic of abortion. So she forfeited her chance to compete in order to speak on something she was passionate about.”

At the schoolwide competition, the mom said one pro-choice teacher on the judge’s panel “didn’t even want to hear” the speech, and stepped down from the panel before Lia began.  After the speech, which Lia’s family said was well-received by both students and teachers, the judges initially told Lia she had indeed been disqualified.  But controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia’s family learned the next day that the panel agreed the girl deserved to win the competition.

Some men and women that I’ve met seemed to abandon apologetics and polemics in order to to get along with everyone. They also believe that God wants them to be non-confrontational with people. So they never disagree with others about anything. Well, let this young lady be a lesson to us all about the need to stand up to our opponents. I don’t think we should give up disagreements with others on important things, just so we can feel happy and be popular!

Lia has courage, something that I admire very much. Contrast courageous Lia with Barbara Kay’s piece on abortion, which Stephanie Gray demolished here. As someone who normally loves Barbara Kay’s pro-male, pro-marriage articles, I was really disappointed with her this time.

Lia had to fight hard to get the chance to even speak in the government-run public schools. Another example of how the pro-choice establishment responds to pro-life debaters is here. Jennifer Roback Morse notes that students can’t even defend traditional marriage in public schools, either. My own short defense of the case for the pro-life position is posted here.

William Lane Craig Ontario debate videos (York, Toronto, Waterloo)

Video and audio from William Lane Craig’s January 2009 speaking/debate tour in Ontario, Canada are here.

1. DOES GOD EXIST?
VIDEO: William Lane Craig vs Ronald De Sousa at York University (DivX Video File)

I watched this one and this was a lively debate, with cross-examination. I recommend this one, De Sousa is fully engaged in the debate. They’ve debated before. He really bears his burden of proof and doesn’t give an inch. He makes a lot of emotional denunciations, like “Christians are mean” and “the Bible is mean”. He proposed the unobservable multiverse to explain the fine-tuning. Is this what atheism has come to? Belief in fairies in order to weasel out of the progress of science?

He argues that the laws of physics, (math formulas that describe physical regularities), caused the entire physical universe to come into being. He argues that morality is what most people do in particular times and places, and Craig nails that. I found it silly to argue that morality is what people decide, yet God is expected to conform to this changing standard or he’s evil. I blogged about that problem here. De Sousa’s problem of evil argument is pretty vague. This is a solid engagement!

2. DOES GOD EXIST?
AUDIO: William Lane Craig vs James Robert Brown at the University of Toronto
Part 1 (welcome) Part 2 (Intro) Part 3 (Debate 1) Part 4 (Debate 2) Part 5 (Q&A)

They’ve known each other for a while and debated before. I just listened to the first two speeches and it sounds lame. Brown is a good speaker, but he talks about arguments that Craig never raises, like Aristotle’s prime mover and Behe’s irreducible complexity. He also started out with the genetic fallacy about how beliefs originate. His speech is really disorganized, flipping between snark and argument. He also proposed the unobservable multiverse to explain the fine-tuning. Sigh.

He believes in objectively morality, but he believes that there is no purpose in life, (no reason to follow the moral rules beyond personal satisfaction). He tried to argue the problem of evil, but it was not rigorous. Too much snark about Greek gods and flat earths. Atheists seem to think that the high number of false religions somehow disproves the claim of Christianity to be correct. There are lots of wrong answers to math questions – how does this undermine the correct answer? Because it hurts the other people’s feelings? WHO CARES!

3. DOES GOD MATTER?
VIDEO: William Lane Craig vs Christopher Dicarlo at University of Waterloo (Video)
(Or, watch it in 14 Youtube clips, starting here).

This is a pretty lame debate. Dicarlo is completely out of his element and has probably never debated a Christian scholar in his life. I don’t recommend this debate. I found him to be as uninformed as he was insulting.

I also posted video of Bill Craig’s appearance on the Michael Coren TV show, here. Bill’s latest newsletter talks a bit about his upcoming Quebec tour in February 2009:

Next week I’ll be back in Canada, this time in the even colder climes of Quebec. I have a debate on Jesus’ resurrection scheduled with the Muslim apologist Shabir Ally at McGill University on February 11, sandwiched between lectures I’ll give in French at L’Université Laval and L’Université de Montréal on February 10 and 12 on “Dieu Existe-t-il?” As always we appreciate your prayers!

By the way, I mailed my annual donation for Bill’s ministry today. If you like what Bill does, be sure and stop by his Reasonable Faith web site and leave him a contribution. You want to participate in the work of this fine defender of Christianity. If you can’t spare the money, then please pray for Bill.

Why doesn’t God provide more evidence that he exists?

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Apologetics 315! Thanks for the link Brian!

Over at economist Robert P. Murphy’s blog, a recent post makes the point that Jesus had a reason for teaching in vague parables instead of giving detailed lectures like a university professor.

Jesus used parables to get across a watered-down version of His true message, because the masses were not prepared–as His apostles were–to literally discard their old lives and follow Him 24/7. So they couldn’t possibly understand what His mission really was.

This made me think about the problem of divine hiddenness. You may hear that argument when talking to atheists, as in William Lane Craig’s debate with Theodore Drange, (audio, video). Basically the atheist’s argument is that 1) God wants people to know about him, 2) reasonable people don’t know about him, so then 3) he isn’t there to be found.

Basically, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

Well, Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden. He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him.

Doing the right thing just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants. If it is too obvious that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and do moral things out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us. We are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. The argument requires that God has no possible reason for remaining hidden. When Murray offers a possible reason, the argument is defeated. In order for the atheist’s argument to go through, he must be able to prove that God does not have any reason for being hidden. The atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free will of his creatures.

Michael Murray’s home page is here.

His first paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007). The book chapter from the Cambridge book is here.  The book chapter from the Routledge book is here.

Michael Murray’s papers are really fun to read, because he uses hilarious examples. (But I disagree with his view that God’s work of introducing biological information in living creatures has to be front-loaded).

This exposition of the problem of divine hiddenness also touches on the topic of religious pluralism. One of the reasons why Christians are so soft on making exclusive theological claims is that we don’t talk much about evidence with non-Christians. Try it! It turns out that most people (even Christians) are pretty lazy about investigating what God is really like.

In fact, you can confront people with facts that disprove their religion and they may not care, especially if they are very distracted by day-to-day issues. For example, try telling atheists about the findings of science from the big bang and fine-tuning of the universe. See how quickly they deny that science has any bearing on religion? People don’t want to respond to evidence, and God gives them space to avoid the evidence.

People choose to separate themselves from God for many reasons. Maybe they are professors in academia and didn’t want to be thought of as weird by their colleagues. Maybe they didn’t want to be burdened with traditional morality when tempted by some sin, especially sexual sin. Maybe their fundamentalist parents ordered them around too much without providing any reasons. Maybe the brittle fundamentalist beliefs of their childhood were exploded by evidence for micro-evolution or New Testament manuscript variants. Maybe they wanted something really bad, that God did not give them. How could a good God allow them to suffer like that?

The point is that there a lot of people who don’t want to know God, and God chooses not to violate their freedom by forcing himself on them. God wants a relationship – he wants you to respond to him. (See Matthew 7:7-8)

If any Calvinists are reading this, I’m really sorry that I am wrong, but it was pre-destined that I would be wrong. That’s a little humor for you. Ouch! Stop hitting me!

Here’s more terrific stuff from Dr. Murray:

Who’s Afraid of Religion?“, Inaugural Lecture delivered March 30, 2006. Franklin and Marshall College.

Seek and You Will Find“, in God and the Philosophers. Thomas Morris, editor. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994.

UPDATE 1: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks so much for the link! New readers may want to take a look around since I cover a lot of different topics here, from free speech to economics to science to public policies!

UPDATE 2: Welcome, visitors from Robert P. Murphy’s blog Free Advice. Please take a look around – the purpose of my blog is to help Christians to integrate their faith with other areas of knowledge, especially economics! For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Murphy is the author of the greatest book on economics ever written (and I’ve read The Road to Serfdom!). This is a book for everyone – and it’s the first book laymen should read on economics.

UPDATE 3: Welcome, visitors from Colliding Universes. Thanks for the link, Denyse! Denyse’s other excellent blogs are Post-Darwinist and Mindful Hack.

Porkulus bill reverses welfare reform and nationalizes health care

This post is just a quick summary of what the spendulus bill actually does. The Heritage Foundation notes that the bill reverses welfare reform, threatens religious liberty and effectively federalizes health care.

Against the recommendations of the Congressional Budget Office, he will sign this bill. Despite returning the nation to a sea of dependency by completely reversing President Clinton’s welfare reform in 1996, he will sign this bill. Despite the threat to religious freedom cleverly disguised in the small print, he will sign this bill. Standing steps from the federal agencies he plans on doubling in size through cherry-picked liberal programs, he will sign this bill. Using an economic emergency to shield the liberal goal of federalizing your health care, he will sign this bill. And despite the overwhelming majority of Americans in poll after poll saying ‘no’ to this bill, he will say ‘yes’.

The National Review has more on the reversal of the welfare reform, which was passed by Newt Gingrich and signed by Clinton. Porkulus actually makes the welfare problem worse than before 1996.

Under the provisions in the stimulus bill, states will once again be paid a bounty for expanding their welfare rolls. As reported by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, the federal government will now pay states 80 percent of the cost for each new family they sign up for welfare. That means that states will get $4 for every $1 they spend. This will leave the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), with a funding mechanism similar to the one that supports Medicaid. As Brian Blase argues here, Medicaid’s funding ratio, which gives states $1 to $3 for every dollar they spend, has caused state Medicaid spending to skyrocket. If Medicaid’s dollar-for-dollar model has proved ruinous, Obama’s new $4-to-$1 ratio for welfare will prove, in all likelihood, four times so.

The Cato Institute’s blog explains how porkulus will balloon the budget deficit, and also how it is full of pork. According to the Tax Foundation’s Joseph Henchman, only about 24% of the bill is “tax cuts”, and not the good kind. Arnold Kling, speaking at a Heritage Foundation/Club for Growth event, argues that the right thing to do would have been to cut payroll taxes. Cutting payroll taxes would stimulate the economy. The Competitive Enterprise Institute notes that Cato assembled 200 economists who opposed the Generational Theft Act. CEI also notes that our current national debt is 11 trillion and that we owe 451 billion in interest per year, before porkulus even passes.

CNS News reports that the Generational Theft Act was passed without a single Republican or Democrat in the House or Senate reading it.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) predicted on Thursday that none of his Senate colleagues would “have the chance” to read the entire final version of the $790-billion stimulus bill before the bill comes up for a final vote in Congress.

“No, I don’t think anyone will have the chance to [read the entire bill],” Lautenberg told CNSNews.com.

Or, if you like video, you can see John Boehner’s disgust with the hiddenness of spendulus here. So much for “transparency”. The Democrats also broke their promise to allow the public to see the final version of the bill for 48 hours, before it was voted on. I highly recommend watching this 1 minute clip. At least the Republicans in the House did not provide cover to Obama. He will own the mess he created. Too bad the Democrats aren’t owning Clinton’s Community Reinvestment Act, which caused a lot of this sub-prime lending mess in the first place.

For details on what pork is actually in the porkulus bill, check out Tom Coburn’s list. (This may not reflect the last minute copy from Friday).