Assessing Obama’s 5-point plan for education reform

Found this article on Mercator Net, an Australian site that is really getting my attention with the quality and scope of their articles. This is more than just politics, it’s policy analysis. Here’s Kevin Ryan’s article on Obama’s education plan.

The plan is composed of 5 points:

He promises his administration will promote five reforms in particular: major funding for early childhood education; increased funding for and emphasis on standards and assessment; new funding to recruit, educate and reward teachers; a substantial increase in the number of the country’s charter schools and new funding for programs to expanding life-long learning with a special emphasis on all American’s having another year of education.

Obama is obviously equating more spending with better student performance, an approach that I like to analogize as throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out. The rest of the article deals with the policy implications of the 5 points. The article contains a couple of examples.

Here’s one of the examples:

Historically, it is a very modern idea that money will buy a quality education. Our current experience with funding education hardly supports such a view. Arguably the worst school system in America, the Washington DC schools spends the most dollars per pupil, US$16,650. On the other hand, Utah schools, which relative to the rest of the nation, are outstanding schools spend a third, $5,700, of what is spent in the nation’s capital.

Here’s an excerpt from the analysis of the 5 points:

Every one of the President’s five-point plan means more jobs and influence for the teachers’ union. More early childhood means more teachers and administrators, even though the effects pre-kindergarten and day care are increasingly in doubt. (Finland, whose students recently earned the highest scores in international achievement tests, doesn’t send its children to school until they are seven years old) The Obama Plan ought perhaps be called the NEA’s Full Employment Plan.

Having every America spend an additional year in a classroom sounds wonderful. It will mean a staggering increase tax dollars to fund such an increase. On the other hand, the opportunity costs for an individual student staying away from meaningful salaried work will also be huge.

The article concludes its analysis of the plan with this observation about Obama’s personal life:

As a Chicago politician and now as president, he has exercised school choice for the education of his two daughters, while, de facto, denying it to those parents without his income. The fact of the President’s stonewalling parents’ efforts to get real educational choice, plus the picture of his daughters being driven out the their tony private school, passing the orange school busses delivering Washington’s children to those failing public schools, is the unstated message of his speech.

The article does not mention that Obama himself went to expensive private schools. As Michelle Malkin says, be skeptical that his education will help anyone but teacher’s unions.

I will be tracking the education and health care plans that Obama has proposed closely, to find out who really will benefit from his big government approach.

Apologetics 315 lists the 16 best apologetics podcasts

The list of podcasts is here.

Here are the ones I listen to:

1. Reasonable Faith – William Lane Craig
3. Unbelievable?
6. Defenders Podcast – William Lane Craig
11. Intelligent Design the Future

But there are a bunch of new ones I had never heard of in his list. Check it out!

And let me just plug a podcast that is not related to Christian apologetics: the Investors Business Daily podcast (RSS link). This is by far the best podcast available on issues ranging from economics, to foreign policy to social policy. I highly recommend this podcast.

Michele Bachmann opposes Obama’s pro-abortion bill

Representative Michele Bachmann
Representative Michele Bachmann

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from dcjunkies! Here are some other posts (usually with videos) on Michele: opposing nationalization of banks, explaining free market capitalism, opposing embryonic stem cell research, evaluating Obama’s spending plans, arguing that corporate tax rates are too high.

Michele Bachmann is the most capable and conservative House Representative. In the video below, she explains what Obama’s mis-named “Freedom of Choice Act” would actually do.

I just don’t think it’s right for people to choose to perform activities that result in pregnancy, and take innocent human lives in order to escape the consequences. In fact, it scares me that so many men and women would be willing to hurt other people in order to avoid the responsibility for their own choices.

Life is filled with choices that involve risk. The reason we have speed limits is because we recognize that driving too fast poses a danger to others. And pre-marital sex is no different than speeding. It’s fun, but it’s dangerous. How about this: let’s all try to avoid behavior that is likely to result in hurting innocent people. Is that too hard?

(H/T The Maritime Sentry)

What about those who never heard of Jesus?

One of the most difficult questions for Christians to answer, especially when posed by adherents of other religions, is the question of what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus? In this post, I will explain how progress in the field of philosophy of religion has given us a possible (and Biblical) solution to this thorny question.

First, Christianity teaches that humans are in a natural state of rebellion against God. We don’t want to know about him, and we don’t want him to have any say in what we are doing. We just want to appropriate all the gifts he’s given us, do whatever we want with them, and then have eternal bliss after we die. We want to do whatever we want and then be forgiven, later.

Along comes Jesus, who, through his sinless life and his death on the cross, heals that rift of rebellion between an all-good God and rebellious man. Now we have a real understanding of the fact that God is real, that he has power over death, and that he has very specific ideas on what we should be doing. If we accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and follow his teachings, we can avoid the penalty of our rebellion.

The only problem is that in order to appropriate that free gift of reconciliation, people need to actually know about Jesus. And there are some people in the world who have not even heard of him. Is it fair that these other people will be sent to eternal separation from God, just because they happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Enter William Lane Craig to save the day. His solution is that God orders the world in such a way that anyone who would freely choose to acknowledge Jesus and appropriate his teachings in their decision-making will be given eternal life. God knows in advance who would respond, and chooses their time and place of birth, and he supplies them with the amount of evidence they need.

And this agrees with what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul says this in his apologetic on Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-31:

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.
23 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘  N D ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In this research paper, Craig explains in detail how God foreknows how people will choose in every set of circumstances, and how God uses that knowledge to get everyone where they need to be without violating their free will. God wants the best for everybody, and has ordered to whole universe in order to give each of us our best opportunity for eternal life.

Here is a summary of the  what is in his paper:

The conviction of the New Testament writers was that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. This orthodox doctrine is widely rejected today because God’s condemnation of persons in other world religions seems incompatible with various attributes of God.

Analysis reveals the real problem to involve certain counterfactuals of freedom, e.g., why did not God create a world in which all people would freely believe in Christ and be saved? Such questions presuppose that God possesses middle knowledge. But it can be shown that no inconsistency exists between God’s having middle knowledge and certain persons’ being damned; on the contrary, it can be positively shown that these two notions are compatible.

Go read this paper and equip yourself to answer this common question!

And now I want to close by making a general point. There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind encounters problems, like the hiddenness of God, or the problem of evil, the problem of Cookie monster objections (thanks, Truthbomb!), or religious pluralism, and they respond by leveraging that problem in order to justify rejecting God and going their own way.

Even uninformed Christians read books like “The Da Vinci Code”, and avoid the arguments and evidence that would defeat the objections raised by that book. Why? They want to be lazy, or to fit in, or to pursue pleasure apart from God. This is because if we don’t know that God is real for certain then we won’t feel rationally compelled to be good. And that’s why many Christians go out of their way not to find out the truth about these thorny problems.

And doubts also relieve us of the burden of evangelizing. Uninformed Christians know that their doubts give them freedom to keep silent about God, so they can get along with non-Christians. They think that keeping the truth about God to themselves, and not being ready and available to answer questions, is loving. But it’s really just selfishness. It doesn’t help non-Christians to keep the truth from them.

So why do some Christians hide the truth from others? It’s because they really do not believe that God will exclude people based on their beliefs about Him, even though Jesus says so in many places. Deep down, we believe that God’s purpose for humans is to be happy. When Christians don’t try to find answers to difficult questions like religious pluralism, they end up softening the Bible’s exclusive claims based on their emotions.

This is not what ambassadors are supposed to do – we are not free to make up our own doctrines and then lie to people in order to be happy and popular.

The second group is willing to spend time and effort to assess whether science, history, philosophy, etc.  support Christianity. This kind of person is willing to go where the evidence leads. They don’t jump on doubts and use them to justify disobedience. They are willing to be public (i.e. – “divisive”) about their faith and put God first, above worldly goals, like popularity.

The whole point of life is for God to draw people to himself in a two-way relationship. He reveals himself a little, and we respond and pursue him. How about you? Do you want to know for certain whether God is real? Are you willing to give up everything to follow him? Or would you rather he just keep out of your busy life and your subjective purposes in the world?

UPDATE: A related post over at Tough Questions Answered on whether Jesus is required to be rightly related to God and to get eternal life.

Different perspectives on the days of Genesis

Over at Tough Questions Answered, they survey different views on the days of creation described in Genesis. Basically, there are two views: the young-earth creationist view, the old-earth creationist view. (Theistic evolution is nothing but atheism).

As my bio describes, I favor the old-earth view. I believe in micro-evolution (adaption to environment within different body plans), but I don’t believe that macro-evolution has been demonstrated in the fossil record or in the lab or in mathematical models of likely mutations and development parthways.

Christians are delighted to that the Bible is in agreement with what scientists have discovered about the origin of the universe, and it’s careful design to support the minimal requirements for complex life of any conceivable kind (given our physical laws and chemical diversity). But there is still one apparent disagreement between the Bible and science.

The apparent disagreement is that the book of Genesis describes the creation (asah, bara) of the earth as taking place in a series of days (yom). But there seems to be a tension between 6 24-hour days and a 4 billion year old earth. Are we stuck with a contradiction between science and Scripture here?

Here’s what TQA says:

The word yom can mean several things in Hebrew.  It can refer to a 24-hour period or it can refer to longer periods of time.  Which is the correct interpretation in Genesis 1?

In fact, Genesis 2:4 uses the word yom to describe the entire week of creation. And, St. Augustine, writing in the 5th century, interpreted the yoms of Genesis to be long periods of time, not 24-hour days. (And he also predicted the beginning of time at the creation).

For a solid scientific treatment that explains the possible meanings of yom and tries to reconcile it with what science tells us about the age of the earth, take a look at this paper by Dr. Walter Bradley of Baylor University.

Here is an excerpt that explains what the paper is about:

In this paper we would like to focus on the interpretation of the Hebrew words “yom” and “bara/asah” as they are used in the early chapters of Genesis to describe the time frame and mechanism of creation. A careful examination of both biblical and scientific data will be summarized. A critique of the current models based on this data will be made leading to our summary of how at present we think one may best harmonize all of the available information.

I think there are solid young-earth creationists out there, like Paul Nelson and Marcus Ross, but I agree with Bradley and Augustine on this question.

One last thing – the dividing line between Christian and non-Christian views on this issue depends on how you answer this question: “Does nature, including the realm of biology, show signs of having being created and designed by an intelligent agent – signs that are independent of the religious beliefs of observers”.

Both young earth and old earth creationists answer “yes”. Yes, the universe shows signs of being programmed by an Engineer. Atheists and “theistic evolutionists” answer no, there universe was not programmed by an Engineer. Intelligent design people also answer “yes”, but their theory is strictly mathematics (probability theory). What Genesis says is not relevant to intelligent design.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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