STOP the War on Children

June 12, 2011

June, No Longer the Month of Brides?

Dr. Karen Gushta

The month of June used to be associated with brides and weddings. Now President Obama has proclaimed it “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.”

 

Obama is not the first president to make such a proclamation. In 1999 and 2000, President Clinton marked June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” Ten years later, more categories of “proud” gender types have been added.   

President George W. Bush declined to bow to pressure from homosexual activists to make similar declarations. His Justice Department also barred a group of federal employees from celebrating the month with this appellation.

Why designate June as “LGBT Pride Month?” As The Daily Caller points out, “June was chosen in honor of the 1969 Greenwich Village riots at the Stonewall Inn where gay rights advocates clashed with New York City police over alleged discrimination.”

It was more than a “clash.” At one point police barricaded themselves inside the bar while the angry mob outside tried to set the bar on fire and used a parking meter as a battering ram in an effort to break down the door to get at the policemen inside.

 

The event, which took place in the early hours of June 28, 1969, is marked as the beginning of the “gay rights” movement. Soon after, the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was formed. The GLF was short-lived, but it introduced the term “gay” to Americans, most of whom would not imagine calling the homosexual lifestyle “gay.”

For 20 years, homosexual activists made modest impact on American culture at large. Then, in 1989, two Harvard homosexual intellectuals, Hunter Madsen and Marshall Kirk, teamed up to write After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s.   

 

Jonathan Kirsch wrote at the time in The Los Angeles Times that “the essential message of the book is an urgent demand for a fundamental change in the very nature of gay activism. The gay community, Kirk and Madsen argue, has resorted to the wrong arguments, the wrong symbols, and the wrong acts of protest. And the authors of ‘After the Ball’ think that they have a better idea.”

Their “better idea” was to exchange the tools of violent protests and barricades exemplified by the Stonewall Riots for “the story boards and 30-second spots of Madison Avenue, a kind of sanitized upscale media radicalism that finds mass demonstrations to be ‘ghastly freak shows’ and prefers highway billboards that ‘earnestly propound appealing truisms, the safer and more platitudinous, the better.’”

Kirk and Madsen said it themselves, “We’re talking about propaganda.”

Rather than protesting with “all the screamers, stompers, gender-benders, sadomasochists, and pederasts, and confirm America’s worst fears and hates” Kirk and Madsen advocated a “continuous flood of gay-related advertising.” Such advertising would depict gays “in the least offensive fashion possible.” And, more significantly, it would make “homo-hating beliefs and actions look so nasty that average Americans will want to dissociate themselves from them.”

As Kirsch observes, “This is pure propaganda, of course, but it is propaganda on the highest levels of insight and calculation.”

It is also propaganda that in a large part succeeded during the 1990s in changing the thinking of many Americans. In his June 1999 proclamation, President Clinton claimed that “gay and lesbian Americans” were serving “openly and proudly” in the federal government. In his 2000 proclamation, he bragged that “more openly gay and lesbian individuals serve in senior posts throughout the Federal Government than during any other Administration.”

President Obama’s proclamation tried to best Clinton’s record by listing all of his administration’s activities, such as the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the appointment of openly homosexual individuals to executive branch and judicial positions.  

 

According to one commentator, efforts like these could qualify President Obama to be called “the first gay president.” Writing in TheVoiceMagazine.com, Brian Burke observed that in this administration we’re seeing more being done “to promote the gay agenda than in any other American presidency in the history of the United States of America.”  

 

Burke concludes, “Christians should never forget that homosexuality is sinful behavior …. it doesn’t matter what law is passed or what proclamation is made, sin can’t be legalized either, no matter how many people agree. Throughout the Bible Scripture is clear that homosexuality will always be a sin. The President … is wrong to celebrate the lifestyle as if that’s OK.”

 

Nevertheless, celebration of the homosexual lifestyle was part of the U.S. Department of Education’s first LGBT Youth Summit held in Washington D.C. on June 6 and 7.  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius addressed the group, telling them that they have a “strong voice” and the Obama administration is hearing it. “I want to tell you, you have a friend in this administration who will stand beside you each and every step along the way,” Sebelius said.

 

The administration’s friendship was affirmed by a reporter for the homosexual activist Human Rights Campaign who wrote that “In addition to Assistant Deputy Secretary Kevin Jennings and many of his DOE staff members, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies were well represented.  Many of the federal agency representatives ‘came out’ as LGBT while speaking at the two-day meeting.”

 

But how is the example of government employees “coming out” going to help homosexual youth who, according to conference presenters, “are more prone to exhibit high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, and running away from home?”

 

Conferences sponsored by the Education Department and proclamations that encourage “pride” in their homosexual lifestyles will not help these youth. Christians must “graciously yet urgently speak the truth in love to young people who are hurting themselves with the ‘LGBT’ lifestyle,” as a recent Family Research Council prayer letter urged.

 

Those who believe in the power of Jesus Christ to forgive, heal, and restore must determine to stand together in opposition to our government’s efforts to promote harmful and sinful sexual practices among our youth. Let our proclamation be of Jesus Christ and His willingness to receive all who would come to Him.

 

And then, maybe we can get back to June as the month of brides.

 

~~

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

June 3, 2011

He’s Gone, But Not Forgotten

By Dr. Karen Gushta

When homosexual activist Kevin Jennings quietly left his post as “safe schools czar” at the Department of Education, the news barely made a ripple. Although pro-family advocates can rejoice, they should not underestimate Jennings’ ability to influence America’s children in his new post as CEO of non-profit group, Be the Change, Inc. The organization works closely with AmeriCorps, the government agency that funds community works and public sector programs in education, health, public safety, and the environment.

When Jennings was appointed by President Obama, Jim Hoft correctly noted at Gateway Pundit that his appointment was primarily due to the fact that he had founded the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 1990.  By 2007, Jennings was pulling down a salary of more than $270,000 as GLSEN’s executive director. But his goal was more than personal enrichment. His homosexual activist organization led the way in getting government schools to introduce programs intended to promote acceptance of homosexuality through anti-bullying curricula that teach tolerance of homosexual students.  

One of GLSEN’s tools is a “recommended reading list.” As Hoft reported, “GLSEN maintains a recommended reading list of books that it claims ‘furthers our mission to ensure safe schools for all students.’” The books are hardly ones that “all students” should read, however.

Purportedly the books help “gay kids” by raising their self-esteem, and “straight kids” who read them are supposed to become more aware and tolerant of homosexual kids and stop bullying them. In fact, these books expose young people to homosexual behaviors and lifestyles in a graphic and sexually explicit way.

According to Hoft, “Book after book after book contained stories and anecdotes that weren’t merely X-rated and pornographic, but which featured explicit descriptions of sex acts between pre-schoolers; stories that seemed to promote and recommend child-adult sexual relationships; stories of public masturbation, anal sex in restrooms, affairs between students and teachers, five-year-olds playing sex games, semen flying through the air.”

In his book, Radical Rulers, Robert Knight notes that while Jennings was the leader of GLSEN, it established “gay/straight” alliances in schools, developed a “heterosexism questionnaire” that encouraged kids to question their sexuality, and established events such as “Day of Silence,” and “No Name-Calling Week.” According to Knight, these events are promoted “under the guise of discouraging bullying,” but in reality, “kids are taught to promote homosexuality and accuse anyone who thinks it is immoral of being a bigot and hater.”

While he was safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings met several times with the executive director of Christian Educators Association International, Finn Laursen. Nevertheless, in the past he has been vocal in dismissing the views of Christians.  

Robert Knight wrote that Jennings spoke to a conference at a church in 2000 where he called Moral Majority and Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell a “terrorist,” and said, “We have to quit being afraid of the religious right. We also have to quit—I’m trying to find a way to say this—I’m trying not to say, ‘[F—] ‘em!’ which is what I want to say, because I don’t care what they think! [audience laughter] Drop dead!”

So given his track record, is it time to breathe a sigh of relief that children in America’s schools are now safe from Kevin Jennings’ influence?

That might be premature.

Given Jennings’ track record and his avowed dedication to the cause of normalizing homosexuality in America, it might be wiser to assume that Jennings’ move to Be the Change is based on his belief that it will give him a wider platform to promote the causes that are near and dear to him.

Founded by Alan Khazei in 2008, Be the Change states that its goal is to create “national issue-based campaigns by organizing coalitions of non-profits, social entrepreneurs, policymakers, private sector and civic leaders, academics, and citizens.” The first campaign it launched was ServiceNation, a lobbying effort that gathered over 270 organizations in support of the Kennedy Serve America Act, touted as “the greatest expansion of national service in our country in 60 years.”

Addressing the Service Nation Summit, Khazei said, “We believe that the idea of America is ennobled and the future of America is strengthened when Americans come together to serve our country.”

Perhaps Jennings hopes he can have a hand in shaping the direction of that service. He’s taking charge at a very propitious time. In 2011 the second campaign, Opportunity Nation, was launched as the website proclaimed that children in America have less of a chance for improving their economic situation than those born into low-income households in the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, or Germany.

How Jennings will shape this effort remains to be seen. After 20 years leading the homosexual cause, it seems safe to say that he will find ways to infuse the goals of the homosexual agenda into the new campaign.

Be the Change, Inc. is not alone in its efforts to rally America’s citizens to bring change to their communities. Samaritan’s Purse is training tens of thousands of volunteers to bring relief and assistance in the name of Christ to those whose lives have been ravaged by the recent floods and tornadoes. Glenn Beck is encouraging people to seek “Enlightenment, Education, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship” so our nation will be prepared for the impending world crisis that radical Islamists and Leftists are fomenting in the Middle East.  

America is at a crossroads. And there are many options for those who want to be “part of the solution and not part of the problem.” Coral Ridge Ministries is now offering a new option in its ongoing effort to inspire believers in their daily lives with the power of a biblical worldview. Community in Action is a new grassroots outreach that equips and encourages believers to find God’s call on their lives and connect their passions and abilities to that call in order to transform the culture and their communities for Christ.

It’s clear that activists like Kevin Jennings are not going to stop their efforts to transform the culture according to a vision that distorts God’s design for sexuality and human relationships.

The question is—will Christians take up the challenge to work with the same degree of zeal?

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

March 8, 2011

A Call to Dragon Slayers

By Dr. Karen Gushta

It would appear that the new Republican-controlled House is taking its 2010 election mandate seriously by cutting some education funding from the current year budget. But how seriously?

 

According to Education Week, the U.S. House of Representatives “slashed” this year’s U.S. Department of Education budget by more than $5 billion when it approved its funding bill by “an almost strictly party line vote of 235-189” on February 19.

 

Senate Democrats are already mustering their forces in opposition. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chair of the Senate subcommittee that funds education, warned, “From crib to college, students will be at a disadvantage if the House proposal is enacted,” Harkin opined that “the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases while continuing to make investments in education.”

 

“Investing in education” has rhetorical appeal to parents, 46 percent of whom believe that schools need more money. But The Heritage Foundation has shown that over the past 25 years during which education spending increased by 138 percent, all indicators of educational improvement have remained flat.

 

Current spending reductions need to be put in perspective. In 2009, The Federal Department of Education (FDOE) received over $100 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Bill.”

 

As The Heritage Foundation reported, some $80 billion in stimulus funds went “for K-12 education expenditures and nearly all of that is designed to help states ‘recover’ from budget shortfalls and prevent teacher layoffs.” Then in 2010 another $10 billion in “emergency” aid was dished out, presumably to save teacher’s jobs.

 

The additional $10 billion was approved by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, without regard to the fact that by April 2010 over $36 billion of stimulus funding for education was still unspent. In the past two years, the FDOE received over $110 billion to distribute as it saw fit. Nevertheless, that apparently is not enough to feed the growing federal education leviathan. The current year’s budget request is $71 billion—$15 billion more than its 2010 budget of $56 billion.  Sen. Harkin’s crocodile tears not-with-standing, a cut in the current year budget of $5 billion still expands the ever burgeoning federal education budget by $10 billion.

 

It should be noted that Democrats have not been solely responsible for this monumental expansion of federal educations spending. It has been quietly growing under each succeeding president since Ronald Reagan.

 

The FDOE was set up under the Carter administration with a $14.5 billion budget and more than 4,000 employees, all transferred from other departments. As the Cato Institute noted in a handbook of policy recommendations produced for the 108th Congress (2003-2004), “Proponents claimed that cost savings would be realized, but opponents pointed out that a new department would require not only a new secretary but also the corresponding assistant secretaries, under secretaries, support staff, etc. . . . All of those would be necessary for the new department to look and act like a bona fide cabinet department.”

 

According Cato, “Critics of the department also pointed to the Department of Energy, formed two years earlier, which had been the subject of a tangle of regulations and confusing policies. Rep. John Rousselot (R-Calif.) said: ‘If you like the Department of Energy, you’ll love the Department of Education. You’ll have every bureaucrat in Washington looking at your school district.’”

 

Thirty-two years later, it’s clear whose predictions have come true. George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program and Barak Obama’s Race to the Top, have brought bigger budgets and more Washington bureaucrats looking at our school districts than ever before. As Cato reported, after the creation of the Department of Education, federal spending on education increased at twice the rate it had before.

 

President Bush and the 108th Congress ignored the Cato Institute’s policy recommendations to “abolish the Department of Education and return education to the state, local, or family level, as provided by the Constitution.” Instead, during Bush’s eight years in office, the FDOE’s budget grew by a whopping 33 percent, increasing from $42.2 billion in 2001 to $56 billion in 2008.

 

The notion of “investing in education” is appealing, but a hard look at previous investments shows little improvement for all the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that have been given to the federal educational establishment to distribute.

 

Federal money is the carrot each administration since President Lyndon Johnson has used to entice states to get on board with its particular educational goals. Now President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are pushing states to sign on to “Core Standards”—another term for a national curriculum—something the majority of states deplored in the past.

 

The Department of Education may be giving carrots to the states, but it’s larding its own trough with pork. There are now five thousand government workers running its programs and agencies. All of these workers, of course, receive salaries substantially higher than their private sector counterparts.

 

When will the American taxpayers rise up and say enough is enough?  It’s time to take back control of America’s schools and slay dragon FedEd with its voracious appetite by abolishing the Federal Department of Education and returning education to the state, local, and family level, as provided by the Constitution.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

February 24, 2011

Four Steps to Downsize Public Education and Balance State Budgets

 

By Dr. Karen Gushta

These days, there are few of us who have not experienced budget belt tightening, either at home or at work or both. Families and businesses across the country are cutting back on spending by downsizing and instituting austerity measures. Nevertheless, teachers’ unions and school districts are finding it hard to adjust to this new reality.

 

In Wisconsin, the teachers union shut down schools to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to reduce a state budget deficit of $137 million. Teachers called in sick after Walker proposed that state workers contribute 5.8 percent of their paychecks to their pensions and another 12.6 percent (half the national average) to their health insurance.

 

Although the governor’s plan would avoid laying-off teachers, it was immediately opposed by the union. “This is a case of big government at its worst,” said AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy in a statement, as teachers carried placards outside the state capitol comparing Gov. Walker to Hitler and Egypt’s deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

 

Reports were confirmed that some schools had closed, and school children were taken to Madison to join the protestors. Such actions are hardly in the interest of Wisconsin students. Sixty-six percent of public-school eighth graders rated below “proficient” in reading. They should be getting more instructional time, not less.

 

Wisconsin is not alone in facing budget deficits. Many states, like Wisconsin, are dealing with the problem by cutting education funding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 34 states and the District of Columbia have made cuts in K-12 education funding due to budget deficits.

Education is the largest component of state budgets, with around 45 percent of expenditures going to elementary, secondary, and higher education combined. To help balance their budgets, many states are simply cutting their funding formulas so school districts receive fewer dollars per student. For example, Florida and Maine are giving districts $140 less per pupil for the current year, and South Carolina’s districts will receive $95 less. Georgia’s governor has proposed cutting per pupil spending for the current budget year by $115 and $189 for the coming fiscal year.

 

With cuts like these, school districts will have to look carefully at spending—and in some cases that is long overdue. In Broward County, Florida, a district that has been plagued by corruption for a number of years, a grand jury recently released a scathing report critical of district school superintendent Jim Notter and school board members, charging them with “gross mismanagement” and “apparent ineptitude.”

 

The Miami Herald said, “The report criticizes the district for incomplete and inadequate construction records, untrained inspectors, and wasteful spending. It cites the board’s decision to spend billions over the last 10 years, leaving taxpayers with $2 billion in long term debt.”

 

Broward County has the sixth largest school district in the nation. With over 250,000 students, more than 17,000 teachers, over 290 schools, and an annual budget of more than $5 billion, it would be a challenge for any school board to oversee. Managing a district this size requires the training and expertise of a corporate CEO, something few school superintendents acquire as they work their way up through the ranks to higher levels of administration.

 

Although the Broward County School District’s woes may in part be attributed to its size, a lack of financial transparency may also be to blame. Across the nation, school district spending figures are notoriously difficult for the public to obtain—a situation that only encourages corruption and cronyism. Adam Schaeffer, in a report for the Cato Institute called “The Real Cost of Public Schools,” says that most people, including public school parents, don’t know how much their local school district is spending. When surveyed, only seven percent of Florida residents came close to the figure reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But Floridians can’t be faulted for their ignorance. It’s difficult to find out the true numbers. Not only is NCES data three to four years out of date, districts typically don’t report real costs in their budgets. They hide the true costs by excluding categories such as capital costs, debt service, employee benefits such as health insurance and retirement funds, and even transportation.

So what should states faced with falling revenues do to address the challenges of reduced per-pupil funding? First, large unmanageable districts such as Broward County should be broken into smaller units where accountability and transparency can be the norm. Across the nation, the ratio of staff to students is a staggering 1:1. Charter schools and private schools already demonstrate that smaller administrative units can be more efficient than large centralized systems. And it’s a well-known fact that private school students consistently outperform their public school peers on SATs.

 

Second, accounting and reporting requirements should be put in place to ensure that district budgets provide a true picture of where state funds are being spent.

 

Third, balanced budget requirements should be mandatory, so that taxpayers are not left with long-term debt in their school districts.

 

Finally, there is one more suggestion that invariably gets dismissed out of hand. As states face budget deficits, it’s time to consider “downsizing” the government education establishment. Giving parents more school choice would effectively do this. Tuition tax credits or vouchers would enable more parents to send their kids to private schools. Removing excessive bureaucratic regulation of homeschooling would open up this option to many more families.

 

As it stands, some states have draconian regulations that effectively keep parents from homeschooling, and almost all the states are notoriously reluctant to give parents tuition tax credits—much less vouchers. Where teacher unions control the governor and the state legislature, fear mongering wins the day. Unions argue that such measures would destroy the public schools. Judging from what’s happening in Madison, Wisconsin, and Broward County, Florida, it looks like the teacher unions and school boards are already doing so.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

February 21, 2011

The End Goal of Obama’s “Race to Educate Our Kids”

By Dr. Karen Gushta
President Obama devoted a thousand words to education in his State of the Union Speech on January 25. “Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success,” he claimed. “But,” he added, “if we want to win the future—if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas—then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”
Winning the education race, according to President Obama, also means that by 2020 America should “once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” He challenged Americans “as citizens, and as parents,” to ask ourselves whether we “are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”
“That responsibility,” the President said, “begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.  We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”
There are few who would dispute the President on these points. Many of us might even have applauded him. All of the above statements are truisms—like stating that we should have clean water and the airlines should run on time.
What’s the problem, then, with the President’s remarks on education?
In my view, it was the context. In connecting America’s economic success to “giving every child a chance to succeed,” President Obama is following in the steps of the past three presidents, each of whom tried to shape America’s education system to further their economic goals for America. The President’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, explains the connection this way: “We have to educate our way to a better economy.”
George Leef, Director of Research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, disagrees. “Just like the notion that federal deficit spending will revive the economy, the idea that getting more young Americans through college will make the country more competitive and prosperous is utterly mistaken.” Leef points out that since 1971, we have been “graduating many young people from college who learn little and will wind up in jobs that most high school kids could do.”
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is
hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.”
As I note in my book, The War on Children, the idea of educating for virtue, which entails learning “what is worth having,” has been replaced by the view that schools should be producing “workers for the world.”
Interestingly, both those who believe in American exceptionalism and those who don’t tend to support this view. “Exceptionalists” want education to maintain America’s current status as the number one economy in the world by providing highly trained workers. “Transnationalists” want to transform America’s role among the nations by training our children to think globally and work for world peace and social justice.
What’s missing, however, in both these views is the idea, as expressed by President Reagan, that education should introduce youth to “what is worth having”—that is, the highest ideals of civilization. Such was the goal of traditional “liberal education,” which taught the classics: English literature, the humanities, and moral virtues. Liberal education, (drawing from the Latin root liber—meaning “free, independent, unrestrained”) was intended to free students from the shackles of ignorance and provincialism by introducing them to the great minds, great ideas, and the great books of civilization—primarily Western Civilization rooted in the Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic. 

In the mid-twentieth century, this view of education went into a free fall decline in colleges and universities across America. The emphasis shifted to professional education, and radical professors inserted courses rooted in the ideology of race, class, and gender.  General education requirements, which provided students with a broad perspective on the academic disciplines, were dropped. As Judge Robert Bork wrote, students learned “information about narrow corners of subjects, but no conception of the larger context that alone can give the niches meaning.” Rather than being “freed from provincialism,” students are now being indoctrinated into political correctness.
Most secular colleges and universities have abandoned the idea that there is a central body of knowledge that all educated persons should have, which is the central premise of the liberal education curriculum. According to one source, as of 2009, only four percent of students in the United States attend the eight percent of colleges that still provide a liberal education.
What with the high cost of college, the real possibility of being underemployed upon graduation, and the likelihood that all they’ll gain is knowledge of “narrow corners of subjects,” high school students should not assume that college is the best route to finding God’s vocational calling on their lives.
As Dr. Del Tackett, educator and host of Coral Ridge Ministries’ Cross Examine television program, has suggested, young people should ask themselves, “Do I want to write my own story, or would I rather be part of the story of an all-wise and loving God?”
Then, whether it’s a liberal education, a professional one, or an alternative route to Christian service  or vocation, they can be sure of God’s direction—and, “Where His finger points, His hand will make a way.”

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

January 6, 2011

The High Cost of College: Is It Worth It?

Americans now owe more on their student loans than on their credit cards. A recent CNBC special, The Price of Admission: America’s College Debt Crisis, stated that college debt is approaching $1 trillion. Two-thirds of America’s college students who will toss their mortarboards into the air at graduation will be leaving college at least $24,000 in debt.

It may not be a wise investment. These days a college degree doesn’t guarantee the kind of income that is required to pay off big student loans in a reasonable amount of time. According to a new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the greater percentage of today’s college grads end up underemployed. Twenty million students graduated from college between 1992 and 2008. During this same period, 12 million college grads took jobs that didn’t require a college education. This amounts to 60 percent of these grads being underemployed.

This picture is not deterring President Obama from his goal to have “a higher share of [college] graduates than any other nation on earth” by 2020. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated for the CNBC audience, “We have to educate our way to a better economy.” George Leef, Director of Research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, calls this agenda “absurd.” “Just like the notion that federal deficit spending will revive the economy, the idea that getting more young Americans through college will make the country more competitive and prosperous is utterly mistaken.”

Leef points out that since 1971, we have been “graduating many young people from college who learn little and will wind up in jobs that most high school kids could do. Why should we want more of them?”

The plan may be absurd. One could also call it immoral. According to CNBC, many universities, especially those classified as “for profit,” encourage students to take out student loans regardless of their need, and then give them debit cards to make it easy for them to spend as they wish. During the past decade, enrollment in these colleges has ballooned by 300 percent—ten times the rate of all other post-secondary programs. Although for-profit schools are private businesses, much of their revenues come from tax dollars by way of federal student aid. The largest among them, the University of Phoenix, receives 90 percent of its revenue from federal loans and grants.

Often such institutions cater to “non-traditional” students who want to take evening classes or courses online. Enrollments are not limited and admission standards are lower. Operating on a “pay to play” system, they make it easy for students to get student loans. Students may take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt with the hope that their college degree will be their ticket to a well-paying job.  Such was my experience teaching at a school that offered accelerated teacher education courses to non-traditional students.  Many of these students were working as low-paid teacher aides and had families to support. Usually they would graduate about $35,000 in debt with no guarantee they would be able to pass the state competency exam required to obtain a teaching certificate. If they didn’t pass the teacher certification exam, they were stuck in their low-paying jobs.

Today’s graduates are competing against a higher number of unemployed who have more skills and experience. Even those with degrees in business or other seemingly marketable areas find it hard to land their first “real job” in today’s economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of those making less than $20,000 a year have a bachelor or masters degree.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe that the purpose of higher education is strictly vocational. Far from it. I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that a liberal education should teach one “to write, think and argue inductively, while drawing upon evidence from a shared body of knowledge.” As he explains, however, this is not the kind of higher education students now find at most universities that are controlled either by the “therapeutic academic Left,” which views subjects through the lens of oppressed people groups, or the “utilitarian Right” that has put business and finance courses in the curriculum core. And even if a university is not an ivory tower of Babel or a diploma mill, its students are often more serious about “beer and circus” than they are about receiving an education that broadens their mental horizons and introduces them to the greatest thinkers of the ages.

Finding one’s true Christian vocation may involve getting a college degree, but not necessarily. If students are academically unprepared for college or have no clear career goals, I seriously question whether it is ethical to encourage young people to take on huge debt in order to attend college or a university.

Nevertheless, there is one way to cut down the time it will take to pay off your huge college debt. Go to work for the government. The government can garnish your wages if you’re working in the private sector and you stop paying on your student loans. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, however, allows those who work in the public sector—that includes those represented by teachers’ unions and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—to default on their federal student loan after making payments for 10 years. Since the federal government is now the sole provider of college loans, taxpayers will be paying the bill as people start “taking advantage” of this program, which was instituted in 2007.

Today’s Christian youth need to consider their vocational calling prayerfully and with care. There is much at stake—not only for them personally in the near-term, but for the future of the nation as well. If they are burdened with debt and tempted to work for the government or take a high paying job just to pay off their loans, they may side-line God’s vocational calling. Then, although they may be financially secure, the church and their communities will be the poorer for it.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. She is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Karen served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a PhD. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

March 9, 2010

The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar

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The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar

by Karen Gushta

I may be stepping on to a minefield here by commenting on the recent Academy Awards, but I can’t resist making some comparisons between the one that walked off with all the awards, The Hurt Locker, and the box office success, Avatar. There is a point to be made, I think, in comparing the two movies.

Since my comments are based on second hand accounts—I didn’t see either one—you can dismiss this and stop reading here. But as I read the reviews, (you can too by going http://www.metacritic.com) I saw something that touches on a couple of themes I wrote about in The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk.

In the chapter, Heroes and Heroines: Virtue and Vice Redefined, I note that since the ‘60s our culture has been missing heroes. I referred to Peter Gibbon’s research and book, A Call to Heroism to establish the point. I agree with Gibbon’s that our children need heroes and heroines, and ideally, I believe, they should find their heroes and heroines first and foremost in their own parents. Secondarily, they should be given literature that sets such models before them—(go to LamplighterPublishing.com to find a company that is trying to do just that).

In the chapter, Too Much Schooling and Too Little Education, I also wrote about the power that story has in capturing the imaginations of children, and the encouraging fact that reading rates are up among young adults for the first time in 25 years. They are being captivated new powerful stories. “Although they do not respond to logic, they do respond to stories, myths, and legends. Consequently biblical epics and romances can capture their imaginations.” Now is the time for Christian writers to fill that need with new fiction that breathes of God’s marvelous grace and lifts up the reader with stories of hope and redemption.

So how does this touch on these two movies? Perhaps this is a stretch, but in reading the reviews of Avatar, what came across to me were the descriptions of spectacular special effects, but the heart and soul of a captivating story was missing. One critic called it a “love story,” but another called the story “pure cheese” and a third said, “It is a very expensive-looking, very flashy entertainment, albeit one that groans under the weight of clumsy storytelling in the second half.”

In contrast, several critics spoke of heroism in reference to The Hurt Locker. “Through sturdy imagery and violent action, it says that even Hell needs heroes,” said one. Another called it, “a penetrating study of heroism,” and a third said it’s “the first war movie in a while that feels as if it could have starred John Wayne.”

Perhaps, even the Academy is starting to get it. “Flashy entertainment” isn’t going to endure; stories of heroism will.

So, whether you saw either of these movies or not, let me leave you with these two thoughts; First, if you’re a parent give your children heroes and heroines to enlarge their hearts and expand their imaginations of what “great things” they can attempt for God and expect from God. (Thank you William Carey!).

Secondly, let’s beware of “flashy entertainment” in the use of our own time, money, and energies. Are we telling others of the “real story” of what God is doing today in the lives of heroes of faith who are living under persecution (go to voiceofthemartyrs.com). Are we telling the story of what God has done in our lives to transform us from “the darkness to the light?” Are you writing stories that capture the imaginations of children and youth with God’s grace and telling them stories of hope and redemption?

Let’s go tell the story today!


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