Monday, October 19, 2009

Planned Parenthood Guilty of Their Own Accusations

On the Planned Parenthood website you will find a link on getting the facts on abortion. Just clicking around to see if they actually tell women what abortion is (you know to see if they are truthful in their presentation), I found them talking about "crisis pregnancy centers" - with full on scare quotes. Rather than tell you about it, read it straight from the horse's mouth so to speak.

Deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy can be very difficult. It may be made even more difficult by so-called "crisis pregnancy centers." These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They have a history of giving women wrong, biased information to scare them into not having abortions.

These centers

* may not give you complete and correct information about all your options — abortion, adoption, and parenting
* may try to frighten you with misleading films and pictures to keep you from choosing abortion
* may lie to you about the medical and emotional effects of abortion
* may tell you that you are not pregnant even if you are. This may fool you into continuing your pregnancy without knowing it. If your decision is delayed, it could make abortion more risky. It could also keep you from getting early prenatal care.
* may discourage you from using certain methods of birth control that are very safe and effective

Crisis pregnancy centers often pretend to be real health care providers — but many are not. These fake clinics often trick women with false advertising. They may make women think they will be offered unbiased information and a full range of health services.

Crisis pregnancy centers also sometimes try to trick women by using names that are similar to the names of real reproductive health centers in the neighborhood. Many times, the crisis pregnancy centers are located very close to real reproductive health centers. This makes it easy for women to go to the crisis pregnancy center by mistake.
How do you avoid a crisis pregnancy center?

* Don't schedule an appointment unless you are sure it's a legitimate place.
* Ask friends, other health care providers, counselors, or other people you trust for the name of a real health center.
* If you are considering abortion, you can find a list of abortion providers on the National Abortion Federation website.

No health care provider should pressure you into a decision about your pregnancy. All real family planning clinics will give you information about all your options.

Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center can help. They can give you information on all of your options — abortion, adoption, and parenting. And they can talk through your options with you so that you can make the decision that is best for you.

I love the bit about crisis pregnancy centers tricking women into believing they aren't pregnant. Are people really stupid enough to believe that line? Ok, maybe they are, I mean they believe that the government can fix the health care system. That aside, talk about the kettle calling the pot black. PPh accuses crisis pregnancy centers of providing biased if not false information to convince you to follow their recommendations while doing the very same to convince you to use planned parenthood's services.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thoughts on the brain-training benefits of classical education

I was browsing the CLAA site today, and was looking at links to an axiom-based arithmetic text (deductive study - CLAA thumbs up) and to an early inductive arithmetic text (CLAA thumbs down). (Deductive study is first learning general principles and then applying them to specific examples; inductive study is first looking at specific examples and then extracting the general principle from them.)

While reading the intro to the inductive text, I was struck by how similar its aims were to most modern math texts. The author emphasized starting with concrete examples, rather than jumping straight into abstract, number-only work. He started with children's innate understanding of the four operations and built from there. He even advocated using manipulatives! He made a point of stating that his book taught math in a way that was aligned to how children naturally thought about math, and thus they could learn easily, even at young ages.

This is the same goal that most modern educators have - to take what we know about how people learn in order to find the best - easiest, most efficient - way to teach the subject. While people may disagree about which way is best, no one disagrees with the goal. Certainly homeschoolers, especially, have embraced the ideal of finding the particular approach to each subject that best fits their student(s) and how they learn. As for myself, I've spent a fair bit of time studying the latest research in cognitive science and second language acquisition, in order to find the best way to teach my kids.

But, as I was thinking about the differences between the two arithmetic books, it hit me just what it means to "train the brain." It's not just teaching via a particular (deductive) approach, but teaching via an approach that *intentionally* does not align with how people naturally learn. After all, if children naturally thought that way, then they wouldn't have to be specifically taught to do it.

So the fact that traditional classical approaches to some subjects (Latin and Greek, math) don't line up with modern research on the way our brains work is not a bug, but a feature. (Not, of course, that you can't use how people learn to help you design the best, most efficient way to teach things via a classical approach, but that will, almost by definition, be harder than (some) non-classical approaches.)

I had never thought about it that way before, even though it seems blindingly obvious, now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apparently Lutheran Theology *Does* Conflict with the Underlying Philosophy of Classical Education

I was discussing with my dh - a Lutheran pastor - the accuracy (or lack thereof) of The Latin-Centered Curriculum's (LCC) description of Luther's beliefs toward classical education, and ended up getting completely blown away.

Dh advanced the position that, however hard we may try to find the truth, we can only succeed in actually finding it with the help of the Holy Spirit. Basically, sin has so thoroughly tainted everything - including the natural world and our reason - that on our own we are thoroughly incapable of ever grasping actual Truth. Sin corrupted all our data, and there is no way that we - equally corrupted by the Fall - can even have the slightest clue what it originally was like. We may very well find out accurate facts about our sinful world, but they are - at best - twisted, distorted reflections of actual Truth. And truth mixed with lies is ultimately still a lie. Only through the Holy Spirit can we discover actual Truth. (It's just like how we can not help but sin except through the continual help of the Holy Spirit.)

(Natural law would be something of a special case. It is directly written on our hearts by God, and - like all works of God - it is perfect. But it was done after the Fall, and in response to it - the law wasn't needed when we were in perfect communion with God, after all - and thus doesn't suffer from the data corruption effects that the rest of God's perfect creation suffers from. However, even though the law is perfect, our reason - outside of God - is still flawed, and thus can't help but mix lies in with the truth.)

Well, that is depressing. And flatly contradicts at least some of the basic premises of classical education. Objective truth exists, but it is not knowable outside of God. Not only it is impossible to know Christ without God, it is impossible to truly know anything without God. Sure, reason alone could never save your soul, but apparently it alone can't do much of anything, period.

Yet, does this understanding of human reason and its limitations violate basic premises of Christian classical education? More to the point, does it do so in a way that makes it impossible to have a historically meaningful classical education that is also grounded in Lutheran theology?

Well, based upon this explanation of true Christian education, written by William Michael of the CLAA, I would say that authentic classical education that is authentically Lutheran is possible. He writes that "[t]rue education teaches human beings to seek truth, goodness and beauty by the use of faith-enlightened reason." Despite our disagreement on the efficacy of non faith-enlightened reason, I am in complete agreement with that statement.

But even so, the more I read about the Scholastics, and about how thoroughly they - and through them the Catholic church - were influenced by Aristotle's philosophy, the more I'm starting to agree with Mr. Michael. If a true classical education requires adopting an Aristotelian worldview (which is not an indefensible position to take), rather than just studying Aristotle's works, then it really *isn't* possible to have an authentic classical education that is also genuinely Protestant.

But is adopting an Aristotelian worldview required to have an historical meaningful classical education? That's the kicker - I'm still trying to figure it out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Genuine Lutheran Classical Education - Oxymoron?

So says the founder, Mr. Michael, of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy (provider of authentic Catholic classical education, in an historically meaningful sense).

My first reaction was to reject his conclusion out of hand - He's Catholic, what else would he think? Certainly, Catholics and Lutherans disagree on several fundamental issues, and this naturally would be reflected in how we approach learning - a Lutheran education is an entirely different animal than a Catholic education. But the idea that Catholic beliefs are necessary to an historically meaningful classical education - that's crazy talk, right? Yet, as I considered his arguments, I got to wondering - does authentic classical education, in the historically meaningful sense (which is what I am striving for), incorporate principles and philosophies that are antithetical to Lutheran theology?

Michael, in describing the trouble non-Catholic students would have in his program, says that "it is a matter of fact that the principles of Protestantism and Evangelicalism are inconsistent with the principles of true classical learning. In other words, there can be no such thing as a 'Genuine Protestant Classical Education'."

However, many of Michael's points, while accurate with respect to generic American Protestantism, do not apply to Lutheranism. All of the cultural advantages he lists for Catholic families - the liturgical calender, the numerous saints to study and imitate, the Sacraments, the fellowship in two millennia's worth of Christian society, and the historical examples of other classically educated Christians - are all available to Lutherans as well (though there are differences - number of sacraments, how we consider the saints, etc. - which, while I consider them unimportant to his main point, I doubt he would agree with me).

Also, we do have vastly different definitions of vocation - which Michael sees as the most important difference between Catholics and Protestants with regard to the suitability of a classical liberal arts education. However, I just don't see the problem. Why does a lack of "religious vocations," in the Catholic sense, make a classical education less desirable? (I think I'm missing his point, here.)

As well, we do not hold to the "Protestant principles of knowledge" that he lists - Sola Scriptura, private interpretation, and disregard for tradition, all of which he claims will have to be abandoned to study philosophy properly - in the way that most American Protestants do. On the one hand, we don't place the Lutheran Confessions on the same level as Scripture. Scripture is infallible; the Confessions aren't. We believe them to be a correct explanation of the Scriptures, but if they were proven to be incompatible with Scripture, we would abandon the Confessions on that point and go with Scripture. However, we do believe them to be correct. And we reject the idea of the individual as the highest authority on interpretation - all Scripture interpretation should be in the context of the church (i.e. the Confessions). Teachings that violate the Lutheran Confessions are generally considered to be false, by virtue of having violated the Confessions. Yet we still explicitly deny that the Lutheran Confessions are infallible. It's a paradox - and in good Lutheran fashion we embrace it, upholding both poles, contradictory as they are, as equally true.

Yet for all our differences from American Protestantism, we still have fundamental issues with Catholic theology. Are these issues equally fundamental to classical education? (And how are these issues connected to classical education in the first place?) I'm not sure. But I'm intrigued. So I've been reading more on the CLAA site, as well as researching early Lutheran education (which was classical - and very similar to Jesuit education, in fact) and the philosophical underpinnings of traditional classical education. It's interesting. So far I'm still inclined to argue that genuine Lutheran classical education, at least, can exist, but we'll see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

K3 Diary - Informal Math

(I've been wanting to keep a log of sorts, recording what we've done, hs-wise - blog seems as good a place as any.)

Today R (3yo) was flipping through one of my books (Distler's "Teach the Latin, I Pray You"), and reading all the numbers she came to. When she said 11 wrong (said "one two two"; I've been teaching her to count the RightStart way - one-ten-one, one-ten-two, etc. - and sometimes she says "two" instead of "ten"; no idea why the second two, though, but she's been doing that consistently the past week or so.), I corrected her, and then said the page numbers (which happened to include 12) for her, first the RS way - one-ten-two - and then the regular way - twelve. That was so much fun that she flipped the page, so I could say the next ones as well. We did that through the mid-twenties. Then she gave me a number - 64, and we looked it up, plus a few more. Then she was done. Just five minutes or so, but every little bit counts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What to do?

Yours truly has been extended a call. Now the question is, "what is the will of God for us?" It has always seem to me this is one of the toughest questions to ask. It is not like I can go to scripture and read, "Dr. Luther, you shalt taketh the call that cometh during the sixth month of the 232nd year of the land beyond the sea." So now I have to rely on those tainted sources of reason and feelings. Is that God telling me to take the call or is it heartburn. So, in my moment of indecision please pray for us as we consider this wonderful new opportunity to serve the Lord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look Mom! No instruments!

It is amazing some of the things you can discover by simply hitting a single button. The following group called the Voca People demonstrate the vast potential of the human voice. Check out the video. You won't believe what they do with absolutely no instruments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comprehensible input resources for Latin

I also posted my previous post, asking why classical educators ignore findings from modern language acquisition research - especially that language acquisition requires a LOT of exposure to comprehensible input in the target language (well accepted when it comes to modern languages) - when it comes to the classical languages, on the WTM boards. One theme that quickly emerged was that the parent is not fluent, does not have access to someone who is fluent, and that there is a general lack of easy Latin input available, so while an immersion environment might be ideal, it is impossible for them to provide. Some Latin is better than no Latin, so they do what they can.

Perfectly rational and understandable. However, thanks to the Internet, there are tons of resources for Latin available - many of which are free! More than enough to provide sufficient comprehensible input so that those of us who aren't fluent in Latin ourselves can still approximate an immersion Latin environment - for ourselves and our kids.

Here are just a few:

Use other beginning texts for additional readings: I picked up complete sets of CLC and ER texts for under $20 each on Amazon. As well, Latin Book One, including audio, is online, CLC has their stories online, and here are the stories from ER I and II online.

Google books has tons of readers and beginning books available, as does the Internet Archive. Here is a list of links to easy Latin readers.

John Piazza has many comprehensible input resources on his site, including a history reader and mythology reader compiled from readings from OOP beginning Latin books, as well as an introduction to everyday Latin.

Evan Millner's Latinum podcast has thousands of hours of Latin audio, including recordings of the entirety of Adler's"A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language," provided explicitly to give all Latin learners access to an immersion environment.

Laura Gibbs has provided thousands of Latin proverbs, verses and fables online.

Many Latin teachers have gotten together to write Latin readers, and have posted them online at Tar Heel Readers.

Diederich's research into the frequency of Latin endings and vocabulary showed that a mere 18 endings comprise the majority encountered in literature. Learn those first, and their basic grammatical meanings through a grammar overview, such as Harris' "The Intelligent Person's Guide to the Latin Language," and a vast amount of Latin will be open to you - you don't have to wait till you have gone completely through the grammar to start reading. As well, his vocab frequency lists show what words to focus on to get the most bang for the buck. (Edited to add: A better link to Diederich's research.)

And these are only the resources that came to mind right off the bat!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Latin Pedagogy and Second Language Acquisition Theory

Or, why do we, as classical educators, care so little about what modern foreign language research has to say?

The classical languages are generally taught very differently than modern foreign languages. Most people in classical education see this as a distinct plus: in addition to learning Latin, we also reap a variety of ancillary benefits inherent to deductive language study. Win-win, right?

But in the midst of all this brain-training grammar-translation study, do we actually learn Latin?

Reading about Latin education in the 19th century - the halcyon days of proper grammar-translation according to Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press - one finds many noted classicists discussing how, after years of study, most students still couldn't just open a book and read a Latin sentence in Latin word order. They had to laboriously translate, word by word, to have any clue as to the meaning; even then, with each individual word correctly parsed and translated, they still often got it completely wrong. There was quite a lot of discussion about how to change Latin (and Greek) instruction to get better results, so that the majority of students attained some degree of actual reading ability in exchange for all their hard work.

I lurk on a list where the focus is applying modern language acquisition research and techniques to teaching Latin. List members cite firsthand experience with the low level of Latin skill achieved by the majority of their students under traditional g/t methods. In fact, they don't believe that learning Latin via a pure g/t approach trains the brain so much as it requires a brain with high cognitive ability in the first place. In other words, they say, learning Latin deductively doesn't make you smart - you had to *be* smart to successfully learn Latin via a grammar-translation approach in the first place. In their experience, only 5-10% of students - usually those gifted in math - can actually succeed in learning Latin by so-called traditional methods (they argue that teaching Latin almost entirely in the vernacular is actually an aberration compared to how it was taught for most of its history).

While I'm not sure if I fully agree with their assertion that grammar-translation study doesn't confer any brain-training benefits (though they seem to have cognitive science on their side with regard to it conferring - or more accurately NOT conferring - transferable skills; I'm not sure precisely where I stand on all that. Clearly, yes, critical thinking in a field requires significant domain knowledge; however, most people agree that "how to learn" skills, like note-taking, once learned, are applicable across many fields of knowledge. Which side of the line do the Latin claims fall? I'm not yet sure.), I've never seen anyone talk about a successful g/t program (one that conferred actual reading ability) that didn't involve a lot of Latin exposure and working in Latin (as opposed to the vernacular).

This observation dovetails nicely with modern language acquisition research (much of which is based on Krashen's five hypotheses). Some concepts pertinent to teaching Latin:

*The Input Hypothesis - A language is acquired through sufficient input that is one step beyond a learner's current level (input at i+1 for a learner at i); often referred to as comprehensible input, it should be self-selected and ideally be on a topic the learner finds intrinsically interesting. Thus they develop proficiency in the L2 almost incidentally while they are consciously learning about topics of interest. Krashen believes that generating output in the L2 has no effect on acquiring the language - input is all that matters - but other researchers disagree, variously considering output anywhere from helpful to necessary to acquire a language.

*The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis - There is a difference between acquiring a language and learning about the language, with formal grammar study belonging to the latter and having no effect on the former ("language appreciation"), unless the grammar instruction is in the target language and the student is genuinely interested in learning the grammar. Then the grammar instruction functions as comprehensible input. (Traditional Jesuit Latin instruction would fall under this category; they utilized the direct method - striving to avoid, as far as possible, the use of the vernacular as the means by which Latin is learned - thus giving students large amounts of exposure to Latin.)

In reading threads (on the Well-Trained Mind boards) about learning modern languages, I find a lot of support for Krashen's ideas. There is a lot of emphasis about getting sufficient exposure to the L2 - at least an hour a day, if you want to achieve fluency. People talk approvingly about European schools that teach multiple languages by teaching other subjects (math, history, etc.) in the various target languages. Yet, when it comes to the classical languages, we're content to see maybe 15 lines of Latin a lesson?

We seem to forget that the classical languages are, in the end, still languages. Whether acquiring Latin confers greater benefits than acquiring another language, you still have to manage to acquire it. Research that is valid and applicable to learning modern languages is equally applicable to learning classical languages.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It Lives!

Yeah, it's been awhile.

Quite a lot has happened. First and foremost, we are now the proud parents of two beautiful girls; our younger daughter was born last October, at home. As well, we are the proud aunt and uncle of another niece, who was born in April. Dh's parents now have four grandchildren, all girls. We celebrated our oldest dd's third birthday last week - hard to believe how fast she is growing up. We are hopefully looking at a move soon - will find out this week if dh will receive a call from a congregation in IL.

Hopefully this will be the first of many new posts - I certainly have lots of ideas floating around in my head - it's just a matter of getting them out.