Tag Archives: prayer

Saturated and Burned Out

The congregation squirms uneasily, but not so much from the preacher’s words as a tired tailbone.  Including announcements, offering, prayers, music, and the ongoing blistering sermon, the Sunday morning service is approaching ninety minutes.  Brother David has made his point at least six times and has started on round seven.  Hungry stomachs are growling.  Exhausted brains are begging, “Please shoot me – enough is enough.”  It is time to stick a fork in the congregation, they are done!

Unless you have been chastised relentlessly by an ordained Southern fire thrower waxed in the glow of the Holy Spirit, you know nothing of long-winded preaching.  If your eyeballs have not bobbed and surfed the tides of the second Great Flood in hour two of a Southern sermon, you know little of praying for deliverance.   Unless you have the t-shirt, Saturated and Burned Out, you are not a survivor of a soul cleansing hell, fire, and brimstone tongue lashing.  I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church – I have the t-shirt!

Why does it take preachers so long, especially in the South, to say God loves you and if you can’t accept that, prepare for an eternity in a rotisserie oven?  Why does the preacher feel compelled to make his point multiple times when once maybe twice should be enough?  The answer is simple – once or twice is not enough!  Southern DNA makes massive doses of overkill a necessity.  No one – not the preacher or Jesus Christ can tell a blue-blood Southerner what to do and expect to get it done – at least not the first or second time.

Growing up in Mississippi, my family was in church every time the doors opened: Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening worship, Monday evening Royal Ambassadors, Wednesday night Training Union, two weeks of summer Vacation Bible School, and two weeks of fall revival meetings.  My pastor, a devout man, preached long fiery sermons with a vengeance against the evil he saw in the world or he inferred from the scriptures.  Like his sermons, he was intense, unwavering in his crusade against Satan and his followers.  His prayers, he called them mini-sermons, were rhythmic sing-song dances of thanksgiving laced with healthy doses of pleas for mercy culminating with skin-curling warnings of fire and damnation for anyone not walking the walk of Jesus Christ.  In a church of maybe one-hundred members with regular attendance of sixty or seventy, people walked the walk, or at least, we did around Brother David.

Before cable and Internet, there was little to compete with church on Sunday.  People literally had nothing better to do than go to church.  So, it didn’t matter if Brother David raged from the pulpit for two hours or Deacon John’s prayer bounced here and there for twenty minutes before he asked for God’s mercy and healing and said “Amen.”  It was the best show in town – take it or leave it, and if you lived at home with mama and daddy, there was no choice but to take it.  The only negative was church ran long – really long – and lay waste to the best made plans for Sunday lunch.  As a boy, I often witnessed parking lot grumblings and short straw lotteries to decide who would tell Brother David to buy a watch, but to my knowledge, no one ever said a word to him.

Brother David did not need a watch.  He was determined to convert every soul in his congregation to Christianity, and to that end, a watch did little but get in his way.  He understood there are only two ways to convince a Southerner to do something: you convince him it is his idea, or you scare him into doing it.  Both take time – a lot of it!  A Southerner is inherently born with the notion that everything is his idea, so convincing him an idea outside his own is his idea is extremely difficult.  In his mind, he is the center of the universe, and the only worthwhile thoughts or ideas are his own, so why listen to anyone else?  Therefore, most preachers opt for scary motivation.  To bring their people to the Lord on their knees, they scare the living hell out of them.

In the South, preachers who dwell on death, graves, and things that go bump in the night usually have little trouble preaching to full houses.  Southern boys and girls are as brave as they come but talk about something dead they didn’t shoot while hunting, especially if that something is them, and they get creeped out.  A smart preacher uses this to his advantage.  To keep his flock coming to church regularly and dropping a few bucks in the offering plate periodically, he cultivates fearful uneasy souls.  The only drawback is such a process is time consuming, especially with laidback Southern temperaments.

For this reason, Brother David set the pews on fire.  He ignited a flame of urgency under his people fueled by hell, fire, and brimstone.  “The fires of hell are full of Christians who do not go to church and tithe regularly,” he scolded his congregation Sunday after Sunday.  He brewed a pot of fear seasoned with doom and gloom.  He pounded the podium and walked the pews warning of human barbecues while teasing his congregation with firefly bits of hope he promised would grow if they attended church regularly and tithed generously.  He scared the hell out of his flock, and he did not care how much time it took to do so.

Brother David has long departed this world, and his brand of hard-ball preaching has given way to holy roller spectacles and preaching almost exclusively the love of God rather than offend or upset anyone with the rage of a jealous God.  However, to this day, his practice of battering congregations into holy submission is alive and well in many churches across the South.  Many pastors still tend to be long winded with little concern for rumbling stomachs, but is it necessary?  Why can’t they say what they need to say, and be done with it?  Why must they repeat themselves at least seven times before they give up the ghost and take a seat?  The reason boils down to Southern DNA and the Rule of Seven.

There is a pinch of a boiled peanut shell in Southern DNA that makes good ole boys and girls a tad thickheaded, or maybe, decades of wearing tight fitting baseball caps twenty-four hours a day has resulted in hardening of the skull.  Whichever it might be, a preacher best repeat himself often if he wants to get a point through dense Southerner heads.  The more a Southerner hears something the better the chances it will sink in and the more likely he will believe it.  Researchers in Atlanta, Georgia have found there is a direct correlation between Southerners reacting positively and badgering.  They discovered if you tell a Southerner something once, he might not hear you; tell him twice and he might think you are talking to someone else; tell him three times and he will try to tune you out; tell him four times and he will think you are trying to cause trouble or mess with him; tell him five times and it agitates him; tell him six times and he becomes passively interested; but if you tell him seven times, the chances are good he will not only remember it but believe it as well.  This process known as the Pester into Slow Submission Technique or PISS Technique is a strategy used by Southern women for countless decades to manipulate their men, and with the assistance of WMU (Woman Missionary Union) groups, early Southern preachers learned to use this same badgering or nagging technique to get through to their congregations.

In the Twentieth Century, the marketing world adopted the PISS Technique and called it the Rule of Seven, which is nothing more than a modern makeover of the old Southern recipe.  The Rule of Seven states people, especially men, must hear something at least seven times before they remember it, accept it, or engage in it.  It works great; however, if the preacher is not careful, a disgruntled congregation is capable of mutiny, especially if the Methodists and Catholics are regularly beating them to Mary’s Cafe or KFC for Sunday fried chicken.

The real danger though occurs when desperate preachers, experiencing a decline in attendance and tithing, change the rule to the Rule of Seven X 3.  This well intentioned though controversial practice means sermons and prayers include three times the number of repetitive keywords and phrases than the standard Rule of Seven.   According to the medical community, such an overload can be unhealthy for church-goers.  Doctors specializing in Devout Hypertension Syndrome warn that such practice can result in compulsive absenteeism and static tithing as the result of Repetitive Sensory Overload (RSO).

There are people who will argue that within the fleeting time continuum of life none of this really matters, and maybe, they are right.  A Southern prayer may be as long as a television sitcom, and a Southern sermon as long-winded as a two-day hurricane, but what if they are?  Do Christians have more important things than church on Sunday?   A prayer or sermon in the hands of a well-trained articulate Southern stump jumper can be an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles and sweet tea; isn’t that worth a tired tailbone or a table with a window at Cracker Barrel?  But, I admit, at times I also grow weary and impatient.  Sometimes, I wish there was an off switch under the front lip of the pew to push to let the preacher know the time has arrived to shut up and go home.

Saturated and Burned Out!

JL

©Jack Linton, September 16, 2018

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Successful People: Simply Put

What does it take to be successful?  That is a subjective question that can vary based on individual definitions of success.  In the United States, a successful life almost exclusively equates to an efficacious and prestigious career even though there are many other factors, such as family and community, that are just as important.  Unfortunately, in our society, most people measure success only by the size of their paycheck and bank account.  In the eyes of many, if you have money, you are successful, and if you don’t, you are a failure.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but you would be hard pressed to convince most Americans that accumulation of wealth is not the ultimate success story.  People believe want they want to believe, and for the most part, they want to believe money will resolve all their problems.

When it comes to success, a major problem in America is we spend more time identifying success and dreaming about it than we do doing something about it.  We fail miserably at applying action to our dreams and goals.  As a result, we are a nation of dreamers rather than doers.  We are a nation filled with blamers rather than achievers.  It is always someone else’s fault when we fail.  However, the truth behind our failure primarily lies in our inability to apply basic principles of success to our lives.

Regardless of the goal or end game, when it comes to success, there are common principles that directly impact our lives.  Whether you are a successful billionaire business person or a common Joe doing your best to provide for your family and keep your head above water, the basic principles for success apply to every one of us.  Yet, too many people are not aware of such principles, or they ignore them.  As a result, a roadblock to the success so many hard-working individuals deserve is created.  That is a shame since the principles are so simple to put into action.

Principles for Success

  1. Success is hard work! Even for the people who make it look easy, it is a sure bet they have worked hard to be successful and work even harder to maintain that success.  They know their end goal, prepare to accomplish that goal, and stay focused on the goal until it becomes their reality.

Simply Put:

 Successful people are goal oriented

and focus on success;

  1. The only action that has ever led to long term success is commitment. If you expect success and expect to maintain it, you must commit yourself to success.  You cannot talk about your dreams and goals occasionally and expect anything to happen.  Doing something worthwhile well takes more than talk; it takes action!  Dreams take action that result in sweat, which leads to success.  Hoping, dreaming, and even praying for success is a gamble.  If you want to increase the odds for success in your life, you must commit to give legs to your hopes, dreams, and prayers.

Simply Put:

Successful people get off their butt

and work for success;  

  1. Be your biggest cheerleader! No one will believe in you until you believe in yourself.  If you say, I can’t do that – you can’t, or if you say, I am not good enough – you aren’t.  Over time, if you say enough negative things about yourself, people will begin to believe those things about you.  By human nature, people will believe negatives quicker than they believe positives, so never sell yourself short around other people.  Sometimes, you may need to fake it until you make it, but that is okay if you maintain an image of confidence and remain steadfast to the accomplishment of your goals.  Always remember, your success depends on how you think about yourself, and the image others have of you.

Simply Put:

       Successful people celebrate themselves,

       especially in the presence of others;

  1. Quit making excuses! With few exceptions, you did not make the team or get the job because people didn’t like you.  You were rejected because you were not very good or others were better than you.  You have the power to change “not very good” by practicing every day to be better than you were yesterday.  To be successful, you must work to get better, or you can take the easy road and prop yourself up with excuses and self-pity and whine your life away.

Simply Put:

      Successful people do not spend valuable

     time making excuses or whining;

  1. Expectations are often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Always expect great things of yourself and those around you.  Keep your standards high!  To help with your journey, march with people with high standards.  Never, ever, lower your expectations or standards for anyone.  Avoid those who think your ambitions and goals are too lofty.  Expect great things of yourself and expect great things will happen in return.  Believing in yourself, dreaming big, applying a lot of elbow grease, and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and have skills you may lack will slay most any demon or dragon you face.

Simply Put:

    Successful people refuse to lower their standards and surround

themselves with skilled people who believe in them;

  1. Don’t worry if someone sees you dance! When it comes to life, we all have two left feet, so don’t worry about it.  Concentrate on the music.

Simply Put:

Successful people don’t stay in the shadows;

they put themselves out there;

  1. Don’t worry about the mistakes you have made or may make in the future. If you must worry, be concerned for the opportunities you missed while worrying you might make a mistake.  Opportunity does not always knock twice.

Simply Put:

   Successful people don’t worry about bruises. 

   They take a licking and keep on trekking toward their goals;

  1. When confronted by an idiot or someone who wants nothing more than to bring you down, always respond with “Bless your heart” and walk away.

Simply Put:

Successful people do not waste time on bad or hot air;

  1. A sure way to ensure failure or maintain mediocrity is to remain in your comfort zone. To be successful, you must be willing to occasionally get the hell scared out of you.  Taking chances is the norm for successful people.

Simply Put:

     Successful people are not afraid to scream and stand up to their fears.

   They take chances;

  1. Remember this about success! Most people are not concerned with your success.  If you are lucky, on your most successful day, 20% of the people will support you, 10% will do everything within their power to cut your throat or discredit you, and the remaining 70% could care less one way or the other as long as you leave them alone.  Therefore, seeking 100% or even a simple majority buy-in to try to please everybody is a sure bet for failure.

Simply Put:

       Successful people have the courage to stand alone.  They work hard

       to bring everyone on board, but not at the expense of their goals.

Definitions or interpretations of success will vary from person to person, but achieving success is the result of one thing and one thing only – action.  You can dream, hope, and pray for success, but if that is all you do, your chances of success will be very slim.  Although luck and miracles happen, depending on either to make you successful is like buying a lottery ticket – the odds are not in your favor.  Success is a personal commitment to being prepared when the door of opportunity opens, and by practicing the ten principles presented above, the door to opportunity is more likely to open wider and more often.

Simply Put:

Your success in this world falls directly in your lap.  No one can succeed for you.  The ball is in your court, so pick it up and do something with it.  You cannot score unless you shoot the ball.  Shoot and keep shooting until you make the shot, and once you have made the shot, keep shooting to make the second shot.  Never, ever stop shooting.  Life is about playing offense!  As long as you control the ball, you can’t lose!

JL

© Jack Linton, September 29, 2017

9/11: The Day We Drank from the Same Fountain

As we remember the horrors of September 11, 2001, it is important to recognize a similar evangelized hate and belief in superiority once again threatens to destroy us as a nation.  The difference is this time the monster is not external but internal.  We have forgotten how we rallied together as one in the days after the senseless attack on New York.  We have forgotten how for a brief moment we stood together as brothers and sisters and defied evil.  No American was superior to another on that day or in the days that followed; all Americans drank from the same fountain.

As we remember and say a prayer for the lives lost on that tragic day, let us not forget to say a prayer for ourselves.  We should not be a nation divided by conservative/liberal beliefs, religious beliefs, lifestyle beliefs, or racial beliefs; as a nation we are united by a Constitution, philosophy, and common sense and decency that says all men and women are created equal and have the right of expression and personal pursuit of happiness.  In America, to believe otherwise is oppression.  The destruction of the twin towers in New York is a reminder of the destructive power of hate and a warped sense of superiority.  It is a reminder that we are vulnerable to such evil.  Therefore, it is time we drank from the same fountain once again.  It is time we tore the tags, signs, and dialogue of division from the fountain and welcomed all to drink – if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and the future of America.

A child is not born believing in superiority;

Out of fear of inferiority a child is taught,

To believe in superiority by birth right;

To believe in superiority by skin color;

To believe in superiority by religious affiliation;

To believe in the inequality of man;

To believe in equality with God; and

To disguise hate with righteousness.

May God have mercy on the teachers.

May God continue to have mercy on America, and the shining good she represents for all people.

Jl

©Jack Linton, September 11, 2016

Abandoned by God or Common Sense?

The 2016 campaign for the presidency has turned this nation into a swarming hive of publicity seekers, doomsday enthusiasts, and impetuous and reckless lunatics stirring the pot of chaos.  Seldom has a day gone by without somebody new jumping on the lunacy bandwagon so shamelessly driven by both political parties.  However, the madness goes beyond politics.  As a nation, thinking and emotions have become so compromised that it is clear many Americans have lost touch with reality.  Every day, the nation is confronted by people entangled in delusional aberrations.  They inject the reality of what they see and hear with what they want to see and hear, thereby creating a sense of warped personal authenticity.

America has lost touch with common sense!  People are quick to embrace hearsay, Facebook dribble, and biased news, especially if it supports what they “want to” believe – to heck with truth and reality.  Americans have developed a passion for morphing little things into big things or nothing into something.  They love to create mountains out of molehills.  As a result, they resemble Chicken Little running around crying the world is ending, and moaning and groaning that God has abandoned America.

If God has abandoned America, which is doubtful, it is because he is embarrassed at the lack of common sense currently on display.  People point to the lack of prayer in schools, lack of attention to the Bible, and sinful lifestyles as the reasons for America’s decline when the sad truth is this country’s problems lie in the hearts of the American people.  God has not abandoned America! The people, due to their reckless disregard for the American pursuit of liberty and happiness for all people as well as their neglect of the Biblical commandment to love their neighbor, have abandoned America.  As a nation, too many Americans no longer embrace diversity as a virtue in their politics, in their society, or in their personal lives, which means they have abandoned what made America great.  As a consequence of this indifference to liberty and happiness for all and love of neighbor, the nation stands helpless in the shadows of mountains built from molehills and righteousness built from convenience.

Common sense is the mountain Americans must reclaim before the nation can regain its sanity and move forward.  Until people begin to filter life, media, and hearsay through the lens of common sense, America will continue to resemble a quagmire of lunacy.  It is time we stop building molehills into mountains, stop pandering and giving credibility to stupidity, stop assuming we are more righteous than the other person, and return to practicing common sense and treating one another with respect.  That is the only way America will regain its sanity.  Once we have a grip on common sense and can again converse respectfully as adults without shouting down those who disagree with us, we will find America is still the greatest nation on earth, and throughout the insanity, God has never been more than a prayer away.

JL

©Jack Linton      May 22, 2016

A Short Blog on Nothing in Particular

Blogs are not literature! Blogging is rarely an attempt at literary greatness. A blog simply conveys information, observations, shares a viewpoint, and may even tell a story. It may range from factual to pure nonsense or from thoughtful to offensive. It is what it is – a device to entertain or give people pause to think about a topic or issue. Most bloggers fall somewhere between a true writer and a hacker. They write because they enjoy writing and enjoy the occasional responses and interactions with readers.

Blogs can be very short or very long. It depends on the topic and the writer’s skill with the economy of words or disregard for the economy of words. Some bloggers like to hear themselves write and carry on about nothing page after page while some bloggers are concise and to the point. However, length should not be an issue; there are excellent short blogs as well as excellent long blogs and when it comes to bad blogs the number of words or pages cannot save a stinker. Sometimes it is more effective to write a shorter blog than creating a long detailed blog. A paragraph or a short list can often convey all that needs to be said. Or, the short blog might simply be the result of one of those evenings when the author started writing while watching “The Blacklist” and woke up several hours later to “Judge Mathis” dealing out justice on late night television. Either way, the short blog saves the writer and his reading audience time, which in some respects may be merciful to both.

Hopefully, this short blog will offer readers a little mercy. Heaven knows, they deserve it! To be honest, I don’t have much to say, but I do have a few general observations that I would like to share. Who knows, one of these observations might be the catalyst that changes the world. Probably not, but I am going to share them just the same. Truthfully, I hope for what I always hope for when I write – someone reads the blog; someone reacts with WTF (What the Frog); someone simply enjoys it; someone nods and thinks, “I never thought of that,” or someone smiles and says, “Bless his heart.” Regardless of the response, I write not because I enjoy inflicting pain on people, but because I enjoy writing. So, if you have a few minutes, I have a few observations to share.

Observations on Nothing in Particular for People with Nothing Better to Think About:

  1. When did giving up become someone else’s fault?
  2. There are two types of people you should never turn your back on – people who think like you do and people who don’t.
  3. Sometimes the best way to cope is not to take yourself so seriously.
  4. Prayer in the South is an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles.
  5. In today’s world, you are entitled to everyone’s opinion but your own.

As a writer, I hope something connected, even if the connection was little more than a sigh of relief that the blog was not longer.  Although I am tempted to add another thousand words of explanation and filler, the closing credits are rolling for Judge Mathis, so it’s time to shut the computer down for the night. As always, thank you for reading. At the Oscars, Leonardo DiCaprio said, “I do not take tonight for granted.” Likewise, I do not take readers for granted.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 1, 2016

Prayer in Public Schools: It is as It Should Be

Lately, many Christians have come to feel they are being persecuted and denied their religious rights, specifically the right to pray in public schools. They believe there is a direct correlation between not allowing prayer in public schools and the problems that plague America. Maybe they are right about the impact of prayer on America’s issues, but they are misinformed to believe our nation’s problems are due to the lack of prayer in public schools. The truth is that school children have always been allowed to pray in public schools, but their prayers cannot be coerced, guided or influenced by public school employees. Restrictions on religious expression in schools apply to the adults, not the children and therein lies the rub.

It is hard to argue against prayer as an American right to religious expression for anyone. The fact that so many people in this nation’s 239 year history have fled and continue to flee to America to escape persecution for their religious beliefs, validates that religious expression lies at the core of America. Therefore, given this nation’s founding principles of equality and religious freedom, there is no logical reason not to allow prayer in public schools for everyone. To deny free and unobstructed prayer in public schools to anyone is to dishonor America’s heritage as a haven free from religious persecution.

The school prayer issue has become a derisive sore spot for many people as well as for their communities. The issue has become a symbol of the growing perception of the downward spiral of our country; it has become another divisive wedge that threatens to rip the nation apart. But, in a nation that embraces diversity and equality, why do we allow such a sore spot to fester and tear us apart? What could be more unifying than simply permitting unrestricted prayer in public schools for everyone, adults and students alike? Isn’t that what everyone wants?

America is one of the few places in the world where people can worship as they choose without fear of religious persecution or physical retribution for their beliefs. Religious freedom is as much American as apple pie. So is prayer in school. Consequently, prayer in school should not be debatable; prayer is a fundamental right of all American citizens regardless of their religious beliefs. In America, religious expression is an open invitation to everyone regardless of where they work, what tongue they speak or what religion they embrace. Therefore, a logical solution to the prayer in public schools issue is to open prayer to everyone.

Why should there be any restrictions on prayer in public schools? Prayer does not need to be restricted; all that is needed is a plan to make it fair and accessible to everyone. However, if we are to allow unrestricted prayer in public schools and make prayer available to everyone, we must exercise caution and have a plan that honors the religious diversity of the communities in which schools exist. The plan must be free of prejudice, bias and disenfranchisement of anyone’s religious beliefs or rights. For example, the chart below provides a logical diversified plan for prayer in public schools that provides fairness and accessibility to all.

Weekly School Prayer Schedule:

Day The following religions will lead school prayer on the day assigned: Open School with Prayer over the Intercom Start Each Class with Prayer Prayer at Lunch Prayer at School Activities
Monday Christianity Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tuesday Judaism Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wednesday Islam Yes Yes Yes Yes
Thursday Other Religions Buddhism Hinduism Muslim Baha’i
Friday Other Religions Unitarian Universalist Wiccan/Pagan/Druid New Age Scientology
Saturday Nonreligious/Secular No No No No

This chart illustrates what prayer in public schools might look like without the restrictions that are currently in place in our public schools. Is this what Americans want? Is this what Christians want? Would such a plan work? Probably not. When it comes to their religion, most people struggle to see beyond their own nose. Most people, including Christians, would balk at any plan or situation that held their children as a captive audience to philosophies and beliefs they do not support, and that is exactly why prayer exists as it does in today’s public schools. Current restrictions on prayer in public schools have nothing to do with a conspiracy to take God and prayer from schools. The religious limitations placed on adults in public schools are a safeguard to protect children from adult religious influences that may be in conflict with the religious teachings and values taught in the home and church. For parents, for Christians, to insist prayer be allowed in schools without restrictions is dangerous to the very values the Christian community or any other religious community wishes to instill in their children.

It is difficult for many Christians to understand that the right to pray in public schools does not only extend to Christians. Not only have Christians fought and died for freedom and religious rights in America, but many non-Christian families have sacrificed for this nation as well. They have just as much right to pray and shout their religious convictions from the school rooftop as Christians. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that rather than turn public schools into a religious battleground or marketplace for the souls of a captive audience, our children, that we as a society impose some restrictions on the role of religion in public schools?

What is so wrong with prayer being in the hands of the students as it is now? No law in America has ever silenced student initiated or student led prayer in public schools. Public school children are free to pray as they wish, talk to their peers about their God, and even hold hands during lunch and pray as a group. They have never been denied their right to personal religious expression through prayer or even witnessing to other students. The law only prevents adults from initiating and leading religious expression in public schools. The only limitation on prayer in public schools is undue influence by an adult.

I am a Christian, and I for one do not want any adult in school or otherwise influencing the religious beliefs of my grandchildren other than their mama and daddy and their church. As Christians, we should teach our children how to pray at home and in church, so that when they get to the school house they are comfortable praying if and when they choose without adult coercion, influence or guidance. As a former high school principal, one of the most powerful testaments to faith I ever witnessed was students holding hands and bowing their heads in prayer in the school cafeteria. They didn’t need an adult to call them together to pray. They didn’t need an adult to say, “Bow your heads, let’s pray.” They were led by their faith, a faith that was instilled in them at home and in church, and that is how it should be.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 29, 2015

Are Schools Really to Blame? The Truth About 5 Issues Blamed on Schools

I guess it is because I am a former educator, but I get angry and tired of hearing schools continually blamed for things they have little control over. I know there are issues where schools deserve the blame, but there is also a lot of undeserved blame going around. Recently I read an article about the child obesity epidemic in this country, and as expected the article placed a major part of the blame on poor diets in school cafeterias. I don’t discount that school breakfast and lunch menus have not always been the most nutritious, but I do have doubts as to the extent of their contribution to child obesity. Counting my years as a student in grade school and high school, as a teacher, and school administrator, I ate in school cafeterias for over 50 years, and I can honestly say that in spite of what the nutrition gurus say about school lunches, my weight problem has little to do with what I ate in school cafeterias. I wish it was that easy, but the real villain is the overweight person standing in front of me when I look in the mirror. I want all nutrition experts, health junkies, carb fighters, and food conspiracy lovers to listen closely for a minute; my weight problem and the weight problems of the vast majority of school children was not caused by eating tiny 1 ounce servings of bread, 2 ounce servings of vegetables and carbs and, and 2 ounce servings of meat or a meat alternative protein in the school cafeteria nor was it caused by the slightly larger servings of hamburgers, pizza and French fries served by school cafeterias. I agree that the 180 lunches and maybe 180 breakfasts a child eats in a school cafeteria in a school year have not always been the healthiest meals, but school cafeteria food is a minor contributor at best to child obesity. Like me, the major reason most children are overweight is the second and third servings of mama’s home cooking along with the candy bars, chips with salsa, cakes, cookies, sodas, and popcorn eaten after school or between meals while sitting in front of the television. Unfortunately, sitting in front of the television is the only consistent exercise most children experience (myself included) and that coupled with all the junk food they consume outside of school is the major reason behind child obesity as well as adult obesity. School lunches may be a contributing factor, but more likely, school lunches are just another easy target on the blame list for schools.

Please, do not get me wrong, I am all for children eating healthy, but it is time to get off the “let’s blame schools” bandwagon. Today, if there is a problem with something in society, the politically correct response is to point the blame finger at schools. Schools are continually taking left jabs to the forehead, right hooks to the jaw, sucker punches to the gut, and kicks to the groin. The list of societal ills blamed on schools grows every year. Schools are to blame for childhood obesity (cafeteria lunches); schools are to blame for the lack of discipline and bad behavior in kids (poor classroom discipline and removing the paddle); schools are to blame for the decline of the moral fiber of our nation (prayer removed from school); schools are to blame for the academic decline of our nation (poor performance as compared to other countries); and schools are to blame for students hating school and not valuing an education (school dropouts). I am sure I am leaving something out, but that is enough to make anyone with any common sense shake their head in disbelief.

Schools absolutely have problems that need fixing, but schools are not responsible for all the problems we are facing in this country. In most cases, the problems schools are blamed for are a symptom of bigger problems in society. Obesity for example is a nationwide problem wrapped in our addiction to junk food and lack of physical activity, so why not pick on the junk food companies and television and cable networks and leave schools alone? That won’t happen because the big boys will come out swinging whereas the mild mannered little schools will meekly offer the other cheek when the blame is dished out. Regrettably, the blame game escalates each year, and until a miracle happens or there is a major revolt by educators, it will continue to do so. If you need evidence, take a look at the following issues blamed on schools by society, the media, the politicians, and anyone else in need of a whipping boy:

  1. Schools are to blame for childhood obesity: (Even though I have addressed this one, here are a few more items you may wish to consider about the relationship of child obesity to the food served in school cafeterias) The real problem is not the combined 360 breakfasts and lunches a child may eat at school during a school year, but rather the 735 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners the child eats at home; the 365 days of between meals snacks the child eats at home; and the 365 days of sitting at home in front of a television with no physical activity other than operating a game control or TV remote. To put it bluntly, child obesity is impacted most by lack of physical activity at home as well as the endless supply of junk food children eat at home.
  2. Schools are to blame for student bad behavior: There are those who believe that poor school behavior can be linked to poor behavior in society. They reason if kids were taught in school to respect others, they would be better equipped to respect the law and other people when they finish school. Also, they argue that there would be fewer prison inmates if schools taught children the value of an education and to stay in school. Some people even claim society began its decline when corporal punishment (the paddle) was removed from schools, but the biggest reason for the overall decline in civil behavior in our society has little to do with our schools. The decline is more likely due to the transfer of parental responsibilities from the home to the schoolhouse. The lack of discipline in society today is a direct reflection of the tolerance level of parents/guardians and what they are teaching or not teaching their children at home. Although schools do their best to be surrogate parents, schools cannot replace the parenting children need at home to become productive well-adjusted citizens. Parents cannot abdicate their responsibilities and expect all to turn out well. It doesn’t work that way – never has and never will.
  3. Schools are to blame for the decline of the moral fiber of our nation:  “Our schools and society went to hell in a hand basket when they took prayer out of the schools.” For years, I have heard that statement almost word for word from well-meaning people, but contrary to popular misconception, children can pray in school. The reason children do not pray in school is not because they can’t, but because they do not pray at home. Any child can pray in school; it is a personal choice that is supported by the Constitution of the United States that cannot be denied by the courts, the government, or the political or personal ideologies of others. Prayer resides in the heart and soul of each individual and cannot be removed without consent of the individual; therefore, prayer can never be removed from school as long as it is embedded in the values instilled in the home. The moral fiber of a nation begins with mama and daddy, not with laws, policies or government and its institutions. Schools simply imitate the society in which they exist. For example, schools are a direct reflection of our society’s judgmental approach to life rather than an approach of compassion and understanding. In today’s society we are quick to judge anyone who does not think as we do, believe as we do, or live the life style we do. This same judgmental attitude is rocking our kids to the core in our schools. Judging of others breeds distrust, intolerance, contempt, and shallowness, which can be seen in such forms as bullying and social cliques in our schools. I agree prayer in school may help with such issues, but the answer to the moral concerns in society and our schools begins with parents teaching moral values and praying with their children at home. The moral foundation of society is founded and nurtured in the home, not necessarily in the school.
  4. Schools are to blame for the academic decline of our nation: No matter what the profession, there are individuals within the profession who need to do a better job or find a new profession, and the teaching profession is no different. However, overall teachers do a remarkable job considering the obstacles they face, but regardless of how competent a teacher is and how hard the teacher works, academic success begins at home. There are too many parents who are spectators in the education of their children; they depend exclusively on the teacher to educate their children. However, educating a child is not a spectator sport. Parents cannot be content to watch from the sidelines; they must get involved. The value of an education must be taught and reinforced in the home as well as at school. Children with parents who value education have the greatest chance at academic success because the parents make sure their children are in school when the school doors are open. Over the years, one thing I have noticed over and over again is that the children of parents who make sure they get to school on time and stay in school throughout the school day are more likely to do well in school. Teachers cannot teach a child if the child is not in school. However, it is common for the teacher to be blamed for the child’s habitual absence from school and poor academic performance – the teacher doesn’t like my child, the teacher is out to get my child, the teacher doesn’t know how to teach, the teacher has class favorites or the teacher grades unfairly. Rarely is it ever the child’s or the parent’s fault. Parents need to stop and think before laying all the blame on the teacher; they need to quit reasoning like a child, put on their big boy and girl pants and start using the reasoning skills of an adult.   If a child is doing poorly in school, it is most likely due to the child not coming to school, not doing the work when in school, not putting enough time into the work or the child needs extra help.
  5. Schools are to blame for students not liking school:  When children enter kindergarten, they come with an open mind eager and ready to absorb any and everything. They are like sponges; they cannot get enough. They want to be in school, and they enjoy school. Unfortunately, all children do not maintain their love for school. Why? Sometimes it is the fault of the school – a bad experience with a teacher, lack of success in the classroom, or lessons with no relevancy to the child’s life. Sometimes it is the parents fault – siding with the child against the teacher, continuously speaking negatively about the school or teachers, lack of interest in how their child is doing in school or too busy to pay attention to how their child is doing in school. Also, sometimes the fault lies with the student – they insist school is not cool, they think school is boring or they feel school is not fun. Guess what kiddos and parents, life is not always cool, easy or fun, and it is never too early for children to start learning that lesson at home as well as in school. It is better they find it out while in school and living at home than when they finish school and get out on their own. Granted, teachers should do their best to make learning as relevant and fun as possible, but that does not necessarily mean that school has to always be entertaining. The bottom line is that kids go to school to learn, and learning will quite often be less enjoyable than sitting in front of their Xbox, Play Station or playing some mind riveting game such as Angry Bird or Zombie Zappers on their tablet. Children need to be taught that school is their job regardless of whether or not it is entertaining, and that doing their best is the expectation for that job. However, for children to make that connection, parents must begin teaching that lesson at an early age at home. Parents must teach their children that school is important, and that going to school is not an option to be discussed or debated. There is nothing wrong with a child being told they are going to school whether they like it or not. Of course, teaching them early is the key. Parents cannot wait until middle school or high school to take an interest and try to teach the importance of an education; if they do, it is too late.

To address these five issues with any hope of bringing about change, the key is to begin at home. However, many people refuse to believe that, especially when it is much easier and cleaner to blame schools. The blame pointers have few qualms about pointing fingers at schools or teachers and painting them as scapegoats for society’s ills. Why? The answer is simple; schools (teachers and school administrators) rarely fight back. They are easy targets who rarely stand up for themselves, so they continually get kicked around since society knows they will meekly nurse their bruises and quietly go about their business of teaching, loving, mentoring, and parenting the kids they teach. Schools are certainly not without blame, but the blame thrown at schools is quite often a symptom of a greater root problem; a root problem that most often can be traced back to the home.

JL

 

©Jack Linton, October 18, 2014