Parenting as a School of Virtues


Part of my new job involves overseeing a number of foreign students living on campus.  We have kids from 6 countries, and ranging from the age of 12 to 21.

While they are in the States, I’m one of the individuals that acts in loco parentis, getting them to and from doctors’ appointments and grocery runs, and putting in late and early hours at the airport on both ends of extended breaks.

When they have a problem, I have to help deal with it.   It forces you to stop taking things for granted (I had to teach an 8th grader how to vacuum a floor recently).  I admit to being caught slightly unawares on Yearbook Picture Day, when I found myself holding an impromptu clinic on how to achieve a successful half-Windsor knot on one’s necktie.

I also have to administer discipline.  I fear I was too lenient at my last school!  So far that has meant confiscating a dozen computers of students who’ve failed to heed “lights out” and get proper sleep.  It’s also entailed assignment of chores when students persist in cussing in foreign languages.  As I explained to one student, “If you can’t clean up your mouth, at least you’ll clean up the dorm”.

These are tasks that require patience, consistency, fairness, selflessness, and quite a bit of fortitude and wisdom.  I’ve found myself marveling at how swiftly the act of parenting has caused me to grow toward holiness (alas, I yet have far to travel).   While I’ve observed that internal change, it’s also made me wonder if a good deal of American selfishness arises from having fewer people who’ve been molded by the crucible of parenting.

Good parenting forces you to model the virtues found lacking (or vital) in your child.  It forces you to watch your tongue, and evaluate the cultural messages and influences around you with an eye to those who are more impressionable.   This heightened awareness–I’ve been told–often leads men to return to religion, and incites a shift in women away from politically liberal positions, and toward conservatism.  I’ve even heard a priest argue that decline in the number of religious vocations quite naturally follows a reduction in the number of holy families.

In short, parenting is perhaps the action that most requires godliness, as it models the relationship of God to his children.  Would that we had more who were willing to be parents.  Would that the woman I’d hope to be the mother of my children would change her mind…


Primal Stories: Dust Echoes


Much to my delight, this  semester I find myself teaching a course on World Religions.  During our first class, I posed the question, “What is religion?” to the students, telling them, “You’re smart guys–surely a three word question will be simple to answer.”

We spent the next twenty-five minutes in a deep and quick-moving discussion.  For my next trick, I pulled out the short video “Whirlpool” from the excellent website Dust Echoes, and used it to segue into a discussion on symbolism and primal religions (aboriginal, tribal, and native american religions).  If you have time, definitely spend some exploring that website.

It’s my assertion that it is precisely from our capacity to Reason that mankind’s artistic and religious sensibilities arise.

Would one survive if you cut it off from the other?

It is no coincidence that most of the art produced over the course of human history–indeed even in the earliest surviving cave paintings–contains religious content or inspirations.   Far from being antithetical to rational thought, religion is an inevitable outgrowth of it.   Religion is one of the most distinctly human of actions.

I’m covered in Bees!

So it’s linked under the “Real Environmental Perils” comments, but this clip from Eddie Izzard about beekeeping is post worthy in itself (warning, an f-bomb does get dropped):

If we take Izzard’s point about stealing, beekeepers really ought to be called “beethievers”.  I think the next time I’m asked my profession at a party, I might add that title to my list of potential responses (which also includes “black market nurse”).

My Response To David Axelrod (Obama Advisor)

Thought I’d post the letter I recently sent to the White House in response to their recent outrageous e-mail promoting the president’s healthcare plan:

Mr. President,

Your senior advisor, David Axelrod recently sent an interesting and ridiculous letter to me trying to bolster support for your healthcare reform initiatives. I frankly found it offensive, factually inaccurate, arrogant, and hypocritical.

It decried those objecting to government-run healthcare as using “rumors” and “misleading the public”. I have family and coworkers who’ve received medical care at the hands of the VA, and vastly prefer private care from their employers over a government system they consider a joke.  I personally volunteered for three years at a state-run home for the elderly (Missouri’s now closed Truman Restorative Center) and saw how horribly government-run “healthcare” treats people.

If you want to reform healthcare, fix the existing problems with the VA system and Medicare (widely thought to lose $70+ billion to fraud annually–almost 20% of its budget). Perhaps then claims that a government system could cut costs might be believed.

Additionally, some among your administration have accused those opposing government care or skeptical of its efficiency as engaging in “scare tactics”. This is the height of hypocrisy, as Mr. Axelrod later writes, ” If we do nothing, millions more Americans will be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, or see their coverage suddenly dropped if they become seriously ill. Out-of-pocket expenses will continue to soar, and more and more families and businesses will be forced to deal with health insurance costs they can’t afford.”

Your administration is engaging in scare tactics unfounded in fact. Both my mother and I have chronic health conditions which are expensive to treat (my medication is billed at $1200 for three months, and yet my insurance covers $1100 of this cost). Neither of us suffered loss of coverage or a prohibitive increase in premiums.

We’re quite happy with our healthcare, thank you very much.

You and Mr. Axelrod claim Americans like me “deserve a healthcare system we can trust”. We have it, and to quote Mr. Axelrod once again, “That’s the reality,” not your administration’s propaganda.

Take Back Your Dollar; Tax Holidays

dollar-sign Lately, depriving the government of as many tax dollars as possible (legally) has become a burning passion of mine.  Aside from deciding to dedicate some future blog posts to how people can curb our bloated government’s spending (by keeping your hard-earned money), that means I’ll be taking advantage of this weekend’s sales tax holiday.

Computers and software under $3500, clothing under $100, and school supplies under $50 qualify for the break, and some local municipalities are also waiving their taxes in concord with the state.  A full list of details for the state of Missouri can be found here.

Missouri has two sales tax holidays; the “Back to School” holiday, which begins the first friday of August and runs to the end of the first Sunday, and the “Show Me Green” holiday (annually April 19th to 25th).  “Show Me  Green” gives sales tax breaks on Energy Star certified new home appliances.  As dishwashers, furnaces, and dryers are big ticket items, that can be quite a savings.