Sunday, August 29, 2004

What is "Christian libertarian"?

I deliberately chose the term "Christian libertarian" to describe my worldview/civic philosophy several years ago when I discovered none of the mainstream terms fit (Republican, Libertarian, conservative).

Why Christian libertarian? Because before anything else, I'm Christian, and I believe there are things Christians can and should do that government can't and shouldn't.

A lot of Christians seem to think saying "government shouldn't stop people from doing that" is the same as saying "people should do that" or "we shouldn't do anything to stop people from doing that." It's not.

One of the best books I've ever read on the proper role and mission of government is "The Law" by Frederic Bastiat. In a nutshell: Government's just role is to protect God's gift of life, liberty and property. What you, as an individual, have a legitimate right to do in self-defense of those gifts is what government has a legitimate right to do on behalf of individuals. Period.

One of the best summaries I've ever read of the proper role and mission of the Church is Matthew 28:19-20, the commission given by Christ. In a nutshell: Share the gospel with everyone in the world (which has the power to convert and transform) and teach them to obey My commands. Jesus begins it by saying, in verse 18, "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Thus, the King of kings has given his soldiers marching orders into a battle they can fully expect to win.

That's why I can say with all confidence: "Government can't and shouldn't stop people from doing drugs." And with equal confidence: "The Church can and should stop people from doing drugs."

The two institutions don't look or work the same way, of course. Government is, at its core, the power to kill. The Church is, at its core, the power to transform. Government uses guns and tanks. The Church uses prayer and persuasion.

We should never, never get the two mixed up.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I'm a real blogger!

I have a new favorite blog to add to my list:

Sound Politics

Check it out. It has some great bloggers, and I get to join them. Since that one's political, maybe this one can be theological, philosophical and, on occasion, silly.

To start off silly: I went to an "open mic" at a cafe in Tacoma earlier this week. (Not to participate, lest I become the hapless subject of someone else's blog.) A band, which I will not name, played.

No. It didn't play. It did something else, involving instruments and noise.

The moral of the story: Five humans collaborated to make that sound. And then they did it in public. Is this a reflection on our public schools? Because if it is, I'm in the right business . . . but I'm gonna need a lot of help.

Spin me round n' round

Awareness of our nation’s education crisis is fueling market-based reforms, and the National Education Association (NEA) is stepping up efforts to bolster the image of status quo public schools.

The union’s latest effort is a report trumpeting “good news about public schools.” Since such news would be welcome, the report merits a close look. And that close look reveals statistical spin that would make anyone dizzy.

Take one example.

The NEA notes that “reading scores are up” in Washington state schools because “the proportion of 4th graders who scored at the highest two levels in reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress increased by 22% between 1994 and 2003.”

Sounds good, but statistics can sound just about anything. The NEA’s “fact” is technically true; the conclusion you're supposed to reach isn't.

The NEA derives its “22% increase” from a trend showing that 27% of 4th graders scored "proficient" on the national writing exam in 1994, and 33% scored proficient in 2003. The flipside: 67% are failing to meet standards, down from a 73% failure rate.

Progress? Sure.

Success? No.

The NEA also (conveniently) fails to mention that starting in 1998 schools were allowed to provide some students with “testing accommodations”. Right or wrong, this arbitrarily increases the overall percentage of proficient students and makes a direct trend comparison inaccurate.

On top of that, “proficient” on the reading assessment is defined as a student who scores at least 238 out of 500 points—or 48%. “Advanced” is a score of at least 54%.

Of course we should commend progress. The irony in the NEA’s happy dance is more than just the union’s refusal to acknowledge the true crisis of low student achievement and offer meaningful solutions. It's the union's active and aggressive role in creating and prolonging the problems.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

War of the Blogs

Apparently you don't have to be "vast" to be part of the "right-wing conspiracy." Our Seattle event at the Downtown Republican Club earned mention on a blog run by the Initiative 884 campaign:

There's nothing like a whiff of the opposition to get a campaign and its supporters jazzed up. After Natalie convened the whole staff for a planning session, we all got to the phones and began calling people we know in the area to stand outside and wave signs as well as sit inside and ask pointed questions to the forum's right-wing panelists (people from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and conservative Washington Policy Center, among others).

The "others" they don't mention included Charles Hoff, former assistant school superintendent and teacher, and current member of the Federal Way School Board. He wasn't speaking for the Board, but it must scare them to admit that someone with firsthand knowledge of our state's schools agrees mo' money ain't the answer.

Their blog continued into absurdity . . .

It's really quite remarkable the gall these people have, to come to a community that values education as much as Seattle does and tell us how to spend our money.

Think about that for a minute. These people are trying to raise your taxes and my taxes by $1 billion a year, and when we say "hey, wait just a minute," they're outraged and affronted.

I'm not sure I can comprehend it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Get Involved

Tonight I went to Seattle to record a 30-minute public access show. Subject: Initiative 884. The show is hosted by the Downtown Republican Club, which meets weekly for dinner and discussion.

It's a small, informal affair. The "studio" is a table with two chairs. The "equipment" is a video camera on a tripod, operated by a dedicated club member. There are about a half-dozen regular attendees.

And tonight group members were outnumbered by dedicated supporters of I-884, who showed up with signs and stickers to make their presence known. A few stood on the street corner outside with a large sign expressing "support for schools." Others were inside, politely filling chairs.

Wake up call!
Folks who believe in limited, accountable government and true education reform should not be outnumbered at their own event by members of the opposing side of the issue.

Governing yourself requires action. Get involved.

Mo' Money! (croak)

I need to stop scheduling radio interviews before, say, 11:00 a.m. My voice refuses to cooperate.

Today I croaked out information for hapless Spokane listeners to support EFF's claim that Initiative 884 (Washington's one-billion dollar education tax increase proposal) will not help students in our state. In fact, it will hurt them by making current problems a billion dollars bigger.

The initiative employs the same old ceaseless mantra: "Mo' Money!" It doesn't say anything about "mo' results."

Interestingly, just this morning an EFF supporter sent me a 1963 editorial that ran in the Burlington Farm Journal opposing a school levy. The editorial made some great arguments against the mo' money bureaucrats of the time, and the levy was defeated.

Back then, in the Farm Journal's district, the annual local cost per student was $447.75. Today it averages $1,396.10 statewide. (That's just local. Total spending in Washington state per student for 2002-03 was $9,454, which includes local, state and federal funds.)

Now what was that about results?

You can read more about Washington's Initiative 884 -- and the real solutions to our education crisis -- here.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Beginning a Blog

There is no better time to begin a blog than when one has come to work on a weekend to "catch up on some things." So here I am.

And here are some of my favorite blogs -- notable for their pith and humor:

The Duchy of Burgundy Carrots (Karen Richmond)
Shark Blog (Stefan Sharkansky)
Joanne Jacobs (Joanne Jacobs)

It's easy to start a blog.