Thursday, February 22, 2018

CCS: Now More Than Ever!

I've not written much lately about my trip to China in the 2014-2015 school year. The geopolitical shifts we have witnessed since that trip have tabled much of the openness and "red carpet" treatment we were shown three years ago. Don't get me wrong, I am very willing to be in a "wait and see" mode regarding these geopolitical shifts, but I think of China often, and we do keep in touch with some of our educational friends there.

I came across this short video commentary from a professor at Harvard Business School, and I couldn't help but think of the many similar conversations I had with Chinese educators and with many of our Chinese friends here in the states since that time.

It is often those who come from a culture where religion is very stifled (if not snuffed out) who are most able to see the reality of a different culture. What is frightening about this video clip (and the observation of a visiting Chinese scholar), is that the foundation he refers to is crumbling.

CCS is committed to fortifying that foundation one student at a time.The video clip below speaks of the general need for accountability to God in order for our system of government to work. We stress this in our booklet entitled "Roots around Rock; Teaching Toward Ideals in a Less Than Ideal World."

"The process of teaching ideals begins with an understanding of human nature and its resistance to external expectations. At the heart of all formative ideals is a clear sense of accountability. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the question of whether man is basically “good” or “bad” is vividly answered in the undeniable reality that human nature is only as good as man’s sense that an “authority” exists to which he will someday answer for his actions. In other words, the ability to exercise “good judgment” individually requires acceptance of the reality of judgment/accountability and the authorship/authority of behavioral ideals beyond one’s self. As Golding’s shocking tale reveals, if shared ideals erode over time, cycles of natural human behavior become apparent as shared, agreed-upon moral ideals give way to everyone doing what is right in their own eyes...." 

Use of this video is not an endorsement of all views of speaker.

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Recent Interview with Coach Brad Richards...

This post is a little different from most here at "Two Begin With...".  It's a recent podcast of an interview by the Grand Haven Tribune with CCS Coach Brad Richards. It's a great listen from beginning to end. Brad is disarmingly transparent about human flaws and divine purpose. As he says in the interview... CCS is not a perfect place with perfect people. We fall short sometimes, but our goal is to help students know how to get up when they fall and to equip each of them for the journey of life. This interview is not just about basketball; that's just the hook for many other important topics, and Coach Richards has valuable insights that will resonate with many listeners.

At the beginning of the interview, the host mentions that it is unedited. They typically trim them down to about 30 minutes, but it sounds like they liked every part of this conversation so much that they just rolled tape and kept it all.

Please find some time to listen to the full context of what Brad is saying on various subjects. I think you'll agree that it reflects very well on our school and our mission. Feel free pass this link to others. (Just cut and paste the address in the browser bar into a text or email.)

Thank you, Brad, for taking full advantage of this moment to represent Christ and Calvary Christian Schools.
Click Here if the green play button in the player below is not available.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dropping the Blanket at Christmas Time...

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

On December 9, 1965, I was nine years old. That Thursday night, my family sat in our little living
room in front of an old Admiral black-and-white TV (like the one in this photo). With a big bowl of popcorn to share, the six of us were all snuggled up to watch a Christmas special. (The show was in "color"--a fact we would not realize for another five years. I was 14 when my older brother Paul surprised our family with its first color TV, and the old black-and-white set went to the basement.)

The show we watched was an animated experiment that even the creator thought was too hastily put together. "Some of the drawing was awful," he admitted. The first hurdle was preserving the two-dimensional comic strip feel of the characters and scenes. The other challenge was assigning voices to characters that had been only imagined by millions of readers for fifteen years. But the most significant reason that airing the show was considered a huge risk for the  network (CBS), was that Charles M. Schultz (the "Charlie" behind the Charlie Brown "Peanuts" comic strip) insisted on including the reading of Luke 2 as the key element of the storyline.

Schultz refused to take out "the true meaning of Christmas" because it was the only solution to the bewildered depression that Charlie Brown mentions in the opening scene. You remember it: the kids are all skating and having fun during the melancholy song "Christmas Time is Here." The song's  words are happy but the melody is sad, which perfectly describes Charlie Brown's state of mind. (The song was written by the lead producer just days before the show aired.)

As the simple plot unfolds, things go from bad to worse for poor Charlie Brown until he finally begs aloud, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

What follows Charlie's earnest plea is a recitation of the original Christmas story by Lucy's erudite blanket-clinging brother, Linus. This is the scene that two of the producers wanted removed, but Schultz had final say.  It was one of the reasons that many television experts pronounced the show "a flop" even before it even aired.

The experts were wrong. The show was loved by my family and millions of others who had devoured "Peanuts" comic strips and the countless Charlie Brown paperbacks sold at Christian bookstores at the time.

This show and this scene has aired unchanged for 52 consecutive years, but it was not until this year that someone pointed out to me a very important detail that Schultz included in this moment:

We all know that Linus is forever attached to his iconic security blanket. He is simply terrified if he cannot hold his blanket. But... watch what Charles Schultz decided to have Linus does when he gets to part of the passage where the angel says "Fear not."  He lets go of his blanket--lets it drop to the stage as if to illustrate the complete peace bestowed by the Angel of the Lord.

This is a classic...

I thought of this scene last night at the CCS Christmas concert when our kindergarten class recited the same passage by heart. More than 700 people shared a beautiful evening with us. The program included seasonal favorites like "White Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride," of course, but the main emphasis was on songs that clearly present the true meaning of Christ's birth, including "Silent Night," which is celebrating its 200th Christmas this year, and was sung by all 700+ in the auditorium.

The second verse we sang says:
"Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!"

1st and 2nd grade

May your Christmas be filled with the security that comes from knowing the true meaning of Christmas.

Tom Kapanka

Friday, June 2, 2017

“Seeing is Believing": How Worldview Affects Everything

We all remember the account in John 9, where a man blind since birth hears Jesus declare Himself as the “light of the world,” and then He makes a mud salve, applies it to the closed eyes, and says, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “sent”).  The blind man follows these divine directions and is able to see for the first time in his life.
I’ve been to the Pool of Siloam in old Jerusalem. Millions of tourists have seen that sight, but just think… this site is the very first thing that blind man ever saw.  On that miraculous day, he gained a view of the world, but more importantly, he gained a new worldview.

In the next part of the story, after decades in darkness, the man who can now see, ascends the stairs still blinking in the bright light of day. Not yet able to keep his eyes steadily open, his eyes flash briefly like the shutter of a camera every few steps through the crowd, and aided  by “snapshots”  burned into the back of his eyelids, he returns to the place where the small spot of spittled mud has now dried.

By then Jesus was nowhere to be seen, but the news of His miracle was heard by the Pharisees. They were livid that a so-called man of God would violate the Sabbath by healing a blind man in public. “Obviously,” they said to the blind man, “the person you say healed your blindness is actually a sinner.”

The healed man forced his eyes to stay open. The bright sun went behind a cloud, and the glaring Pharisees gradually came into focus as his eyes continued to adjust. For the first time in his life, he saw the power of non-verbal communication. He could see the Pharisaical furrowed brows, the sneering lips, and the pointing finger of  the man who asked threateningly: “Do you agree that the man who did this thing to you is a sinner and not the Christ?”

The reply was candid and classic: “I do not know all the answers yet. All I know is I was blind and now I see.”  He did not stop there, however, because along with his vision he was given a new worldview. “Why do you keep asking these questions? Do you also want to become His disciples? I have been blind all my life. I can see clearly now. If Jesus were not of God, He could not have healed my eyes.”

The angry Pharisees, still blind to the Truth, cast the man from their presence.

Jesus soon found  the outcast and asked,  in so many words, if “seeing is believing.” The man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him.

In a matter of minutes, the eyesore of the streets became a “sight for sore eyes” to fellow believers.

Such complete change did not happen with all of Christ’s miracles. We know that some healed lepers never even said “thank you.”  But the blind man gained not only his physical sight  but spiritual sight as well. In his case, along with his first view of the world came a new worldview that lead him to Christ.  Knowing the cost before knowing all the details, he bravely proclaimed the Truth as he saw it.

At the end of John 9, Jesus explains to the Pharisees how the same events can deepen man’s bias or strengthen his belief. It’s all a question of how we choose to view the world. We see this happening more than ever in the world around us. The same evidence is embraced or rejected depending on whether you view God as the Creator or as a "cosmic caricature" of man/s invention--whether you think God is a God of order or that life is just a galactic box of BBs spilled. Take for instance the question: "Is Genesis History?" Your understanding of that question will affect your understanding of the rest of Scripture and its role in your worldview.

This spring, the Lord has provided $50,000 for CCS to purchase  the best-developed K-12 Christian school curriculum on the market.   
Starting in the fall, these resources will further empower our long-standing commitment to be fully accredited and academically competitive while also providing a Biblical worldview in our  textbooks, technology upgrades, teacher tools, and every traveled path we share with the open eyes God gives to those who believe.

Monday, May 2, 2016

CCS Equips Students 
to Understand and Face our Changing Times  

Recently, CCS Assistant Principal Rick Maine and I were invited as guests to a conference in Nashville, TN, hosted by a well-known organization that promotes the integration of a clear Biblical worldview into all spheres of life and education.

We joined more than 150 Christian school administrators from 36 different states, to sit under the teaching of  Del Tacket (The Truth Project), Dr. Jeff MeyersCEO of Summit, and other experts in educational trends, including the Barna GroupAs you can imagine, it was an inspiring two-day program packed with data, discussion, philosophy, challenges, and practical strategies to better equip this generation to be informed, relevant, and compelling ambassadors for Christ to their world. Read sample Summit essays here. 
What do we mean by Biblical “worldview”?  I have touched on this subject in my booklet “Roots around Rock: Teaching toward Ideals in a Less-than Ideal World” (copies available at no charge in the Calvary Christian Schools office at 5873 Kendra Road).
In that booklet, I speak of a Biblical worldview as an understanding of our world and patterns of human behavior based on the narrative, truths, assumptions, and relationships outlined in scripture.   I refer to those standards as “ideals” and contrast them to the ever-changing “norms” of the world around us.

Ideals, like the biblical truths that support them, endure through time. It is the constant nature of biblical ideals that causes them to fall in and out of favor within cultures that thrive on change and resist the notion of accountability to God.
The world that rejects a biblical worldview prefers to live by self-determined norms. Norms are collective patterns of behavior and societal tolerances. They are shaped by trends and the shifting winds of politics, pop-culture and public opinion. Norms are not inherently good or bad, right or wrong, but they tend to abstain from absolutes and dissolve differences—to blend the black and white to gray. Norms seek an ever-broader way and embrace the exchange of “new for old” on the assumption that change itself is naturally toward what is good. This is not true from a biblical perspective, but society’s embrace of ever-changing norms (and the new normal) fails to meet the burden of proof incumbent upon change and fails to see the unintended consequences of abandoned social mores.
In a culture that assumes change is for the better, the rightness of a new normalis proven by its acceptance into normality. In this sense "rightness" does not mean righteous but alright. Something frowned upon a generation ago suddenly becomes alright, which is counterfeit to the word’s root meaning. Behaviors once considered “taboo” steadily slither into common practice under the mantra of “No one is saying ‘no’ so it must be alright,” and with no more rationale than that, norms change, and behavior that was considered disgraceful or illegal for centuries is suddenly on parade. Take a moment to watch this video, and you will better understand this generation's inability to say anything at all is "wrong."

If "anything goes" what stays? If truth is entirely subject to the collective courage it takes to refuse to get on the latest absurd bandwagon of society, it is no wonder that norms are changing faster than ever.

In this sense norms are like thermometers, accepting and reflecting external changes as the new reality. Ideals are quite the opposite; they function as a thermostat, pressing toward a mark in hopes of influencing reality toward what ought to be. 

Cultures shaped by norms rather than ideals tend to accommodate regrettable behavior rather than abstain from it. Man-centric worldviews produce man-centric norms as more and more tolerance is required to let “…everyone do what is right in their own eyes.

Ironically, the more tolerant society becomes to changing norms the less tolerant it is toward those who hold to changeless ideals. This rejection is rooted in the false premise that an “open mind” is superior to a firm belief.

Imagine a school setting where the opposite is true. A setting that purposefully integrates learning with life, science with conscience, facts with faith, theory with wonder, and wonder with belief.

Imagine an education in which the pressures of conformity to ever-changing norms are neutralized by the truth that we are in but not of this world.  Imagine a place where the norm, if you will, is a fully accredited academic setting fully aware of other worldviews but rooted in the truth of scripture and the shared ideals of home, church and school. Such a place becomes more than a school; it becomes a community that partners with the home in teaching young people not only how to make a living but also how to live for the glory of God. 

Click on this line to hear what folks at CCS have to say:

Partnering with parents 

to equip students 

toward personal excellence 

and the pursuit 

of God’s purpose 

for their lives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Seeking Our Third Consecutive Term of ACSI/NCA Accreditation

CCS is in the final stages of renewing our long-standing dual accreditation with the North Central Association (NCA) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). These organizations are well known and respected within the educational community. We first earned our accreditation in 1999 and have maintained that status through the years, putting Calvary Christian Schools in an elite classification of private schools. In fact, of the thousands of "member" schools in ACSI, less than 10% earn and maintain accreditation. CCS is the only accredited K-12 school in this West Michigan market.

The Latin word CREDO means "I believe." It is the root word creed, credible, incredible,, incredulous, and yes, accreditation to name just a few examplesThe accreditation process gives CCS credibility with our stakeholders and the community. It also qualifies our SEVIS status to host international students. This data-driven process provides a structure of rigorous standards focused on continual school improvement
Every facet of our program is assessed: Governance, Mission, Resources, Instruction, Facilities, Personnel, Safety, Student Performance etc. In response to hundreds of questions, the administration and faculty produce countless pages of evidence in support of our answers, but more importantly, the process sharpens our focus on better serving the individual and collective needs of our students and parental partners.
Here are just few examples of work that has been done over the past two years in preparation for the coming accreditation visit:
Curriculum Guides/Scope and Sequence were revised and republished by teams of teachers after evaluating our entire K-12 curriculum. They looked at what we teach (scope) and the order in which we teach it (sequence). This on-going process prompts adjustments and provides a basis for prioritizing new textbooks as the budget allows.
Stakeholder Surveys were completed with parents, students and staff members in November.
We have been evaluating these results, listening to the input from our stakeholders, and addressing concerns while building upon our achievements and strengths.
A Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) has been reviewed and published by a cross-section of CCS stakeholders based on input from the Stakeholder Surveys and the expertise of our teachers and administration. The CSIP was submitted to the School Board for review in February. Part of the board’s oversight role is vision casting and assisting the administration in ongoing implementation and stakeholder involvement.
Emergency Protocols have been updated with the on-site direction of the County Emergency Management Director. This process included emergency drill training, publishing of safety procedures and protocols, and the purchase of equipment through grants and other individual donations.
Updates of all governing documents are now complete: Board Policy Manual and Bylaws, Staff Manual, Parent/Student Handbook, and all Enrollment Materials
Technology Upgrades have taken place in classrooms. E-911-compliant phones have been installed in all classrooms and offices. The school website has been redesigned, and teachers now have their own webpages accessible through the school website. Additional security cameras (24 now in place) and other upgrades are in process. In February, our internet speed was quadrupled and moved to an unshared dedicated-service line.
Integration of Mission: The ACSI accreditation process is very specific in confirming that the CCS Statements of Faith and Mission are at the core of everything we do. We have revised the same longstanding goals of our Mission Statement down to 18 words which were the subject of this space in the fall and have been on display in signage and communication on a regular basis.
Student Performance Data Analysis helps us improve our instruction for individual students and whole classes as well as providing  plan for ongoing staff development in this area.
On Monday, February 22, 2016, hundreds of pages of reports were submitted to ACSI and NCA. On March 20-23 an External Review Team will be at CCS for three and a half days to observe classrooms, examine policies, interview staff and constituents; review files, procedures and documentation. When finished, these visiting experts will produce a list of commendations and recommendations which, in short, determines if we have earned accreditation for what will be our third consecutive cycle since 1999.
I would like to thank our faculty and Mrs. Shelley Watkins who has served as our accreditation facilitator for eighteen years. Together with many other volunteers, our team has devoted thousands of hours to this project over the last 2 years. They do it because they love CCS and your kids, and they want to make this school the best it can be. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Kuyperian Principled Pluralism: A Case for Fair Treatment of Christian Views in Changing Times

The January 2016, CCS Newsletter cover article provided a brief introduction to a term used by Abraham Kuyper more than a hundred years ago: “Principled Pluralism.” This post is provided for those who do not read our CCS Newsletter or for those who wish to read further on the topic by way of the links within and related posts here at "To Begin With." As we enter into an election year with escalating rhetoric on all sides, it may be wise for Christians (called to impact their culture) to consider the merits of this approach to civil discourse.

Abraham Kuyper was a renowned 19th century theologian who later served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1901 to 1905). He was a relentless advocate of K-12 Christian education who made an enduring case for publicly funded faith-based schools. One hundred years later, his efforts still serve as a model for school of choice and the value of parochial schools.

Though a devout Christian himself with no desire to water down the singular call of the Gospel of Christ, he fully understood that his biblical worldview could not be politically imposed upon the world, but he also believed that the absolute separation of church and state is neither healthy nor necessary in a pluralistic constitutional republic. Kuiper knew it was not the role of government to impose or inhibit religion as part of a nation’s identity.

With that in mind, Kuiper used the two words “principled pluralism” together like a blacksmith’s tongs to forge a common sense approach to governance in a setting where religious and secular worldviews were often at odds. His approach was not ecumenical (i.e."all roads lead to God so lets just get along"), but even as he served as Prime Minister, he understood that he could extend no more protection to his own deeply held religious beliefs than to those he considered erroneous.

It is important to remember that respecting another person’s right to hold an opinion does not require agreeing with it. Likewise, respecting that there are huge differences in world religions does not require believers to be blind or mute for the "common good." It is alright to agree to disagree agreeably, True pluralism does not require an "I'm okay; you're okay" pretense; nor does it mandate the silence of opposing views in the public square. 

The current one-sided activism playing out on many college campuses, however, seems to stem from a sense of entitlement and victimhood amid demands for “safe space” from “microaggressions” while chanting about which group matters more than the other. This drama of distinction unfolds in a culture otherwise eager to neutralize all differences by redefining terms (e.g. gender, conception, life, citizenship, marriage, etc.).

Ironically, in the name of “tolerance,” dissenting voices are quashed by supposedly open minds. Dare to disagree with the latest change in public opinion and you may be called a fascist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, transphobe,.. fill-in-the-blank-ophobe. [As if disagreeing with something equates fearing it. By that test, non-Christians could be called Christophobes.] The list of epithets hurled in the name of tolerance is surprisingly long. 

Public policy driven by outcry rather than principle can lead to “might makes right” and the misguided  notion of  “majority rules,” both of which our founding fathers protected against as they drafted the U.S. Constitution. From experience, the founders knew that laws based upon pendulum swings of power rather than on an enduring set of principles ultimately lead to various forms of tyranny.

As we have seen this past year, pluralism without principle leads to selective tolerance from a growing secular majority at the cost of fair treatment for those who hold opposing convictions or beliefs.

"Perhaps Kuyper's greatest significance for our own religiously and culturally fractured world is the way he proposed for religious believers to bring the full weight of their convictions into public life while fully respecting the rights of others in a pluralistic society under a constitutional government." [Jim Bratt, Kuyper biographer and professor at Calvin College]

Parity not privilege is a general paraphrase of the Golden Rule. Rather than imposing change on others against their will (e.g. through executive orders, Sharia Law, SCOTUS, or caliphates), the Golden Rule would suggest to “Govern when you are in control as you wish to be governed when you are not.” As we begin an election year, this seems like a reasonable expectation to have for elected or appointed officials.

This is the heart of Kuyperian Principled Pluralism as I understand it, and It it will help us set a useful tone for CCS students “to bring the full weight of their convictions into public life.”

Because of the limited space of the January Newsletter, I have provided some related links on this subject below. 

Tom Kapanka

Click here for an article on Kuyperian pluralism from the Cardus publication Comment.

Click here for the context of the following quotation by David Koyzis:

"In [Kuyper's] own life, he exemplified the effort to live out the lordship of Christ in every area of endeavor, including politics.

Of course, politics in the real world is a matter of trying peacefully to conciliate diversity, as the late British political scientist, Sir Bernard Crick, aptly expressed it. It requires the tolerance of “different truths,” or, more accurately, different claims to the truth. How then can Christians, whose scriptures so frequently ring with the phrase, “thus says the Lord,” be expected to live with unbelievers who deny God’s sovereignty to begin with? How can we live out an all-encompassing commitment to God’s kingdom in such a diverse society and polity? Would not Kuyper and his followers be compelled to work for the establishment of some sort of theocracy? ...

But this was not Kuyper’s approach. During his political career, Kuyper worked, not to turn the Netherlands into a godly commonwealth, but more modestly to secure a place in the public square for his Reformed Christian (Gereformeerd) supporters in the face of the secularizing ideologies spawned by the French Revolution....

In North America, ... Kuyper’s legacy amongst evangelical Christians... comes not a moment too soon. In many respects our North American polities are increasingly taking on the divided character of European countries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, albeit without (yet) a comparable level of political instability....."

Click here to read of the legal case involving InterVarsity Christian Fellowship groups on public college campuses being accused or "religious discrimination" for requiring organizational officers to be Christians.

The following discussion aired after the first drafts of this article were written. It does not mention Kuiper or principled pluralism, but it does touch upon our discussion:

Click here  (or read post below) to see an ironic lack of parity in an email exchange about a state-approved workshop instructing Michigan K-12 teacher to include lessons on "Islam The Straight Path" in their classrooms.