Thursday, December 17, 2020

One Size Doesn’t Fit All for Michigan School Closure Policies

Note: The following op-ed ran in print and online in The Detroit News Thursday, December 17, 2020. Our accrediting agency, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), supports the lawsuit filed by Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS) to help protect the freedom of private schools and support the responsible reopening of nonpublic high schools in Michigan that have appropriate health and safety protocols.  I have been coordinating with their regional director Jeff Mattner and others at ACSI in efforts to support these actions in our state, including writing this Op-Ed in hopes of benefiting Cavalry and all other private schools in our area. 

 One Size Doesn’t Fit All for Michigan School Closure Policies

Just a week before Thanksgiving, one of our seniors at Calvary Christian School, where I am superintendent, lost both of her grandparents. Under normal circumstances, the entire school community would have personally come alongside this student, offering fellowship, comfort, and support. This is what schools do as mini communities, and nonpublic religious schools consider this an inherent part of their outreach to students and families. 

Calvary, like many religious nonpublic schools, has gone the extra mile during this pandemic to meet the needs of their families for academic rigor in a medically safe community setting. Michigan could be an ally with other states demonstrating responsible school openings by returning such decisions to the local level. Districts and nonpublic school systems know their own communities and the effectiveness of the board-approved protocols within their buildings. 

The CDC reports that mental health visits by children aged 5-11 have increased 24% over 2019, while such visits by kids aged 12-17 shot up 31%. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), as recently as its August 19 update, “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” 

Is it really necessary and in the best interest of Michigan families to close all high schools regardless of the different realities from district to district? For instance, the rates of COVID-19 infection in Catholic schools in Michigan’s largest cities of Detroit and Lansing are currently at a remarkably low 1.1% and 1.6% (Detroit public schools recently were near a 5% rate). Additionally, NPR complimented our own state by citing a University of Michigan medical school expert at an October briefing. His view? "The data so far are not indicating that schools are a super spreader site." 

While politicians and their powerful political allies force all schools (or certain grade levels) to stay closed when evidence shows schools can be healthy and safe environments, our fundamental question is this: Why do nonpublic sector schools and their teachers have no voice at all in this matter when, in fact, the majority of them have a strong record of success, they strive to honor the protocols from the Michigan Department of Health, and have modeled a cooperative spirit throughout this process? 

We realize that each nonpublic school is different, but they share many similarities in their ability to manage the current situation in safe and effective ways. It is the existence of such variables that prompts us to appeal for restoration of the freedom for nonpublic schools, and even school districts or cities for that matter, to act in the best interest of the children and families they serve in the context of their own resources, rather than be subject to statewide edicts. 

Finally, we have been following a similar case regarding nonpublic Christian schools in Kentucky and recognize the recent Supreme Court case in New York that blocked the enforcement of restrictions on churches and religious gatherings. In fact, we feel that this situation in Michigan clearly has to do with freedom of religion and we are united in spirit with all religious nonpublic schools in Michigan regardless of affiliation. 

Let nonpublic religious schools do what they do best: serve their wider communities with solid academics in a safe environment. Let’s quarantine politics from the compelling data that favors in-person instruction. Let’s return such decisions to the local level, which allow nonpublic schools to meet the needs of students and their families who often make great sacrifices to provide the education they believe is best for their children. 

Tom Kapanka,  Head of School Calvary Christian Schools, Fruitport, MI

If you go to the op-ed piece in The Detroit News and click on the comments, you'll see someone named Missy_S has my back in response to an ill-informed critic. He certainly does not know me or our board or the highly qualified "Back2School" team that wrote our protocols. Nor does he know our office staff who communicate with our local county health officials regularly. I'm not sure at the moment who "Missy_S" is, but her defense of CCS is greatly appreciated.

"The last thing children in schools need is to have the incompetent members of local school boards and their stooge superintendents making life and death decisions. They are not healthcare professionals and in many cases, they are nothing but fanatical political hacks with ambitions beyond protecting students."
The incompetents on school boards are basically spineless and will respond to incoherent demands of screeching parents who want to impose influence at all cost. 

Kenneth)
This simply is not the case with the author of this piece.

Mr. Kapanka is the administrator of the school in Fruitport and does an amazing job. He is not a school board member or "stooge superintendent" as you implied that is out of touch with the challenges that our current health crisis has presented to the education system. He and the staff and the school board are not spineless and do not give in to the "incoherent demands of screeching parents."

There are several healthcare providers (doctors and nurses) with children in the school on the COVID preparedness panel that develop EDUCATED safety protocols. That is what this piece is about. They have acted in the best interest of the families and students and their safety even at the cost of losing said families that didn't agree with those decisions. 

I understand that the COVID pandemic is serious, however, the more serious situations facing our students is their mental health from being isolated for so long and a lack of community. That is what those of us who chose a nonpublic school option want back - the community to support our students in a safe environment without the politics involved. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

12 Days of Giving: When Norman Rockwell was the New Normal

Two weeks ago, I was looking for that wonderful Norman Rockwell picture of the four generations eating Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I confess, I was hungry... not for turkey but for some pre-Covid-19 nostalgia. I especially missed having great- grandparents around the table this year. 

The picture was originally part of the "Four Freedoms" series that came out toward the end of WWII. That was when Norman Rockwell was the new normal.

Rockwell could tell meaningful stories of Americana with a single canvas. The message of his art has stood the test of time, and in times like these, it's good to remember that not so long ago, America had a pretty good head on its shoulders. We knew with certainty the most basic distinctions of human existence. More importantly, we knew how to love God and our neighbor. Americans of all kinds knew it takes all kinds to make America, and we all stood collectively proud at our best moments.

Please take a little break from your day and watch this short video. It shows an aspect of Calvary Christian Schools that is unfortunately less and less common "from sea to shining sea": Love of God, Country, and Family. 

Watching it play out in the halls of CCS is made possible through generous friends like you.

Click here to See Video.

More about Norman Rockwell... with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

The above "12 Days" post struck a chord that I did not fully anticipate. Any reader younger than 42 did not share time on this planet with Norman Rockwell, and indeed, many of the people who read that post and watched the video made to go with it, did not recall ever studying a Norman Rockwell illustration, though some of the more famous reprints may seem vaguely familiar. So I thought a brief primer in Norman Rockwell might be of interest to older "fans" and perhaps even to young people. Using this video from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg may help bridge that gap. 

But before you watch this video about Rockwell. Know that (as the name clearly states), The Saturday Evening Post was a weekly magazine that was America's most popular "weekly" for decades. It went out of business (though it has since been revived for bi-monthly publication) in 1969. I was in 7th grade, and neither George Lucas nor Steven Spielberg had yet made their first movie. It was the "canvas" work of Norman Rockwell that inspired both of these directors to work in film. Enjoy!





Just for a laugh: This is a true story: Through the years, in
various venues, I have been "mistaken" for George Lucas. The most recent example was when I was in a long line at Best Buy. The customer behind me said, "Excuse me, Mr. Lucas, but what brings you to Muskegon." I think he was kidding, but I said, "Believe it or not, I've been asked that before, but if I were George Lucas, I would not be returning a $79 printer at Best Buy." We both laughed.




Since most of us will never get to visit te Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge,Mass, Here is a tour of all things Rockwell. (The first 17 minutes is most worthwhile. This is an ammeter video with some inaccurate observations (e.g. he calls actress Jane Russel a model in "The Girl in the Mirror" and later he identifies a daisy a lily)


[Note:This post is dated on Dec 2 (not the 4th) so that it follows the original post on this blog.]


 

Monday, November 23, 2020

CCS Thanks God for This Thanksgiving Day...

As we pause for a short break from the rhythm of school days, we are more eager than usual to be together again. It's been that kind of year. Family gatherings will be different this week. For some they will be especially hard, and we grieve with those who have lost loved ones in this season, but we also thank God to have known "the kind of love that all these years can't wash away."

Those words come from a new song by Ben Rector released especially for Thanksgiving 2020. As the song says, "...put your dishes in the kitchen sink and let the left-over year just wash away. 'Cause we made it through, I do believe, the longest year in history... Thank God for this Thanksgiving Day."

Click THIS LINK to see the CCS version of this Thanksgving Video.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day Concert and the "Virtue of Reality"

 Dear Veterans, Grandparents, and CCS Family,

Today was to be Grandparents Day at CCS. For over twenty years, Grandparents Day was in May, but last year we began a new tradition of hosting this event on Veterans Day in November. We were so glad that we made that change because the COVID-19 pandemic closed the schools for in-person events last spring. This school-year, we are open for daily classes, but the same pandemic makes it impossible to have hundreds of grandparents in our building. We miss you guys! I mean that with all my heart. If today were normal, we would all have met in the chapel briefly before going to your grandchildren's classes. So if you don't mind pretending with me for just a few minutes... imagine that we are all gathered in the chapel as we've done for all these years. 

I usually share some brief remarks that take us back in time a bit before Mrs. Kapanka explains the plan for the present day's events. If I could talk with you in person today, I would talk about "the virtue of reality.If you click on that link in quotation marks, you can read something I wrote twelve years ago about "virtual reality," a term I had never heard before 1993. In the decades since, virtual reality has become big business--mostly in the world of gaming and entertainment, but during the limited in-person reality caused by the current COVID pandemic, the word "virtual" has never been more used. We speak of virtual classes, virtual textbooks, virtual church, and the links below have been called a virtual concert.

I'd like to go on record, however, as saying that there is nothing virtual about the virtue of reality. The "here and now" that CCS students are experiencing by being in our building here and now came through the reality of hard work and preparation to make our building the safest possible venue for in-person classroom instruction. We take our present circumstances very seriously even as we comply with the "unreal" realities that were unimaginable just one year ago when we were all together in the school for this special day. 

So as you watch the video links below, please know that there is nothing virtual about the work the students put into preparing their songs for you. Due to our COVID protocols. The students came to the auditorium, temporarily removed their masks, and sang separately in their class "cohorts." I then did my best to bring them together "virtually" via video editing. But trust me, there was nothing virtual about the nervousness the soloists experienced... nothing virtual about the desire to get each note right... and the hours or practice and performance that produced the moments we now share virtually with you. It was all very real... as life should be. 

If you're like me, your eyes may blur a bit with tears as you think about what these kids are so bravely facing at this time in their lives and as you listen to songs old and new that make us mindful of the important role of grandparents to our students... the role of veterans to our freedom... and the role of freedom to the nation we all know and love.  

Please take a few moments during this special day to watch all three parts of this "virtual" concert, and do us a favor: click on the small "like" (thumbs up) icon at each video portion. It will mean a lot to the kids. Also please share this post and these videos with all the veterans you know. They deserve our thanks and a reminder that "our flag [is] still there." 

Click on the links to see the video.





Friday, October 30, 2020

Emergency Order Under MCL 333.2253

 

CCS is following MDHHS Emergency Order Under MCL 333.2253

Below is the exact "cut and paste" text of the MDHHS "order" (highlights added for clarification)

1. The critical terms included in this order are defined as follows:

a. “School” means public and nonpublic schools.

b. “Close Contact” means any individual who was within 6 feet of an COVID-19 infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection).

c. “School Associated Case” means a case of probable or confirmed COVID-19 amongst students, teachers, staff members, coaches, volunteers, or any other person who was present on school property or at a school function under circumstances that may result in the transmission or contraction of COVID-19 during their infectious period.

d. “School Community” means the set of persons who are affiliated with the school. This set may include, but is not limited to, parents, guardians, students, teachers, staff members, coaches, and volunteers.

e. “Public Notice” means providing the new and cumulative counts of School Associated Case(s) of COVID-19, including the date on which the School was notified of the new School Associated Case(s).

2. Upon learning that a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 is a School Associated Case, the local health department must, within 24 hours, notify the School to which the School Associated Case(s) relate, including the affected building or location and other information that may assist the School with carrying out its duties under this order.

3. Within 24 hours of being notified by a local health department of School Associated Case(s), the School must provide Public Notice to the School Community in a highly visible location on the School’s website that covers the impacted building or location. Schools are encouraged to provide information about measures in place at the School to prevent transmission of COVID-19, as well as measures that individuals can take to prevent transmission.

4. Public Notice does not replace the need for direct notification to persons who were, or are suspected to have been, a Close Contact of School Associated Case(s); such notice is the responsibility of the local health department.

5. Sections 2 and 3 of this order take effect at 8 AM on October 12, 2020.


The flow chart below was provided by Public Health Muskegon County (PHMC) who has proven to be a wonderful resource for CCS. The chart is a simplified snapshot of the thought process behind the recommendations the "local health department" makes to schools when a "school associated case" occurs. [NOTE: Not all cases involving students or staff are "school associated cases" if they do not meet the criteria outlined above. The term "school associated cases" requires feasible "transmission or contraction" within a school-related context as explained in the order.]



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Jumping Through the HOPES...Together

Note: This article was originally posted on July 28, 2020. It includes many common idioms whose origin is explained with a click of the orange bold text.n
Sometimes speakers or writers have reasons to pretend to be talking about one thing while really making important points about something else. To get their full meaning, we have to read between the lines, and that is true of this post about idioms.

Idioms are expressions that lose their original, literal meanings and are used to convey a more figurative thought. The confusion of idioms becomes obvious when talking to a student unfamiliar with the language. Imagine a foreign student new to English who asks an American friend if it is hard to get a visa to study abroad. His friend replies, "It's really a piece of cake if you have friends in high places, but it will cost an arm and a leg if you can't jump through all the hoops." When the words of those four idioms are translated literally, the inquisitive young man may think that getting a visa could be a delicious hike up a mountain or a horrible fall through amputating swords and hula hoops. Sometimes idioms are like that.

Take that last one I mentioned: "Jumping through the hoops." Its origins are from the circus (and venues like SeaWorld) where dogs, horses, lions, tigers (and seals and dolphins) literally jumped through hoops to entertain an audience. Why were these acts impressive? Because there is no natural reason to do it, and sometimes the hoops were on fire, which meant the animal was trained to ignore its natural fears. All this to get something in return (e.g. a treat, sugar cube, chunk of meat or fish). Circuses and SeaWorld grew less popular in the 21st Century as people became more sensitive toward animals, but the notion of "jumping through hoops" as an indiom lives on for humans. 

This idiom typically means that "the party of the first part" is willing to perform tasks imposed by "the party of the second part" with the hopes of getting something in return (a bike, a car, a diploma, a job, a degree, a visa, etc.)  "Jumping through hoops" almost always has a "task master" who places higher value on the "hoops" than those jumping through them. For this reason, the idiom tends to sound like a complaint by the person saying it, as if they fail to see the purpose in all the rigamarole (an idiomatic word with a story of its own).

While "hoop jumping" does have a negative connotation--right up there with "red tape." There is usually a "method to the madness" that is not all bad. 

For instance, the hoop-jumping principle is at work wherever there are rules to follow. It makes competition fair: Nearly all sports are basically a test to see which team can "jump through the hoops" better or faster than the other. It is frustrating, however, when the objectives are more difficult for some than for others. It is because we value "fairness" that there are weight classes in wrestling, and yet sometimes unequal things are asked to compete. Even so, sometimes a tortoise may beat a hare --and we love cheering for the underdog--but if real "hoops" had been involved in that race, it may have ended differently. Sometimes competition is like that.

The hoop-jumping principle can also bring order to our world: whenever you drive a car and jump through the hoops of getting a license and insurance, buckling up, obeying the stop signs, following speed limits, and driving correctly down a one-way streets, etc. you're basically "jumping through the hoops" that mitigate the risks of driving. Even so, thousands of traffic accidents happen every day, yet millions continue to weigh these risks and rewards of travel each time they pull out of their driveway or enter a cloverleaf. Sometimes risks are like that.

It's also frustrating when hoops being imposed bring equal or greater risks than the danger they hope to mitigate--especially when the rules for such "hoop jumping" change on a whim. It's even more frustrating if those mandating the hoops give themselves a "home field advantage" and act as if the hoops they impose on others do not apply to themselves. Sometimes rules and rulers are like that.

It's confusing when the data behind "hoop jumping" is in conflict with other known data or when  statistics are manipulated to justify the talking points of the day. For instance, when Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth's home-run record in 1974, he had the advantage of a dozen more games per season (for 21 seasons), meaning he had 240 more games and 12,364 at bats to hit 755 homers while Babe Ruth had 714 homers with only 8,399 at bats. The huge disparity of one batter have 4,000 more "tests" at the plate renders the comparison moot. Equally moot would be any comparison between one country conducting tens of millions more "tests" for a virus than countries lacking the capability to conduct as many tests. This is obvious, and yet... sometimes statistics are minipulated like that.

Sometimes politicians and fawning media can take several hoops and connect them like a big chain that is used to block something or to change the natural flow of events. It's especially discouraging when the reason behind the hoops or chains seem to favor one group over another, and when the less favored group seems silenced by the same media. Sometimes the media and politicians are like that.

I confess, sometimes I'm not happy with the media or the politicians or the  "red tape" or the  "hoop jumping" that hinder important aspects of our shared life. Do you ever feel that way?

"After all," we rightly tell ourselves, "We are free people--not trained seals needing fish from someone else's hand.  We are not going through the motions to please men like animals in a circus cage. We were meant to live freely and to weigh the risks and rewards of our own hoops." 

I get that, and it's true, we are citizens of an exceptional country that has operated under an enduring constitution for more than 200 years, and as such it is frustration to see the constitution ignored or "overstepped" by over-reaching people temporarily in authority. Even so, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to such frustration. We see wrong ways playing out on the evening news each week. Sometimes human nature is like that. 

But as believers we are more than "free indeed." We are image bearers of the Creator God. Even those who do not acknowledge Him are His image bearers, but they are not the light of the world. As U.S. citizens, we understand that it sometimes takes time to restore a country (or the original intent of founding documents). Likewise. as believers we understand that since the fall when sin first entered the world, God has held out the promise of restoring His original intent. He will restore the original meaning to His creation in His time. God's plan is like that.

In the meantime, His Word tells us that the trials of this life purify us like gold ... that sometimes its by deferring to "hoops" without complaining" that we beam in the darkness around us and shine like stars... (Philippians 2:15). This was the tone of our "Back 2 School" Plan.

So from here in our corner of the world, perhaps this is our time to shine to more than 200 nations/territories attempting to mitigate a new virus that has spread around the world in nine months.

All things considered, we are doing a pretty good job of mitigating the risks without losing all of the rewards of freedom. Sure, it is an imperfect and sometimes frustrating process, but let's not lose HOPE as we jump through the hoops.  

This, too, shall pass, and as long as TEMPORARY HOOPS CAN REMIND US OF OUR ETERNAL HOPE... and of what we believe and why we are here on this earth... so long as this can be said of us in these times... let us jump through the HOPES together and do whatever it takes to be exemplary as we gather safely together for school in the fall. Better days are yet to come. Sometimes HOPE is like that.

Guiding Principles of the CCS “Back2School” Committee:

 [Originally posted August 12, 2020]

I have been a part of many committees thoughout my career in K-12 Christian education, and I can truly say it has been a pleasure to problem-solve with our CCS Back2School Committee since our work began last June. Our team consisted of veteran educators and health-care/public safety professionals with degrees in medicine, IT, health, administration, etc. Together they have more than 100 collective years in leadership at CCS.

Together we have worked hundreds of man-hours with the goal of laying the best possible footing for returning to our campus and classrooms in the fall. Individually, we have also worked hundreds of hours researching the ever-changing landscape of a now 6-month long global health emergency. We have also reviewed countless plans of other schools (public and private).

Each school  district has its own challenges and assets, and we appreciate our state's invitation to take to full advantage of our school's strengths in addressing current concerns. CCS is uniquely suited to mitigate risks while maintaining educational best practices as much as possible. We are very pleased with the plan that our board will approve on August 15, 2020. Throughout the process, we have maintained unity (which does not require unanimity). Such unity is reflected in a spirit of deference, explained below. This has been the key to our functioning as a committee and school family, and it will also be the key to a great school year ahead.

Guiding Principles of the “Back2School” Committee:

1.      CCS is a faith-based, non-public school whose mission does not change with changing times. Partnering with likeminded parents has always been a hallmark of CCS. A parent survey will be conducted before a final plan is shared with the CCS family (state-established deadline for posting the final plan is August 17, 2020.) [This survey was completed and processed in early August, and an outdoor, socially distances parent meeting was held in the rear courtyard of the school on August 13. Both the survey and the meeting reflected a positive spirit of unity and overwhelming support for adopting the prescribed protocols in order to be in person/on campus.]

2.      Educational “best practice” will be a factor in all temporary modification of methodology necessitated by other concerns. Our goal will be to mitigate risks not to retreat from life.We all know no institution, regardless of size and resources, can guarantee to eliminate the risks involved in daily living. Just as seatbelts mitigate the risks of car occupancy while driving to school (but they cannot remove all risks of riding in a car), our protocols will mitigate the potential concerns we face in this present situation.

3.    Teachers will always be informed of matters that directly affect them before the school family or public.

4.      Because CCS is a school, we will use events beyond our control and responses within our control as teachable moments. We will foster a God-honoring culture of faith not fear as we proceed, keeping passages like Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that He is God.” Romans 12: 18: “As much as depends on us, live peaceably with all…” and Philippians 2:14-15: “Do all things without grumbling to be an example to a forlorn generation for by doing so we will shine like stars in the universe.”  At age appropriate levels, in addition to our regular curriculum, in the current context of the first global pandemic since 2008, (or the 2009 H1N1 pandemic) our students will learn related principles of scripture, scientific method, health, hygiene, history, human nature, civic responsibility, self-governance,"can do" problem-solving, teamwork, the U.S. Constitution (as a basis for how a nation maintains order and freedoms amid conflicting cultural responses), etc. 

5.      CCS is an accredited member of ACSI and have received and will continue to seek counsel from ACSI and other non-public and public-school organizations as we proceed to finalize our plan. Our plan will reflect the principles taught in our curriculum, etc. Priority will be given to common sense, consideration of a full scope of pertinent data. Life involves calculated risks mitigated by knowledge, experience, shared information, and "best practice." Some mushrooms are poison, some are on pizza. As we consume food processed and prepared by others, we enjoy the calculated yet unspoken risks and rewards or our culture. Our goal is to mitigate risks in exchange for the rewards of living freely for the glory of God.

6.      Fostering UNITY (but not necessarily unanimity) will be a priority. The first page of our Parent-Student Handbook has included this statement for two decades: “Because education is a partnership, its goals are more effectively met when the home and the school are confident that each party values the best interests of the other. As a practical matter, however, the school cannot be administrated by the many different homes it serves. To function agreeably as a school community, we must exercise deference (i.e. courteous, respectful compliance to guidelines which may not reflect our own preference). Order, unity, and the mission of CCS are best achieved when [we respect the ‘deference-over-preference’ principle.]” 

7.      The committee and administration will present a plan to reopen on the Tuesday after Labor Day. The School Board ultimately approves the policy, timeline, contingencies, etc. and decides when to present it to parents, the MDE, etc.

8.      The Governor’s “roadmap” asks that each school’s plan be submitted to the MDE and the Michigan Treasury Department by August 17, 2020. The fact that each district (CCS is considered its own district) has to submit THEIR OWN PLAN implies that these plans are rightly considered “local” matters rather than one-size-fits-all approach across the state. We appreciate the wisdom of that latitude, and that the premises behind the Governor’s “road map” can be individually adapted to meet the realities of each district. It is the committee's intention to provide a prima facie plan that is acceptable to our clientele, compliant with the most reliable data within of state guidelines, and compelling to the broader CCS community beyond the families we serve. [These plans were completed and presented as intended.]


NOTE: On it’s opening page, our CCS Parent-Student Handbook says, “Though all families agree to defer to the policies herein, these pages are not intended to dictate the atmosphere of our building or the “spirit” of the day to day operation of our school.” The same holds true for the temporary protocols adopted to make our re-opening possible this fall. The presentation and implementation of “Reopening Plan” protocols will reflect the mutual respect and deference we are called to model within the Church, within our school, and within our community. On its closing page, our handbook says Like-mindedness is best achieved through unity in essential matters, liberty in deferential matters and charity in all matters."  

TOGETHER WE'LL GET THERE!


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CCS Senior "Paint the Fence" Project

 We all remember the story of Tom Sawyer recruiting his friends to help him whitewash the fence. It's a funny tale that reflects Mark Twain's childhood, his humor, and possibly his work ethic.

 I could not help but think about Twain's tale as we asked the CCS Class of 2021 to help us with an important project not unlike the fictional account from Hannibal, Missouri, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago. 

For more than 20 years, "community service" hours have been a graduation requirement at CCS (as they are at many Christian colleges). The board's purpose in this requirement is to foster a spirit of service that we hope plays out in adulthood as our graduates become active members of their churches and communities. During the Covid-19 state restrictions, community service hours are more difficult to achieve. (Sadly, the beach clean-up option of the past has eroded away.)

With this goal in mind, the senior class will be helping their school complete one lingering task from all the work others did over the summer. They will be painting (staining) the fence in the front of the building on Wednesday afternoon. Their help is genuinely needed, and the end result will be a  beautiful tribute to our collective "can do" response to the pandemic of 2020. They will remember their contribution with pride for years to come. 

Here is Part 1 and 2 of a video I made of our seniors painting the fence...


Thank you, Seniors!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Back to Normal"

Just four months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a name for what most news outlets had been calling the “Wuhan Flu.”  Never has a new word been more widely used in so many languages around the world in so short a time.

The new term of course is “COVID-19,” and it was paired with a much older word: quarantine (derived from the Latin word for forty (i.e. 40 days). Unlike its historic use, however, this time quarantine applied to the healthy (not just the sick). Those not infected were asked to isolate themselves. They called it “socialdistancing.” 
  


In mid-March, all schools and businesses deemed “non-essential” were closed. (Churches were lumped into the non-essential group.)  We were told that a 3-week quarantine to “flatten the curve” would help hospitals face the coming onslaught of a global pandemic. We all did our part. Curve was flattened. Onslaught averted. And yet the 3 weeks became 3 months then four and counting. A funny thing happened on the way back to normal.


A Latin term for “normal” is status quo, which means “the way things have been for a long time.” There is typically good reason for the status quo. Some reasons are divine—like the Ten Commandments; most are less moral but still good—like expiration dates on milk cartons—but the stability of self-governance rests in whether changes to the status quo are proposed by or imposed on the people they affect. Imposed change happens quickly by those in power, but proposed change is a thoughtful process testing whether the good intentions of a proposal do not harbor unintended consequences (thus making the solution as hazardous as the problem).


In the case of America, our founders felt so strongly about changing the status quo of British rule that they risked life and limb to make it happen.  After winning their independence, they did not attempt to erase their history (the names of many east-coast cities and states confirm this).  Instead, they mapped out their future in a constitution outlining a path to “the way things ought to be.” It was a new status quo incorporating the best of past imperfect systems and thinly veiled principles of scripture. The goal was not perfection, but “…to form a more perfect union.”  


Because the founders understood human nature and how absolute power hastens corruption, they structured our self-governance so no one person or party could override the intentions of the constitution (or change the status quo) without first meeting the burden of proof.  This deliberative system allows the status quo to improve over time and has served America well for nearly 250 years (come 2026), but a funny thing happened on the way back to normal. 


By mid-April, it felt like the whole operation was in the hands of few “experts," and most of the media and some state governors were surprisingly open to staying “closed” at all cost. Even when the national economy was slipping into a coma, they spoke of staying closed through summer—possibly through the fall--and November's election. So just in case, Michigan sent out millions of unrequested "mail in" voting ballot applications that can be cast well before November. Hmmmm....


Is it cynical to notice that fostering the fog of continued fear has provided opportunity to impose changes without meeting the normal burden of proof? This may explain the contrast in protocols and reopening strategies from state to state and why some public protests were condemned as a violation of "social distancing" by leaders who weeks later joined shoulder to shoulder in much more reckless demonstrations. What else could explain why in May some business owners were arrested and jailed for opening their doors, but in June many rioters went unpunished for smashing them in? 


A funny thing happened on the way back to normal. Not funny “ha ha” but funny strange—funny like the smell under the floorboards when something has died. While we complied with a temporary change in the status quo, some opportunists shifted the burden of proof.  Rather than making a case to prolong the change; that burden of proof was now on returning to normal. “Can you prove that COVID cases won’t see an uptick if we reopen? Can you prove that not one life will be at risk because millions need to make a living?”


For centuries, the Church in America and faith-based schools like CCS have operated within the framework of a Constitutional government. Does our faith depend on these freedoms? No. Has the church flourished when it could not publicly meet? Yes—this was true many times through the centuries and remains true in places today. As Christians, however, we are called to be “wise as serpents and harmless of doves” (Matthew 10:16) as we interpret the world and times in which we live. So long as we have freedom, we should fully understand it.


Freedom and the “pursuit of happiness” has always come with risk and reward. This risk-reward equation stowed away on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims.; it put ink to the Declaration of Independence; it pointed Lewis and Clark WEST; it gave lift to the Wright brothers’wings and light to Edison’s bulb; it put Ford’s wheels in motion; sent man to the moon; and yes, it even launched Calvary Christian Schools forty years ago. You get the picture: an abundant life and profession of faith has never been risk free.


Our prayer is that followers of Christ will learn from history and not be given to hysteria. Both the history of the Church and this nation have produced a “cloud of witnesses” who were driven by faith not fear. 


We learned something on our way back to normal. It was an “awakening" of sorts. The same masks that made us feel like specks in a faceless ant farm—emotionless gatherers foraging for “essentials” avoiding the paths of others as we ventured from our homes. Those masks that muffled our greetings and muizzled our thoughts did something else. They reminded us we were image bearers of God, and that truth should not be hidden under a bushel or a mask. So may we never get used to them, and may God’s face shine upon us in the days ahead as our unmasked faces reflect Him to our fellow man. In the meantime, may our earnest eyes and actions show His love.

Likewise, our months of isolation taught us that gathering is an essential need. God said of individuals, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Of His church he said, “Forsake not the gathering of yourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25) And of nations He said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25) Heaven help us with that last one. Have these words ever been more true? 

COVID-19 is very real. You probably know someone who knows this firsthand. I do, but even that dear friend understands that as the improving “math” of this virus brings hope it is the aftermath that brings new concerns.

The extended closure of 2020 has been the longest experiment in social isolation in the history of the world. Yet through it all, we were never alone. (Joshua 1:9 and 1 Chronicles 28:20), and we were always free to shine. CCS has tried to be exemplary in its response to this emergency. We were ahead of the curve in home-to-home instruction; we conducted the first and only real cap-and-gown Commencement  in west Michigan for our Class of 2020; and we are planning to reopen with exemplary face-to-face classroom instruction in the fall. Rest assured that the emotional, social, academic, and spiritual needs of our students will be valued as highly as whatever other concerns may remain at that time. 

God be with you till we meet again. 
Tom Kapanka