Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jumping Through the HOPES...Together

Note: This post includes many common idioms explained by clickng on the orange bold text.

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 dolpins) 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, this principle is at work wherever there are rules to follow. It makes competition fair: Nearly all sports (not just basketball) are basically a test to see which team can "jump through the hoops" better or faster than the other. It also brings order to our world: whenever you drive a car with a license and insurance and you buckle up, obey the stop signs, follow speed limits, and drive correctly down a one-way streets, etc. you're "jumping through the hoops" of making our streets safer.

It is frustrating, however, when the objectives are more difficult for some than for others. We value "fairness"--it's why there are weight classes in wrestling, and yet sometimes unequal things are matched up to compete. Surprisingly, sometimes a tortoise may beat a hare depending on what "hoops" are involved. Sometimes competition is like that.

It's also frustrationg when if the rules for "hoop jumping" change on a whim (e.g. if  the goal posts move from game to game). It's especailly frustrating if those creating the rules for "hoop jumping" seem to give themselves a "home field advantage" where the rules affect them less than others. I get that, but 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 numbers and statistics seem to make some hoops more important than others. When Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth's home-run record in 1974, he had the advantage of many more games per season, and when Barry Bonds beat Hank Aaron's record in 2007, it was later learned that he used performance inhancing steroids. Sometimes statistics are like that.

Sometimes the media and politicians can take several hoops and connect them like a big chain that is used to block something or 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 politics are like that.

I confess, sometimes I'm not happy with the media or politicians or  "red tape" and  "hoop jumping" that impose things into my life. Do you ever feel that way?

"After all," we tell ourselves, "We are not trained seals needing fish from someone else's hand.  We are not going through the motions to please men like caged animals in some 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, but as believers we are more than "free indeed." We are image bearers of Creator God. Even those who do not acknowledge Him are His image bearers, but they are not the light of the world. 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). 

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 life is like that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Do All Students Matter?

Secretary DeVos Issues Rule to Ensure CARES Act Funding Serves All Students--even in Faith-Based Schools

Gives districts options for determining the amount of CARES Act funding for equitable services to private school students    JUNE 25, 2020

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rule that would help to ensure all students whose learning was impacted by COVID-19 are served equitably by emergency funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, no matter where they attend school. The Interim Final Rule (IFR), which becomes effective immediately, outlines how local education agencies (LEAs) must calculate the emergency funds available for providing equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.
Providing equitable services is long-standing law under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). LEAs provide no money to private schools under these equitable services provisions. Instead, they provide secular, neutral, and nonideological services to nonpublic schools after consulting with private school leaders about the needs of students and teachers....it is expected that most of the emergency funding will go toward services like cleaning, equipment to protect student and teacher health, teacher training in remote instruction, and distance education tools.
Read full document here:

These intentions were reiterated by the Senate a few weeks later. The assumed premise of the federal government's action was to HELP ALL STUDENTS since ALL students in ALL districts are required to jump through the same "hoops" to reopen in the fall. In her cover letter for the "Michigan Safe Schools Roadmap for Reopening," Governor Whitmer expressed her responsibility to ALL students in the state, and since ALL taxpayers fund ALL the educational efforts of the state--including those tax payers whose taxes support public schools even as they choose to pay tuition for faith-based privates schools, it was assumed that the emergency funds provided by the federral government to ALL states to help ALL schools so ALL students could return to the safest possible settings in the fall, for a couple weeks, ALL schools, including CCS, thought we would be getting help to pay for hand sanitizers, PPE, disinfection of building, quarantine protocols, tools for electorinic learning options (we spent about $10,000 to achieve our "distance learning" plan last spring.

Then when the Governor released her "Roadmap" there was no mention of private schools, no mention of the distinctions between large districts and small systems like CCS. For instance, the small manageable "cohorts" of most small faith-based schools compared to the hundreds of students at each grade level in most large public schools is a distinct advantage. Did her failure to mention non-public schools mean that she learned from the law suit from last May and decided she should leave faith-based institutions alone? Or did it just mean that she had no intention of prorating the funds she mentioned to help ALL students?

For 40 years, CCS has not accepted state or federal funds, but in light of the "all inclusive" emergency funds intended to help schools pay for the needs being imposed upon them during this pandemic, it does seeem reasonable to help protect ALL STUDENTS. It is a myth that faith-based private schools are "rich" and don't need help. Roughly half of the students at CCS receive need-based financial aid. We go to great lengths to be a school for ALL homes that are active in a local Evangelical church and  interested in a Christian Worldview education. Sometimes families need financial help, and ALL of our homes understand and support that idea. The truth is the government only has "tax income" to use toward such efforts, and the parents of private school children pay those taxes. 

Read about Governor Whitmer's law suit to decline Covid-19 aid to private schools here: