Where is Perfection?

The debate between atheism and religion is a very fierce fight.  Nothing seems to get men who claim to be champions of rationality more irrationally angry; and nothing seems to get men more angry at their neighbor whom they espouse to love.  Both sides have their own arguments and I do not wish to repeat St. Thomas’ 5 proofs or any of Sam Harris’ critiques of religion.  Rather I would like to posit an obvious fact that many have paid little attention to and yet paid so much attention to it at the same time.  This fact is that of perfection.  Or rather the lack thereof.

What is perfection?  Some might call it beauty.  And yet others might call it the highest form.  The best, and simplest way to describe it is to describe what it is not.  It is not imperfection.  You might say “Now this man is a fool, for we all know you can not use a word in defining the very word you just used”.  But it is true.  Perfection is the opposite of imperfection.  Except on rare occasions, we all know what imperfection feels like.  Whether it be the imperfection brought on by sin.  Or the imperfection we feel from guilt after doing something wrong.  One might call imperfection more widely a disorder.  Not one of the psychological sort but rather one not of order.

Returning to one of our original descriptions of perfection, that of beauty, we can see more clearly how imperfection is dis-order.  When we look at a David, a Starry Night, or even the most mundane a sunrise and sunset we see order.  Everything is in its right place.  And yet is this so?  Is what we see truly rightly ordered?  At this very moment the David, the Starry night, and even the sun are returning to disorder.  All of which is a natural decay.

One might ask “If even these things, which supposedly are rightly ordered, are returning to disorder what is truly and totally in order?”  There is the rub.  For on our earthly home there is nothing truly ordered.  There is nothing truly perfect.  Certainly there are things that are good.  And humanity is constantly improving on itself.  But to what aim?  Will we ever reach perfection?  Why has no one reached perfection yet?

All of these questions are answered in the context of the Fall.  That first sin by which disorder entered the world.  Because of the first sin nothing on earth is perfect.  Nothing is fully ordered.  There is sickness.  There is disease.  There is sin.  The list is endless.

I do not say this in order to be bleak or a doomsayer but rather to call into question the reason behind the lack of perfection.  As far as I know there is no reasonable answer except for the biblical explanation.  The backdrop of the fall provides a reasonable explanation for the lack of perfection.  As far as I am aware there is no reasonable scientific explanation.

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Charter Schools in America

Charter schools have been approved in nearly every state since their inception in 1991. The National Center of Education Statistics reports that they have risen to account for nearly 7% of all public schools.  While charter schools are publicly funded they are able to remain more autonomous in their curriculum and administration.  For this reason, many on the right have vaunted charter schools as a healthy alternative to what they see as a failing public school system.  Meanwhile those on the left point to obvious concerns of equal opportunity for enrolment as well as the quality of education.  In New Orleans the city is taking a novel approach to charters incorporating both these points to create a successful charter school system.  Their example shows that charters have the possibility to be the future of education.

In an article by the Center for Public Education it was stated that 17% of charter schools did significantly better, while 37% performed slightly worse, and 46% did not differ significantly from traditional public schools.  The article does go on to state that this varies widely from state to state with those which have multiple paths to charter school authorization having worse performance than those states with less paths for authorization.  This makes sense since, as the article states, the fewer means of authorization the less charters are able to shop for more advantageous routes of approval.  The wide range of academic performance will need to be studied more to definitively know if it is the best fix for the current public school system.

The concerns over equal enrollment opportunity are reasonable.  There have been some reported cases where students were turned away for reasons ranging from physical or mental disabilities to not being “the right fit for the school”.   Despite these cases the Center for Public Education reported that charter schools have the same demographics as public schools in the same area.  Legislation requiring charters provide transportation to and from school narrow down the opportunity for discrimination based on location.  In addition, independent match systems have been used in order to match students with schools that match their needs, and separating the school from the actual enrollment process.  All these measures provide equal opportunity for everyone to attend a charter school.

In New Orleans the charter school system can serve as a model for other cities around the country.  There are nearly 80 charter schools in the city with only 5 Traditional public schools.  Since the drastic change to charter schools test scores have improved dramatically.  The local ACT score has risen one and a half point, and state exam scores have risen markedly.  Why are charter schools in New Orleans doing so well?  Andrew Vanicore from Politico says it is because of the cities lack of hesitation when it comes to shutting down failing charters.  In New Orleans, Charter Autonomy does not mean a free reign to do anything and everything the charter wants.  Instead it provides the opportunity to mold the curriculum and administration to the students allowing more opportunities for student success.  The state or city must still keep a careful eye for failing charters and when a chronic system is identified it must be shut down with prejudice.

Charter schools are still in the early stages of their life.  Much more research and experimentation must be done in order to better understand how to build a successful system.  Models like those in New Orleans, however, provide a hopeful glance into what could be the future of American Education.

Deterioration of the American Family and its Consequences

The family is the most basic unit in a community.  It provides the necessary support for children to grow into productive members of society.  According to a recent study, the archetypical American family is changing from the nuclear family to single-parent households.  This is cause for concern because of the effects of single-parenthood on children seen especially in the criminal Justice System.

In an article published in 2015 the Pew Research Center reported that about 1 in 4 children are living in single-parent households.  This is up from the 1960 percentage of just 9%.  In addition, 40% of childbirths are now to single-mothers.  Even more concerning is the disparity of childbirth to single mothers along racial lines.  Notably the African American single motherhood rate is at an all time high of 70%.  These trends point towards to the deterioration of the nuclear family unit.  A natural corollary of the nuclear family’s deterioration is an increase in crime.

In 2002 the U.S. Justice Department reported that 56% of Jail inmates said they grew up in single-parent homes.  Emphasizing what many take for granted as common knowledge.  Kids who are raised outside of traditional families find their way into more trouble.  Furthering this point, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service published a paper in 1997 which stated that children in single-parent families are more likely to have behavioral issues because of insufficient time with parents.  In addition, the article states that, “Children from single-parent families are more prone than children from two-parent families to use drugs, be gang members, be expelled from school, be committed to reform institutions, and become juvenile murderers”.  Therefore, an increase in single-parenthood will certainly bring an increase in crime.

It is clear that the deterioration of the archetypical family unit is toxic to the American society.  In order to continue being that shiny city on a hill the American family must be revitalized.  Unmarried Parents need to marry.  Teenagers who can not afford a pregnancy need to abstain.  The family must once again become the center of American life.