Links to Think

Links to Think: 14.02.10

February 10, 2014


Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less – Great article, and worth reading the lengthy article that covers far more than these excerpts reflect. Play on, children!

“The real problems I’ve faced in life include physical ones (such as how to operate a newfangled machine at work or unblock the toilet at home), social ones (how to get that perfect woman to be interested in me), moral ones (whether to give a passing grade to a student, for effort, though he failed all the tests), and emotional ones (coping with grief when my first wife died or keeping my head when I fell through the ice while pond skating). Most problems in life cannot be solved with formulae or memorised answers of the type learnt in school. They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play.”

“Educators in East Asian nations have increasingly been acknowledging the massive failure of their educational systems. According to the scholar and author Yong Zhao, who is an expert on schools in China, a common Chinese term used to refer to the products of their schools is gaofen dineng, which essentially means good at tests but bad at everything else. Because students spend nearly all of their time studying, they have little opportunity to be creative, discover or pursue their own passions, or develop physical and social skills. Moreover, as revealed by a recent large-scale survey conducted by British and Chinese researchers, Chinese schoolchildren suffer from extraordinarily high levels of anxiety, depression and psychosomatic stress disorders, which appear to be linked to academic pressures and lack of play.”

“This dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play has been accompanied by an equally dramatic increase in childhood mental disorders. It’s not just that we are detecting such disorders where we failed to look before; the increase is real. Clinical assessment questionnaires, which have been administered to normative groups in unchanged form over the years, show that rates of clinically significant depression and anxiety in US schoolchildren are now five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Other research indicates that empathy has been declining and narcissism increasing, ever since valid measures of these were first developed in the late 1970s. There are even well-validated ways of assessing creative thinking, and research using these tools suggests that such thinking has been decreasing among schoolchildren at all grade levels over the past 30 years. All of these deleterious changes, accompanying the decline of play, are exactly what we would predict from our knowledge of play’s purposes.”

The Decline of the American Book Lover: And why the downturn might be over. – Reading has been declining for the past few decades. But, it appears we’ve reached the nadir and are headed towards an upswing?

“The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.”

“If you are the sort of person who believes that TV and the Internet have turned American culture into a post-literate scrubland full of cat GIFs and reality TV spinoffs, then this news will probably reinforce your worst suspicions. But buried beneath it, I think there’s an optimistic story to tell about American book culture. It’s about the kids. “

“Most importantly, the percentage of young folks reading for pleasure stopped declining. Last year, the NEA found that 52 percent of 18-24 year-olds had read a book outside of work or school, the same as in the pre-Facebook days of 2002. If book culture were in terminal decline, this is the demographic where you’d expect it to be fading fastest. Perhaps the worst of the fall is over. “

Working toward Intergenerational Relations – It’s no secret that to most Christians that the American church needs improvement in this area. This article and a subsequent comment give some helpful thoughts toward addressing this need.

“I’m a young 30ish pastor, I can’t fit into skinny jeans but I’m in the demographic that wears them. About 4 years ago, I was at a crossroad, trying to discern if I should take an opportunity to plant a church, or to take an opportunity to be the preacher at a 90-year old church. I chose the older church, primarily because I believe that intergenerational interaction is so important.

Did you know that for hundreds years, in order to walk into a church, you had to walk through a graveyard? You had to walk past the tombs of the people who used to go to church there.

Andy Crouch, in his great book, “Playing God” says it like this:

Any church worth the name must learn to bury its members. One unhappy side effect of American Christianity’s accommodation to youth culture has been the formation of congregations that have no significant intergenerational membership, no elders who are facing frailty and death, no one to say goodbye to and commend to the perpetual light of Christ. Such churches may be full of youthful vitality, but learning to proclaim the resurrection life in the face of grief and loss is essential to spiritual maturity and true spiritual power.

It seems like our Church cultures are saturated with ministers and churches talking about doing something radical for God, but our notions of radical faith are often crushing and fail to take into account Paul and Peter’s encouragement for Christians who are living “quiet lives” as a way to serve the LORD.  I like the way Peter Berger reframes this: “Somewhere in a retirement home there is a Christian woman whose greatest fear in life is that she will be humiliated by being unable to control her bladder in the cafeteria line . For this woman, the greatest act of radical obedience to Jesus Christ is to place herself in the hands of a loving God every time she goes off for a meal.”

This helpful comment was made:

“One of the problems is that we don’t really have a “mentoring” culture in evangelical churches; we have a lecture culture. Lecturers/preachers, as in preaching and teaching to large groups, are held in high esteem, with the larger the group giving greater esteem. In contrast, mentoring is just not a staple of evangelical culture and spirituality. It’s an oddity, certainly not held out as a necessity for most or any. What “spiritual disciplines” do we constantly praise and hold up? Bible reading, being under a church leadership and attending services, prayer . . . developing long-term relationships with older believers for their influence and counsel just isn’t part of the mix. We all have a ranking order of sacraments (which I define as practices in which we believe God is especially active or fruitful). And that rank is reinforced in lots of ways, most of which we are not conscious of. In order to make mentoring a part of evangelical culture, a lot of our theology and practice will have to shift. I don’t know, realistically, how many leaders or congregations are willing to make the kinds of shifts that will make a real difference. If you want to see a group that does do deep and helpful relationships b/n young and old at least pretty well, look at 12 step groups. Mentoring is at the heart of their program.”

A Song to Encourage

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