A Student’s Guide To Liberal Learning

I just read a marvelous essay by James Schall (a priest and professor at Georgetown) called A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning (link found from the author’s homepage, which I ran across courtesy of the Claremont Institute). It’s simply outstanding (although I found the style a little odd at times).

Schall argues that students must take responsibility for their own learning. Two passages serve as a decent introduction:

When a student arrives at a university, especially a prestige [sic] one, he will probably think that what he is about to study will be the best that he can possibly come by. He naturally expects that what he is getting is, in fact, his “money’s worth”, as they say.… This particular essay is not written for students who have no problems with the system or who, even less, do not want to find any. They will never know the difference. They will never doubt that what they are being taught is anything but the high quality stuff that it is touted to be in the brochures and media or, apparently, confirmed by the high cost of their tuition. Often however, from one’s religious or philosophical background, from one’s family, perhaps from a friend or a teacher or from something that one chanced to read or see, a young man or woman will be at least alert and, hopefully, begin to suspect that all is not well in academia, or in the culture, or, for that matter, in one’s own soul.

and also

E. F. Schumacher, in his great book, A Guide for the Perplexed, tells of going to Oxford as a young man, that is, of going to what was thought to be the greatest university of his time. He discovered that what was taught and discussed there bore little meaning and truth to him. Schumacher was forced to look elsewhere for some semblance of an education that dealt with the highest things, that took seriously what the great philosophical and religious minds really were talking about, issues that he already felt pressing in his own soul but were never addressed in the great university.

And one last observation which I found particularly interesting: In spite of most of what a student will read on the topic, revelation seeks reason, is addressed to mind and fosters it. The Bible simply has profound things to tell us, things we clearly ought to know. We now have students in class, moreover, even those who have gone to church or synagogue all their lives, who have not the faintest accurate idea about what is said in Scripture, a work that almost every generation before this era has read carefully either to understand or to dispute or to live by.

If you find Schall’s essay helpful, you might also want to read my earlier posting on Becoming Wise In College.

the rush continues

just an update on our holidays, and an request to pray for our students at SALT

There’s been a paucity of postings lately, and so I thought I should explain: we’ve been on our annual Christmas visit to Louisiana, so it’s been very difficult to get significant internet time.

Actually, I probably won’t post again until next year. We got in last night and in less than two hours we’ll be on the road again!

We’ve got to turn around and head down to the Chi Alpha Winter Conference (called SALT) held near LA. Looks like the car will be receiving another 1,000 miles or so…

We have around 10 people heading down to SALT. SALT is usually a very significant time in students’ lives: people are transformed, filled with the Holy Spirit, receive specific vocational guidance, and are generally touched by God in some pretty significant ways. Please pray for our time there!

See you next year.

Bill Frist: Stanford Alumnus (sort of)

According to his Senate biography, Bill Frist studied medicine at Stanford.

Bill Frist, who looks certain to replace Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader, studied at medicine Stanford.

At least, if I read his Senate bio correctly he did:

In 1978, he graduated with honors from Harvard Medical School and spent the next several years in surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital; Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England; and Stanford University Medical Center. (source)

Behold–the picture moves as if by magic!

in which I learn to use Flash MX (sort of).

I’ve just discovered the wonders of Flash animation–pretty cool stuff!

As a result, the picture of Paula and I on the top right of the page now contains a playable video. Just click on the green arrow in the picture so I can greet you and explain our vision for ministry!

I’m still trying to get this Flash thing figured out. In particular, I’d like to have a message pop up when your mouse moves across the photo, so if anyone out there is a Flash guru, I’d love to learn from your wisdom!

In case you’re curious about Flash yourself, the three most helpful sites I’ve found are the official Macromedia Flash site, Flash Kit, and Flash Components.

For the record, I was shocked at how simple it was to do.

1) I set up my handy Logitech Webcam.
2) I downloaded the free beta copy of Windows Movie Maker 2 (which really rocks, it’s a legitimate competitor with iMovie).
3) I winged it and then edited it.
4) I imported it into Macromedia Flash MX.
5) I used the Satay Method to embed it in my page.

I was done! Now I just need to learn a little bit more about Flash (like how to animate text) and reshoot my video to make it a little tighter (like I said, I winged the script–and I think it shows in one or two spots).

Overall, though, I’m pretty happy.

UPDATE: I tweaked the video (and was able to trim its size by 33%), so now I just need to decide how much more I want to do before I leave well enough alone…

Stanford Hits the Headlines Over Genetic Research

Stanford pursues human cloning?

Wow. I woke up this morning and saw all sorts of news articles that suggest Stanford is about to engage in human cloning.

For example, there’s this story from the San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford University announced plans Tuesday to create a $120 million institute to study the overlapping biology of cancer and stem cells, including a plan to start cloning new stem cells from human embryos. (source)

Here’s what Stanford has to say: Stanford University Medical Center is not engaged in human reproductive cloning. A story published Dec. 10 by the Associated Press incorrectly characterized the nature of research that would take place at the newly announced Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Creating human stem cell lines is not equivalent to reproductive cloning. The first step in the process of creating a stem cell line involves transferring the nucleus from a cell to an egg and allowing the egg to divide. This is the same first step as in reproductive cloning. However in creating a stem cell line, cells are removed from the developing cluster. These cells can go on to form many types of tissues, but cannot on their own develop into a human. Future research in this field, which will also be pursued at Stanford, will attempt to produce stem cell lines by transferring the nucleus into other embryonic stem cells rather than into eggs. (source)

It looks like the human cloning angle of the story was a little over‐hyped in the news, and as far as I can tell, they’re going to be working exclusively with non‐fertilized eggs (although I guess in one sense they’ll be creating their own).

I found this quote particularly interesting: “Our avowed goal is to advance science,” said Stanford medical professor Dr. Irving Weissman, who will direct the school’s stem cell effort. “For any group to stay out of the action and wait for someone else to do it because of political reasons is wrong.” (news source, emphasis added).

I don’t pretend to really understand all the science, and so I don’t know how to evaluate what they’re planning to do from a moral standpoint. I do know that political reasons and moral reasons aren’t the same thing at all, although the two categories frequently overlap.

In fact, Weissman intermingles politics and morality in his own comment: the reasons for staying out of the research would be political, but the reasons for engaging in it are moral. That seems a little convenient–almost by definition if doing one thing is political then doing the opposite is political as well. By and large the same observation holds true with respect to morality.

I know that it’s difficult to choose the right words when you’re being interviewed and don’t have time to craft the perfect response, but I found his wording revealing. It doesn’t reassure me that people are thinking through the ethical issues as rigorously as they are the scientific angles.

The news articles I read were pretty superficial, and so I hope I’m wrong.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

in which I send a provocative picture to my friends in Missouri, and they respond with photos of their own.

balcony_small.jpgPaula and I lived in Springfield, MO for around five years, and so we were extremely interested to hear that they were having a snowstorm last week.

Paula got puckish and suggested that I spread a little holiday cheer, and so I sent my friends back in MO a picture from our balcony along with this note:

I just saw a weather report for the Ozarks, and it filled me with such sorrow. How I miss the snow and ice!

small_bridge.jpgI took a picture from my balcony a few minutes ago with you in mind. Look at what Paula and I are forced to tolerate day after day…

Merry Christmas,


small_suv.jpgNaturally, this provoked a few spirited email responses.

What most surprised me was how many people responded by sending back a digital photo of their own. I’ve uploaded two of the best so you can contrast them with my own provocative shot.

I’d just like to wish all my friends in the state of Misery–I mean, Missouri–a very Merry Christmas.

P.S. I’m wearing shorts and a tropical print shirt as I write this. I’d say I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, but I don’t think a minister should tell white lies

From Christmas Colors to Christmas Spirit

Stanford looks like Christmas, but what’s beneath the wrapping?

stanford_100.gif Christmas is upon us. This year, I’ve been struck by the Christmas colors that Stanford flaunts on its logos. I suppose that makes Stanford sort of Christmassy.

But in a more important sense, Stanfords not Christmassy at all. Christ isnt at the center, and celebrating Christmas without Christ is like being married without a spouse. Something essential is missing.

God has called us here to help a school with Christmas colors develop true Christmas spirit. Christmas is about Jesus being bornnot just born in a manger 2,000 years ago, but being born in each of our hearts. Until every heart becomes a manger, well be proclaiming the Christmas story to the students at Stanford, whether its December or July.

So if you’re ever on campus and you hear some fool yelling “Merry Christmas” at a wildly inappropriate time of year, be sure to tell me hi.

The Church Changes The World

The church too often gets a negative rep on the college campus. Consider this: “Would anyone notice if our church closed down tomorrow?” a preacher asked his congregation. Harvard University researcher Robert D. Putnam says yes, Christianity and other religions do make a difference in American society. (source)

Some highlights:
* half of all personal philanthropy is religious in character, and half of all volunteering occurs in a religious context.
* Churchgoers are substantially more likely to be involved in secular organizations and to have deeper informal social connections.
* In one survey it was membership in religious groups that was most closely associated with other forms of civic involvement, like voting, jury service, community projects, talking with neighbors, and giving to charity.

Food for thought…

Over 20 Students At Our House For Thanksgiving!

Forget stuffing the turkey–we stuffed our apartment this Thanksgiving!

The nearly 30 people we had in our house for Thanksgiving!Forget stuffing the turkey–we stuffed our apartment this Thanksgiving! Not only did Glen’s brother and Paula’s college roommate travel down from Washington state, but we were able to host over 20 Stanford students in our home for lunch on turkey day (nearly 30 total people)!

Let me tell you–that’s an awful lot of people to cram into one apartment!

In case you’re wondering why they didn’t head home to visit their families, all the students were international students (mostly from Singapore). Traveling internationally and getting jet lagged is a big hassle (and pretty expensive) for such a short break from school.

For many of them, this was their first real celebration of Thanksgiving. Think about it–how many other countries celebrate the pilgrims’ survival? To my knowledge, only Canada…Students eating Thanksgiving meal

Several of our guests were already following Christ, but many have yet to experience God’s transforming love. The Kingdom of God flows through relationships, and so please pray that God would use our hospitality as a catalyst for spiritual growth in these students’ lives.

Cooking for so many people was a huge task, as was seating them. Thanks to Greg, Rachel, and Ailin for helping to prepare the food, and many thanks to Southbay Christian Center and Three Cities Assembly for loaning us chairs and tables, and a heap of thanks to Pastor Mike Brown of International Assembly of God (as well as his worship leader Paul) and Josh Wong and Ming Fai Wong for helping to cart the chairs and tables to our place. We couldn’t have done it without you!

UPDATE: our Photo Gallery has been updated with pictures from the Thanksgiving feast!