This article is from Woman’s Day magazine, August 1938. It was written by Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder) about her “adopted” sons, and she is very critical of compulsory education and its deleterious effects on a young person’s motivation and industriousness. It is a little too full of that prideful American “virtue” of rugged individualism, so it needs to be read with the reminder “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (I Corinthians 4:7). In spite of the provocative title, it’s not an anti-college treatise. Instead, it’s an interesting lament that the young people of today (1938!) know little of the hardship that forged the steel of character that inspired those who worked to build our nation. It’s also a good reminder to not coddle our children, particularly our sons when they need to learn important lessons from their own trials.
In the 1930s, Lane took in two young boys, brothers who had been left to their own devices during the hardships of the Great Depression. She draws on her experiences as their adoptive mother to lend currency to her opinions here, but her overall point is that people require the experience of working for a goal in order to appreciate the goal itself. This point of view dovetails with her firm opinion that capitalism, and the free marketplace, were the best values for American culture.
We were so poor that I had only one year in High School, and no hope of college. I felt handicapped, and later my life centered in a determination to give my children every advantage I had missed. Last year my older boy graduated from High School and I could have sent him to college. I did not do it.
We are so jaded. Perhaps we need to put ourselves in a tiny, unborn baby’s footprints and gaze upon this magical world with new eyes. Are you in awe of God’s fingerprints? Are you in awe of your own? You are fearfully and wonderfully made, in His image. That is why we can weep and smile at the same time.
By the Babe Unborn
by G.K. Chesterton
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.
In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.
I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.
Do you see the abcb rhyme scheme?
How many stanzas does this poem have? How does the simple form convey the perspective of the speaker more effectively? Do you think simplicity in form can sometimes be more powerful than complexity in conveying complex ideas?
Why does the unborn baby imagine he has “rule the empires of the night” for “all the ages” but will only stand for a day in “fairyland”?
Read this poem aloud, remembering to pause at the end of the lines that have punctuation, but don’t pause if there is no punctuation.
This year is a very special anniversary, the 500th birthday of one of the greatest, most humble, most courageous, most influential Christian theologians since the early days of the church: John Calvin. A Frenchman who ended up in exile in Geneva, Switzerland because of the intense persecution of Christians in his native land, Calvin encouraged the faithful reading and application of God’s holy, inerrant Word for his generation — of which many were martyred for their fidelity to God and the five solas of the Reformation — and for generations to come.
Sadly, many in the church have maligned the memory of this great man, portraying him as a stern, proud, authoritarian religious zealot whose heavy-handed ways led to the persecution of his opponents, particularly “poor” Servetus, at whose feet Calvin is practically accused of igniting the wood that burned him for heresy. This most well-known bit of slander is handily dealt with by apologist James White here:
I’m currently reading a book of essays in honor of Calvin’s birthday, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology. The authors are a “Who’s Who” of outstanding Christian teachers of our day, including Jay Adams, Joel Beeke, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, and Derek Thomas. John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, D.A. Carson, David Wells, and G.I. Williamson are among those who endorse this book. Such consensus of some of the most solid and godly thinkers of our day ought to give pause to those who would readily condemn the memory of a man whose contributions to the Reformation were pivotal in the battle for the truth, who gave us an inheritance of not only freedom of religion, but political freedom in our own nation, as well.
Our friends at Vision Forum have planned a big birthday bash in Boston, July 1-4, to honor the legacy of John Calvin, and with inimitable style, they will be giving irrefutable and compelling evidence from outstanding speakers that we owe a great debt to that great man. One of the best parts of the celebration is the teaching of our friend Pastor Joe Morecraft, whose knowledge of reformation history is unparalleled, as is his passion to convey a love for God’s Word and for our Christian heritage. Anna has been reading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion because of this upcoming shindig, and I have been enjoying her enthusiasm as she delves deeply into those theological roots, blossoming with inspiration for applying the Word of God to her life. She is finding that the practical piety of Calvin is a spur toward greater intimacy with her Savior which leads to wanting to live out her faith in Him in every area of life.
In his essay about John Calvin, Sinclair Ferguson says this about the change that took place in the misunderstood reformer when God called him out of darkness into His glorious light:
In Calvin’s conversion, two things stand out: First, his pre-conversion condition was marked by a “hardened” and resistant (”unteachable”) mind, and, by implication, a distaste for true godliness (later reversed into an “inflamed…desire”). This, of course, was the informed biblical analysis of one who believed that the fallen human mind is “a perpetual factory of idols” and therefore deeply resistant to the iconoclasm of grace.
Second, for Calvin, conversion to Christ meant not only a transition from condemnation to justification but from ignorance to knowledge and from arrogant rebellion to a humbled heart. His mind was thus softened and brought “to a teachable frame.” From this flowed powerful new affections. He now was “inflamed” with “intense…desire” to make progress in “true godliness.” Thus, to have a heart for God meant to have a desire to grow in the “knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1).
That humility, that teachableness, is evident in his life, seen both in his own writings and in the voluminous correspondence and writings of those who knew him. If you don’t know anything about this giant of the faith, other than some snide gossip from historical revisionists, I encourage you to emulate both his humility and teachableness and at least read some of the articles posted by Doug Phillips at his blog and this article by Bill Potter on the Puritans and how their Calvinist heritage led to blessing for us all. If you aren’t able to make it to the Reformation 500 celebration, you can still learn from Pastor Morecraft and Dan Ford through an online study course on the Reformation and its impact on the family, the church, and the state.
For two days now, the country has been a safer place for our children as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has been in force since being passed and signed into law by President Bush last summer. This new law requires that all items sold to children twelve and under be tested for lead and phthalates, and if those items do not meet the limits of parts per million (limits which will be drastically increased within a few months), then the item may not be sold, or even donated to charity. Small businesses and charities must also comply with these restrictions or face stiff fines and even a prison sentence. The cost of testing each unique item is so onerous to those who deal in used children’s book selling and who have home businesses, and the cost of being prosecuted for not being in compliance with this law is so high, that many are closing shop and giving up. Even libraries and thrift stores have indicated they do not have the resources to meet these restrictions and thus will discontinue making children’s items available. This is a major blow to those who have relied on such resources for obtaining low-cost clothing, toys, and books for their families.
There have been many confusing and conflicting statements regarding the scope of this law and how it will be enforced. While there have been some assurances that small businesses which do not knowingly sell items with unacceptable amounts of lead and phthalates will not be prosecuted, such assurances from government bureaucrats, when those exemptions are not written into the law, do not encourage those who wonder if they might be the guinea pig for selective enforcement of this overreaching law. Sadly, even the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), whose experience with such selective enforcement in the realm of home education ought to cause them to know better, offered some hollow head-patting to those who have written them with concerns. While it’s nice to know that in their meeting with Commissioner Thomas Moore they were given some verbal assurance that the CPSC has no intention of going after cottage industries (”Historically, we havenâ€™t gone after these kinds of businesses,â€ he told HSLDA, â€œnot cottage industries”), many are not willing to stake their livelihood and freedom on such flimsy stuff.
As I write, precious and collectible children’s books are being dumped and destroyed because of this broad-brush nanny state intrusion. This is unacceptable at so many levels. During a time when families are suffering because of government bungling causing major economic disruption, a significant resource for providing income as well as necessary supplies to those families has now virtually disappeared. In addition, the arbitrary policy of this law to place specific restrictions on children’s books published prior to 1985 is appalling to those of us who know how insipid the content of most modern children’s literature is, and who prefer to provide older books, many of which are now out of print, for our children’s education and training. Who would have thought that overnight such material in our “free” country would become contraband and difficult to acquire? If I were into conspiracy theories (you can decide for yourself if I am), I might wonder if it was also a deliberate attempt to control the content of what we are able to teach our children as the noose tightens and the means to give them a quality, low-cost home education is now hampered? I would think that would be of grave concern to HSLDA.
Valerie Jacobsen, who more than anyone is responsible for my knowledge of good children’s books, and whose livelihood will be significantly affected by CPSIA, is writing extensively about this issue at Bookroom Blog. She wryly pays homage to George Orwell because of the “bright line” drawn for “acceptable” books published after 1985:
Dear Mr. Orwell,
Childrenâ€™s books were invented after 1984.
Before 1985, there was no Dick. There was no Jane. There was no McGuffy. No boy named Tom painted a fence, â€˜Anneâ€™ didnâ€™t end with an â€˜eâ€™, and no one had yet thought of putting â€pictures or conversationâ€ on paper for children.
In fact, children didnâ€™t learn to read in the old, old days before our Leaders saved us from our long, dark night. Back in 1984, there was only a dry wasteland of technical books, encyclopedias, service manuals, and other books for adults.
How thankful we are that times have changed so that children can learn to read and have their own books! We owe a great debt to the Great Changeâ€“and to Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush who accomplished it!
And we remember the Honorable Thomas Hill Moore, who worked for themâ€¦.
She also notes that Commissioner Moore, whose verbal reassurances were passed on by HSLDA, stated that children’s books published before 1985 should be “sequestered” and kept from children. I’m sure we are all glad we live in a place where there is such concern for the health and safety of our little ones. I may have to put some yellow crime scene tape over the children’s section of my own home library in order to protect my at-risk children. Big Brother knows what they need.
Note: Valerie has helpfully given information about who to contact in Washington, D.C. to protest this craziness, and to exercise belligerently our right to say what we think about it. Let’s make some calls.
Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its edge was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, â€œPut a fence around the edge of the cliff,â€
Some, â€œAn ambulance down in the valley.â€
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
â€œFor the cliff is all right, if youâ€™re careful,â€ they said,
â€œAnd if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isnâ€™t the slipping that hurts them so much,
As the shock down below when theyâ€™re stopping.â€
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would these rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off of the cliff,
With the ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: â€œItâ€™s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When theyâ€™d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,â€ cried he,
â€œCome, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.â€
Oh, heâ€™s a fanatic,â€ the others rejoined,
â€œDispense with the ambulance? Never!
Heâ€™d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! Weâ€™ll support them forever.
Arenâ€™t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?â€
But a sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling,
â€œTo rescue the fallen is good, but â€˜tis best
To prevent other people from falling.â€
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
The Heidelberg Catechism, Week 38 103. What does God require in the fourth commandment?
In the first place, that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained; and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church to learn the Word of God, to use the Holy Sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.