Thursday, January 28, 2016

Red Math, Blue Math, Old Math, New Math

It wasn't long after moving to the US before I found myself in a heated discussion about math teaching.

Not the perverse pride of "Oh, I was always hopeless at math", but a serious discussion about the best teaching methods in K-12.

As the conversation went on, though, I became more and more puzzled by the intensity that my partner brought to the discussion.  It seemed that he was less interested in talking about the different ways in which people learn, and what might be best in a mixed classroom; more alarmed that the correct, "traditional" way of teaching was being undermined by dangerous innovations promoted by impractical university professors.

Fast forward to today's polemics against "Common Core math" (see the meme above, and many like it which you can probably find in your Facebook feed).

Friday, January 1, 2016

Studying "Laudato si"

During the fall, I was privileged to convene a small group to read through the encyclical letter Laudato si.   Three State College churches - St Paul's Methodist, Grace Lutheran, and State College Presbyterian - were formally involved, and I know that one or two participants came from other congregations as well.

We finished our studies at the beginning of December - just as the Paris climate conference was getting under way, and while its outcome was still uncertain.  We took time to pray for the world leaders gathered there.  The outcome of the conference, when it arrived, has been an encouraging one; but of course the real work will start this year, and in the future, when high-sounding commitments have to be translated into practical action.  Fine words butter no parsnips, as my grandmother used to say. 

I prepared a handout for each of the studies, using material from various sources including the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and Presbyterians for Earth Care.  I've combined the materials into a single file here.  You're welcome to use them in your own studies if you find them helpful.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to 2016, and I pray for a deepening "ecological conversion".  To quote Pope Francis again
We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next... Jesus taught us this attitude when he invited us to contemplate the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or when seeing the rich young man and knowing his restlessness, 'he looked at him with love'.  He was completely present to everyone and to everything, and in this way he showed us how to overcome that unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive, and compulsive consumers.