Online Apologetics Conference

And speaking of Apologetics Conferences, here is one sponsored by Anthony Horvath at Athanatos Ministries.  It will be held completely online, April 7, 8, & 9.  The overall topic will be “Defending Christianity and God’s Plan for Marriage, Family, and Life through Creative Arts such as Film and Literature.”  I’ll be the keynote speaker.  Here is the lineup:

Keynote:

 

Gene Edward Veith, Jr. Provost and Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, and columnist for World Magazine.  Website.  Topic:  “Cultural Apologetics.”

Plenaries:

Jason Jones, Co-executive producer of the award winning Bella and president of the Bella Hero Project and humanitarian project, I Am Whole Life

Dallas Jenkins, Producer/Director of Jenkins Entertainment (eg, What If and Though None Go With Me) “How to Convey the Christian Worldview To a Skeptical Audience”

Dick Rolfe,  CEO of the Dove Foundation “Using Hollywood to Win the World.”

Dr. Angus Menuge, Concordia University Wisconsin.  “C. S. Lewis on Domesticated Living.”

Dr. Ryan MacPherson, Bethany Lutheran College.  President of The Hausvater Project.  “The Biblical Model of Marriage.”

Mikel Del Rosario, Apologeticsguy.com.  “Families Under Fire: Defending a Biblical view of Marriage and the Family through the Visual Arts.”  Info

Mr. Anthony Horvath, Athanatos Christian Ministries, “The Enduring Impact of the Scopes Monkey Trial on Marriage, Family, and Life Issues.”

1st Prize Winner of ACM’s Christian Writing Contest.

Workshops

Glenn Jones, apologist.  “Hollywood, Lewis, and Planet Narnia: A Look At The First Three Films”

Holly Ordway, writer and professor. “Family-Friendly Fantasy? Questions of Morality in Twilight and Harry Potter.”

Israel Wayne, writer and presenter.  “The Family Culture vs. Pop Culture.”

Brian Auten, apologist.  “Tips and Secrets for Creating Apologetics Media Content”

Jamie Greening, pastor and author. “Family in the Trenches… a Pastor’s Perspective.”

Go to the site to sign up.  It only costs $30.

via Online Apologetics Conference: Casting a vision for promoting the Christian worldview through literature and the arts..

Patrick Henry College is #1 in test scores

Please forgive me for bragging about the academic prowess of my students.  This is something I wrote about the findings of our assessment efforts at Patrick Henry College, where I am the Provost and a Literature Professor:

A new book and a spate of news reports are presenting evidence that America’s college students, on the whole, are not learning very much. They score poorly in critical thinking, writing, and other academic skills. Most college students score abysmally low in “civic literacy,” the basic knowledge of America’s heritage of freedom and self-government. Though they might pick up some very narrow specialized knowledge in their majors, they find it difficult to think outside of their professional boxes and make real-world connections.

These things cannot be said, however, of Patrick Henry College students. Assessment data keeps pouring in that shows PHC students outperforming their peers in every category tested.

On the ETS Proficiency Profile, a recognized and widely-used standardized test of academic proficiency in higher education, Patrick Henry College students posted the highest average scores of all institutions that took the test. Those 261 schools taking the test included liberal arts colleges and large research, doctoral-granting universities. Among those taking that test, PHC’s academic performance is #1.

In their much-discussed new book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, educational scholars Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa express special concern for the low scores college students at large register in critical thinking and writing, asmeasured by similar tests.

PHC students, however, posted the highest average scores (a number drawn from all students, not just a few high performers) of all institutions that took the ETS test in critical thinking.  Also in writing.  Also in reading.  And in humanities.  And in Social Sciences.  And in Mathematics.  And in Natural Sciences.  PHC students were number one not only in the total score, but in every category tested.

But some might say all of this book learning is obsolete.  We are in the information age.  What students most need today is to adapt to technology.

Well, one does not have to agree with that to appreciate that PHC students have also ranked #1 in informational literacy also!   PHC students took the Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills test developed by Kent State, and, again, their average score was higher than that of students from all other institutions that took the test.

Does this mean that PHC is the best college academically in the nation?  We can’t say that.  Not all colleges and universities take part in these standardized tests.  The elite Ivy League colleges, having nothing to prove, do not subject their students to all of this testing.  Some colleges might be afraid of what the tests might show about their academic quality.  PHC, though, does have something to prove — that a solidly Christian college with conservative principles can be an academic powerhouse — and the data that has been collected is proving it.

What is the secret to PHC’s academic success?

One answer is suggested by another problem in higher education that is receiving attention.  In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post entitled “Our Stunted Scholars,” Heather Wilson, who interviews applicants for the Rhodes Scholarship, sees something lacking in even our best students.  “I have,” she writes,” become increasingly concerned in recent years — not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing.”

Even from America’s great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago. As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why. . . . Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study. This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism.

Part of the problem is that most colleges and universities have given up on a liberal arts education.  Instead of giving students a solid foundation in a wide range of interconnected academic disciplines, which build up knowledge and mental skills that they can then draw on in their majors, most colleges send their students right into a narrow specialty.  The classic, integrated, core curriculum has been reduced to a handful of “general education” requirements that can be satisfied by students picking and choosing from a list of specialized and unconnected courses.

Patrick Henry College students, on the other hand, benefit from a broad and rich core curriculum of 63 credits, plus foreign language proficiency.  This “common core” means that every single student takes all of the courses, so that they all receive the same carefully-constructed educational foundation.  All PHC students study the great books of our civilization.  They take courses in logic and rhetoric, and they practice deep thinking and effective writing in all of their classes.  They take not one, but four, history courses.  They all study Constitutional Law.  They take two “Freedom’s Foundation” courses, in which they study the ideas that formed this country, from Plato’s Republic to The Federalist Papers.

PHC students see how all knowledge is interconnected.  What they are reading in their literature classes is illuminated by what they are reading in their theology classes.  The beautiful sounds they are enjoying in their music class are understood on another level when they study waves and harmonics in physics.

The core builds up students’ mental muscles for when they do specialize.  PHC offers majors in journalism, history, literature, the classical liberal arts, and government. Students may specialize within the majors in tracks like American Politics & Policy, International Politics & Policy, Political Theory, and Strategic Intelligence.

Another feature of PHC’s unique educational program is our apprenticeship requirement.  Students put what they have learned into practice in congressional offices, think tanks, businesses, local schools, the media, and other “real world” settings.  Internship directors love to have PHC students.  We keep hearing, “Your students can really write well!”  “They can really think and analyze!”  “They are so articulate, and they present themselves so well!”  Implicitly, these internship directors are comparing our students’ work against that of typical college students!

A key factor in PHC’s academic quality, in addition to its traditional, yet innovative curriculum, is its faculty.  Every professor is at once a devoted Christian, a world-class scholar, and an engaging classroom teacher.

Above all is PHC’s commitment to Christian truth.  In Christ “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).  In the postmodernist academic scene, truth is relative, morality is subjective, and nothing has objective meaning.  No wonder the academy is having trouble teaching anything of value.  But PHC has laid a full foundation for education.  And while the typical college culture is one of frat-house partying and promiscuous hook-ups, PHC students comprise a counterculture that grows out of a love of learning, moral integrity, and authentic Christian community.

The testing reveals something else about PHC’s success.  PHC’s students, over 80% of whom are home-schooled, are exceptionally well-prepared.  The college has been administering the ETS Proficiency Profile for three years to both graduating seniors and to incoming freshmen.  In a tribute to their parents, who in one way or the other supervised their education, PHC incoming freshmen, when compared to first-year students at other institutions that took the test, also were #1 in all categories!

via 20110223 – Veith – PHC Students Outperform.

The last Louvin brother dies

The Louvin Brothers brought their close, tight harmonies from the world of Gospel music into country and then into early rock ‘n’ roll and today’s pop music.  Their sound can be heard in the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, and on and on.

Charlie Louvin, 83, the country singer and Grand Old Opry performer who, as half of the duo The Louvin Brothers, influenced such later performers as the Everly Brothers died at his home in Warface, Tenn. from complications of pancreatic cancer.

The Louvin Brothers songs were later covered by such diverse performers as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and the Byrds,

The brothers were renown for both gospel songs and so-called heart songs and tearjerkers such as “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” later recorded by Emmylou Harris.

They also updated many traditional — and very morbid — folk songs such as “In The Pines” and “Knoxville Girl” which were both included on their 1956 early concept album for Capitol, “The Tragic Songs of Life.”

The Louvin Brothers’ style evolved from the popular close harmony brother duos of the 1930s such as the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys (Jim and Earl Bolick).

While the duo preserved the singing style of the earlier groups, they made it popular for 1950s audiences by adding electric guitar solos, many by a young Chet Atkins, and a driving beat from an upright bass. Ira Louvin’s mandolin work also gave the duo a connection to the then evolving bluegrass genre.

After the duo disbanded in 1963, Mr. Louvin continued to record as a soloist and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry into the next decade including a number one hit in 1966, “See The Big Man Cry. ” Mr. Louvin’s brother Ira had a much shorter solo career. He died in a car accident while touring in 1965.

As interest in the early Louvin Brothers material increased, Mr. Louvin had a recent resurgence in activity with performances at rock clubs and bluegrass festivals.

via Post Mortem – Charlie Louvin dies; country singer inspired Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello.

The thing is, I met Charlie Louvin.  He took me and a friend of mine, Tom Wilmeth–who wrote a book about the Louvin Brothers and who turned me on to this kind of music–back stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry.  Here I also met  Bill Monroe and hung out in his dressing room.   I watched the curtains rise from the performer’s point of view for the second show.  This was a highlight of my musical experience, one of those odd and  interesting things I’ve managed to do in the course of my life.

Here is a video of a performance.  Their songs, including their Gospel music, were generally dark.  This one is a little different.  Charlie is the short one.  (If you don’t see the video on your browser, hit “comments” and you should.)

UPDATE:  Their vocal influence was to harmonize with two tenor voices, just a few notes apart, rather than the usual high voice with lower voices.   Their kind of harmony can be heard in the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, the Byrds, etc., etc., etc.

{httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWp7MGY3II4}

They thought she was Jewish

Earlier I had blogged about how my former colleague Kristine Luken, a Christian missionary in Israel, was murdered.  Her killers have been arrested:

Four Palestinian men have been indicted in the stabbing death of American woman Kristine Luken who the suspects say was killed because they thought she was Jewish.

Luken, 44, was a Christian missionary working in Israel.

Four more Palestinians, all from the West Bank, have been arrested for providing logistical support to the alleged killers, but have yet to be indicted.

Luken was stabbed to death while hiking in a forest outside Jerusalem with a friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, Dec. 17, 2010.

Israeli police tell ABC News they arrested two men who confessed to the murder within 48 hours of the attack, but kept the arrests secret because they realized that more suspects were involved, and that the group was responsible for a wave of violent crimes.

“The cell’s activity had an initial criminal orientation,” Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said. But after the killing of Hamas leader El Mabhouh in Dubai, for which Hamas holds Israel responsible, “the cell decides to kill in revenge for [that],” Rosenfeld said.

El Mabhouh was a senior Hamas military commander. He was assassinated Jan. 10, 2010, shortly after checking into a five-star hotel in Dubai under a fake name. No one has been arrested in the killing.

The indictment states that two suspects, Kifah Ghneimat and Iyad Fatafa, “decided to enter Israel illegally in order to kill Jews.”

In a forest inside Israel but adjacent to the West Bank they encountered Luken and Wilson. Wilson “tried to convince them they were not Jewish, in order to convince them not to hurt them,” according to the indictment, but one of the suspects grasped at a Star of David necklace around her neck, saying, “What’s this?”

The suspects then stabbed both women repeatedly, killing Luken, according to the indictment. Wilson, badly wounded, played dead, eventually reaching another group of hikers before she collapsed and was taken to a hospital with multiple stab wounds in her chest.

via Palestinians Charged With Murder of American Kristine Luken – ABC News.

Actually, Kristine at least WAS Jewish.   She was a Jewish convert to Christianity.

Patrick Henry College in the news

I work at Patrick Henry College, where I am a literature professor and the provost, in charge of both the academic program and student life.  Once again, we won the national moot court championship (in which teams of two argue a case against another team before a panel of judges in a pretend-appeals court hearing).  Virtually all of these winners, including the amazing Harris brothers, are or have been my students, and I’m very proud of them:

Building on an increasingly formidable legacy of success in collegiate legal debate, Patrick Henry College traveled to New Orleans, January 14-15, and brought home the College’s fifth national moot court championship in the past seven years. The victory at the ACMA 2011 National tournament at Tulane University Law School was PHC’s third championship in a row, eclipsing the only other time an ACMA competitor has won back-to-back championships—PHC itself, in 2005 and 2006, when the College won its first two national titles.

First place this past weekend went to the College’s already high-profile team of Alex and Brett Harris, best-selling authors of Do Hard Things and co-founders of The Rebelution.com, competing in their first year of formal collegiate moot court. The Harris brothers defeated the team of Willem Daniel and Rachel Shonebarger from the College of Wooster, PHC’s stiff perennial competition at nationals. . . .

Third place went to Jonathan Carden and Joanna Griffith, who, interestingly, beat the Harris brothers in the qualifying regional tournament in Tampa, Florida. Two other PHC teams, Blake Meadows and Kayla Griesemer and Bridget Degnan and Tate Deems, made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” quarterfinals, the latter duo losing to the eventual second-place team from the College of Wooster. . . .

Another PHC tournament highlight was the outstanding individual orator performances of freshman Blake Meadows and junior Bridget Degnan, who won first and third place speaking trophies, respectively. Meadows won the top speaker trophy with a record-breaking 396.83 points out of a potential 400 points, while Degnan also broke the previous record with 386 points.

via Patrick Henry College.

And yet this news on our campus yesterday was somewhat overshadowed in the public eye by the further news that the 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, is one of our recently-admitted applicants and will be attending here once her “reign” is over.  (Our web site got 25,000 hits, once Miss Scanlan, or I should say Miss America, told reporters after her coronation that she was coming here.)

Other epiphanies

In light of the definition of “epiphanies” in the post of that name, what are some epiphanies that you have had? An epiphany is an experience that conveys an idea, a conviction. It is not merely an experience but is rather a moment of realization, usually provoked by some personal and sometimes very subtle event.

For example, I remember when I was in college, coming home from the weekend and going to my father’s farm (a hobby with him, we not being farmers). He had planted some strawberries and I picked one and put it in my mouth. It was delicious, in its sweetness and tartness and texture a taste of perfection. And it flashed on my mind that this external world is somehow aligned with me. Existence is not absurd or random or meaningless, as I had been taught in some of my college courses. It had a meaning. I didn’t particularly know what it was at the time, but eating that strawberry was an epiphany for me.

When I was in Estonia while it was still a part of the Soviet Union, I had an economic epiphany when I changed $20 of hard currency and received an engineer’s monthly wages in rubles in return, only to go into a shop to find nothing for sale. It hit me then that free enterprise economics is far superior to a socialist command economy, nudging me away from the liberalism of my birth. I also had a political epiphany there, shaking hands with a poet who had just gotten out of a mental hospital where he had been consigned for years for writing a poem criticizing Communism. I realized then the power of writing and the utter evil of totalitarianism.

I wonder if our beliefs are shaped more by our epiphanies than abstract arguments. At any rate, now it’s your turn. What are some epiphanies when the light, of various kinds, dawned on you?


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