Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Capacity focus, 53: Pulling together ideas for the AACCS cybercollege proposal -- are we like sheep[le] or like agoutis?

I have now pulled together the cluster of ideas for developing a cybercampus based, microcampus centre delivered Associate Degree programme designed to develop our capacity to be effective and productive, and to stand up in the face of the two spiritual tidal waves that are hitting the region very hard:

The two spiritual tidal waves that exploit our weaknesses
 The question in my mind, is whether we are going to  be like sheep[le] or like agoutis.

I will explain.

Across the road from where I sit, a neighbour has a small sheep pen. The sheep there usually have their heads down in the guinea grass, and do not have their eyes on anything beyond the next clump of grass. Their focus is so narrow that even when I did the experiment of a loud hand-clap, only one or two even lifted their heads. Next time, none did. My thought was, a sheep with the narrowest focus on the next clump of grass is not alert to who might be coming up to grab him and turn him into goat water (the local national dish, a stew of apparently Irish derivation that often uses sheep not goat).

By contrast, agouties sometimes come to the guava trees in the backyard.

They will sit on their haunches, just like a man, and will hold a guava in their "hands" and eat it, much as we would a fruit. But, they are always alert. Every few seconds, they pause and look around, wiggling ears. Any sound or sign of danger, and, guava dropped, they are off -- headed for safe cover.

They know that they are prey animals, and they take precautions.

The guava might be sweet, but life is sweeter and there will always be another guava, if you are alive to get it.

Now, of course, the scriptures commonly compare the people of God to sheep, and talk of the need for shepherds and warn against wolves, whether out in the open or in stolen sheep's clothing. To that, we can add the sad further case: wolves in shepherd's clothing.

That is the problem: if we follow wrong leadership or wrong influences or are so pre-occupied with the next bit of profit or consumption that we are not alert to our situation and the signs of our times, we set ourselves up to be shorn or a lot worse than merely shorn. 

Hence the neo-logism: SHEEPLE.

There is another tricky part: we can be tempted into the wrong kind of skepticism, where we learn to cynically dismiss unwelcome truth by making specious objections, instead of learning how to think for ourselves under God, having first grounded ourselves in "that which is of first importance."

For instance, how many of us can show the warrant for the gospel, and for our trust in the scriptures? Have we mastered the basics of studying, living by and teaching the Word of God? Could we tell whether a TV preacher or the person in our own pulpit or standing in front of our Sunday school class is going astray? Or, handle the sort of street level issues that are now increasingly common in a day where Dan Brown, Discovery Channel, History Channel and ever so many atheistical fever swamp web sites spew forth specious objections and false claims against the scriptures? Could we answer the ten [highly loaded] questions for intelligent Christians that are being toured all over the Internet by skeptics? Or, handle the likes of the street-corner atheist rants on something like the Evil Bible web site?

Or, have we been ever so concerned to be soothed or entertainingly distracted from our troubles as we look for the next clump of sweet grass to consume or gain as profit?

Do I dare say words like: greed? living by our impulsive senses rather than wisdom from God? Resulting short-sightedness? shallowness? laziness? worldly lusts? worldliness? failing to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?

Sound leaders don't pretend to be immune, but having had to struggle with these, I think such will be in a position to help others overcome in that daily spiritual struggle.

Likewise, as C21 moves well into its second decade, how many of us are thinking beyond being able to do basic math [with a calculator . . . make sure the batteries don't go dead], use rudimentary English language skills, and IT -- aka, how to use MS Office -- to do "look back in the file and follow" work? 

How many of us have acquired independent productive skills so we do not depend on someone else to hire us, whether a government office or a businessman or some activist enterprise or the like?

And, are our churches getting into the equipping business so that our people will be able to stand together in the days ahead where compromise with evil and poison will be demanded as the price of a job? 

Or, do we think that the text:
Rev 13:16 He [the beast from the earth] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast [from the Sea] or the number of his name . . . [NIV '84]

. . . was only written for those who are "left behind" after "The Rapture"?

I am 100% sure the devil is trying to get as much of that beast-mark system of dependency on wolves in shepherd's clothing in place in our time, right here in the Caribbean as he can, because that is a way to pull people into the fatal compromises that lead them to sell their souls and spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage to relieve their immediate hunger.

Let us learn: Any compromise between good and evil will be: evil. One between food and poison will be: deadly. (I forget the source.)

Or, do you think Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of red stew was a hero of faith? 

(As for his scheming, conniving brother Jacob, he was a wolf in sheep's clothing at that point. His one and only virtue was that he did see the importance of the spiritual and was somewhat open to respond to God in faith. He had to go through some hard and painful lessons to learn to be a real godly sheep!)

Part of why I raise this, is my shock at seeing young people in our schools shy away from studying "academic" subjects like accounting, chemistry, physics and biology, etc. 

Somehow, it has not dawned on many that accounting is the heart of the management information system of any business or organisation so accounting and bookkeeping are vital reserve job or enterprise start-up skills. As for the sciences that underlie the technologies we so eagerly consume, we sit in rooms full of items that point to the importance of such knowledge and technologies and we are not even aware of how the technologies work.

No, it is not by magic!

And no, what we have between our ears is of no worse basic quality than those who are researching, developing, inventing, building, selling, supporting and maintaining the systems. Just, they made sure to learn and acquire strategic skills.

As to the notion that it is just "bright" people who can master such, rubbish!

At primary and secondary levels, absent major handicaps, most of us, properly motivated and equipped with a sound baseline knowledge, can acquire the knowledge and skills to do just about any subject on the curriculum. Our grades in school by and large are NOT measuring who is "brighter," but who is better prepared, more disciplined and motivated.

Unfortunately, our regional culture is increasingly distractive from and in opposition to getting that baseline for success in studies. Even, give the kids PCs and there are ever so many games, video, social networking and worse sites to draw them away from sound knowledge and skill building. 

"That's BORING!"

End of story . . .

Nope, education, knowledge and ethical-logical thinking towards wisdom are an acquired taste. One that requires serious and positive intellectual and cultural leadership by genuine shepherds. (Enough already, of wolves in shepherds' clothing!)

No-one has to teach kids to like sweets and salty-fatty junk food.

But loving veggies and balanced meals, that is very much an acquired taste.

So is the taste for sound learning and wisdom. here, is Sophia herself, wisdom personified by Solomon, crying aloud:
Prov 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
    she raises her voice in the public squares;
21 at the head of the noisy streets[c] she cries out,
    in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
22 “How long will you simple ones[d] love your simple ways?
    How long will mockers delight in mockery
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke,
    I would have poured out my heart to you
    and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called
    and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
    and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
    I will mock when calamity overtakes you —
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
    when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
    when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
    they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
    and did not choose to fear the Lord,
30 since they would not accept my advice
    and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
    and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm.”[NIV '84]
By Ch 4, Solomon counsels (speaking in the name of his father, David who poured into Solomon what he had learned, having seen what happened with his older sons who went astray . . . ):
Prov 4:When I was a boy in my father’s house,
    still tender, and an only child of my mother,
he taught me and said,
    “Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands and you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have,[a] get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head
    and present you with a crown of splendor. ” [NIV '84]
In short, we now have to stand up in the face of a culture of folly and say: NO!

Or, in terms of the little parable of the sheep and the agoutis, we have to break out of the sheeple trap, and get smart like agoutis.

(And don't get me started on those who exploit our ignorance of civics and straight thinking, the better to enmesh us in their rhetorical webs. To their advantage, not ours. )

 All of which is why the proposed AACCS is so important

Here are some collected posts on this proposal [u/d Jul 19]:

Capacity Development -- the AACCS

The issue is to now get this moving. 

So, let us again ask, why not now, why not here, why not us? END