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There is so much packed into this short report on "Al", yet so many unanswered questions. Dr. Watts begins her story of Al by mentioning he lived in a single-parent home. While there are numerous examples of mothers or grandmothers who raised children who became outstanding adults, many children, especially boys, are severely negatively impacted by the absence of a father or other positive male role model in the home. That was strike one for Al. The trend away from the nuclear family has been disastrous for children.

Regarding the educational aspects of this case, Dr. Watts' report may have suffered from space limitations, just as this comment does, providing ample opportunity for misunderstanding. My wife and I are retired educators. I started teaching grades 7-12, but most of my career was in college, she was a special ed teacher in Michigan for decades and has shared many of her experiences with me.

In this account, we read that Al's mom wanted him to be in special ed but he was ineligible in third grade. Admission is appropriately based on testing. By grade seven he qualified, but somehow what had been asked for when he was in third grade, was now bad, because we read, "Al is one of hundreds of students who have been placed in special education based on biases" and "...acting-out behavior has led to placement in special education for many students." 

What is the evidence for students being placed in special ed because of bias or for punishment for bad behavior? My wife had a boy who came in and said, "Well, you know I can't read," and soon got him reading. She also had a graduating senior, now headed for college on a scholarship, visit her to thank her for special ed help received in elementary school. Special ed is help, not punishment.

Here is another teacher story, not related to special ed but relevant. This one involves racial considerations. A White teacher my wife knows to be a kind and helpful person was trying to help a young Black male student with some schoolwork. The boy said, "You're just picking on me because I'm Black." Picking on him? She replied, "No, I'm 'picking on you' because you don't do your work." How sad that genuine helpfulness is interpreted as racism.

We live in metropolitan Detroit, and one of the charities we contribute to is PAL (Police Athletic League). It has athletic fields on the grounds of the old Tigers Stadium, and members of law enforcement interact with school kids (mostly Black) and serve as role models for them, but this is no substitute for dads. Check the stats on poverty, educational success, and negative reactions with law enforcement for kids from single-parent homes.

Thanks, Becky.

I was attempting to suggest that, perhaps because of editing to fit available space, the article may have gotten scrambled. As printed, it seemed confusing and self-contradicting. Here are four statements that puzzled me, in view of the heading, because of my experience with special ed.

1. "I have worked with brilliant students who have not been able to work to their full potential for various  reasons.... For Black students, there has been another reason: unconscious bias, which has led to placement in special education."

- unable to work to full potential because of being placed in special ed? Special ed helps students to work to full potential. It doesn't hinder them. Remember the college-scholarship student who thanked my wife for help in special ed.

- placed in special ed because of bias? Students are admitted to special ed only when testing shows they need it, and not for punishment or because of bias.

2. "His mother requested a special education evaluation due to poor academic achievement, but at the time of the evaluation Al was found not to be eligible for services."

- Evidently his mother thought it was desirable when he was in third grade.

3. "During seventh grade, Al was reevaluated for special education, and it was determined that he met eligibility criteria for Other Health Impairment (OHI), due to attention-deficit-like characteristics. Al was placed in a special day class within the school."

- Evidently his tests showed he now needed special ed. This was an attempt to help him reach his full potential.

4. "Al is one of hundreds of thousands of students who have been placed in special education based on biases."

- Can "hundreds of thousands" be substantiated? Based on biases? If they qualify for special ed, it isn't bias.

- Now Al was getting what his mother sought earlier.

- Where was the bias? It seems they were trying to help him because he needed help, perhaps because of being fatherless and various other factors in his life, not because he was Black.

- My wife had general ed students who told her they would like to be in her class.

Thanks for your input, Mark.

My wife and I view special ed as a good thing that helps kids. Al reportedly qualified for special ed. I was struggling with how putting a student into special ed would be a bad thing to do, and why it would be an indication of racial bias. It was not "picking on me because I'm Black." Why did the author see that as an act of racial bias?

You wrote, "You have decided that racial bias is not a factor in Al's story..." No, I merely don't understand why putting Al into special ed, when he apparently tested in, was an act of racial bias.

I happen to have affinity for non-Caucasian people. After retirement I was a volunteer counselor at a walk-in crisis center for mostly Black people for a few years until I got into teaching English to Middle East immigrants. Along the way, I spent four months at my own expense in Kenya as a volunteer visiting lecturer at Daystar University. I also served a week at my own expense on a medical mission trip to Belize. I also really do want African Americans to do well, and am saddened that many efforts to assist them appear to be counter-productive.

Perhaps I misunderstood the author. I would agree that not giving Al needed help is neglect, but can't see why helping him is an indication of bias.

I have made it a practice to operate under the principle that taking offense when none is given, is just as wrong as it is to give offense. I hope I'm not violating that here.

Nice thoughts, nice prayer, messy topic.

Some childless women feel a loss on Mother's Day and some men also feel a loss on Father's Day (and maybe on Mother's Day, too). I do. I also took abuse from other guys who became aware that we had infertility problems, including one who asked, when I excitedly said we were adopting, whose "fault" it was.

I will be forever grateful to the two young women who gave us our adopted daughters, I hope that they will not feel pain on Mother's Day, and I wish they had been able to know what became of their birth daughters. My wife is also grateful to them for their gifts to us, but also partly because they made it possible for her to be a mother "the easy way", as she says.

I hope it's OK to share the story of our family, all of whom, after mom and me, sons-in-law included, were either adopted or the result of adoption. Read it here:

First, when my friend and "American son", Kabba Jalloh from Sierra Leone, attended Dordt  20 or so years ago, he was very well received. I'm sure they were less multi-cultural then than now, but there seemed to be no issues. Kabba received a standing O, against commencement rules, when he accepted his diploma, the only graduate to do so, and I don't think any of the other graduates felt discriminated against.

Re: Internet. I enjoy using humor to lodge protests. Recently, I sent the following message to Chevrolet. When I posted it on Facebook I got several "Likes", some from unexpected sources. I think it's just as wrong to take offense when none is intended as it is to give offense, and I grow weary of the "offense industry", but this was a serious question couched in a semi-humorous way, about something that definitely concerns me. I wondered how many of the kids that mouthed this near-profanity even know God.

Ken Van Dellen

To Chevrolet ad department: Re: The "Oh, my God!" ad with kids. "Did it ever occur to you that this could offend atheists, Christians who believe we should not use God's name lightly,  and possibly some Jews?"

I usually wore a suit when teaching at the college where I was on the faculty, too, unless it was a day when I needed a T-shirt to make a point in geology class (such as one with two hands pushing North America and the continents of Europe and Africa together with the label "Reunite Gondwanaland!"). How could I not then wear one to church?

After retirement I became more casual, but sometimes thought I should dress as well for church as I did for weddings and funerals. However, after a heart attack and stent emplacement I needed to carry a supplemental card wallet. There wasn't room in the wallet in my back pocket for the stent cards (for EMS) and other medical care cards, soon joined by my Red Cross blood donor card, library cards, frequent diner cards, etc. That got me back to wearing a suit or sport coat because I needed pockets. I was wearing cargo pants or shorts the rest of the week and using most of the pockets.

Joining the local senior men's club with bimonthly luncheons with "jackets suggested" reinforced the decision to wear a jacket to church.  Should I dress less for the Lord than I do for my senior friends?

I was now one of only a few in church with jacket and tie. The deacons sometimes wore jeans, or even shorts on hot days, to take the offering, and the pastor had taken to an open collar. I guess this was to make new members and visitors feel more comfortable if they were more casually attired. I found myself explaining, perhaps not quite truthfully, that I wore a jacket only for the pockets.

Perhaps I will ditch the jacket or suit and get one of those vests with pockets for everything. I really can't expect my wife to carry my stuff in her purse. Besides, I would worry that a cell phone might get against a card with a magnetic strip and cancel it.
Sometimes it's difficult to know right from wrong, and what is the right thing to do! Maybe we will soon have another denominational office to give us guidance on this.

I'm getting a little weary of all of the 2nd Amendment talk but I think the book of Esther is terrific, so I decided to take a chance and see what Dan had to say. I had to smile at his initial description of the book and the more I read the bigger my smile became. I wasn't sure where he was headed, but this was the sweetest, kindest gotcha (for some) I've ever seen anyone give out.

The issue of self-defense is a touchy one, and this blog reminds me of an experience I had with a young CRC pastor back in the early 1960s. He was an absolute pacifist and insisted he would not lift a finger against another person. Someone in the group asked him what he would do if he and his wife were walking down the sidewalk and a man attacked his wife. I don't recall what he said but he seemed to think he should do whatever he could without hurting the attacker. How much restraint should we show in such a situation?

It has been pointed out that many of the gun-control folks have armed security people and Saturday's marchers had police officers with guns. Clearly a collision of the theoretical and the practical. It may be easy for us to be theoretical Christians in church and at home, but we get hit by practicality on the street.

Thanks for a very interesting piece, Dan.

This article begins, "I was shocked when I read reports about Trump’s alleged question posed at a recent meeting in the Oval Office..." Now I'm shocked that Network would publish an article with a title like "Do Trump’s "BLEEP" Remarks Represent American Values?", with that title, even, and wonder if we should ask if the article represents Christian values.

I think it's deplorable to begin with a sentence that cites an "alleged question" and then go on with an article based on what was alleged as if the alleged quotation had been documented. Many of our political leaders use language that most CRC members, or other Christians, would not use, at least not in public, and it's possible that President Trump used this language in a private meeting, but we have no video or audio recording of the purported incident (unlike when another president remarked that his detractors "cling to their guns and Bibles", and it was caught on an audio recording).

Anyone who follows politics at all must have noticed that many politicians, but not all, are less than honest in reporting the position of their opponents on issues. Distortions, half-truths, and misrepresentations regarding opponents are common in politics. Do we look at what someone actually said or what a political opponent reports that the person said? There seems to be plenty of room for false witness issues here.

Then we get into labeling and name-calling based on our interpretation of what someone said or allegedly said. Individuals are smeared as racist, sexist, or something else negative because of a particular statement or act, but when we examine the person's record we find that label simply doesn't fit. I'm talking here just about President Trump. I'm talking about myself and others I know. I tend to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

I've remarked that it would be great if politicians would reevaluate their standards. My guy should not just expect the other guy to operate with the standards of my guy, but my guy should hold himself or herself to the standards to which he or she holds the other guy. That would be a higher bar. This would work for non-politicians, too.

So many questions. Did the President say this or something like it? If so, what did he mean by it? Does that mean he deserves a derogatory label of some kind? How should a Christian judge him? Should we cast the first stone?

Are they afraid of being sent back because Haiti isn't such a nice place? Hmmm.

My wife and I like Canada, and we wave at you when we drive along Lakeshore Drive in our community and see Canada across Lake St. Clair. We also think it's cool to see another country, yours, when we enjoy Detroit's beautiful Riverwalk and look south to the parks of Windsor, Ontario, along the Detroit River. I even like to hear your trains honking when I'm dropping off to sleep.

I have to say, though, that I don't think it's a good idea for residents of our two countries to be commenting on the policies of the other country, as has happened recently here and in The Banner. Such remarks are likely to be based on insufficient information.

You folks may have nicer immigration policies than we have, but I don't know that. I still have sad memories of a border incident for which there may have been a sound basis, but was disappointing for me. I was the leader of a one-day field trip with two motor coaches of college students, and was forced to go back to the U.S. with one of the buses (toll each way and at least an hour lost out of our trip) to return a student who was not allowed in because he was from Poland. He was a good student and a nice young man, and I had to drop him at a shopping center to wait for transportation back home. Yes, he should have known he needed a visa, but at that time, a few decades ago, the border was virtually invisible. (I learned that at the time Canada required visa applicants to submit various numbers of photos, some needed only one but others, such as from the Middle East, needed five.) There may have been a good reason for these policies. It would be unfair to judge with only this much information, but I wondered, and still do, what the problem was with Poland.

I thought I should focus on the title topic, not the entire Trump presidency. Both supporters and detractors think many of the Tweets and remarks are disconcerting and unhelpful. However, it was the alleged statement in the title that was used as a basis for a charge of racism.

These days, that serious accusation is frequently used to label people who other people don't like , and I think actions speak louder than words. I think that what a person does is a better indication of a person's standards than that person's words or a detractor's interpretation of them. If we think we need to judge someone, this seems to be a Christian approach. Instead of a list of Trump's Tweets, there should be a list of racist actions, if that's the issue, or actions of the opposite type.


After the recent charges of racism, Sen. Rand Paul issued a statement reporting that Private Citizen Trump had provided major financial backing for medical mission trips to Haiti where ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Paul and his team performed eye surgery on hundreds of Haitians. If providing that financial support was racism we need more racists. It's a Christlike act in my view.

Of course, lurking behind the latest fuss is concern over merit-based immigration and I'd like to make a comment on that. I'm not comfortable with full-blown merit-based immigration. We obviously can't admit everyone who wants to immigrate, and I think it wouldn't be wrong to establish limits or proportions for different skill categories of immigrants. I did not say racial categories. What concerns me, though, is brain drain, and that seems to differ from the views of the president.

I spent a stretch as a volunteer visiting lecturer at Daystar University in Kenya, and several students asked me if I could help them get a visa for America. My standard reply was that I was there to help educate the future leaders of Kenya. I pointed out that if everyone who wanted to live in America were to immigrate, America would be in worse shape than any country in the world. In the same vein, I think it would be wrong to pull away the best educated individuals from countries that need them.

Many times "insensitive" statements are such in the "eye of the beholder". If you look for it you will find it everywhere and will constantly be taking offense. I have been falsely accused of racism, sexism, etc., because in was inarticulate in expressing myself. I operate by the rule that is wrong to intentionally give offense and equally wrong to take offense when none is intended. I am happier and I believe those with whom I have contact are happier because I tend give the other person the benefit of the doubt and don't have a "What did you mean by that?" attitude.

Pardon me if any of my comments to you appear offensive. This is a discussion, dialogue, and debate, and we are presenting different points of view.

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