This and That


This is a potpourri of items that aren’t necessarily related but needed to be posted.

Don’t Call Me!

No doubt you know about the “do not call” list. This was the result of legislation passed a number of years ago to keep marketers from calling you at any time of the day. A site was created where you can register your phone numbers in a database so that telemarketers cannot call you (https://www.donotcall.gov/).

But there is a proverbial catch to all of this; it does not eliminate all telemarketing calls. Political organizations and charitable organizations can still call you. (This isn’t the first time I have pointed this out – see “Will the Future Be Any Different than The Past?”) Now, it is one thing to receive a phone call from either of these two groups; it is an entirely different matter to receive a “robo-call” from them.

And, I don’t know about you but those are the type of phone calls that I have been receiving; computer-generated calls from a toll-free number without identification. It would seem that some charitable organizations have out-sourced their attempts to seek donations for their causes.

I have to question this approach. It makes sense to turn over the rather mundane aspect of fund-raising to someone who knows what they are doing but how much of what is gained through these methods actually goes to the charity and how much goes to the telemarketer? I find this approach both amazing and stupid. And if the public sentiment that I see on the various web pages where you identify these phone numbers is accurate, the amount of giving goes down because the people have stated that they will not give to these organizations.

It is a blatant plug but that is why I prefer UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief); all donations to UMCOR go to the project identified with the giving. Overhead costs are absorbed in church apportionments (and I will discuss that in a moment).

The other thing that I find amazing is the number of people who do not understand that these calls are perfectly acceptable. They presume that because they are on the “do not call” list that they will get no telemarketing phone calls. But the law that was passed exempts political organizations, charitable organizations, and bill collectors from this prohibition. For each of those groups, you have to let them know individually that you do not wish to be called.

But shouldn’t those who signed up have known this when they signed up; I don’t believe that it was in the fine print. Could it be that our educational system didn’t do the job that it was supposed to do?

Our Educational System

There is a lot of talk going on about reforming education. That’s nothing new; I have been doing so for most of the time that I have been blogging and writing. Maybe episodes like the above episode with robo-calls from charitable organizations will be the impetus for true reform, for including critical thinking and analysis in the educational process.

But somehow I don’t think so. If I understand what is happening right now, school reform simply means creating charter schools. A charter school appears to be a formerly public school that will now be run by a private organization. Taxpayer dollars are still being used to fund the school but taxpayer input into the management of the school will be lessened.

If a private organization is going to run a school, shouldn’t they be charging tuition and other fees? And, as we have learned (or I hope we have learned) from the healthcare debate, a private organization’s interest and focus is solely on the bottom line. Keeping people healthy does not seem to be of any interest to the healthcare industry so why would those involved in some sort of educational industry be interested in education?

If the complaint is about the amount of money that is spent on schools today, shouldn’t we also be asking how much money actually makes it to the classroom? How much money raised through taxes actually is used by the school for the improvement of teaching and how much is spent on various forms of overhead?

Now, I know that there are many teachers who have no business being in the classroom; that’s nothing new. But one of the hallmarks of a good teacher is continued time in the classroom and any system that focuses on the bottom line will do whatever it can to reduce the number of teachers who have been in the classroom for many years in favor of beginning teachers whose salaries will be markedly lower.

I am not saying that there aren’t teachers who have been in the classroom for many years but are only there because they have tenure and nothing except retirement will get them out. Tenure was never meant to protect the incompetent or lazy; it was meant to give teachers the freedom to be creative and innovative.

But schools are no longer creative and innovative. With the call for accountability becoming louder and louder with each passing day, schools are more attuned to keeping the citizens quiet and happy. Creativity and innovation don’t do that; having students succeed does. But the success of the students is manipulated for the present; if we test the students later or against a larger population, we find that they aren’t succeeding.

Charter schools won’t fix the problem because the problem is in the process, not in the building. We, as parents and taxpayers, are demanding something now that can only be delivered over time. But we have created a culture that expects results now and we are being fooled by our own expectations.

In essence, we want our children to win the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the Fields Medal and the Priestley Medal now, even if each medal requires years of work, thought, and effort. We do not realize that if we prepare our children so that they can work towards achieving that goal, we will have done a great deal towards helping them reach that goal. It won’t mean a whole lot in the long run if we expect to reach the pinnacle now without preparing the path for our children.

Last Thoughts

This is also educational in nature but directed towards the church but not necessarily Sunday School type education. And it is not necessarily limited to those among the readers who are United Methodists by birth or affirmation. But I phrased the question in terms of United Methodism.

1. Who owns your church?

2. What are apportionments? What priority does your church give to its apportionments?

3. Does your church pay its bills first and then its apportionments? Or does it pay its apportionments first and then the other bills? Does the order in which they are paid matter?

Now, let me say that I believe I know the answers to these questions but I am not sure that I like the answers that I might get when I ask people of the United Methodist Churches in this area.

This isn’t about economics or logic; it is about where the heart of the church lies. My own church has adopted the policy (though I think reluctantly) to set asides 10% of each Sunday’s offering for the apportionments. It is a policy that I have advocated for the past ten years, in part because I have seen it work in other churches. And one church that accepted the premise that doing so puts your heart into your finances was able to pay its apportionments in full before the end of the year and they did so without fund-raising or special appeals. But one church, more concerned with the building than the heart, will probably officially die at Annual Conference in June.

I have some other items that I will be posting, most notably on the issue of academic freedom. I also will be preaching at Ridges/Roxbury UMC and the United Methodist Church of  Springdale (both in the Stamford, CT) area this coming Sunday (the sermon is entitled “Coming Home” and should be posted by Sunday morning).  The service at the Ridges/Roxbury church is at 9 and the service at the Springdale church is at 10:30.  You are welcome to attend.

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