Instead of posting articles on facebook, I should stick to writing my blog.

I have a bad habit of overstating my case sometimes. So does the writer of this article, which I should not have posted on facebook without a bit more qualification.

I certainly don’t agree with the article on every point, but I do think it pokes a stick at some very important questions, particularly for urban families who have the financial and/or social resources to choose where their children will go to school.

Like any parent, I want what is best for my kids. As a Christian, however, I think it’s tremendously important to question what that means. “What is best” for my daughter is that she learns to love the Lord and love her neighbour as herself. She could go to the best school in the world (of whatever type that may be) and never learn this. She could receive no formal education whatsoever and still in the end have received what is best. So I first want to posit that whether or not you send your kid to private school or public school is not necessarily a question of whether you are giving them what is best or not. That said, education matters. You probably cannot overstate how much it matters.

I want what is best for my kids – and so does every other parent. But while I can choose where to send Jubilee to school, many of my neighbours cannot. Their children will go to the public school around the corner whether they like it or not, because they cannot afford another option. Thus, my choice of where to send Jubilee to school is not just an individual choice about what is best for my daughter. It impacts my neighbours. If she goes to the public school down the street, her presence and our family’s boots-on-the-ground investment in the school will have beneficial effects on our neighbour’s children. If we send Jubilee to private school, we remove that benefit.

Sending your kid to public school is clearly not the only way to love your neighbour. In fact, if you are spending your time and energy loving your neighbours in other ways, then you probably ought not to make the enormous commitment of sending your child to an underperforming public school with the intent of being engaged in its programs and environment for the betterment of the community. If, however, you have the resources and the calling to make that commitment, then I think it is well worth considering.

I think it is worth considering even more so if you have a lot of families from your church with similarly aged children who could all send their children to the local public school together, be invested in it together, and support each other in the difficulties of doing so.

I think that the article’s ideas have some merits, and I think that public schools could be helped and even transformed if significant amounts of socially and financially wealthy families committed to their well-being with their time, money, energy, and even their children. My secret pipe dream in life is to do this in West Philly along with other families from City Church.

My fear is that the liberal Pharisees will beat us to it. That the church might fail to show sacrificial love in such a radical way. I think that it can be done, and I think that it does not involve sacrificing our children on the altar of a progressive agenda, but rather teaching them how to love God and their neighbour in the best way possible: by example.


On Getting Punched in the Face

Every so often I have a dream in which I’m fighting someone – maybe to stop them from doing something bad or because they did something I didn’t like… you know, dream stuff. Without fail, every time I fight in a dream I am completely ineffective. I hit the other person over and over and over again, but my punches don’t make any impact. They just stand there and laugh at me – it’s very disconcerting.

In real life, however, I was recently invited to join the fight team at the gym I train at. It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds – they just practice together at a higher level than in the normal classes and have a special emphasis on fight training. If they think you’re tough enough, experienced enough, and/or skilled enough, they ask you to join. The coach who invited me, Brylan, seems to have taken a special interest in making sure I am up to the increased intensity of sparring. His after-class habit lately has been to call me over, tell me to put my gloves on, and set the clock for five minutes. He doesn’t really ask “Hey Zach, would you like to get beat up by a professional MMA fighter for a bit?” He just starts the clock.

Sparring with Brylan is probably one of the hardest and most exhilarating things I have ever done. Just to be clear, he is nowhere near fighting his hardest against me (for an example of what that would in fact look like, go here and start at 1:30). But he also isn’t anywhere near going easy on me. He hits hard and fast, he doesn’t let up when I’m getting tired, and he doesn’t even stop if I am bleeding profusely from the face. (It was once suggested to him that maybe he should. His response was: “Zach always gets a bloody nose. He’s fine.”)

And he’s right.

What I am so deeply grateful for in Brylan is that he sees in me the potential and the desire to be a better fighter. Not only that, but he honors what he sees in me by beating me up on a semi-regular basis. If, when we sparred, he just kicked my ass and hurt me, it would be demoralizing and discouraging. If he took it easy on me, it would be demeaning and disrespectful. Instead, Brylan pushes me right up to and then a little bit past my limits. Every time I spar with him I come away a better fighter. Smarter, faster, tougher, grittier, and more unafraid. After facing him in the ring, most other people don’t intimidate me that much.

The first time I ever sparred with Brylan – which was long before I joined the fight team – his feedback for me after thrashing me around for a while was “Well you didn’t pussy out and run away the whole time like some people do.” Despite the fact that I was hurting all over and bleeding from my nose, this made me feel ludicrously proud.

Yesterday after fighting Brylan for a grueling five minutes with the whole gym watching, I was beaten up probably a little more than the first time. (My defense is way better than a few months ago, but that just means he hits harder and faster.) But this time he didn’t have to scrape so close to the bottom of the barrel for positive feedback. He just grinned and said “nice work.” I knew I’d landed a few good hits of my own.

I feel a little rough today – congested in the head (I presume from getting punched in the face so much?) and sore all over with a tender jawline and a fat lip. But I had a dream last night in which I beat up two high schoolers at a concert. So I’m calling it a win.