Godly Systems

Systems keep the world rolling! Without systems, every human action would require a unique human decision. Systems are established plans of action involving people and technology. Systems are necessary for complex life, and once established, they gain momentum by force of rules and tradition. As Christians, we must reflect on the systems around us and act to change those that are destructive.
A system can be as simple as a family's morning routine. In my house, since my time is flexible and my wife's school has a time clock, I get up first, start the tea, wake the kids, make breakfast and the kids lunches, etc. It works smoothly and every one gets out the door on time. A more complex system might be the rules, procedures, technology, and human qualities that provide a large measure of law and order in our communities.

Systems not only fulfill particular needs, but they create effects. Great wisdom is needed to establish good systems. Because systems are man-made, they reflect particular values, goals, priorities, and importantly, a view human nature. Every system has known effects that should align closely with its intended purpose. However, systems generally have unintended consequences that might even undermine the purpose of the system itself.

For example. A school might put in place a system to deal with tardies. "Aides are to stand at the school entrance and issue detentions to every child entering the building after the bell." With no grace or questions asked, this system designed to support the high value the Christian school places on punctuality and education, will likely teach a different message. Though it might improve punctuality, it will also teach families that the school is rigid, unreasoning, authoritarian, and lacks compassion for individual needs.

My thoughts today are focused on our nation's public education system. Some say it accomplishes its intended purpose (I will leave that for another day), but what are some of the negative and unintended consequences of the system's structure that should concern us?

There are many. Public education systems teach that:
  • the state has the right to decide what our children should learn as a part of their education.
  • "religious" issues are personal and private.
  • publicly valuable academic thought and learning is secular.
  • secular perspective is non-religious.
  • "accountability" based on testing produces a fear culture that causes superintendents to be strict on principals, principals to be strict on teachers, and teachers to be strict on students.
  • strictness is more important than compassion.
  • a quality education is measured by narrow test scores.
  • teacher student relationships need merely be academic rather than personal.

Systems not only self perpetuate, but they tend to degenerate as they grow and lose accountability to the people they are intended to serve - unless wise people monitor and update them.

I hope you take time to reflect on the systems effecting your life and their unintended consequences. And may God give you the wisdom as to how to speak into them!
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