Driver’s Education

Most of the people reading this blog have a driver’s license. However, it didn’t just materialize. You went through some sort of training. Perhaps you took traditional driver’s education classes; I still recall the first time I was ever put behind a wheel in the Avinger High School parking lot.

Maybe some of you might have been effective drivers without that training, but even if you cannot admit that you would have been a disaster as an untrained driver, you can certainly recognize that others would have been.

Can you imagine what roads would be like if when all kids turned 16 we just tossed them the keys, sans training, and said “go for it!”?

But that is what we do in Texas with our children and their health; we just “toss them the keys” and hope it works out. (Click to Tweet)

1. In Texas, health courses are not required of high school students and have not been for several years.

That means that many graduates in Texas have not had a health course of any sort since Junior High; in other words, 18-year-olds we turn loose as “adults” were likely 13 or 14 when they last got health information from their coursework, meaning that many (most? all?) health questions were answered by some combination of the internet and/or other teenagers.

2. In Texas, secondary school Physical Education courses are “required”, but not really.

Scroll down to 74.37; that is what is supposed to be done in “Public School Physical Education” in Texas.  However, beginning in 6th grade students may be exempt from regular Physical Education courses in favor of athletics participation, cheer, drill team, and marching band. This is a particular challenge to me, because this means is that the majority of students I am preparing for Texas teaching certification in All-Level (K-12) Physical Education have never actually taken a secondary Physical Education course; for that matter, neither did I! How can I emphasize the importance of teaching Physical Education when no one in the room has actually had the experience?

Now, all of those activities that give secondary Physical Education exemptions have merits, but what they do not do is cover the requirements for “Public School Physical Education” in Texas. (Do not get offended if I pick on your activity; these are examples.)

Football, marching band, and cheerleading are not “lifetime activities”; how rampant are adult tackle football leagues?

Abe Vigoda playing football (Snickers commercial)

Abe Vigoda playing football (Snickers commercial)

To wit, every year I ask freshman that have gone back to their respective hometowns for Homecoming games to report back to me about the physical changes they have seen in teammates that aren’t playing college sports. Overwhelmingly, those teammates have gained “bad weight.” This seems to be especially true for people that had played football lineman positions. The cause is that many of those individuals never cultivated a variety of skills, having been only practicing and working out for one sport since 6th or 7th grade.

Practicing all year to be good at only basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, or anything does not promote students “choosing among many types of physical activity”. Being really good at one thing is great! However, being able to perform confidently in a variety of physical activity settings is not only a goal of proper Physical Education, but it has been linked to greater amounts of lifetime physical activity and better health.

I LOVE basketball, but when I broke my elbow a few years ago, I still had enough competence in other activities that I could continue to be active and healthy.

None of these possible activity exemptions for 6-12 Physical Education address the required content for “Foundations of Fitness”, which is the state’s only specifically-required high school Physical Education course. In addition to physical activity, that course is supposed to give students the prerequisite knowledge to design personalized rudimentary exercise and nutrition plans. High schoolers with exemptions do not get this information anywhere else.

“Foundations of Fitness” is essentially the high school version of the “Lifetime Fitness” course found at most colleges and universities, including ETBU. Anecdotal evidence from my colleagues that have taught Lifetime Fitness at ETBU reveals a shocking lack of health and physical activity information from the students in those courses, especially among students with high school team sports backgrounds. They simply have never seen the material before.

Now, I am not advocating eliminating high school team sports activities; those were a vital component to my personal growth in a variety of ways, and they continue to serve that same role now for countless others.

Junior Year Basketball

Junior Year Basketball
(The above picture is a reward for those that made it this far into the post.)

That said, high school team sports and other activities are not substitutes for the content that is supposed to be taught in Physical Education. (Click to Tweet)

One of my greatest responsibilities is to ensure that my potential Physical Education teachers understand how important their jobs are; done correctly, real Physical Education can change individuals, families, and entire cultures.

One day, it will be the responsibility of my students to ensure that we don’t just “toss the keys” to a generation of youth in regards to their bodies, turning them loose on the roads of life without knowing how to drive. Damage to a car can often be repaired and even if it is totaled, it can be replaced, but the damage an uneducated person can do to his or her own body can be irreparable.

- WW

The Truth is Out There

2006-08-22 - Road Trip - Day 30 - United States - New Mexico - Roswell - Alien Xing - Sign

A few days ago we had an interesting discussion in my Communication Studies Research Methods class (at least I thought it was interesting!)

We were talking about epistemology: what counts as knowledge, how do we know what we know.

Photo Credit: David T Jones via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David T Jones via Compfight cc

Some people think that observing people counts as knowing; some think that you can’t know something that isn’t measurable; others think that unless you can prove it, it’s not true.

This is a big debate in research methods of all kinds, but especially in Communication Studies. So, naturally, we talked about it in class!

But then I started asking questions of the students.

“How do you know what you know about God?” “Can you believe things have to be proven and still be a Christian?” “If you think observation is knowledge, how can you observe God?”

They had puzzled looks on their faces and took my questions as rhetorical.

The questions continued in my head.

How can I think that each individual experiences each situation uniquely if I know there is only one true God? I think there are multiple truths out there, but I certainly don’t think there are multiple gods. Is it ok if we all read the same verse but come to different understandings? Does that make someone wrong?

I’ve thought these things many times before. Especially in grad school when we were continually pushed to find our place in the Research Methods world.

What do you think counts as knowledge? What do you think counts as truth?


Photo Credit: romana klee via Compfight cc

Before ETBU, I have always been part of secular schools where we DO NOT talk about God. Especially in the classroom. So I never got to really hear anyone else’s take on the issue. And I still have questions.

Is there a Christian way to research? (Click to Tweet)

Is there a satanic way?

My Research Methods students know that I am a qualitative researcher –  I am more interested in individuals’ unique experiences and perspectives than I am in finding the mean and standard deviation of an experience.

Simply put, I’d rather know what something means to you than how you feel about it on a scale of 1-7.

It’s easy to say that I’d like to know your personal faith story – because I would! And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with different ideas about different verses. As long as they’re not too different…

The place where I get stuck is reconciling these two beliefs:

1. I believe in One. True. God. And that His son came to earth to die on the cross for our sins. No question. No perspective. Just truth.

2. I believe everyone socially creates their own reality through communication and that everyone’s experience is their own truth.

Contradictory? Maybe… I don’t think so, but I can’t explain why.

Do any of you struggle with questions like these? Have you come up with any conclusions?

I come back to James 1:5 -

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”


Living in the Shadow of the Mosque

What causes a church to die?

One of the more celebrated churches in the book of Revelation is that of Philadelphia, a community of believers commended by Jesus as those who “kept my word and have not denied my name” and who will therefore be kept “from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world” (Rev. 3:8, 10).   Yet little today remains of the ancient church of Philadelphia. 

Church of St. John the Theologian, Philadelphia, Turkey by author

Church of St. John the Theologian, Philadelphia, Turkey by author

In fact the only historical remnants are three pillars from an 11th-century Church of St. John the Theologian and these pillars rest in the shadow of a mosque.  Standing in the ruins of this church it is possible to hear the Muslim call to prayer and observe faithful adherents quickly walking without a glance past the dead ruins of this ancient church in order to participate in a living faith beckoning them to active worship.

What caused a vibrant faith to now lie as little more than a curious tourist attraction in the shadow of a living mosque?

After all at one time the churches in Turkey were part of the leading luminaries of the Christian faith.  Much of Paul’s missionary ministry occurred in Turkey.  All seven of the first great ecumenical councils took place in Turkey.  In the Hagia Sophia and Chora Church, Istanbul is arguably home to one of the world’s greatest church buildings and some of the most spectacular mosaic art.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul by author

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul by author


Though rich in an historical Christian culture and ethos, according to Operation World, Turkey, a country of 75 million, is today only 0.21% Christian.

Mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul by author

Mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul by author


This was nowhere more evident than when I met with a local ministry leader who has only been a Christian for four years and yet is already serving as one of the pastors for his community.  For safety we met in a large and open park where we would be freer to directly discuss the realities of ministry in the shadow of the mosque.

Another believer in a different city hundreds of miles away told how families of believers were harassed by local police officers and the ongoing anxiety, fear and worry that griped some Christians.

How did this happen?

Though primarily referencing churches in North Africa and the Middle East, in his book The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia – and How it Died Philip Jenkins offers several intriguing insights.

He notes that churches in this region slowly died over a number of years in part because of:

  • Preoccupation with internal church maintenance rather than external outreach and welcome
  • Distraction caused by church conflict and division
  • Disconnection between the language utilized and priorities emphasized by the church and the broader culture and actual lived reality of the people in churches’ neighborhoods
  • Slow abandonment as more robust churches in the west became internally-focused and over time simply stopped responding to the needs of brothers and sisters who were increasingly living in the shadow of the mosque.

None of these reasons directly relate to Islam itself.  Certainly some would have chosen Islam out of specific faith rationales.  However, Jenkins rightly argues that churches themselves often bear much of the responsibility for their own decline.

There are many Christians and Muslims around the world who live in healthy contexts of mutuality.  Islam is not an inherently antagonistic religion.  However, at least in Turkey, many Christians face challenges and difficulties as they seek to minister in a land of mosques.

If churches can grow they can also die. (Click to Tweet)

This is a cautionary message worth repeating for these causative factors are all too often also present in other churches where what seems like today’s inevitable cultural strength can fade away altogether.

For the Christians of Turkey, there is far more immediacy.  All too often they continue to remain isolated from and ignored by brother and sister Christians residing elsewhere.  It would be a travesty to celebrate the ancient Christian heritage of Turkey without also considering contemporary realties.  Would you therefore:

  • Support churches in Turkey today
  • Pray for Christian believers in Turkey living in the shadow of the mosque
  • Consider the extent to which the causative factors of church death may be present in your particular community of faith?

Prayercast | Turkey from Prayercast on Vimeo.


Themes on Memes

Without going into too technical of a definition here, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” With the advent of the internet technologies, particularly those that you can hold in your hand, ideas can spread more quickly than at any point in history. The most-recent popular example of a “viral” meme is probably the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I even saw today that Homer Simpson took it; look for the brief Olaf the Snowman cameo.

This post, however, is not about the Ice Bucket Challenge, so save your love or vitriol for another space.

Another example of an idea or behavior spreading quickly is the Arab Spring. Literally entire sections of the world changed in a matter of days, and while revolutions have always occurred in history, internet-based technologies serve as an accelerant in the spread of ideas.

The meme as a common experience, or the meme as a cultural divider?

“An idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”…by that definition, it seems that a meme should bring a culture together, simply because it makes connections within a culture that can serve as stronger bonds. However, I don’t always find that true. Here is a frivolous example:

Celebrating Baby saying "Went through airport security with insulin problems"

My wife sent me a link to the “Type I Diabetes Memes” Tumblr page a few months ago, and among the numerous pictures, this particular one slays me, not because it is particularly funny, but because it is so amazingly specific. To really “get it”, you have to have been:

  • An English-speaker.
  • A Type I diabetic.
  • An insulin pump wearer.
  • Stopped repeatedly at security checkpoints in an airport due to said pump.
  • AND a person that has seen and understands this particular internet meme “format”.

That picture doesn’t connect people. Yes, this “spread quickly within a culture”, but it really only was an inside joke that only a limited amount of people can really appreciate. The vast majority of you reading this will NOT say to yourselves, “That is SO TRUE!” (as I did).

The concept of rapidly spreading ideas as a separator scales up to other more-serious situations as well. For example, on Facebook I have some friends that are not just Republican/Conservative; they are SUPER Republican/Conservative. This is also true of friends I have that are MEGA Democrats/Liberals. Often, the posts that those individuals make are extreme in one way or another, and sometimes, they simply do not reflect reality. What the internet has done in these cases is created not a stronger, common culture, but two diametrically opposed cultures that cannot realistically co-exist.

There is no room for discussion.

Ask most people about the situation in Ferguson right now; either “innocent, young, unarmed Mike Brown” was gunned down in cold blood by a vicious killer cop working within a 100% corrupt, whites-only police state, or “thuggish, armed robber Mike Brown” was shot by an innocent police officer that was assaulted while simply investigating a reported crime. (Compare the comments posted to Ferguson-related online stories on and for a further examination of this concept.) I have seen very few public voices considering that maybe, just maybe, there are many other complex issues involved and that both viewpoints probably share some degree of merit. Now again, the purpose of this blog is not to debate that issue, but rather, the purpose is to point out that rapidly spreading ideas do NOT always bring people together.

My question to the reader is, how can we foster middle grounds in thought when so-often viewpoints become deeply entrenched before all factors come to light and are thoughtfully considered? A situation as complex as the Mike Brown case cannot be decided-upon in a few minutes and cannot be adequately discussed in 140 characters.

“With great power…”

We have a responsibility as educators, Christians, and human beings living on the Earth to figure out something else about memes: how can we best-harness the concept of memes and spread ideas quickly in a positive and responsible way? That is something that has been discussed at length in my graduate-level sports leadership courses, and I know my colleague Dr. McRee has discussed this in her Sports Management and Marketing courses as well.

All it takes is the right person in the right situation to cause a “Tipping Point,” and then an idea spreads. The notion of a “Cold Water” challenge has been around for some time, so what changed? (The Wikipedia link in the first paragraph examines this question.) Fine Arts is putting on a musical entitled “Urinetown”  that has a significant message, but one that has never spread to the extent of the Ice Bucket Challenge. I have heard Brother Carlton Burris at Immanuel Baptist Church say that the most successful meme in history was probably the initial spread of Christianity in the couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion. How do we get POSITIVE thoughts and principles to spread throughout our culture?

How do I make students best-understand the importance of Physical Education to children? How does our department best-express the long-term benefits of a healthy lifestyle to ETBU’s students? How does ETBU best-make a Godly-impact on our community, state, and country? These are important questions to ask, because as surely as technology marches forward and the world shrinks, the cultures of America and the world are going to change rapidly over the remainder of our lifetimes.

It is our shared responsibility to ensure that whatever ideas “go viral” leave this place better than when we arrived. (Click to Tweet)

But how?


Small… Large… MEDIUM! I’m the MEDIUM!

“The medium is the message.”

Marshall Mcluhan

Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Compfight cc

This quote is one of the most famous phrases in the discipline of Communication Studies, and was originally voiced by Marshal McLuhan, a media scholar from the Toronto school of Communication Theory.

His point is that how you say something is just as important as what you say. (Click to Tweet)

In many cases, it may end up being even more important.

Studying Communication is so important to me, and what I really love, because it allows me (and every Comm scholar) to understand where other people are coming from, and what they are trying to say through the words they choose to convey their message. I get very excited for each new class – a chance to share my passion with a new group of students, and a chance for us to learn together about what Communication Studies can mean together.

I have loved Communication Studies since my first Communication class at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2005. It was at this small, private university that I first heard McLuhan’s words. They have been repeated throughout my journey to a PhD, but it is only now that I’ve first made a connection between McLuhan’s message and Jesus’s.

That statement may seem shocking and sad, but ETBU is my first school environment where the integration of faith and learning is placed at such a high priority.

It is refreshing, to be honest.

At so many public schools, and even some religious universities, professors (and professors-in-training) are encouraged, pushed, even threatened to take religion out of the classroom so that we don’t offend anyone.

In my first semester at ETBU, I was struggling to bring my religious views into class because I felt as if it had almost been beaten out of me. But now, with the opportunity to reflect on how my discipline relates to faith and Christianity, I am struck by the complete obviousness of it all!

Allow me to show you what I mean…

Jesus was God’s son, sent to earth to deliver God’s message of salvation – to COMMUNICATE it to us! (Click to Tweet)

He lived a perfect life, and focused on sharing God’s mercy with the world – communicating even still. A connection to my discipline if I’ve ever heard one.

But the connection that really hit me over the head when I started thinking about McLuhan’s emphasis on the medium, is that we are the medium that God has chosen to spread his message today. That was the plan all along…remember… the Great Commission…

Bible Study

Photo Credit: rafa2010 via Compfight cc

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

To make this idea even more concrete, let me put it another way. I am the medium that is charged with spreading the message of Jesus. You are the medium. All of God’s followers are His chosen medium.

If we return again to McLuhan’s idea that the chosen medium for communicating a message is extremely meaningful, it must be a big deal that God picked us. We are the medium here, after all.

But why? Why us? Studying communication shows us that people who really believe their message, or have experienced something themselves, are often the most effective at passing their passion along to others.


Photo Credit: jesuscm via Compfight cc

My former pastor used to use the analogy of restaurants: If you’ve eaten a great meal, and tell others about it, they will want to try out that restaurant too because you are so excited about it!

So, when I consider the importance of God picking US to be his medium, it makes me feel a lot of pressure to step up and do a better job. Also, I need to remember to trust myself, and God, and know that my excitement and passion will easily flow through trough my words.

After all, that’s how communication works.


Refugee. Flight. Displacement.

Photo Credit: Zoriah via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Zoriah via Compfight cc

Refugee.  Flight.  Displacement.

In The Idea of a Christian College Arthur Holmes reminds us that a Christian college, and by implication those vocationally pursuing the study and application of Christian studies, must rigorously pursue the intersection of their faith within the wholeness of the human experience because “we live in a secular society that compartmentalizes religion and treats it as peripheral or even irrelevant to large areas of life and thought” (Holmes, 9).  The biblical worldview however clearly and consistently admonishes believers to positively contribute to a vision of human flourishing.

People of Christian faith are to live out what the New Testament describes as “good news” in the midst of contexts that are all too often divided, conflicted, and trapped in poverty.  As one example, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2014 the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million people for the first time since World War II.  As the UNHCR rightly notes, “1 family torn apart by war is too many.”  The following facts from the United Nations are indeed sobering:

  • 43.3 million people worldwide forcible displaced due to conflict and persecution
  • 46% of these individuals are children
  • 15 million of these individuals are uprooted from their home country
  • 27 million remain within their country but are internally displaced due to conflict
  • Many lack the essentials of life such as clean water, food and protection from violence and abuse.

These are real people with real needs. (Click to Tweet)

Moreover, the call to stand alongside displaced individuals is central to the biblical narrative.  In fact, there is an entire book within the Old Testament addressing this subject.  The book of Ruth is in part dedicated to establishing an ethic that asks people of faith to contribute to human flourishing by standing alongside those living in the midst of difficult cross-cultural situations.

Ruth is the story of a young woman who found herself in Israel, a country that differed in culture, religion and background from the one in which she was raised.  And what is more, there was a long history of suspicion, hostility and violent armed conflict between the peoples of Moab and Judah.  Imagine yourself as a young, single woman with the responsibility of providing for an older relative, with only limited access to finances, separated from family and friends, and suspiciously viewed with ethnic hostility in all of your daily interactions.

Ruth was forced to glean the leftover grain that was first missed by harvesters and servants, and it is in this context of difficulty and poverty that that the Biblical story introduces Boaz.  Having compassion, Boaz extended an open hand to Ruth and helped her with financial and material goods.  Over the course of the grain and barley harvests this initial relationship grew.

Ruth is usually told as a story of love and marriage or as a foreshadowed celebration of King David or of Christ himself.  These interpretations may be true.  But what is often lost in these themes is the reality that this is also a story about crossing boundaries, of an immigrant who came from a country that was deemed “suspicious,” and about overcoming prejudices by showing compassion and financial generosity specifically to the displaced within our communities.

The book of Ruth is a reminder that people of faith are called to stand in prayer, friendship and practical support with all those within our community who have been displaced, especially those who have experienced the traumas of violence, war and forced flight.  This is where faith, friendship and vocational discipline intersect. (Click to Tweet)

For many in the United States this reality has taken on new meaning as 50,000 unaccompanied minors have sought asylum over the last twelve months.  As the Baptist World Alliance recently noted, many of these individuals are “victimized by separation from their families, economic exploitation, lack of medical care and education [and] discrimination.”  It is our responsibility to “respond to the need for spiritual support and pastoral services for these children” and to “create welcoming communities.”

Behind the overwhelming numerical statistics are individuals who can be influenced by individuals.  This is the power of one connecting with one.  In a way, after all, the believer in Christ is to see themselves in the words of Hebrews 11:13, “[as] foreigners and strangers on earth.”

People of faith let us be among the first who recognize fellow sojourners and to follow the call of the biblical narrative by welcoming the refugees and displaced within our communities.  This week would you commit to doing one of the following:

  • Praying every day for seven days for the refugees and displaced around the world
  • Seeking greater awareness about the reality of the 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have sought asylum along the southern border of the United States
  • Reaching out and befriending an immigrant or refugee in your context and to help build a community of welcome



Fall 2014 Intersection Bloggers

The Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship at East Texas Baptist University is excited to announce our three bloggers for the Fall 2014 semester. Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, and Dr. Will Walker will be sharing their weekly insights the ways that their teaching, disciplines, and faith intersect. This semester will be The Intersection’s third cohort of ETBU faculty bloggers. The Intersection blog originally began as a part of the CECS Intersection of Faith & Reflection Project in which five ETBU faculty members where invited to use the newly created blog to experience reflective practice during Fall 2013. The project was completed in December 2013 and now the blog continues each semester with three ETBU faculty members chosen each session.

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker (

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker

Meet Our Bloggers…

Dr. Elijah Brown will be posting on Mondays throughout the Fall 2014 semester beginning on August 25th. Dr. Brown is an Associate Professor of Religion in the School of Christian Studies, and also serves as the Director Freedom Center at ETBU, a newly formed center is working to advance international religious freedom and transformative peace. Brown joined the ETBU faculty in 2009, and is an active member of the ETBU community. In addition to his classroom engagement with students, Dr. Brown and his family have lived on campus as Faculty in Residence since 2011. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, New College. His dissertation focused on the development of north-south Sudanese peace, highlighting issues related to the maturation of indigenous Christianity, missions, church growth, conflict resolution and reconciliation, and religion and politics. Dr. Brown is also an active participant in the Baptist World Alliance.

Dr. Allyn Lueders will be sharing her reflections on Wednesdays beginning August 27th. Dr. Lueders is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in ETBU’s School of Humanities, and just recently joined the ETBU faculty in 2012. Dr. Lueders has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. Her dissertation focused on an analysis of an online support community for anorexia patients. Her courses taught here at ETBU range from Fundamentals of Speech Communication to Research Methods in Communication Studies. In addition to her new blogging responsibilities this fall, Dr. Lueders and her husband have recently moved on to campus as part of the ETBU Faculty in Residence program.

Dr. Will Walker will be blogging his thoughts on Fridays beginning August 29th. Dr. Walker is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Education. Originally from East Texas, Dr. Walker first attended and graduated from ETBU with his B.S.E. in Secondary History and Physical Education before joining the ETBU faculty in 2007. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville with a dissertation exploring physical self-efficacy in college weight training students. Dr. Walker also serves as the Faculty Athletic Representative. Teaching in one of the institution’s larger majors and his involvement with ETBU Athletics gives Dr. Walker the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with ETBU students with varying backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations.

From Christian Missions, to God’s people as a medium for communication, to the connection between the health of the body and soul, this semester’s bloggers are sure to shed new light on the topics of faith, learning, and disciplines on The Intersection. Subscribe via email or check back online regularly to follow their stories. Engage with our bloggers by commenting on posts that grab your attention, cause you to ask questions, or impact your faith.

Join us as we spend another semester looking for the intersections of our faith & life.

Parable of the Fingernails


Photo Credit: adaenn via Compfight cc

How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.  December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?
–Dr. Seuss

I was sitting at my desk today trying to prioritize the things that need to be done to finish the semester.  I looked down at my fingers and noticed my fingernails. They were a little too long, so obviously it was time to cut them again.  Not a big deal. But just a minute, didn’t I cut them just last week? That couldn’t be, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t that long ago that I cut them.

Now remember I’m a scientist, I know how fast fingernails grow.

3 millimeters per month, 0.1 millimeter per day, that means they grow 1 nanometer per second.

Now as Americans, we don’t have the concept of millimeters in our heads much less nanometers. A nanometer is about the width of a molecule. Which means a human hair averages about 100,000 nanometers wide…100,000 seconds for my nails to grow the width of a human hair.

Okay, outside of ‘nerdsville’ that means fingernails grow slowly. So, if you are using your fingernails as a timekeeper, you have a very slow clock.

It also means it was about a month ago that I cut my nails.

You’ve heard of these sayings:

  • Time flies when you are having fun.
  • A watched pot never boils.
  • Be there in a second…
  • Just a minute…
  • A minute is not long, unless you’re waiting for the bathroom.

These sayings allude to some interesting facts about our timekeeping. You see, time is not something we sense. There needs to be a receptor to have a sensation. That makes time invisible, but we are able to perceive time or intervals of time.

However, perceiving time involves some psychological and physiological tricks. If you are engaged in an activity, you lose track of time and so it flies by, and if you are bored, time seems to drag along. If you have an urgent need, the seconds seem to last for hours.

Oddly enough, when the brain becomes engaged, it seems to record more memories than normal. This acts more like a slow motion camera, so more details are remembered which acts to slow time down. An example of this is when someone is in a car wreck and the details are remembered in slow motion. Time has not been perceived at a different rate, just more details are recorded during the time interval.

So if the brain filters out details, we perceive time differently than if it records all details available. And if you record more details, then the world around you seems to run in slow motion.

That is one way to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If ADHD kids record more information with their brains for particular time intervals, then the world runs too slow for their attention system.

Or if you noticed that the years seem to go by quicker as we get older, it might be because we recorded more new information during our adolescence which slowed down the perception of time. Now our brains don’t need to record as much and time passes quicker. In order to recover some of that youthful perception, we need to add novel experiences and information to our lives. Then the years would stop zooming by.

That is what happened with my time perception the past few weeks. With the lack of novel experiences, time was whizzing by and I didn’t notice until I looked at my fingernails. The sight of my talons brought my world back into focus.

Or maybe it was just that I had so much to do trying to finish up the last weeks of the semester that I lost track of time. I probably just need to manage my stress, kick off my shoes and…hey, my toenails seem a little long…




In my last week of teaching organizational leadership this semester, my students were asked to make presentations to their classmates surrounding some sort of ethical leadership dilemma. The students were asked to advise the class on what decision should be made by the leaders in the case from an ethical standpoint while paying attention to what made good business, financial, and legal sense. They were then to use the leadership techniques, models, theories, ideas and perspectives from the semester to present a plan of action to address the case.

They did a remarkable job.

In fact, they did such a wonderful job in pulling together all of those pieces, that the presentations gave me new perspectives on a couple of leadership decisions currently facing one of the organizations that I serve as a member of the board of directors. Of course the presentations weren’t perfect. I questioned the accounting on a couple of proposals and some of the ethical justifications were a little weak. Others lacked detail in applying the leadership models we had discussed. All of which gave me one last opportunity to help students make connections to the material as I asked one final set of questions.
And I saw it…

While I was asking those final challenging questions, I saw a couple of final light bulbs come on.

Some were students who had excelled in gathering the information, but had not yet fully put it into practice. Others I had watched struggle to knit the pieces together all semester long. Watching it all begin to click for them is remarkably rewarding. I am so proud in those moments for the students who continue to work until the light finally dawns.

And in those moments, I’m reminded of why I teach leadership. Because they can learn. (Tweet This)

Many of them come with a great deal of leadership potential. Some are naturally influential with their peers. Others are able to speak eloquently and persuasively. Still others think critically and apply ideas readily. But they still need research and theory and practice to really begin to excel in leadership.

Hopefully, my classes give them the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need and to practice in a relatively safe environment.

Though at this point in the semester, I am weary, it is these moments where they succeed in pulling all of the pieces together, that I am inspired anew to

  • Tweak a classroom exercise
  • Find an even better textbook
  • Edit and refine a lecture
  • Try out a new teaching tool or technique

Because I’m not done learning any more than my students. (Tweet This)

So, we’re off to a summer “break” where my reading list is longer than the one I had during the semester.  But maybe I’ll grab a quick nap first.


Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)



Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.