Real Live Prof

Spoiler Alert! If you are thinking about applying for a position of Spring Blogger for ETBU, maybe you shouldn’t read this. Or, maybe you should …

My biggest impression was that I was surprised at how much work and effort this discipline really takes, at least for me. My regular Fall preparation for classes is generally lighter than is my Spring schedule. (3 preparations in the Fall, and 4 in the Spring). Even so, blogging filled out my schedule every week. Maybe I should not admit this but it usually took me 4 to 5 hours per week to get the blog done. I found myself thinking about the week’s topic (or trying to think of a topic!) for hours, usually on the way from Longview to Marshall. Once I had settled on a topic, I would try to write the bulk of it in one session. The next day, or later, I would try to edit it some more (often based on commuting musings). Finally, posting day would arrive, and I would edit and even, correct it all again. I would often try to include a picture, which I would snap with my phone, edit, and then get uploaded, cross loaded and placed just so. Plus, I had to learn a new software program, which is always a challenge. (Now it sounds more like 6 or 7 hours.)

My second biggest impression was that I was so glad I had decided to attempt this project in the first place. It has done me a world of good. The first benefit I realized was that as I was trying to introduce readers to my discipline, (sociology), I realized again why I had been attracted to it in the first place. I am not sure, but I might have fallen in love with sociology all over again. A second benefit was that as I was attempting to integrate my faith and teaching, I realized I was much more deliberate about trying to find those teaching moments and launching them when doing so seemed most appropriate. A third benefit for me was the realization that I am a feedback addict, though not so much from students. I loved and benefitted from long discussions about up- coming topics with several colleagues. I may even be guilty of plagiarizing a few of their brilliant thoughts. A fourth benefit was having a creative outlet besides just teaching. I think most people have deep thoughts (even Jack Handy) but few of us have a place to bounce those thoughts around. Writing a blog forces one to think deep thoughts and then, to commit those thoughts to “paper”. 

On the negative side of the ledger, I would have to confess that I repeated the mistake I made in seminary. I allowed deep thinking and blogging to be a substitute for the personal pursuit of face time with God. In seminary, I allowed religious course work to substitute for pursuing God personally. After all, I was studying Scripture, but not on a personal, what-does-this-mean-for-me basis. (I was never this bad, but while I was there, the school had to enact a new rule that required the students to actively participate in a local church because many of my fellow students chose to sleep in on Sunday morning.) A second drawback for me was that I realized I have a limited capacity for deep thinking, and so I wonder at what else I should have been thinking about during those times I spent thinking about the blog.  

As I am writing my last blog for this series I wonder at what will be my final takeaway. Will it be another crossed-through item on a not-yet-started bucket list? Perhaps it will be the first of several blogs. I honestly do not know, but I am so grateful for the opportunity. Thanks!                

 

Real Live Prof

Semi-sweet. I am really sure that when I took the class, “How to Teach Sociology” at UNT, the prof never covered the end of the semester.

I was in my office this week, between classes, when three students dropped in. One is graduating next week, and is already applying for jobs for which ETBU has well prepared her. She is also getting married next year (she has already picked out the guy, and is asking us to save the date). The second student graduates in the spring, and is already planning on grad school. She too, is applying for jobs in her field. The third student (I have now run out of chairs), is graduating in the spring, and looking at grad school as well. They are all excited about life and the seemingly endless possibilities and permutations. I am very excited for them, and I know they will do very well. I should probably care more that they are so raucous and such frequent visitors, because I am sure “they” disturb the peace of the otherwise somber and tranquil office. But, I love being with students. It is my favorite part of the job. It is also emotionally taxing when they leave.

I know this because they will soon graduate, and be gone. Oh, they will promise to “stay in touch” and will try to do so. I might see some them at the Homecoming football game, or be asked to write a reference letter…and then I will see a posting or status update of theirs on Facebook, and realize I have not seen or heard from them for several years.

Students are also nervous about their futures and all of the unknowns it holds for them. I am always amused when they ask me, “Will you be at my graduation?”

I always respond, tongue in cheek. “I was thinking about not going this semester. However, because you were such a wonderful student, I will go, just for you.” (Of course, I am required to go.) But the truth is, I would not miss it even if I could. Semi-sweet: I love to meet the students’ families and I love to say over and over, “Congratulations!” However, nearly 30 graduation ceremonies (3 per year) have taught me it will probably be the last time I see most of them.

I was eating breakfast very early this morning with my wife Diana, when she said, out of the blue, “I miss my kids”.  One has graduated college, and has a job (The dream comes true!), but she lives 3 hours away. The second is half way through college, and stays gone most of the semester. The third, whom she was about to struggle with waking and getting to school, is in 8th grade. But I know what she means.

Real Live Prof

In sociology, our “Big 3” theories are Conflict Theory, Functionalism, and Symbolic InteractiBig 3onism. We use each of these as frameworks to analyze “everything.” Sociologists think they have helpful insight about all things, including society, institutions, and global inequality, all the way down to small groups, families, and our interactions with vending machines. Symbolic Interaction itself has a sub-theory called Labeling.

Labeling theory suggests that we receive labels from significant people, including peers, in our lives as we are growing up. They are like giant bumper stickers slapped on our foreheads. Every time we look in the mirror or think about ourselves, or snap a “selfie”, we see the label. I always ask my students to imagine the biggest kid in 2nd grade sitting down at lunch across from the smallest kid in 2nd grade. The small kid’s mom is concerned her boy will not grow up fast enough, and so she packs extra Twinkies in his lunchbox. The biggest kid’s mom is concerned her boy is already too big, so she packs him carrots and celery instead of dessert.

One day, the big kid looks at the little kid and his Twinkies, and says, “I love Twinkies”.

The little kid hears this and fearfully shoves them across the table and tells the big kid, “Here, take mine!”

The big kid takes them and enjoys them. Both kids just got labeled: Bully and Wimp. The big kid soon learns his size and burgeoning reputation can help him get all the Twinkies he could want while the little kid soon understands that he must supply whatever the big kid wants.

Another thing about labels that I always try to include in my lectures is that negative labels stick best. I often ask my students to try and recall some negative label that their parents or teachers gave them. It is amazing how the pain and shame of a careless or mean word uttered by an authoritative person can easily flood back in on us as we so easily remember those words from years and even decades ago. I can tell my daughters every morning how beautiful, sweet and smart they are and it will barely stick. I can say one time in a lifetime that they are ugly, sour or stupid and they will remember those words forever.

The power of a label comes from believing uncritically that the labeler knew what they were talking about. As soon as we do the labeled behavior, we hear the labeler say, “See? I told you that you were_________.” Eventually, we live “down” to their labels and agree with them.

So, imagine my surprise as I went to Senior Chapel last week and was greeted by a person passing out colored markers. He had written negative labels on his arms. As the program began, I was amazed to hear person after person talk about their labels that had been stuck on them: porn addict, drug abuser, judgmental, masturbator, etc. As they talked about their labels, a common thread began to emerge. They said that only as they confronted the labels and their own sin and asked God for healing, forgiveness and recovery, did the labels begin to come off. This is the key point I always make with my Loser Selfieclasses: the only way labels ever come off is with the grace of God. It is the very rare person who takes the negative label as a challenge and says to their critic, “You think I am loser? I will show you and become a winner!” 

As we were entering chapel, we were offered pens as a way to remind us to get real, honest and even transparent with each other about our labels. I happened to be sitting by two students during the Senior Chapel and when they heard we should write labels on ourselves, they got excited. They offered to write labels on me…ouch!

Real Live Prof

Every now and then I have to know how far out of touch I have become with the younger generations. Last week, as my mostly freshmen class in Intro to Soc finished a section over deviance, I had them watch a PBS Frontline documentary, entitled, “The Pot Republic” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-pot-republic/ ). The film is about the current debate over the legalization of marijuana in California for medicinal use. Many growers throughout the state legally grow marijuana for the ever expanding medical market. Apparently, a person visits with their doctor, who then writes them a prescription, which legally allows them to buy marijuana.

After viewing the film, I asked the class to respond to a threaded discussion question in our online grading system. The question was, “This film highlights the current debate about the legalization of marijuana in California. Do you think it should be legalized nationally? Or, should we only think in terms of legalizing “medical” marijuana? Or, conversely, treat it the same as alcohol (legalize it, tax it, and regulate it)? Finally, do you think someone who recreationally uses marijuana would make a great disciple and follower of Christ? (In other words, WWJD?)”

The answers were informative…when the students (42) were asked, “Do you think it should be legalized nationally?”, almost half (20) chose not to respond directly to the question. Of those who did respond, 7 were “neutral”, 6 were “yes”, and only 11 were “no, marijuana should not be legalized”. When the question was asked if it should be treated as alcohol, (“legalize it, tax it, and regulate it”), half of the 42 agreed with this approach.

Finally, when students were asked if recreational users would make, “a great disciple and follower of Christ”, the answers were informative, at least to my expanding generation gap. Roughly, 1/3 were neutral, 1/3 were “yes, they would make a good disciple”, and 1/3 were, “no, they would not make a good disciple.”

At this point you are probably expecting me to rail against the youth of America and how they are on a slippery slope of moral decay. This might end up being a diatribe, but against another subject. What I saw in their collective answers was a logical progression of their public school educations: multiculturalism. In part, multiculturalism asks us to not “pass judgment” on other cultures, and that we should show respect for all cultures as your culture’s equal. I think the net effect is seen in this casual “survey”. We seldom give an answer that is not qualified with, “in my personal opinion” clause. It is considered even more polite and correct to not give any opinion (after all, they are all equally valid). When I was young, issues were “polarizing”, meaning they split people into two camps. Now I think issues are “tri-polarizing”, meaning they split people into three camps…for, against, and “I would rather not say…”  This third camp was borne out when students justify their answers with the notion that using marijuana should be a personal decision that somehow would not affect others. Or, they would add that it is just their (current) personal opinion, which is subject to change.

I am sure some of the answers could be attributed to posturing (the whole class can read their responses). Some of the answers could be attributed to trying to please the grader with an answer they think he would like. Even so, the camp that bothers me the most are those who claim indifference. Surely they have an opinion. Their culture, however, forbids them to express an opinion that might be construed as negative, offensive, or even, impolite.

How would I have responded to the threaded discussion? I would rather not say…

MM

Real Live Prof

The Cheater

Redneck recycling

Redneck recycling

Several years ago, I started offering extra credit for tests in my classes if students would study together in groups for at least 30 minutes. I have them sign a sheet that says in part, “I will give you 3 points for studying in a group, and 6 points if you study in two different groups.  If you are dishonest and claim to have studied when in fact you did not, you and your entire group will lose all points earned for this (and previous) assignment and you will no longer be eligible to participate in this extra credit assignment”. I offer this assignment because some students really do much better by studying with others, and, as a sociologist, I like to do my part to help students socialize. Also, it helps students’ test grades (by 3 or 6 points), who are often shocked that college is so much more “challenging” than was high school. 

Students turn these group study forms in just before the test. The Cheater turned his in, as everyone else. After I graded the tests, and returned them the next class (!), his “partner” on the group study form waited after class to speak with me. He asked if “Ralph” had turned in the form.

“Yes”, I said. “And I gave you credit for it too, didn’t I?”

“Yes, I got credit, but the thing is, well, we didn’t study together”, he stammered.

“Oh,” I said, “I see. Then, I will take off the extra credit.”

“I apologize”, he said.  

“Thank you for listening to your conscience and being honest”.

The next step for me, after removing the extra credit from the online grade book from both students, was to come up with a plan for how to confront the second student. I stewed, and schemed, and even steamed over it. I finally went passive-aggressive, and did not confront the student. My PA plan was to wait and see what he would do. Then, I reasoned, I would confront him.

Nothing happened for several days, and we got on with the next chapter, “Deviance”. Along the way, we covered a section called, “Techniques of Neutralization”, which always sounds ironic to me when we cover it. These techniques, I explain to them, are the rationalizations we use to excuse our own bad (sinful) behavior. (Apparently I am always the only honest one in class, because I ask if anyone is as good at this as I am, and no one responds.)

The five techniques we cover are, “Appeal to Higher Loyalty”, “Condemnation of the Condemners”, “Denial of Responsibility”, “Denial of Injury” and “Denial of Victim”. The ironic part for me is that the lecture almost sounds like I am teaching them how to excuse their own bad behavior. (“If you want to lie to someone, just say to yourself, “It won’t hurt anybody”” denial of injury) or, “I wouldn’t have to lie to if you were an honest person” (denial of victim)). I admit the irony to every class: “Please do not take these notes to improve the way you sin”, I plead!

I finished the “techniques” lecture, and my still non-confronted Cheater decided to talk to me after class.

“Dr. Miller, I noticed online that I had group study credit for the last test, but that it went away.”

“Yes, it did”

“Can you tell me why?”

“Sure. The person that you “studied” with confessed that you didn’t study together”.

“Oh? That’s funny, because we studied together by texting”, he said.

“Really?” (At this point, my “Really”, was probably not simply dripping with sarcasm, but freely flowing). “Funny thing is, that test that you want the extra credit for, was over groups, and I am sure you understood that groups were, “more than one person, in the same place at the same time”. I am sorry, but texting does not count.”

“Oh”, he said, and drifted out the door towards chapel.

Later as I thought about the techniques of neutralization, I realized that the Cheater had added a sixth technique, “An appeal to definitions.” I thought it was clever, but still full of holes.

 

Real Live Prof

Social Comparison, revisited.  It was a late afternoon, as I recall. I was chatting with two of our junior profs, when one said, “I am just so puzzled by my students. I give them an easy assignment to do and they just seem to ignore it. Don’t they understand that not doing it will impact their grade in bad way?”

So I told them this story:

The famous "A" row,  situated near rthe front of every classroom.

The famous “A” row, situated near the front of every classroom.

I recalled being equally disturbed about student apathy when it came to their grades. Five years ago, I was teaching an intro to sociology class when I did one of my favorite first day exercises. I was teaching in Marshall Hall 107, which is an amphitheater -style room.

As we were starting the first day, I asked, “Is every one comfortable with their seats?” Everyone agreed that they were.

“Well”, I said, “That’s kind of sad…because you all have to find a new seat. Here is what I want you to do. Starting with this seat (far left, front row, I demonstrate by pointing), I want you to seat your selves in reverse alphabetical order.”

Someone always asks, “Can we have the roll?”

“No. You have to do it yourselves”

They groan. A lot. And then they stand up, and someone begins by stating, “My name is Zach Zedikiah, so this is probably my seat…” and he sits down. It is painful and awkward as students state their names, introduce themselves to each other, and slowly find their seats. After Alyssa Amanda Applewhite has taken the last seat, we check it, and then (always) correct it. And then, I tell them they have already begun seeing sociology…leadership, lack of leadership, social loafing, meeting someone who will turn out to be a friend,  etc., with the added bonus of being reminded of the alphabet song. (They always manage to look really unimpressed.)

After this part, I state that there are some, for whatever reason, who need to be really close to the front of the room.  And, I suppose, it might even be possible that some may need to be towards the back. If you can persuade someone to change seats with you, you may switch. However, I always point out, the front row is where the most “A”s are made…and the back row is where the most “C”s are made.

As I share this story with the junior profs, I tell them this is my “Aha” moment in to the enigma that is the modern student. One student, James W., who was unwittingly placed on the front row by virtue of his name, stood up and announced, “Dr. Miller, I only want to make a “C” in this class, so I will happily trade with anyone on the back row.”

Fortunately, someone on the back row needed to be on the front row, so I let them change seats. As I followed James’ semester in the grade book, I soon realized that, though very bright and active in and out of class, James really only wanted to make a “C”. I was astounded. Why be so smart and aim so low?

I asked the two profs, “What kind of students were you in college?”

They both humbly replied, “”A”s and a very few “B”s”.

“Who did you hang out with in college?”

“Other good students”

“And when you got to grad school?”

“Other good students”

“Did you or your friends you hung out with ever start a class and not try to get an “A”?

At this point, they proved their sharpness and mental acuity by realizing that perhaps they were (socially) comparing themselves to students who were in school for very different reasons and with very different goals, than they had been.

“At some point”, I said, “We realized that good grades would help us in our careers. In fact, if we are honest with our nerdy selves, we liked school and studying. I think we unwittingly (and unfairly) compare our experience as good students who wanted good grades, with those who only want or need, to pass.”

The great irony, of course, is that James W. went on to grad school…and by his accounting, did very well.

Real Live Prof

Perspective. Before I taught at ETBU, I was an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist. (btw, “Adjunct professor” = part  time professor.) DBU prided itself on being a degree completion destination, and so, many students were well into their 30’s or even 40’s and were coming back to finish their degrees. As a teacher, I was almost never the oldest person in the classroom.

One of my favorite ways to introduce a class to the value of a sociological perspective was to pose as a student on the first day of class. I would walk into class the first time we met, usually a few minutes early, sit at a desk in the middle of room, and start asking “other” students what they had heard about the professor. As I was part time, I was somewhat anonymous and seldom the oldest person. Since few had heard of “Miller” and fewer still even knew my gender, there were not a lot of comments. So, I would start smack talking about myself. “I heard his tests are impossible!” or, “He makes you write a really long paper!”

Usually, I would let the class continue for 15 minutes past the start time. Inevitably, a student would finally get up and announce they were going to talk to somebody in charge and find out why the prof never showed up. At this point, I would stand up and say, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I would then walk to the front of the room, pass out the syllabi, and start a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.  The students usually were fairly good natured about my “prank”, but they were also furiously rewinding their mental tapes about anything incriminating they might have said before I outed myself as a prof.  

In my Minority Groups class,(which I often taught at DBU and annually teach at ETBU) I send my students to their same denominational churches that serve a race, ethnicity or people group that is different than them. Usually this means that white Baptist students visit Black Baptist churches, or Hispanic Baptist churches if they speak Spanish. They learn about another groups’ way of worshipping and their customs. Often times, at least for white students, it is the very first time they have ever felt like a minority in their lives. I think this is a great perspective to have, and to have challenged. Students almost always talk about the fact that this is a very positive experience, but that before they actually visited the church, how it was scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable for them. They usually admit that they were very glad they did it, and how they will not take their race for granted anymore.

Almost always, the pre-prof outing conversation in my classes was about other classes and profs the students had before this semester. I learned a little too much about my colleagues on several occasions. Once, I learned too much about myself…

I had sat next to a student who was eager to tell me about her friend who had taken the same Minority Groups class the semester before. She told me all about this crazy visit-a-church assignment. I listened politely as she told me all of the details. She finally concluded her recounting of her friend’s experience by stating that her friend thought it was the easiest class she had ever taken.

I was really surprised by this. “That doesn’t sound like an easy class to me”, I said.

She replied, “Oh, but it was! My friend totally faked the whole thing!”

A few minutes later, I stood up and said, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I walked to the front of the room, passed out the syllabi, and started a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.

Real Live Prof

I don’t like being evaluated. I always get nervous, and when I am nervous, I sweat. Not pretty. Oh, I understand on every intellectual level why we need to be evaluated as teachers.A+

We can always improve something.

It keeps us honest and trying to do our best.

We need to be accountable to others.

It should keep us humble.

Really, I get it; but not on an emotional and reactionary level. Last Spring, my Dean sat through a class, evaluating me. He had asked which day was best, and so we were both prepared. I presented my very “best” lecture. He was complimentary, and made several really helpful suggestions. When I next met with the class they, too, had plenty of “helpful” critiques: They asked me what happened to the usual Prof, because he certainly was not there last time. They said I was a phony just putting on some show that day. Strangely, I appreciated these critiques as much as my Dean’s critiques.

My students may not have realized it, but they were agreeing with Erving Goffman, a sociologist who was very much interested in how we present ourselves (Presentation of self). He used theater language to describe people as mere actors, who present lines and images and use props to make points. We have a front stage which is public and a backstage that we guard from the public. (My wife, a second grade teacher, is always amused when she meets her students at Wal-mart because they are amazed that she too, has to shop for stuff. Shouldn’t she have “people” do that for her?) Ironically, a part of the Dean’s review of my teaching effort was that the students did not seem very concerned with taking notes or paying attention. He suggested that weekly quizzes might help motivate them to greater attention and general preparedness. (So the joke is on the students this year because we now have weekly quizzes.)

Another part of my reactance against evaluation is hubris. I want to believe that my “good enough” is great and that I cannot possibly have room for improvement. At this point I am reminded of my two older kids, who both loved sports in high school. However, they did not love practice. In fact, they hated it so much they would invent illnesses and injuries that would keep them home during practice. They wanted to believe, as I want to believe about my teaching, that they could just show up for the games, without practicing, and be awesome.  Maybe that is why they were so pleased to get participation trophies.

In the end, I want more than a participation trophy. Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize

Now I have reinforced my intellect, will someone please instruct my heart to relax and know that constructive criticism is, well, constructive? Maybe next time when I am evaluated in class, the Dean and the Students will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Real Live Prof

I live in East Texas. It has been the second dry, hot summer in as many years. Now it is September, but the heat keeps coming. I have really felt it this summer as I have worked outside most days. I would start at daylight, and work until noon. I would come home exhausted, change out of sweat-drenched clothes, eat lunch, and rest. If I still had work to do, I would go back out in the evening. It was still very hot, but evening and shadows and shade were also coming and comforting. Now I look at the 10 day forecast and I am not encouraged. Yet I know that eventually it will get cooler, and even cold. I am eagerly waiting for that day. (By the way, I have learned to pray for rain like a farmer, or, at least, a fisherman).

My Favorite fishing place: down from 5 acres to 1/2 acre this summer

My favorite fishing place: down from 5 acres to 1/2 acre this summer

Karl Marx wrote in 1843 that “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” (A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).  By using the term “opium”, he meant that religion has the effect of anesthesia upon the religious in that it makes us “dead” to our current bad political situations and instead gives us a heaven to look forward to. If you are focused on heaven, he reasoned, you will never take seriously the exploitive conditions here on earth that you could fix through political revolution (i.e. worker’s paradise, and communist utopia).

Dear Karl, it is true that as a Christian, I am very much looking forward to heaven. Jesus tells me I will be with him and I will have a new body. He is preparing me a place, and preparing me for that place. I will see my family again. A few years later, I fully expect to walk out on my lawn, pick up the paper, and read the 10,000 year weather forecast: Sunny and clear, high of 75, low of 65.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 8, said it this way, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that. the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

So, finally Karl, as the summer and heat and dry drag on, I am called to hope, which I think you would have to admit is very revolutionary. But my hope is too small if I only hope for cooler temps and a little rain. It is a much better and bigger hope if I groan with creation and look to God to right the wrongs of global warming and global warring against the things of God.

 

 

Real Live Prof

Funny thing happened in Social Psychology last week…it turns out that social psychologist are very interested in the effect that other people and situations have on us. They have even given it a catchy name: The ABC Triad. ”A” stands for Affect or how we feel inside. “B” stands for behavior or what we do. Finally, “C” stands for cognition, or more simply, what we think about as we are doing something.  CaptureCharacterWe might use the Triad to try to understand horrific behavior such as how seemingly normal American soldiers could get caught up in the systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in 2003. Were they simply following orders or were they morally bankrupt? We want to know how such a thing could happen and so we are faced with either blaming the torture (“Behavior”) on the soldiers (“Affect”) or the situation (“Cognition”).  Oddly, when we do something wonderful and awe-inspiring, we are very willing to take the credit.  For example, if students make an “A” on an exam then it is because they studied hard. If they failed an exam, it was obviously the Prof’s fault for making it so crazy hard. (Conversely, if all students pass an exam, it is our fault for not making it harder. If they all fail, then it is their fault and they should have studied much harder.) We often find ourselves between blaming and boasting.

After talking about the Triad, I asked the class about the Christian idea of character (doing the right thing, even if no one is looking). How would character fit into the Triad? We came up with the ABCC Quad. Developing Biblical, Christ-like character allows us to more accurately assess the situation (peer pressure, convenience, or no one is looking, etc), our own feelings about the situation (which are often faulty and self-centered), and then to act rightly and do the right thing, despite the situation and my feelings.

 Maybe I should have made the exam a little easier…