The Summer of Raggants

The following are the notes for Mr. Higgins final assembly talk.

On the first day of school I declared this The Year of the Raggant. We’ve made it to the last day, and here is the other bookend. I don’t have a short story, but more of a pep talk as you enter the short summer. Let this be The Summer of Raggants.

We want you to be awesome Christians. We want you to be the kind of Christians that people who aren’t Christians look at and think, ‘Those people have something different than me.’ We don’t want all of you to be the same, not just because boys aren’t girls but because God made all His people to do different things. And yet, there are some characteristics that every Christian student should have. That’s why we refer to them as the “other graduation requirements,” or, what it means to act like a raggant.

Do they apply only to school at school days or also to summer days? Duh, they apply to all time, including after you graduate. But while we work on helping each raggant develop these six muscle groups while they are here, what can/should you do over summer to keep getting more ragganty?

I’ve got some feet on-the-ground suggestions (which is good, since raggants don’t like to let others see them fly). Mr. Sarr and Mrs. Pakinas also helped with some of the particular ideas, which include things that a new first grader could do and the new seniors, too. Mrs. Herr made the colorful raggant, and Mrs. Higgins cut out these reminders that you can put on the fridge or use as a book mark.

Stout image-bearers. Human beings are not meant to “do our own thing” or “decide who we are.” We are meant to reflect the likeness of God who made us. When we “behold” Him we know more what we’re to be. We become like who or what we worship. This is one reason why our worship on the Lord’s Day not only is for the glory of God but for God to give us our shape and strength.

Of course we see more about God in His Word. What a privilege to have our own copies. Every one of you can read now, so you could read a verse a day, or some of you ought to read more. If your parents let you, listen to Scripture; it’s free, and it’s forming. God’s Word is spiritual food. If you don’t eat, you will get weak.

Go to church and worship God every week, read your Bible every day.

Be patient, gracious, forgiving. These are godly, and ragganty. And for a test of your stoutness and braveness, tell all gossips to STOP IT.

This is first, starting with the first day of the week, so first in priority, and first in the list of raggant virtues. This is the most obvious way of honoring Christ: worship Him.

Copious producers. A producer is someone who makes things, you take some raw materials and create something else. You cause something that didn’t exist to become a thing!

I’m not saying that there’s no place to wind down and enjoy watching some TV/movies/YouTube or play video games as your parents allow, but don’t let that suck all your minutes away.

The blessed man is like a tree planted by streams of water, and as you reflect God more and more you will bear more and more fruit.

Make: dinner, cookies, paintings, Lego castles, blanket forts, science experiments, your bed (every day!)

Generous disciples of Christ. To be generous is to show a readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected. It’s a way to show kindness to others.

Generous might make you think of money, but most of you as students probably don’t have a lot of that. Christ didn’t give away money. He gave Himself.

We are Christ’s disciples, we are His students, His followers. So we follow the example that He left for us, and walk in His steps. We obviously can’t do all the same things Jesus did, but share the loaves and fishes you have. One thing we all have the same amount of is time. How will you be generous with yours?

Do the dishes (not just on your assigned night). Play with your siblings when they ask. Do something good for a neighbor.

Prodigious learners. Part of what we’re aiming to do is give you the skills and the exposures for sake of increasing interests to keep learning for the rest of your life. To be prodigious means to let it be BIG; Christ made a big cosmos, and He loves all that He made for us.

Reading is a way to do it, and it doesn’t have to be non-fiction. A good story can teach you lessons, even if it’s just some new vocabulary.

Read 3 (hard for you) books before September 4 (the first day of school, not that you want to think about that today). Learn a skill: guitar, drawing, volleyball, wood burning. Sometimes people say, Go big or go home. I say, learn big at home!

Thankful stewards. Thankfulness is appropriate, required, and good for you. There is nothing you have that you did not receive, from God directly or from God through another person.

As Mr. Sarr likes to remind us, thankful people are more fun to give things to anyway.

Handwrite a thank you note for every gift you get. Write a card for a gift you did NOT get. And you all are working on your penmanship anyway, right? This will give you a chance to show off your skills. Say “thank you” after every meal anyone makes for you. See if you can do it!

Jovial warriors. Jovial is a word that refers to being cheerful, like a king in his court, taking care of things without any worry on his face and gifting his people from his resources. He is glad and giving, even though all his projects aren’t finished. This is the kind of attitude to start the day with, not just to end when things went like we wanted.

Whether or not you are naturally so, call a T.O.: Try Optimism. When you’re assigned a chore you don’t like, when your plans didn’t work out, if you can do it without being snarky, throw your head back and say HA!

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15)

Refuse to complain, about the weather, the boredom, getting sick, the Mariners losing again. Practice LOL!

Raggants are high discipline, low drama summer rockstars. Summer break starts today, so start your summer stage of carrying and advancing Christ-honoring culture. May the Lord bless the next few months as The Summer of Raggants.

Tip More, Boldly

The following is the charge to the class of 2024 at ECS given by Mr. Higgins.

Good evening to our graduate candidates, their parents and families, Headmaster and school board and faculty, and guests.

ECS is less than a week from finishing our 12th year. Two of you have been here all twelve years (you are the majority of Muckle Eejits); only a few of the current juniors will be able to say by the time they’re done that they were here longer. It certainly seems like all four of you belong here, and it seems hard to imagine what it will be like next week without you all.

We are all here tonight because you have completed the work we asked you to do. You have read the pages, written the papers, sang your parts. And all of that is just a small portion of what you’ve accomplished.

As we celebrate what you’ve finished, my final charge to you before you move your tassels is to tip more, boldly.

Tip is the key word. I don’t mean tip as in give an extra 20% or 30% on top of the bill, though I do believe in generous gratuities. I definitely don’t mean tip in terms of giving little simplistic life-hacks; we could all use less of those tips. When I say — tip more, boldly — I mean, don’t leave whatever room you enter the way it was. Think of a Saint Bernard running into a tiny kitchen and stepping on the water bowl; you can’t ignore that.

Make a dent. Leave a mark. Tip the status quo over, and over.

This is not the same thing as destroying the good, but don’t hold back when you see how to make something better. Go ahead, poke holes in superficial stuff.

Here’s an example from your senior year. Together you all turned the school’s annual Reformation Day into Reformation week. Not only that, you added the school at home day and called the raggants to regroup for most of a Friday at a property 45 minutes away. You saw what had been done in previous years and thought that you could try something different, something bigger.

While a lot of that project was enjoyable, edible, and edifying, it was exhausting. Come to think of it, it probably was too much. Your ideas helped to clarify ideas from staff and teachers that, as it turns out, one day is actually enough, and keeping the costumes and competitions, the booths and bonfires on campus is a reasonable restraint. I don’t know how many more opportunities you’ll have like that. It gets harder to risk things as you get older. But, go ahead, and make people dial you back. Do things that make others write policies after you. Make them realize that they could do more, more is possible.

Tip more, boldly.

We could use some more people with ideas. An idea in this sense is different than opinions about how other people should do something, or stop doing something, or do what they’re doing differently. Ideas are thoughts about a course of action, an aim to make something, to do some good for others.

In the movie “The Darkest Hour” there’s a scene that tickles me where two old men are walking through government halls fretting about Winston Churchill as the newly appointed Prime Minister.

First man: “He’s an actor, in love with the sound of his own voice.”
Second man: “I love to listen to him. But we must never take his advice. He has a hundred ideas a day, four of them are good, the other ninety-six downright dangerous.”

But without endorsing everything he did, Churchill had conviction, which was crucial 80 years ago during WWII. All of you stood at Point Du Hoc together; you walked on the beaches in France. We remember the men. And we remember D-Day as one of the tipping points in world history and certainly for western civilization. Graduates, go ahead and have some more ideas with conviction.

I have been referring to this year at ECS as the Year of the Raggant. It didn’t take off in all the ways I hoped it would, but, one of the things that did not disappoint was how all of you acted like raggants. As seniors, you were an elite rumpus within the rumpus, making noise and causing commotion for the benefit of us all.

We talk about six characteristics of a raggant. We didn’t write them with you in mind, but top to bottom as a class you have modeled them the best so far.

Stout image-bearers, not stepping lightly like kittens, but with meaty paws like lions. Seniors, you have refined your rhetoric of roar and reflected a God who cares as you have cared.

Generous disciples of Christ, and here where it would be fine for you to leave big tips, as well as to cause big tips. But you have been generous with your time to hang out with underclassmen, to decorate for events, to give yourselves to others in Jesus’ name.

Copious producers, which you have done, not just in writing parodies about copious production. Go ahead, keep making baskets heavy, and write big books, annoy others that you know so much that it took so many pages and they just couldn’t put it down.

Prodigious learners, because we don’t always know what the next thing to tip is going to be, or even where the pressure point is. I want to come back to this in a moment.

Thankful stewards, and this has been a big part of why you’ve made such an impact, as Mr. Sarr noted in his comments. You’ve done your work with gratefulness, not grumbling. You’ve probably been given more things because it was more fun to do so.

And jovial warriors, laughing so that the other tables get mad, they’re bored and they’re made uncomfortable because you’re having such a great time. This isn’t being cheerful as a way to ignore problems, it’s being cheerful as you address them.

As I’ve considered your quad-rumpus, for all your ideas and big plans and finished projects, what really stands out, looking back, is that while you are not easily tip-able, all of you have been teachable. Mr. Sarr pointed out that your thankfulness has been evident, and teachability is like open hands to thankful’s overflowing heart.

You have been teachable, and so you are teaching others. You have received, and so you have things to give. You have listened, and so you have things to think about and more substance to your own thoughts. Even up to yesterday, you were seeking wisdom and willing to update your ideas.

Those who would be great leaders must know how to be ready listeners, eager learners, prompt followers. Those who would advance Christ-honoring culture must not only not reject it, but take the handoff. Your class has killed it in terms of impact on younger students and even on the faculty, because you never acted like you were being held back.

God has blessed you because of that, blessed you with hard-earned unity as a class as well as with deep influence on the school.

Go into every room, not like you own the place, but like you know the Lord who does. You are raggants. You are part of the rumpus. Be teachaBOLD. Tip more, boldly.

“Lives and generations and history are there for the tipping. You have hands. You have words. You have something. Touch the scales. Touch the least of these.” (N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 145)

Turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Don’t leave it the same, you have not left ECS the same.

Receiving the Givens

The year that the US celebrated 200 years of independence from Britain, educational pundit Howard Kirschenbaum offered a working definition of the popular educational theory dubbed “Values Clarification.” He offered this definition:

“An approach that utilizes questions and activities designed to teach the valuing process and to help people skillfully apply the valuing processes to value-rich areas in their lives” (Kirschenbaum, 1976, p. 103-4).

The Journal of Education Leadership offers this additional commentary on Kirschenbaum:

“Kirschenbaum did not assert that values clarification will be the one true answer for humankind, as it does not provide all of the answers. Yet, Kirschenbaum’s work does explain a process for valuing. The author posited if people engage in this process, their lives will have more positive value and they will become constructive global citizens” (Kirschenbaum, 1976).

“Does not provide all the answers?” Gee, ya think?

This is wrongheaded, and quite different from what we are trying to do at Evangel Classical School.

Values Clarification’s baseline assumption is that values are things to be discovered. At ECS, we believe that values are things to be given.

Our aim is not to help students discover what is true or false, good or bad, beautiful or ugly. We don’t need to discover what God has given any more than a car needs to discover gasoline. It needs to receive, and then operate accordingly. Rather we want for them to know and love what is true, good, and beautiful.

Education is fundamentally moral, and to try to educate without a defined sense or morality is like trying to sail without a boat. Further, without a fixed standard, we are the determiners of what constitutes the moral or the valuable.

This is silly! There is a fixed order to the universe, physically, morally, and otherwise. If it were not so, the laws of physics would be the suggestions of physics, and we’d have no bridges with structure under tension, nor would we have internal combustion engines, utilizing a series of controlled explosions to get you from Arlington to Marysville. We’d have reckless robbery and murder in the streets and chaos would reign. A man today is considered courageous when he says he’s a woman, but a man who is five feet tall is thought to be a bit imbalanced when he identifies as a seven-footer.

Every math teacher ever has realized that 2 + 2 = 4, yet few can (or will?) say why that is the case. I have no interest in helping grammar students discover the sum of 2 and 2, but I want them to know it as a fact; I do want to train them to figure out more of what God has ordered.

With a fixed starting point, we can sing Happy Birthday harmoniously and beautifully; without a fixed starting point, it sounds like the cacophony of a hundred voices singing in 103 different keys.

We believe that culture is a baton to be passed on to the next generation. Values are inside that baton of culture, and our values must be based on the revealed word of God, not the fluid and real-time discoveries of fallen men.

Yet it’s been said that the best of men are men, at best. Our notions of what God has said may be wrong. But here we have the grace of God’s Word to which we can appeal to retreat. And this is where the academic part of education comes into play. With our educational model, we are working to train students to better understand the world that God has created and ordered, with little interest in moral self-discovery. And when their training is complete, they will have not only something to say, but the ability to say it, with the authority of men under authority.

Let us abandon any efforts to help our children discover their values and instead help them to love what God values. Doing so will prove infinitely better than letting them determine their own morality.

  • —The U.H.