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Mrs. Zajac Isn’t Coming Back

Mrs. Zajac wasn’t born yesterday. She knows you didn’t do your best work on this paper, Clarence. Don’t you remember Mrs. Zajac saying that if you didn’t do your best, she’d make you do it over? As for you, Claude, [hopefully] you should [n]ever need brain surgery. But Mrs. Zajac hopes that if you do, the doctor won’t open up your head and walk off saying he’s almost done, as you just said when Mrs. Zajac asked you for your penmanship, which, by the way, looks like you did it and ran. Felipe, the reason you have hiccups is, your mouth is always open and the wind rushes in. You’re in fifth grade now. So, Felipe, put a lock on it. Zip it up. Then go get a drink of water. Mrs. Zajac means business, Robert. The sooner you realize she never said everybody in the room has to do the work except for Robert, the sooner you’ll get along with her. And… Clarence. Mrs. Zajac knows you didn’t try. You don’t just hand in junk to Mrs. Zajac. She’s been teaching an awful lot of years. She didn’t fall off the turnip cart yesterday. She told you she was an old-lady teacher.[1]

Mrs. Zajac was only thirty-four years old, but she liked to call herself an “old-lady teacher.” Her hands were always in a flurry of busyness as she accentuated her words in front of the class. When they temporarily stopped and rested on her hips, her hands looked as if they were in holsters. She was a tough teacher, but her students knew she loved them.

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Social Constructionism (9): Ideas have Legs

For within the framework of men’s bodies is generated the most powerful explosive force known in history—the explosive force of ideas. …Ideas change men. Ideas shape nations. So many ideas bid for the allegiance of each human heart as it takes its journey from the womb to the tomb. And when millions of ordinary men and women begin to follow the same star history is molded. Great Britain’s Peter Howard wrote this shortly after World War II in his book Ideas...

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Social Constructionism (8): Knowledge is Constructed

Over the last seven posts, I have attempted to shed light on the postmodern epistemology known as social constructionism. The first couple posts set the scene and context. These last couple posts have highlighted the characteristics of this philosophy. The first characteristic is that this philosophy insists that we take a critical stance toward taken-for-granted knowledge. This causes society to doubt everything; certainty finds no home here. The second characteristic is that knowledge and understanding are always specific to a culture...

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Social Constructionism (7): Knowledge and Understanding are Historically and Culturally Relative

The second characteristic of social constructionism is that human knowledge and understanding are historically and culturally relative. Relative here is best understood by examining the differences between relativism and realism. Realism asserts that there is a world—a cosmos—that exists independent from our representations of it. For example, we may go to an art dealer and purchase a $1,000 oil painting of Mount Everest, but that painting is only a representation of reality. The reality, of course, is Mount Everest itself. Relativism,...

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Social Constructionism (6): Shaping a worldview of doubt and uncertainty

In my reading, I’m usually not attracted to articles written in a series. For starters, I want the option of reading everything the author has to say in one sitting. Secondly, unless the author can produce new installments on a timely basis, I don’t have the patience to wait four months before I read the next article. This lamentably leads me to my opening point: I’ve done everything in this series of posts that I dislike as a reader. Mea Culpa....

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Social Constructionism (5) What is it?

In the last four posts, I attempted to shed some light on the context of the theory known as social constructionism. It is a theory that dramatically shifts man's understanding of knowledge. It is a reaction to the modern positivist understanding of knowledge. In the positivist school of thought, knowledge is only gained through scientific methods or our senses (humans discover knowledge). Social constructionism presents the post-modern theory of knowledge. For social constructionism, knowledge no longer has a separate existence, but...

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Social Constructionism (4)

There is a section in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers I enjoy. A little lapse into this story may prove instructive. The section I’m referring to is the Battle of the Hornburg. The forces of the malevolent wizard Saruman have gathered before the great Hornburg fortress of King Theoden at Helm’s Deep. Seeking safety behind these great walls are the good people of Rohan. At first, the evil orcs and the Uruk-hai take a head...

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Social Constructionism (3)

We are living in a transition period. For those of us who live in America, think about the deep changes that have taken place in the last decade. Some of these changes are specific to Americans, but often they represent changes experienced across the globe. We may be surprised to be reminded of the following: In 2000, California approved Proposition 22 which restricted marriage to one man and one woman. This passed by 61% of voters supporting the bill! Even the...

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Social Constructionism (2)

Last time we defined social constructionism and showed that it falls into the category of postmodernism. Our goal with this series is to understand the layers of social constructionism so that we might be aware of its dangers as Reformed Christians. To peel away the first layer of the social constructionist onion, let’s begin by understanding our place in history. Throughout the history of the world there have been great time periods which are marked by common and stable characteristics. Historians...

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Social Constructionism (1)

Over the next couple posts, I will be treating the subject of social constructionism. This may seem like a strange topic, hardly worth knowing. Although the term itself isn’t part of most people’s daily speech, its influence can be seen all over. If you bear with me over the next couple posts, you will find social constructionism is something you will want to know more about. I first learned about this subject during my graduate studies at Calvin College. It was...

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All Things Are Against Me!

All Things Are Against Me!

Do you remember the story of Joseph’s brothers when they went down to Egypt to buy corn because there was famine in the land of Canaan? Joseph, knowing who they were, tested them by accusing them of being spies. To prove they weren’t spies, the brothers had to go back to Canaan and bring their youngest brother Benjamin with them. Oh, and to keep them honest, Joseph held Simeon in Egypt. If they brought Benjamin back, it would prove to Joseph...

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Enthusiasm in Life

I enjoy enthusiastic people. I enjoy them because they have positive zeal. They have a sparkle in their eye. They have an air of energy around them. Do you have enthusiastic friends or family? Are you moved by them? I read an article last month by the late Henry Beversluis called Then Gladly, Madly Teach. Mr. Beversluis was a professor of education at Calvin College. In this article, Mr. Beversluis highlights the importance of enthusiasm in the work of teaching. He...

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God is God

We are excited to announce another writer who is joining the existing pool of writers for the RFPA blog. Rick Mingerink is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan, and also the principal at a Christian school in West Michigan. In his writing for the blog Rick will bring a perspective from the pew. This is his first blog post. _________________________________ God is God. That is an interesting phrase, isn't it? In logic class, we would call that...

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