Vol. 5 Issue 43 | October 25, 2019

Vol. 5 Issue 43 | October 25, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. The false alarms that get kids arrested

What it is:Social media posts have become an early-alert system for state officials and school administrators to be notified of potential threats. In the past year, hundreds of teens and middle schoolers have been arrested for making “threats” on Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why it’s par for the course for surveillance culture: Whenever a threat against a school is reported, it needs to be taken seriously. Proactive measures by students and school counselors are changing the way that threats are addressed, and that’s a good thing. But students are getting in trouble for posting photos of rubber bands or clips from single-shooter video games. Gen Z is growing up with the understanding that every move is being watched, and that there’s no such thing as being too careful in the media that they share online. Even the most careful and responsible teens might make a mistake sometimes, and suffer the consequences. It might be worth a conversation about the benefits and dangers of the current surveillance culture.

2. The reimagined Fortnite Chapter 2 isn’t fun for everyone

What it is:Fortnite’s relaunched “Chapter 2” map incorporates more dummy players (bots) controlled by a computer.

Why it’s bumming gamers out: Fortnite is played battle-royale style, which means that 100 players compete in a match to be the “last man standing,” which makes it hard for new players to get better against players who have been playing the game for years. Infusing levels with bots is a way to level the playing field, so to speak, and give Fortnite newbies more of a chance to practice their skills against less challenging opponents. Bots can’t win rounds, so the odds of winning a Fortnite match just increased for players at lower levels of experience. There’s debate within the gaming community about if playing against bots cheapens the experience of game play. Players feel tricked and confused when it turns out they haven’t been playing against an actual opponent. If your teen is a gamer, there is some great conversation to be had about “real” vs “fake” gameplay.

[If none of this is making much sense to you, it’s time to check out our free PG to Fortnite — our most requested Parent Guide ever.]

3. Algorithms are grading student essays

What it is: At least 21 states are now using artificial intelligence to grade student essays. “Robo-grading” saves teachers precious time, and in theory, it introduces a more fair method of assessment. (Ever heard of a robot’s pet? Me neither.)

Why it doesn’t mean grading bias is gone for good: Algorithm grading is becoming more and more common in every level of education. This could make teens who think their teachers don’t like them feel more hopeful about getting a fair shake, but it could also mean that students with testing anxiety feel even more anxious — like they don’t stand a chance about a cold and calculating robo-grader. Almost all teachers are carrying a physically impossible burden of grading and paperwork in addition to their job as classroom educators, so giving time back to teachers seems like a gift that will pay dividends for their students. But grading student essays with an algorithm doesn’t mean that the grading process has been standardized, and they may only serve to multiply existing difficulties in how students are judged against their peers. Find out about the grading practices at your student’s school, and ask around to see what the educators on your child’s team think about robo-grading.

Resource Spotlight: Do you and your teens have questions about whether followers of Jesus should be celebrating Halloween? This week, we are offering our Parent’s Guide to Halloween for free. This guide answers questions about the roots of Halloween, the contemporary celebration of the day, and gives suggestions for how to make the best decision for your family. Click here to get your copy of this resource, free a limited time.

In an Ugly Controversy, a Call for Civility

By now, you may have seen a videothat’s circulating online of Bible teacher and pastor John MacArthur in a round-table game of word association. The first words MacArthur was given to associate was a name, author and founder of Living Proof Ministries, Beth Moore. His instantaneous reply was derisive; he quipped, “Go home,” to the raucous laughter of the all-male audience. The conversation between MacArthur and the panelists joining him on stage devolved further as they discussed Moore, comparing her to a QVC jewelry salesperson.

Obviously, this kind of commentary about a fellow believer and Bible teacher not a good look for anybody, least of all a pastor. But the reaction to the public circulation of this video has been just as, if not more, malicious than the original statements that were recorded. The voices of leaders of denominations large and small, male and female, have called out MacArthur as emblematic of misogynistic attitudes within the evangelical community. Whether he intended or not, MacArthur’s show of disrespect touched on a live nerve. (It should be noted that Moore herself called for “an end to the slander” of MacArthur, pointing out that “it doesn’t honor God.”)

This, of course, boils down to the same cultural confusion that we’re seeing reflected to a greater degree in our political discourse. We are living in times when it doesn’t feel like it’s allowed to make a show of warmth toward people with whom we have ideological disagreements. This is surfacing with a vengeance within the church. It’s surfacing even in our homes and in our family relationships. We saw it a few weeks ago play out in a similar way when Ellen was criticized for having a friendship with former President George W. Bush. And this discourse only trickles further into our children’s consciousness, who live at the ground level of where culture is made, and therefore absorb it even more fully. People of every age and in every walk of life are being encouraged to cut off communication with family members or friends who are “toxic,” simply because they hold opposing views about a political candidate or an issue on a ballot.

It can be hard for us to cut through this message as we speak to our teens about the issues we hold dear. Remember that even the smallest talking point has the capacity to ignite a firestorm in the current climate, so how we talk about these issues matter. In a world of judgement and malice Jesus reminds us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We do ourselves, and everyone else, a favor when we ask ourselves some basic questions before we respond. How can I respond in love? How can I communicate the truth with grace? How will I honor God with my words? Am I adding fuel to the fire or am I seeking to bring the peace of God? Start the conversation with your family about this issue, and try to keep it an open line of discussion. It’s the only sure-fire way to know that your teen doesn’t just know you’ll talk to them about the issues where you may disagree — they’ll believe you’re listening, too.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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