Blogs have earned a bad reputation in my national church body, but one blog in particular is shattering our old impressions. In the past, new blogs seemed to sprout like weeds. They were stocked with a steady supply of rumor and innuendo about the latest controversy in the synod. The comments on each post quickly became a no-man’s land where clear thinking and civil discourse died.

Such blogs conditioned us to assume that the blog format was inherently bad. Examples of good, clear writing were hard to find online in our little corner of Lutheranism. There have been exceptions, of course. The synod uses blogs during national conventions, world missionaries tell their stories through blogs, and many pastors maintain fine blogs. In spite of these fine efforts, blogs have had difficulty earning a reputation as a source of excellent, impactful writing.

I believe that the blog, Issues in Lutheran Education will change our impressions of what a blog can do. I’ve been following Issues in Lutheran Education since it began in the summer of 2012. Not only is the writing clear and concise, the topics are relevant to me because I’m the pastor of a congregation that operates a Lutheran elementary school. Issues in Lutheran Education delivers what it promises, “A professional conversation for Lutheran leaders.”

While every post on the blog has been excellent, one recent post stood out. “Elementary School Students Do Not Require Homework,” offered a bold thesis and a cogent, evidence-based argument to support it:

Homework assigned by teachers is an imposition on family time that has not been proven to benefit elementary school (kindergarten through grade 5) students. Educators in the United States have been researching homework for over 80 years without arriving at definitive conclusions about its purpose or efficacy.

I’m not writing to comment on the post itself, but to draw some attention to the spirit behind it. The article questions a commonly-held assumption to determine whether the assumption is, in fact, true. To be honest, I expected to see an array of comments on the blog and on Facebook asserting something to the effect, “I know that the evidence says this, but I truly believe that…” I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost no one resorted to such a tired argument. Repeating an assumption does not make it true, in fact, I’m glad my own cynical assumptions were proven wrong. The spirit of Issues in Lutheran Education and the positive responses it has generated indicate that respect for data-driven thinking and evidence-based writing is on the rise.

I’m thankful for the philosophy of inquiry that this blog promotes in our schools. Without inquiry organizations becomes complacent, which leads to stagnation and failure. WELS schools face serious challenges in 21st century America. This blog will help Lutheran leaders to keep an eye on the reality of our situation and the values that we hold. Are we always questioning how we could do better, and are we doing the work needed to ensure success?

Mediocrity requires no effort; thankfully this blog is making an effort, and an outstanding one at that. Schools that adhere to the philosophy and apply the same effort that this blog promotes will have a greater chance to achieve excellence in Lutheran education.

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