"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 1, No. 14: April 7, 2000.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF INTERNET USE: THE SIQSS REPORT 2. HOME SCHOOLING ON THE WEB: SOME HELPFUL SITES 3. WHO USES THE WEB MORE: MEN OR WOMEN? 4. A SECOND LIST OF LINKS: MOSTLY CHRISTIAN, MOSTLY REFORMED 5. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER _______________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to email@example.com, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and your real name and email address to which you wish CATI sent in the body. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to firstname.lastname@example.org, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.) _______________________________________________________________
1. SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF INTERNET USE: THE SIQSS REPORT
Is the Internet beneficial to society? How does it affect how people relate to one another? These are important questions. You'll find a press release for an interesting recent report on "Internet and Society" at this address:
The study was done by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS), whose home Web page can be found here:
At the site you can download the full Preliminary Report in Adobe Acrobat format, but we'll restrict our attention here to the press release. We'll look at it in some detail, for in order to make proper use of the study we need to consider the extent to which the conclusions are really justified from the statistics upon which they are supposedly based. (Though I've taught mathematics on the college level, don't worry if you don't have a math background. All that's required is a bit of common sense.)
Here's how the press release starts:
"As Internet use grows, Americans report they spend less time with friends and family, shopping in stores or watching television.... These are the major preliminary results of a new study that is the first assessment of the social consequences of Internet use based on a large, representative sample of American households, including both Internet users and non-users. The study was conducted by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS)...."
The report focuses on social interaction:
"A key finding of the study is that 'the more hours people use the Internet, the less time they spend in contact with real human beings,' said Stanford Professor Norman Nie, Director of SIQSS and principal investigator along with his co-investigator Professor Lutz Erbring of the Free University of Berlin."
To what extent is it true that "Americans report they spend less time with friends and family"? You'll soon see that the mathematical statistics are less impressive on this point than you might imagine from Nie's statement.
For the time being, however, let us simply observe that when people interact with other people on the Internet (through email, chat rooms, etc.), Professor Nie apparently does not consider that to be time spent in contact with "real human beings," even though many of us not only appreciate how the Internet allows us to keep in contact with friends and family who are not geographically nearby, but also involve other household members in our Internet activity (e.g., as when parents and children enjoy exploring the Internet together).
Anyway, here's one of the preliminary "findings":
"Up to a quarter of the respondents who use the Internet regularly (more than 5 hours a week) feel that it has reduced their time (in person or on the phone) with friends and family or attending events outside the home."
That may sound disturbing, until you recognize that the same statistics can be expressed in this way: 75% or more of the people who use the Internet more extensively do NOT feel that it has reduced their time with friends and family or going to outside social functions or activities! That, to me, should be the perhaps surprising fact. Yes, there can be such a thing as addiction to the Internet (and we should guard against that), but most people (even those who use the Internet more than others) try not to let it cut down on time with friends and family.
Another preliminary finding:
"Sixty percent of regular Internet users say the Internet has reduced their TV viewing...."
This is also true of less frequent Internet users:
"'Even among those who spend only a few hours a week on the net, a quarter tell us it cuts into their TV viewing,' said Erbring...."
Hooray! The average American spends two and a half to three hours a day (that's more than fifteen to twenty hours a week) watching the household "boob tube" or "idiot box," which is usually a very passive experience (with no interactivity), so I personally am not very concerned about the fact that "the Internet has reduced...TV viewing." (I hope to say more about television vs. the Internet in a future issue of CATI.)
Another preliminary finding:
"About two-thirds of those surveyed who have Internet access said they spend fewer than five hours a week on the Internet, and most of them did not report large changes in their day-to-day behavior, the researchers said."
There's more, however:
"But [those] who use the Internet five or more hours a week do report significant changes in their lives. The largest changes are reported by those who spend more than 10 hours a week on the net--individuals who currently account for only 15 percent of all Internet users but are likely to be a much larger fraction in the future."
Well, common sense tells us that "significant changes" should be expected when a person spends more than 10 hours a week on an activity (any activity). The question is whether the "significant changes" are largely beneficial or not. The contention of the report, however, is that the Internet is increasing "social isolation":
"'Internet time is coming out of time viewing television but also out at the expense of time people spend on the phone gabbing with family and friends or having a conversation with people in the room with them,' Nie said."
Where true, that is regrettable, but to what degree is such "social isolation" taking place? Consider again the actual statistics:
"Of regular Internet users, who use the net 5 or more hours per week, about one quarter indicated report spending less time with family and friends, either in person or on the phone, and eight percent say they spend less time attending social events outside the home."
That's not a large number, and I know some wives who have expressed appreciation for the time their husband spends on the computer or the Internet because it keeps him home at night and they get to see him more than they might otherwise!
According to Nie, "The most common Internet activities...are sending and receiving electronic mail and searching for information." He does admit that "most Internet users use e-mail, and undoubtedly have increased their 'conversations' with family and friends through this medium," but he doesn't consider that to be "contact with real human beings":
"'E-mail is a way to stay in touch, but you can't share a coffee or a beer with somebody on e-mail or give them a hug,' he said."
Maybe not, but my wife enjoyed the Valentine's card that I sent her via email (thanks to Blue Mountain Arts), and she liked it so much that she showed all her friends! (And we do try to reserve time for "hugs" as well. <grin>)
Some more concessions are made:
"...Erbring said, 'those who use the Internet most also report spending fewer hours caught in traffic, fewer hours in shopping malls, and especially, less time watching television.... One in four regular Internet users say they spend less time shopping in stores, and 15 percent say they spend less time in traffic since they gained Internet access."
Let's try to sum up matters.
The contention of the SIQSS report is that "social isolation is up" because of the Internet. My contention is that--if used properly (using common sense)--the Internet can decrease "social isolation." It offers more opportunity for social interaction involving the family than TV normally does, and it enables us to keep in touch with friends and family who are far away (and without all the expense of long distance phone calls!). The Internet also means we can often shop at home, without having to contend with traffic and shopping malls. And whenever the Internet saves us time, that is more time we can spend with family and friends!
Whatever you think about its "social consequences," the Internet is here to stay. As Nie comments, "...we've come to the point where if you are going to be part of the modern economy or society, you have to be connected." (Did he say "connected"? That doesn't sound like "isolation" to me!)
For more comments, check here:
"HTML Goodies Express" newsletter #74, April 3, 2000 http://www.htmlgoodies.com/letters/ _______________________________________________________________
2. HOMESCHOOLING ON THE WEB: SOME HELPFUL SITES
Since I'll be saying something about our own experiences of homeschooling as a family, before I go any further I should probably begin with these two points:
First, our son, John Calvin, has had good experiences with home school, private (Christian) school, and public school, so this article in its concentration on home schooling should not be taken to mean that alternative approaches may not be beneficial. It depends on the specific school and teachers involved, for example, as well as many other circumstances. For us personally, all three (home school, private school, and public school) were positive and beneficial experiences.
Second, it should be understood that anything I say about my son should NOT be taken as having his endorsement. At best I have his reluctant permission to include specific details, and I have that permission as long as I make it known that he has not had any part in deciding the specific content. In particular he disassociates himself from any "bragging" comments which he (perhaps rightfully) fears I might be inclined to include (since he knows his Dad and how I have embarrassed him in a similar way on other occasions).
Well, his Dad is proud of his son's accomplishments (am I different from any other parent in that respect?), but the reason I give in justification of even the "bragging" comments is that I want to prove to the skeptics by specifics that home schooling does work and works well. (Still, my son may be right in his concern. That may be "the reason I give," but it could still serve as a good excuse for some possibly improper boasting.)
Having said that, what does it mean to "home school" (or to "homeschool"--whether you use two words or one is a matter of individual preference)? To me, what it means is simply "education outside of the classroom." Thus from my point of view, all parents "home school" (regardless of whether their children are also being taught in a school classroom).
Most people, however, would define "home school" more in this way: "education outside of the classroom instead of in the classroom." That is, home schooling is generally taken to mean not an addition to, but a replacement for, education in the classroom of a public or private school.
Our son was "home schooled" for grades three through eight (in addition to his attending a "Mentally Gifted" program one day a week in the public school). Thus for six years he was NOT given regular classroom instruction in mathematics, science, history, English, etc. The two typical questions that people asked us had to do with whether home schooled children will be adequately prepared (1) academically and (2) socially.
Actually, the consensus of various research studies is that home schooled children tend to do much better academically on the average than their classroom-schooled counterparts. And there's certainly no evidence that John suffered academically as a result of his learning at home for six years. Rather, the evidence points in the opposite direction:
Evidence #1: For high school he attended a private Christian school, Phil-Mont Christian Academy, Philadelphia. It was a good choice. Was John prepared academically for PMCA? Well, John entered as a ninth grader, taking the normal ninth-grade curriculum (except, thanks to the flexibility of PMCA, for calculus, in which he earned a 99 average). John had four great years at Phil-Mont. As a senior, he graduated as the valedictorian of his class, winning various awards, including the Board of Directors award "for outstanding scholarship, character and purpose for being the senior who best represents the ideals of Phil-Mont." John was also a National Merit Scholarship winner.
Evidence #2: For college he chose to attend Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Georgia (although he was also impressed with Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and almost decided to go there). He was a Maclellan Scholar at Covenant College and graduated summa cum laude this past spring with a double major in English and philosophy and with a minor in Biblical Studies. He is currently a student in the M.A.R. program at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, and hopes to go on for a Ph.D. after that.
From this, you can see two things: (1) John's being home schooled for six years did not seem to hurt him academically, and (2) John (who is very modest about his accomplishments) had good reason to be concerned about possible embarrassment from what his Dad might say in this newsletter. <grin>
Let's move on to the second of the two questions: Are home schooled children adequately prepared socially? Here also the various research studies have shown that home schooled children tend to do better (on the average) than their classroom-schooled counterparts, especially when it comes to social interaction with people of a greater range of ages (not surprising, since in a classroom a student usually has contact only with people his or her own age, give or take a year, a situation that can sometimes produce peer-group dependency and even negative socialization).
How did John (who not only was home schooled but also is an only child) do in high school and college? Well, at PMCA he was involved in cross country for four years, track for three years, handbell choir for four years, and many other school activities (including drama) and events (such as Junior/Senior Prom). He was elected representative of the senior class to Student Council. He made a number of close friends in high school.
In addition, in college John was similarly involved in social activities. For example, in drama he went on to play the role of Rosencrantz in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and the role of Bottom in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Perhaps most significant: he has kept in contact with his high school and college friends (John gets more email than I do, and his is from friends, while I get mostly "junk mail," although I do enjoy very much the personal notes I get from CATI subscribers).
Well, I've embarrassed my son enough, but I hope it was to a good purpose. Our own experience fits in with the research that indicates that home schooled children are definitely NOT at a disadvantage in the areas of academics and socialization. We believe that home schooling is a choice that many Christian parents would do well to consider, depending on their specific circumstances.
Many years ago I learned from Professor Paul Woolley at Westminster Seminary that the ultimate responsibility for educating a child does not belong to the state or to the church, but to the family (see, for example, Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4). Even when parents decide to delegate the responsibility to a school, private or public, that school is acting "in loco parentis" ("in the place of a parent"), and the ultimate responsibility remains with the parent. For many parents, home schooling is an excellent choice (and the best choice of the options available to them).
Following are some interesting and useful Web sites related to home schooling (some of which may also include some helpful hints for parents who have their children in a private or a public school but who want to add something to the education their children are receiving in the classroom):
A to Z Home's Cool http://www.gomilpitas.com/homeschooling/
About.com: Homeschooling http://homeschooling.about.com/education/homeschooling/mbody.htm
Christian Home Educators Electronic Convention (CHEEC) http://www.cheec.com/ "an online homeschool convention"
Christian Homeschool Forum on CIN (Christian Interactive Network) http://www.gocin.com/homeschool/
Christian Unschooling http://www.inspirit.com.au/unschooling/
Classical Christian Homeschooling http://www.classicalhomeschooling.org/
Cyndi's Homeschooling Page http://members.aol.com/cyndimom23/hs.htm
Eclectic Homeschool Online http://eho.org/ "[This site] promotes creative homeschooling through unique resources, teaching methods and online helps. The Eclectic Homeschool Online is published from a Christian worldview. Articles and resources are not limited to purely Christian material. We leave the decision in your hands as to what material you choose to use and ideas you choose to incorporate in your homeschooling."
Finding Homeschool Support on the Internet http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8259/
Holt Associates: Questions and Answers About Homeschooling http://www.holtgws.com/QA.htm This site continues the "Growing Without Schooling" tradition set by American educator John Holt (1923-1985).
Home Crusaders Online Homeschool Site http://members.aol.com/usteach/
Home Education Magazine http://www.home-ed-press.com/
Home School Headlines http://www.homeschoolheadlines.com/index.htm "[This site] is crammed full of vital, stimulating information and encouragement for new and veteran homeschoolers alike. Not only are we reporting national homeschool news, but we also are covering practical, legal and philosophical issues of importance to you....With advisors and columnists that include Ruth Beechick, Cathy Duffy, Mary Hood (the Relaxed Homeschooler) and The Rutherford Institute, HSH will report the homeschool news, tackle controversial issues being debated within our growing, diverse ranks...AND provide lots of practical, rubber-meets-the-road information, resources, tips and insights...."
Home School Legal Defense Association (Michael Farris) http://www.hslda.org/
Home Schooling Daily http://my.ohio.voyager.net/~baugust/ "Featuring over 100 pages of more than 6,500 links."
Home's Cool http://www.homes-cool.com/ This site and A to Z Home's Cool are not affiliated with one another. They both apparently just like the "cool" pun.
Homeschool Central http://homeschoolcentral.com/
Homeschool Channel (Mike Farris at Crosswalk.com) http://homeschool.crosswalk.com/
Homeschool Find-It! http://www.computerage.net/homeschool/findit/
Homeschool Fun Online Magazine http://www.homeschoolfun.com/
Homeschool Information http://homeschoolfaq.com/
Homeschool World (Mary Pride) http://www.home-school.com/ "The official site of Practical Homeschooling magazine and The Big Book of Home Learning."
Homeschool Zone http://www.homeschoolzone.com/
Homeschooler's Curriculum Swap http://www.theswap.com/
Homeschooling Links ("NOW '500' current HomeSchooling Links!") http://user.pa.net/~brew/
Homeschooling on a Shoestring http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4663/ "The purpose of this page is to make available to the reader ways of cutting costs while homeschooling. It is hoped that the reader will be enabled to save money while maintaining a high quality of education. Some homeschoolers love bargains, others try to cut costs out of necessity. Regardless of why you, the reader, are wanting to cut costs, our goal is to help you do the best you can to save money."
Homeschooling Today http://www.homeschooltoday.com/home.htm
Jon's Homeschool Resource Page http://www.midnightbeach.com/hs/ "[This site is] now nearly six years old, which makes it one of the oldest homeschooling sites on the Web. With over two hundred component pages (1.3 meg of HTML), it's one of the largest homeschooling sites on the Web. But what I find most gratifying is that it remains one of the most popular homeschooling sites on the Web, with over a thousand incoming links and hundreds of visitors a day."
Moore Foundation http://www.moorefoundation.com/
National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) http://www.nheri.org/
The RI (The Ramblin' Irishman) http://members.truepath.com/theri/ "This [site] is intended as a meeting place for Christian home schooled teens on the Internet."
The Teaching Home http://www.teachinghome.com/ "A Christian magazine for home education," The Teaching Home "...Is Written for Home Schoolers by Home Schoolers."
Wisdom's Gate http://www.homeschooldigest.com/ "Homeschooling From A Biblical Worldview" Wisdom's Gate: Home School Digest http://www.homeschooldigest.com/hsd.htm
Since my guess is that many CATI subscribers either home school or know people who do, we may have additional articles on home schooling in the future. (If you'd like that, let me hear from you! Write to me at email@example.com .) In the meantime, enjoy exploring the many Web sites mentioned in this article. _______________________________________________________________
3. WHO USES THE WEB MORE: MEN OR WOMEN?
Who uses the Web more: men or women? Since men are largely regarded as technology buffs and women largely regarded as more ignorant in such areas, the result of the latest survey may surprise you:
"In a report released by Strategis, an online analyst company, Internet growth can be measured mainly in women. By the end of last year, the male-to-female ratio of people on the Web became equal. Furthermore, women make up 60% of those who report they go on the Web every day." "HTML Goodies Express" newsletter #74, April 3, 2000 http://www.htmlgoodies.com/letters/
So it looks like popular perceptions of the situation are much in error. There IS sexual equality on the Web! If anything, it appears that there is evidence that women use the Web more regularly than men.
Incidentally, even though CATI is intended for women as well as men, at the present time most subscribers are men. That's largely a matter of "historical accident" (I'll explain that in a moment), and I would like to see more women become part of our CATI family (even though for now there's a "gender gap" in CATI subscribers).
Here's how it happened. Since CATI is a free newsletter, it has no money, which means it has no advertising budget. Since the newsletter is devoted to "Christians and the Internet" and since it is written from a Presbyterian/Reformed perspective (although hopefully useful to others as well!), I advertised CATI by sending out a sample copy to pastors of the OPC, PCA, RPCNA, ARP, and RCUS (using email address I obtained from the respective denominational Web pages).
By the way, for those who may be having some difficulty in making sense of the preceding "alphabet soup," here's what the acronyms stand for: OPC--Orthodox Presbyterian Church, PCA-- Presbyterian Church in America, RPCNA--Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, ARP--Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and RCUS--Reformed Church in the United States.
A fairly good number responded, so most of CATI's subscribers right now are Presbyterian or Reformed ministers. That also means that most subscribers are men. There was no intention to discriminate against women: it was simply that it was easy to obtain a list of email addresses of potential subscribers who happened to be men (and no list was easily available of potential subscribers who happened to be women).
I'm hoping that as time goes by we will see more women on the CATI mailing list. You can help in that by getting the news out about CATI. (That may be already starting to happen. I was very happy to see a mention of CATI in a recent well-done newsletter sent to wives of pastors in the OPC.)
At any rate, women are apparently now using the Web as much as men. The closing of the gap between men and women continued an established trend in that direction, observed earlier by Strategis:
"Internet User Trends, a 1998 year-end survey by the Washington-based Strategis Group shows that while only 16 percent of US adult females used the Internet in mid-1997, compared to 37 percent of males, female usage mushroomed to 38 percent by the end of 1998, while that of males grew to 46 percent. --BizReport, "Internet Gender Gap Narrows," June 7, 1999 http://www.bizreport.com/news/1999/06/990607-2.htm
Thus "females...narrowed the 'Internet gender gap' from 21 percent to only 8 percent in less than two years," and now there is apparently no gender gap at all.
Incidentally, I do not personally subscribe to Internet User Trends, even though it looks like an interesting report. Why don't I subscribe? I think you can figure that out from the following information from the Strategis Web site:
"Internet User Trends. Semi-annual Subscription: $1,500 (one edition). Annual Subscription: $2,500 (includes one semi-annual update)." http://www.strategisgroup.com/reports/pubs/netrac.html
Who uses the Web more: men or women? The answer at this point suggests that--according to current usage--the general public has learned that the Internet has as much to offer women as it has to offer men (and I trust that CATI will help both men and women get maximum benefit from the Web)! _______________________________________________________________
4. A SECOND LIST OF LINKS: MOSTLY CHRISTIAN, MOSTLY REFORMED
Covenant United Reformed Church: Links http://www.covenant-urc.org/links.html Described by the RPCNA list of links as "an unusually thorough list of Reformed links," this list contains references to many Web sites you may not have come across before.
This is the second of the "two lists of links" I shared with you in CATI, 1/13. As in any list of links, some sites may be more helpful than others, and inclusion in the list should not be taken as full endorsement of a particular site. CATI gives you credit for being able to use your discretion as usual in such areas.
Following are a few suggestions from that list:
Christian Connection's Christianity and Science http://zim.com/gjlane/science.htm Here you'll find lots of links dealing with the subjection of creation and evolution.
Layman Online (Presbyterian Layman) http://www.layman.org/ "[This site] is the official web site of the Presbyterian Lay Committee," a conservative organization associated with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
Phillip E. Johnson Page http://www.origins.org/menus/pjohnson.html Phillip Johnson is the author of Darwin on Trial, one of the best modern critiques of Darwinian evolution.
Oops! Out of room for this issue! _______________________________________________________________
5. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
This is the fourteenth issue of a free newsletter devoted to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the "Internet").
Past issues: you'll find archives of past issues of CATI available online at http://traver.org/cati/ . ("It's not a pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.) ________________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. For permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact Barry Traver at firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission is hereby granted, however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1) no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety. To subscribe, write to email@example.com, including "Subscribe to CATI" in the Subject line and your real name and email address to which you wish CATI sent in the body. (To be removed from the emailing list, also write to firstname.lastname@example.org, but include "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)