Tuesday, December 30, 2008

North vs South

I've been in the Pacific Northwest for four months now and I thought I'd share a few of the differences I've noticed.

  1. In the South, we have sweet tea. In fact, we have most any fattening item you can imagine: gravy, lard, fatback, etc... In the Northwest, everyone drinks their tea unsweetened and even IHOP lists the number of calories in their food.

  2. In the South, you drive everywhere. If you take the bus or walk you are most likely poor and almost always frowned upon. In the Northwest, you are hailed as a hero and considered "green".

  3. In the South, PTA was for the crazies who had nothing better to do with their money. In the Northwest, our PTA paticipation is at 100% for the third year straight.

  4. In the South, the kids look forward to deer season. In the Northwest, the kids look forward to the new Star Trek movie.

  5. In the South, teachers send letters home with the children. In the Northwest, teachers email the parents

  6. In the South, we get our coffee from McDonalds. In the Northwest, the city would shut down if Starbucks closed.

  7. In the South, the biggest technical gathering is when Ma Potter drops the security on her wireless router. In the Northwest, you are constantly bombarded with invites to technical events.

  8. In the South, a top IT graduate comes from Vanderbilt. In the Northwest, a mediocre hire comes from Berkeley.

  9. In the South, the churches are dense, huge and filled with Southerners. In the Northwest, the churches are sparse, huge and filled with former Southerners.

I'll pause here and reflect on a few things. First, with regards to schools, it is easy to find a correlation between money spent and quality. The schools in the Northwest are better funded. Heck, my daughter's school here has a buffet! However, those people who feel that spending more on education will fix it have missed the boat. The real issue is parental involvement and peer pressure. In our schools the children challenge each other and the parents are involved. At our PTA social events nearly everyone is there. We, and the children, want each other to succeed. No amount of money will make kids want to have a read-in instead of play outside. No amount of money will make kids come to school dressed as their favorite storybook character instead of their favorite pop-star. No amount of money will make kids succeed. It takes dedicated parents. Moreover, it takes a school full of dedicated parents. Otherwise, you will run into the problems faced by other behavioral economists. The smart kid with dedicated parents will be ostracized. He or she will be considered an outcast. After all, they aren't going to be staying around after graduation, so why invest your friendship in them? You need an entire school full of dedicated children and dedicated parents in order to succeed. Money won't help, changing the culture is required.

Secondly, you can see the failure of the church in the Northwest. The educated, affluent people avoid the church while the Southerners flock to it. I think there are a number of factors at play here. First, the larger churches are getting the publicity and they are taking a stance against education. I have personally been in a church where the pastor said that anyone who believed in the Big Bang is going to hell. I didn't go back to that church. However, if a church accepts everyone and everything then there is no point in going. You can socialize on the net. So, there is no middle ground. The educated people are turned off from the backwards southern denominations and have no reason to attend the more "progressive"/"liberal" variants. If higher education becomes the norm in the South (which is a big question mark), then the church as we know it is doomed. The church must find its way in a new era. It must bridge what we know to be true, scientifically, with what we believe to be true, spiritually. It must exclude certain things as immoral, even though it accepts them civically. For instance, homosexuality is banned in the Bible. However, so is adultery. No churchmember protests the legality of adultery; hell, half of them have committed it themselves. But homosexuality is an abomination! The same goes with other moral sins such as lying and blaspheming. The church needs to realize that it does NOT have a civic duty to outlaw immoral behavior. No one can legislate morality and those that do are seen as haughty and hippocritical. Instead, they should accept that the world's morality and the church's morality are different. Christians are "sanctified". Before Christianity, to sanctify something was simply to set it apart; there was no religious meaning. If the church gets to legislate everything, then there is no more sanctification; we are just like everyone else and that is not our mandate. We are to work in the world and change the people. That can only be done by example. Right now, we're not setting a good example. It won't be long until the church is completely irrelevant outside a few poor areas where their only role is to give the poor hope.

In total, I've really enjoyed living in the North. I have no idea if I'll stay here long term, but it's been a great experience so far and I'm glad I was given the opportunity.

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