On Moral Development

Merely teaching our students to “be good” is not enough; even a “good” student may in reality be very immoral. Rather, we must teach them to be godly. According to our standard, Scripture, godliness is nothing less than perfection [“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16)]. That is God’s standard, not man’s. Lest we excuse ourselves that it is an impossible standard, we have as our living role model Jesus Christ, who “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). The degree of our students’ morality, then, is limited only by their perception of God’s holiness. Therefore, if we want moral students, we must continually emphasize God’s holiness.

In short, this view holds that what one does is an indication of one’s relationship to the Lord and an understanding of who God is. But it also operates fully aware of the true condition of one’s heart. A true Christian is not one who is one outwardly but who is one of the heart. (See Romans 2:28-29.) Godliness, then, is knowing what God knows, viewing things as He views them, thinking as He thinks, and then acting according to His understanding.

In Christian education, the issue is how teachers can educate students such that they accept God’s Word as their own personal standard and act consistently with its principles. The educator must teach, as John Stott wrote, both “micro-ethics” (personal morality) and “macro-ethics” (social responsibility), and both must be based on the principle of godliness.

[Excerpt from Teacher: Teaching and Being Taught, Dennis L. Peterson, 2017, p. 81. Available at http://www.amazon.com.]

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson



When many people feel the first hints of an oncoming cold or when the flu season looms, they immediately run to their doctor. Others do nothing, come down with a full-blown case of cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, or flu–and then go to see their doctor. Thousands (millions?) of others, however, reach out at those first signs for something much simpler, vitamin C supplements. And they do so (even if they don’t know it) because of research conducted by one man: Linus Pauling.

Pauling is like Jekyll and Hyde, and people either loved or hated him. Both his scientific research and his political positions caused polar reactions among those who knew him.

Linus Pauling was born on February 28, 1901, in Portland, Oregon. His father operated his own drug store, and that might have had something to do with the love that Linus developed for chemistry and health. He was always conducting experiments with a friend’s chemistry set and in his science classes in school.

When he was 15, Pauling already had amassed enough credits to graduate, but he lacked two history courses. He asked his principal if he could take the two classes at the same time and was refused, so he dropped out without getting his diploma. Nonetheless, he worked at various jobs (grocery boy, machinist, etc.) to raise money for college so he could become a chemist, and soon Oregon State University admitted him. (His high school awarded him his diploma 45 years after he dropped out–and had won two Nobel Prizes!)

In 1925, Pauling was awarded his PhD in physical chemistry. Then, on a Guggenheim Fellowship, he studied under famed physicists in Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland. Upon his return, he taught at Cal Tech. In the late 1920s, he began publishing the results of his research of chemical bonding. During World War II, he conducted research for the military.  He also wrote a textbook titled The Nature of the Chemical Bond, and in 1954 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Pauling’s chemical interests then turned to the applications of vitamin C to health problems. He conducted research on how colds and the flu reacted to mega-doses of vitamin C. Later, his research shifted to the application of the vitamin to treat cancer. Generally, the medical establishment regarded him as a quack. Even the Mayo Clinic repudiated his claims, but he fired back that their own experiments were not conducted according to the same standards (e.g, not taking large doses and taking the vitamin orally rather than intravenously), so they could not expect to get the positive results he reported. Other people, however (holistic health practitioners and common citizens), began to turn to vitamin C rather than traditional medicine to treat their common colds and flu, and they affirmed that Pauling’s findings proved effective for them. He published his research on the uses of vitamin C in mega-doses, including atherosclerosis and angina, in How to Live Longer and Feel Better. He made vitamin C a commonly consumed dietary supplement.

After the war, however, Pauling’s activities began to take a different turn. He began to promote nuclear disarmament and to call for an end to war under any circumstances. He became the darling of every Communist peace effort that came along. He circulated petitions against war generally, nuclear war specifically, and was outspoken in his opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He even contacted North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh personally. He won his second Nobel Prize, this one the Peace Prize, in 1962 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1968 as a result of those efforts.

Pauling’s critics, both political and scientific, viewed him as an apologist for Soviet-style communism. The National Review called him a collaborator and “fellow traveler” of the Soviets.  He sued William Rusher, the publisher, and William F. Buckley, the editor, but lost both the law suit and his subsequent appeal.

Despite the fact that Pauling had himself taken massive doses of vitamin C, he died of prostate cancer on August 19, 1994, at the age of 93. Had his regimen of daily massive doses of vitamin C contributed to his longevity? No one knows, and the debate over the effectiveness of vitamin C supplements continues.

But on this date in 1954, Pauling received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. And be the merits or demerits of his second Nobel Prize whatever they might be, he is the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes and only one of two people who have been awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields. (In my humble opinion, I think he would have contributed so much more to the world had he stuck with chemistry and left politics out of it! Whenever I begin to feel the first signs of a cold, I reach for my vitamin C.)

Thinking about Recalls

It finally happened. After all these years, I got my first recall notice. It was for my car. I called the dealer to schedule an appointment and was told that the first available slot was for nearly six weeks from that date. The scheduler said they had been inundated with recalls for that particular problem.

Was the recall really necessary? I asked.

Yes, it involved a potential safety issue, the scheduler told me. Constant abrasion of a wire in the steering column could wear through the insulation around it, exposing a wire and resulting in the airbag’s suddenly deploying. Not something one wants to happen in traffic or when he’s speeding down the highway (at the speed limit–or faster). So I scheduled my appointment. After all, the problem was to be repaired at no cost to me.

Well, today was the day. I pulled the car into the service area and produced the recall letter as instructed. As the service manager was checking me in, I made small talk. Had he had a lot of people bringing in their cars for this problem? Not really, he replied. In fact, he couldn’t remember seeing another one before mine. (Then why had the scheduler told me they had been inundated with them, and why had I had to wait nearly six weeks for the appointment?)

It shouldn’t take long, the service manager assured me when I told him that I would be waiting. An hour and a half later, a service person came to the waiting room to tell me that I absolutely needed to have two filters replaced and the cooling system flushed–for only $170 plus taxes. (I politely declined and later replaced the filters, which I already knew had to be replaced) myself.)

This incident set me to thinking about recalls. Why do they occur? Some of them are to resolve legitimate problems, of course, but how is the average person supposed to be able to discern whether the repairs are actually necessary or if the dealer is just trying to make a fast buck? After all, auto engines are so complicated today that even people who were whizzes with auto mechanics a quarter century ago scratch their heads in amazement when they raise the hood of the average car today. Caveat emptor! “Let the buyer beware!”

That incident also made me think about other kinds of things that often need to be recalled. After having spent decades in the publishing industry as both an editor and a writer, I never cease to be amazed at how often, no matter how carefully one examines the printed page or how many different sets of eyes examine it, mistakes still slip through. Factual errors, omissions, typos, and other problems pop up no matter how careful one is. One’s mind is blinded to what is obvious to first-time readers of the material. One’s mind supplies words that are missing because he or she is too familiar with the content. Often, such mistakes are inconsequential, but at other times they can be critical. Once the product goes to print, it’s too late to correct the errors. Oh, an errata list can be issued or a second edition produced, but that only draws attention to errors that perhaps might not even have been noticed if we hadn’t publicized them.

Even more dangerous, however, are our spoken words. Once uttered, they cannot be recalled. The damage has been done. “I’m sorry” comes too little, too late. That’s why preventive care is the best way of dealing with those problems, just as it is with auto mechanics–don’t let them happen to begin with. It’s better to pray, as the psalmist did, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3). And as Abe Lincoln famously said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt!”

Whether one is referring to auto mechanics, one’s physical condition, the printed word, or the spoken word, preventive maintenance is always better than a breakdown or a wreck.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Just the Little Things

In my last post, I recounted how I got sidetracked while searching for a particular poem, and I ended up sharing some thought-provoking tidbits from a 1920s salesmanship paper instead. Well, today I am sharing that poem–before I get sidetracked and lured down yet another rabbit trail.

In much of life, it’s the things that we too often view as “little,” or insignificant, things that make a difference in our lives. That night light in the hallway that keeps you from breaking your neck when you get up for your midnight snack. A brief word of encouragement to a friend. A gentle but understanding touch on a friend’s arm when we do not know what to say. A small act of kindness done for someone with no thought of what we might get in return. Those are the types of things that often mean more than words can say to the recipients. This poem, attributed to someone named Grace Haines (among others, including the ubiquitous “Anonymous”), says it all.


Oh, it’s just the little homely things,

The unobtrusive, friendly things,

The “won’t-you-let-me-help-you” things

That make our pathway light.

And it’s just the jolly, joking things,

The “never-mind-the-trouble” things

The “laugh-with-me-it’s-funny” things

That make the world seem bright.

For all the countless famous things,

The wondrous, record-breaking things,

Those “never-can-be-equaled” things

That all the papers cite,

Are not like little human things,

The everyday-encountered things,

The “just-because-I-like-you” things

That make us happy quite.

So here’s to all the little things,

The “done-and-then-forgotten” things,

Those “oh-it’s-simply-nothing” things,

That make life worth the fight.

Don’t despise the day of small things. What “little” things will you do for others today?

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

A Trip Down a Rabbit Trail

Whenever I begin to do online research, such as find a specific detail or statistic, there’s a good chance that I’ll end up being distracted by some interesting but irrelevant bit of information, and off I’ll go, wasting time by chasing down the proverbial rabbit trail. Sometimes, however, that little side trip can be instructive, fun, and sometimes even productive.

Such was my fortune while looking for a poem that I wanted to quote in this blog post. Alas, you’ll just have to wait until a later post to find out what that poem was because I want to share with my readers what got me sidetracked. Maybe you’ll even find it instructive, too.

My “find” was a collection of issues of Retail Clerks International Advocate, apparently a newsletter for salespeople, published in 1922-23. Each issue included a section of pithy comments designed to improve individuals’ salesmanship skills. The feature was titled “Pointers for Clerks on Salesmanship.” I found several of the statements are good advice for not only selling but also for living life. Here are several of the gems.

  • “The employee who simply ‘puts in the time’ is by and by put out.”
  • “No man can learn to enjoy life until he first learns to enjoy his work.”
  • “When you begin to fight back at the little daily annoyances, then you are the worse for them. Try to ignore the little things.”
  • “Your reputation will outlast your riches. Put reputation first.” [I would substitute character for reputation in this instance.]
  • “We all benefit by being called to account for our mistakes. If no accounting was ever necessary, we would all fall oftener.”
  • “Winning back a customer who has quit buying of your house because you have offended him, or because he thinks the house did not treat him right, is a tough proposition. . . . It takes great tact and a lot of diplomacy, and yet a diplomacy that does not show itself. The art of arts is to conceal art. . . . It will pay to acquire the art of the diplomats. It will pay better to avoid offending customers.”
  • Truth builds good will–your greatest asset.”
  • “Integrity is the foundation of prosperity.”
  • “The merchant or clerk who has reached the point where he thinks he cannot constantly improve on his methods is a ‘has been.'”
  • “Let your work be your best advertisement.”

Think about some of these statements for a few days. Then check back on Friday to find out what important poem I was going to share but that was put on hold while I chased that wackety wabbit down the sidetrack of distraction.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Author Talk (Part 2)

At the recent authors forum in which I participated, the moderator asked us several thought-provoking questions. I summarized my responses to two of those questions (What influenced you to write? and What has been your greatest joy in writing?). In today’s post, I’ll answer two more of those questions.

1. Where do you get ideas for writing?

In a word, LIFE. Experience. What happens to or around me. That’s a virtual–no, an actual–cornucopia of possibilities. I might overhear a piece of conversation, someone’s observation, a quip, etc., and it sets me to thinking about and developing it into an article. Or perhaps there’s a subject I know nothing or little about, and I begin to research it. And then I develop an urge to share what I’ve learned with others. Since I’m not a big talker, the natural medium for such sharing is the written word. One of my daughters gave me a mug on which is printed a summary of my idea mill: “I am a writer. Anything you say or do may be used in a story.”

2. Why have you not entered genres like drama, fiction, or poetry?

A rule of thumb is that one tends to write what he most often reads. I read primarily nonfiction. Within nonfiction, I read mostly historical, educational, or biblical topics, so that’s what I tend to write. Knowing the need to read widely, I do try to read fiction occasionally. In fact, I have an annual goal of reading at least one novel–not that I always achieve that goal!

Truth be told, I have dabbled at fiction and poetry, and the results have been dismal. I also dreamed of playing major league baseball but got no farther than being a cow-pasture pitcher. (I didn’t even have a sandlot to play ball on when I was a kid.) I’ll stick to what I know and continue to work at improving what little talent I have in that area of writing.

If you weren’t able to attend the author’s forum and be one of the people who asked questions from the floor, perhaps you have one you’d like me to answer. If so, contact me, and I’ll try to answer it in a future post.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Author Talk (Part 1)

Last Friday, I participated in an authors forum, or “talk,” during which the moderator asked seven or eight questions of the three of us who were on the platform. For the benefit of any readers who were unable to attend and might be interested in knowing my responses, I’m summarizing two of them here and will address two others in a later post.

  1. What influenced you to write?

The initial impetus was my frustration as a second-year teacher with students who were unwilling to exert an effort to learn. As a form of therapy, I vented my frustrations on paper. After getting home from a particularly trying day in the classroom, I wrote of the problems I faced and then read the results to my wife. After I had done that repeatedly for several weeks, my wife tired of hearing it. She said, “Either submit it to someone for publication or–whatever! Just don’t read it to me again!” That hurt my pride and challenged me to submit it to The Freeman, the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education. Much to my surprise, the editor accepted and published it as “Help Wanted: Laborers.” More recently, my first book, Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries, was the result of a desire to know about the subject and the inaccessibility of information on it. The most recently published book on the subject was written more than 70 years ago, and I thought that it was time that more recent findings were pubLished in one source. The publisher, McFarland, agreed. (I wish that more readers would, too!)

2. What has been your greatest joy in writing?

It’s always good to find a check in the mail and to see one’s byline on a book cover or magazine article. But I must admit that my greatest joy in writing has been learning that something I have written has been a blessing or help to someone. To hear someone say, “I really enjoyed that article” or “I learned something from your work” or “That really encouraged me just when I needed it most” makes all the research and writing efforts worthwhile. One particular incident especially encouraged me. I was walking back to my office when I was a textbook author, and I happened past a young Korean college student who was eating her lunch al fresco. Just as I passed her, she glanced up and said, “Hello, Mr. Peterson.” Surprised that she knew my name, I stopped, turned around, and returned her greeting. “How do you know my name?” I asked. She explained that she long had wanted to be a teacher, and one of her high school teachers had read all of my articles that had been in Journal for Christian Educators, translating them for her until she could read them in English for herself. Such encouragement, and the prospect of helping some other young teachers, led to another of my books, Teacher.

Next time: Answers to the questions Where do you get ideas? and Why have you not entered genres like drama, fiction, or poetry?

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Sandwich Day?

I’m calling today “Sandwich Day.”

Not because I’m planning to have a sandwich for lunch or anything like that, but because this post comes smack dab between two of the most important events in my life–with another important event occurring just a few hours after I post this.

Yesterday is like the top slice of bread on the sandwich. On October 12, 1979, my wife and I witnessed (well, I witnessed, she delivered!) the birth of our first child, Rachelle Joy. She took her good old easy time coming into this world. A knock at my classroom door about 11:30 a.m. and a whispered message from the school secretary interrupted the history class I was teaching and sped me to pick up my wife and rush  her to Grandview Hospital in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. I missed lunch and supper that day. Missed breakfast the next morning, too. In fact, I missed sleep in between days. We were still waiting on Rachelle to make her grand entrance. Finally, about 24 hours after I had left the classroom, the doctors decided that it was time (although Rachelle apparently didn’t agree). They did a C-section, forcing her to enter the world. She grew up enjoying action, doing, athletics, etc., more than book learning. Now she has a child of her own and is experiencing what we experienced when she was growing up, learning first hand just how active a little one can be!

Tomorrow is like the other slice of bread on the sandwich. It marks another significant event. On October 14, 1982, our second daughter, Elissa Cheri, was born. She was a “scheduled” baby, meaning that we actually got to select the exact date and time she would be born since her delivery was also by Caesarean. With a quiet, unhurried delivery, it was no surprise to us that she grew up as one of the quietest and most laid-back of our four daughters. She was our reader, and yet she chose one of the most demanding college majors and one of the most demanding careers–nursing. She now has two little ones who keep her active enough. She probably gets no more sleep now than she did when she was studying nursing.

Sandwiched between those two events of the past is the “meat” of the sandwich, the present, the immediate. Today I will be participating in the BJU Homecoming Author Talk and Book Signing. The forum, moderated by Dr. Ray St. John, begins at 2:00 p.m. in Levinson Hall. The book signing will be from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. There will be a lot of different things happening on the campus, but I hope to see many of you there. I’d enjoy having you stop by.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Happy B’day, USNA!

Somehow, in our sports- and entertainment-crazed society, a lot of people think only of football (specifically the Army-Navy game) when they hear the words U.S. Naval Academy. They are woefully mistaken. The athletic competition is merely a tool in reaching the overall goal of the Academy: to produce Navy and Marine officers “of competence, character, and compassion.”

The U.S. Naval Academy is a four-year undergraduate college program from which graduates come out with B.S. degrees and commissions as either ensigns (Navy) or first lieutenants (Marines) and give at least the next five years of their lives in military service to their country.

The U.S. Navy was born during the War for Independence when the colonies, without a navy to speak of, were pitted against the might of the world’s greatest naval power. When peace came, the Navy languished until 1794, when George Washington revived it to combat piracy. The first ships of the new navy were launched three years later, in 1797. They were the United States (which was broken apart and its wood sold in 1865), the Constellation (now a museum piece in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, not the original but built from some scraps salvaged from the original), and the Constitution, the oldest warship still afloat.


George Bancroft, historian and Secretary of the Navy, was instrumental in establishing (without congressional funding!) the Naval School in Annapolis on October 10, 1846. It was renamed the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850.

According to the USNA web site, notable graduates of the Academy include

  • a president (Jimmy Carter)
  • 3 cabinet members
  • 19 ambassadors
  • 24 congressmen
  • 5 governors
  • 5 Secretaries of the Navy
  • a Secretary of the Air Force
  • 5 chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • 29 Chiefs of Naval Operations
  • 9 Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps
  • 54 astronauts

To me, however, the greatest testimony of the effectiveness of the U.S. Naval Academy’s educational program is the fact that 73 of its graduates have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

This is one land lubber who appreciates all that the Navy does for us in protecting our shores and our liberties. And the U.S. Naval Academy has played a huge part in their work. If you know a Navy veteran or a graduate of the Academy, express your thanks to them.

[Reminder: I will be participating in the Author Forum and Book Signing during the BJU Homecoming and Family Weekend on Friday, October 13. The forum will be held at 2:00 p.m. in Levinson Hall. I hope to see many of you there. ]

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

Three Historic Events

The fact that George was awarded his first patent at the age of 19 should have been an indicator that he would achieve great things. That was only the beginning of a string of George’s inventions, and they should have left no doubt in anyone’s mind.

George became a celebrated rival of the great Thomas Edison, pioneering in electrical research. He developed a system based on alternating current. Edison favored direct current. This made George and Edison rivals. But George was intrigued by trains, too. He got a patent for a rotary steam engine. At age 21, he invented a “car replacer,” a device to get railroad cars back on the track after they had derailed. Then, shortly thereafter, he invented a “reversible frog,” a device to be used with a railroad switch to guide trains from one track to another.

But perhaps his greatest invention came as a result of tragedy. George witnessed a head-on collision between two trains, the engineers of which could see each other but could do nothing to stop in time. That tragedy prompted George to conduct experiments that led to his inventing the air brake, a device used on locomotives and heavy trucks even today. His invention has saved untold numbers of lives over the years.

George Westinghouse was born on this date, October 6, in 1846.

On this same date seventy-seven years later, one Philadelphia Philly, Cotton Tierney, was on second base. Another Philly player, Cliff Lee, stood on first. And a third Philly, Walter Holke, was in the batter’s box with no outs. Holke smashed a line drive toward the Boston Braves’ second baseman, rookie Ernie Padgett, who was playing in only his second major league start. Padgett caught the liner just above the dirt for one out, stepped on second to double up Tierney, and then chased down and tagged a startled Lee for the third out. It was the first unassisted triple play in National League history.

Only 14 other players in all major league history have done what Padgett did. It’s a feat that is even rarer than a pitcher’s hurling a perfect game, when no player reaches base by any means.

There have been seven unassisted triple plays in the American League, seven in the National League, and one during a World Series (by the Cleveland Indians of the American League). Eight unassisted triple plays were by shortstops, five by second basemen, and two by first basemen. In every case, the player caught a hard-hit line drive, touched the closest bag, and then tagged the runner coming from the previous base.

I’ve always thought that a well-executed double play is the most beautiful play in baseball. Maybe I would change my mind if I ever witnessed a triple play.

And finally, some food for thought: On this date in 1893, the National Biscuit Company (better known as Nabisco) introduced a tasty new invention–cream of wheat!

Safe trains, a close baseball game, and cream of wheat for breakfast–what more could one want? All of this (and more) on one day in history.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson