MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! I’ll talk with WORLD national editor Jamie Dean about this year’s Daniel of the Year, Michael Miller.
MILLER: I’ve learned that being a caregiver with a broken heart is much more effective than being a caregiver who thinks he has all the answers.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also, a report on how American students overall are doing in school, and Cal Thomas on why teaching them history is so important.
And, the latest on Syria.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, November 21st. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Candidates converge for 5th presidential debate » AUDIO: [Sound of debate broadcast]
Ten White House contenders faced off once again last night, this time in Atlanta…
AUDIO: The MSNBC, Washington Post Democratic candidates debate…
Candidates tackled a wide range of questions—from the ongoing impeachment inquiry to healthcare to foreign policy.
Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Trump’s foreign policy positions—including his handling of North Korea and continued ties with Saudi Arabia. And he said the U.S. should speak out more forcefully about human rights abuses in China.
BIDEN: And what they’re doing with the million Uighurs in concentration camps in the west. We should be vocally, vocally speaking out about the violation of the commitment they made to Hong Kong.
And regarding human rights, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren later declared…
WARREN: I believe that abortion rights are human rights. I believe that they are also economic rights.
The candidates dodged a question from a moderator, who asked whether pro-life Democrats, like the recently reelected Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, still belong in the party.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar also strongly backed the party’s pro-abortion stance.
But she also broached a topic that’s received very little attention in this campaign—deficit spending and the national debt.
KLOBUCHAR: I’d love to staple free diplomas under people’s chairs. I just am not going to go for things just because they sound good on a bumper sticker and then throw in a free car.
She suggested her party needs a dose of fiscal sanity, but also blasted President Trump over a trillion dollar deficit.
Both sides seize on Sondland testimony in House impeachment inquiry » Meantime, on Capitol Hill Thursday…
AUDIO: The committee will come to order. [gavel]
Lawmakers heard from more witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry—including Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. He testified that everyone involved with Ukraine policy knew about President Trump’s push for Ukraine to launch investigations that could involve Democrats.
SONDLAND: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.
And Sondland said the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani drove a quid pro quo to arrange a White House visit for Ukraine’s president if he played ball on launching the probes. He also said he believed the White House was using military aid as leverage.
But he conceded that he was connecting the dots, presuming a quid pro quo. He also testified that, frustrated with a lack of clarity on what the president hoped to achieve, he spoke to him directly.
SONDLAND: So I made the call, and I asked, as I said, the open ended question: What do you want from Ukraine? And that’s when I got the answer.
ATTORNEY: He was unequivocal.
Members from both parties seized on his testimony—pitching arguments before the TV cameras as if to members of a jury. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan…
JORDAN: The best direct evidence we have is actually what the president told you. I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do exactly what he campaigned on. And when that became clear to us, guess what, they got the money.
But Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff countered…
SCHIFF: My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words “ambassador Sondland, I am bribing the Ukrainian president” that there’s no evidence of bribery.
Schiff called Sondland’s testimony “deeply significant and troubling.”
Two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan » Two U.S. service members were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan Wednesday. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Pentagon said military officials are investigating the cause of the crash—preliminary reports do not indicate that enemy fire brought down the chopper.
But the Taliban promptly claimed credit. A Taliban spokesman said in a statement that the insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter during fighting with the—quote—“invaders and their hirelings.”
The U.S. military dismissed the claim as false.
Wednesday’s crash brought the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year to 19. Officials did not immediately release the names of the soldiers killed.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria » Israel struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday. That in response to Iran-backed rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before.
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said “no sovereign nation would allow [such] attacks to go unpunished.”
DANON: That’s exactly what we did. We punished those who launched the rockets into our territory. We struck numerous Iranian military sites in Syria.
Iran has forces based in Syria. And Israeli fighter jets took out numerous targets—including Iranian weapons warehouses and surface-to-air missiles.
A Britain-based war monitoring group said the strikes killed at least 23 people, including 15 non-Syrians, some of them Iranians. Syrian state media only reported that two civilians were killed.
Last week, Israel killed a senior commander of the Iran-backed Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, setting off two days of heavy fighting.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the U.S. education system brings home its latest report card. Plus, WORLD’s 2019 Daniel of the Year. This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Thursday, the 21st of November, 2019. So glad you’ve joined us today for The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up, the nation’s report card.
Every two years the National Assessment for Educational Progress reports on student achievement across the United States. Those numbers came out at the end of October. WORLD reporter Anna Johansen joins us now to talk about what the data show.
Good morning, Anna!
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Good morning!
REICHARD: First give us a little context on how we got these numbers.
JOHANSEN: It’s a standardized test given to almost 300,000 students across the country. It tests fourth and eighth graders on core topics. So we get a national snapshot of how students are doing, and we can see how individual states compare to each other. And there are also breakdowns based on things like ethnicity and income.
REICHARD: That national snapshot—is it good news or bad news?
JOHANSEN: It’s definitely not good news. The 2019 assessment tested reading and math. Reading scores dropped for both fourth and eighth graders. Math scores increased by 1 point for fourth graders, but decreased by 1 point for eighth graders.
REICHARD: Give us some perspective on that. What’s it mean?
JOHANSEN: That’s on a 500 point scale. Researchers say that 10 points is about a year’s worth of learning. So to see students gaining only one point—that’s a little discouraging. Overall, we’re at about the same place we were 10 years ago.
REICHARD: Do we know what’s behind this decline?
JOHANSEN: Nobody is really sure. The board that runs the tests actually says that you shouldn’t try to pin the results on any specific policy move, because it’s complicated. But people do speculate. There is one literacy professor—Tim Rasinski—and his theory is that kids spend too much time taking standardized tests and not enough time learning. I talked to one researcher named Mike Petrilli. He is speculating that these fourth and eighth graders are students who were born during the recession or grew up during the recession, so maybe we’re seeing that hardship impacting academics. But on the flip side, increased spending didn’t seem to help. The Wall Street Journal says from 2012 to 2017, so a five year period, we increased per-student spending by 15 percent. But we don’t really see any educational gains over those years.
REICHARD: Any good news?
JOHANSEN: Two bright spots. Mississippi and Washington, D.C. Both saw gains in math and in reading. Actually the highest gains since they started participating in this report.
REICHARD: What’s different about those areas?
JOHANSEN: Mississippi really focuses on early literacy. They also tailor their state tests to this national report format so their students know the standard. And D.C. has a significant number of charter schools. Those schools have more flexibility, there’s competition. Almost half of D.C. students are at charter schools now. And they’ve seen steady improvement over the past decade or so.
REICHARD: Will this report change anything?
JOHANSEN: Hopefully. Educators and researchers typically use the report to evaluate schools long term. Individual states will look at what worked in Mississippi and D.C. and maybe try to follow their lead and implement changes. I talked to Girien Salazar, he heads up the Faith and Education Coalition, and he really emphasized the need for community support. Parents and pastors especially, but really anyone can do it—go support teachers in your area, go spend an hour a week with a student, do some mentoring. That kind of micro support can make a big difference.
REICHARD: Anna Johansen is a WORLD reporter who lives in the Chicago area. Thanks, Anna!
JOHANSEN: You’re welcome, Mary!
MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Syria.
It’s been a little more than six weeks since President Trump decided to pull troops from northern Syria. On October 7th, U.S. military forces began their withdrawal. That left our Kurdish allies, who led the fight against ISIS, to fend for themselves.
NICK EICHER: Two days later, Turkish forces swept through, sending nearly 200,000 civilians fleeing. More than 120 civilians have died in the offensive. Then, Russian and Syrian troops swept into parts of northern Syria.
And on October 26th, U.S. forces killed the world’s number one terrorist during a raid just three miles from the Turkish border. If that relatively small part of the world sounds like it’s getting crowded, it is. At least five countries and countless non-state actors have a footprint in Syria.
WORLD Radio’s Jill Nelson reports now on the web of people and events circling the country.
AUDIO: [U.S. troops arrive in northern Syria]
JILL NELSON, REPORTER: In late 2015, U.S. troops arrived in northern Syria. Their mission? To drive Islamic State militants out of their strongholds. And the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of Kurds and Arabs, became our chief ally in that fight.
In March, President Trump declared Islamic State defeated. Seven months later he said it was time to leave Syria.
TRUMP: Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand.
U.S. troops packed up and moved out. Turkish forces moved in. And Kurdish, Christian, and Arab civilians fled for their lives. Turkey has long accused America of training Kurdish groups they say have ties to the terrorist organization known as the PKK. Ankara justified its move into Syria as part of its own campaign to stamp out terrorism.
Turkish warplanes and drones fired on unarmed civilians as they fled. And the predominantly Christian town of Tel Tamer was one of the targets. Nearly 100,000 Syriac Christians live in the region.
Turkey had promised to protect civilians and religious minorities during the pre-planned invasion. After it clearly broke that promise, Washington imposed sanctions. President Trump lifted them when Turkey agreed to a cease fire.
Reports from the frontlines claim Turkey did not live up to its end of the bargain. Some accounts even accuse Turkish-backed Arab forces of war crimes.
Meanwhile, President Trump announced he would keep 800 U.S. troops in the country, but not to protect the religious minorities under attack.
TRUMP: But we did leave soldiers because we’re keeping the oil. I like oil.
Some say that statement created the perfect setup for Islamic State recruitment. Blaise Misztal is a Middle East expert and fellow at the Hudson Institute. He says at the very least, it misrepresented our mission in the region.
MISZTAL: I think it’s unfortunate to talk about the U.S. taking the oil because that feeds into conspiracy theories and misconceptions about why the U.S. is in the Middle East in the first place.
The Pentagon’s Rear Admiral Bill Byrne clarified the president’s remarks during a November press conference: The oil revenue will go directly to Syrian Kurds.
BYRNE: I would be cautious in saying that the mission is to secure the oil fields. The mission is the defeat of ISIS. The securing of the oil fields is a subordinate task to that mission. The purpose of that task is to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.
Syria’s oil resources aren’t much, but they provided the bulk of Islamic State income when it controlled the oil facilities in 2014 and 2015. There are still 14 to 18,000 IS fighters in Iraq and Syria.
But Misztal says they aren’t the only threat U.S. troops are trying to guard against.
MISZTAL: Even though it’s an unstated policy, I think it is part of the administration’s thinking ensuring that these resources are not seized by Assad, Russia and Iran and used to continue their reign of terror in Syria.
Russia is already guilty of land grabs in Georgia and Ukraine. Now it’s eyeing Syria’s warm water bases. Russian troops quickly took over the main military base the U.S. built and abandoned last month in Syria.
Iran is also trying to stake a claim. Tehran wants to secure a land bridge to the Mediterranean and all the way to Israel. Like Moscow, it has backed the Assad regime.
AUDIO: [Sound of protests]
The Syrian Kurds are caught in the middle and have warned of an Islamic State resurgence. Hundreds took to the streets in early November to protest joint Turkish-Russian patrols in northern Syria.
Members of Congress called on President Trump to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accountable during his visit to the White House last week. Instead, the president emphasized their good relationship.
TRUMP: The President and I have been—we’ve been very good friends. We’ve been friends for a long time, almost from day one and we understand each other’s country, we understand where we’re coming from.
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien while on “Face the Nation” earlier this month said the administration is at odds with some of Ankara’s decisions. But he also noted Turkey’s geopolitical significance.
O’BRIEN: Losing Turkey as an ally is not something that’s good for Europe or for the United States.
But Turkey may not be the ally it used to be. Misztal says Ankara drifted away from the West long ago and is linked to the primary forces destabilizing the region.
MISZTAL: One is radical Islamism in the form of not just the Islamic State but a wide range of terrorist groups, some of which the Turkish government actively works with and are affiliated with Al-Qaeda. But also Iranian aggression and regional expansionism.
Misztal says the Kurds stand out as a group trying to protect its own territory, not grab land. But without U.S. support, the odds are stacked against them and the region’s ethnic and religious minorities.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Jill Nelson.
NICK EICHER: Police officers are a world-weary group. They’ve seen it all.
But for police in Richmond, Virginia, here’s an odd one—a stolen-property report that has to be a first.
A woman phoned in to report that someone had stolen her sidewalk.
Her sidewalk was there when she went to work in the morning, and gone when she came back.
Gina Coutlakis pulled up in front of her house and noticed a few orange cones around the walkway to her backyard. As she got closer, she saw nothing but a dirt path where her sidewalk once was.
COUTLAKIS: I’m not sure who did it, why they did it. I didn’t authorize it.
She was hoping that whoever ripped it up would return. But after a few days she filed a police report.
In an interview with WRIC TV, Coutlakis had a message for the mysterious sidewalk bandit:
COUTLAKIS: I’d like for you, whoever you were, whatever company or body, whatever you are, to please come back and correct the situation.
The company responsible saw the news report and touched base with Coutlakis. It turns out they simply had the wrong address and ripped her sidewalk up by mistake. They quickly returned to pour new concrete along the walkway.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Thursday, November 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: our 2019 Daniel of the Year.
In Honduras, many people feel trapped by poverty, violence, and addiction. One man has devoted 20 years in the capital city—to helping some of the country’s youngest and most vulnerable residents.
REICHARD: WORLD Reporter Jamie Dean joins us now to tell us about our honoree. Let’s start out with a little history here: How many years has WORLD been naming a Daniel of the Year?
JAMIE DEAN, REPORTER: I looked it up just a little while ago, and this is our 22nd year naming a Daniel of the Year.
REICHARD: And remind us about the idea behind naming someone a Daniel.
DEAN: The designation “Daniel” comes from the Old Testament prophet Daniel, who is particularly well known for showing courage in the face of the lion’s den. Sometimes when we pick a “Daniel of the Year,” we choose Christians who have been physically persecuted for their faith. And sometimes we choose a Christian who has shown courage in other ways by persevering under difficult circumstances for the sake of the gospel over a long period of time.I like that sometimes the person is well known, and sometimes he or she isn’t well known at all. It’s sort of a reminder that Christian courage takes many different forms, and sometimes it’s a quiet courage goes unnoticed except by a few.
REICHARD: Okay, tell us about this year’s Daniel of the Year.
DEAN: This year, our Daniel of the Year falls into that latter category: someone with quiet courage who isn’t known on a grand scale. His name is Michael Miller, and he lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where he has run a Christian ministry called the Micah Project for almost 20 years.
REICHARD: How did you zero in on this ministry and this particular person?
DEAN: We started thinking about the migration crisis at the U.S. border, and how there’s been a lot of good reporting on that border crisis. But there hasn’t been as much on-the-ground reporting on what’s actually happening in the countries people are fleeing, and how Christians are helping people who remain in the country. Honduras is one of those countries. There are a lot of Christians doing good work in Honduras, and we decided to focus in on one of them.
REICHARD: What does Michael Miller do?
DEAN: His organization, the Micah Project, is a residential Christian ministry for street kids—boys in particular. In Tegucigalpa there are lots of young boys and teenagers who are living in the streets. Some are abandoned by their parents or other family members and some flee abusive or otherwise desperate situations. And as they start living on the streets, they often become addicts a very early age.
They usually begin with inhaling yellow shoe glue from empty Coke bottles. For less than a dollar, drug dealers will sell enough industrial-strength glue to keep a child high all day long. I saw this in downtown Tegucigalpa—little boys inhaling glue from empty Coke bottles. It’s unnerving to see 11 and 12 year-old drug addicts, with this vacant, faraway look in their eyes, and no one to take care of them.
REICHARD: How does Miller’s group help them?
DEAN: They hit the streets every week, and they start developing relationships with these boys. They find out where they come from, how they ended up on the streets, and whether they still have any family members somewhere in the city.Over time, and under the right circumstances, they’ll offer the boys a place to come and live. They have a social worker who gets involved with this, and they have a residential facility several miles outside the city called the Micah House. And they try their best to nurture a family environment for these boys. They’re not just giving them a place to sleep and food to eat. They are giving them a family to live in, and people who love them, and they’re teaching them about the gospel. The boys go to school—some for the first time in their lives, and they grow up in this Christian environment aimed at helping them overcome addiction and anger and fear, and helping them grow into Christian men who love the Lord and serve their neighbors.
REICHARD: In the story you describe some of the success stories the ministry has had, but I imagine all the stories don’t have happy endings.
DEAN: No, they don’t and Michael Miller is really honest about that. He said that a long time ago he stopped giving the missionary speech, where everything is shiny and good. They’ve had boys return to the streets, and in the last four years, they’ve actually buried eight boys they’ve either cared for or known from the streets.Honduras is a very dangerous place, and even though the murder rate has done down in recent years, there’s still so much gang and drug activity that is a constant threat to these vulnerable children. It takes a lot of perseverance to hang in there for 20 years, with so much trauma and loss. I asked Michael Miller what had changed most for him over 20 years of doing his. We have a clip of what he said:
MILLER: I have learned that I can’t save another human being. When I came in, in my twenties—and in your twenties you’re just confident you can change the world—I thought that if I was smart enough, loving enough and had enough resources, I could save lives. Thankfully, by the grace of God, he’s reminded me through many hard experiences that one human being cannot save another human being. That’s God’s territory. Thankfully, he has given us a Savior.
That’s so important because I think otherwise, a person like Miller could despair. But he says it’s been a really freeing concept: He works hard, he loves the boys, he points them to Christ, and He trusts God to do what He will do.And he told me that accepting that reality has actually made him better at what he does. Here’s what he said about that:
MILLER: I was uptight the first few years about the results, really wanted everything to be good and go well and all that, then as I’ve done this over the years and had to bury kids and say goodbye to kids in very difficult ways, I’ve learned that being a caregiver with a broken heart is much more effective than being a caregiver who thinks he has all the answers. It makes me more compassionate, it makes me more forgiving of myself and of the boys, and it makes me have to trust God, come what may.
REICHARD: Well, we will leave it at that. Jamie Dean is national editor for WORLD Magazine. Jamie, thanks for this.
DEAN: You’re welcome Mary.
MARY REICHARD: Coming up next, an excerpt from Listening In.
This week, a conversation with WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky. For more than a generation, he has trained hundreds of Christian writers to honor God through Biblically objective journalism.
NICK EICHER: In this excerpt of his conversation with Warren Smith, Marvin Olasky tells the story of how an informal conversation with a well-known theologian helped shape the mission of WORLD.
WARREN SMITH: You offer a raison d’être, shall we say, for Christian journalism. And one of the ways that you do that is to recount an encounter you had in a bathroom with J.I. Packer. Can you tell that story?
MARVIN OLASKY: Both he and I were speaking at a conference at Wheaton. We were both in the dorms. I had never met him. There was a bedroom on one side, a bedroom on the other side and a bathroom in the middle. Early one morning we met in the bathroom brushing teeth. And I was not so much intimidated by the toothbrushing, but intimidated by the fact that later that day he and I would be both speaking in rooms next to each other at the same time. And I thought this was a huge scheduling error by the Wheaton people because number one, I wanted to hear J.I. Packer and I wouldn’t be able to hear him. But number two, I really could not imagine anyone would want to go and listen to me about journalism when they could listen to J.I. Packer on theology. So I mentioned that to him in kind of apologetic, stumbling way.
And he said: “Nonsense. The work of journalism is so important.” Then he talked about how it’s both pre-evangelism and then an aid to sanctification. Pre-evangelism in the sense that people who think Christianity is just a nutty thing might be impressed that Christians actually have brains and therefore what we as Christians believe may be something worth thinking about.
And then an aid to sanctification in that when we have readers who are Christians, reading a magazine—or reading any journalism product by Christians—it helps us to think about the world God has made. It helps us to think about how we should be active following God’s directions in the Bible to try to do as best we can and are sinful and fallen away. What God would have us do. So he had it theologically well-described and that just stuck with me as basically our, our mission.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Thursday, November 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. You heard earlier about the national report card assessing American students’ failure to thrive in school.
WORLD commentator Cal Thomas now on another finding of that report.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reports the teaching of U.S. history to American students lags behind all other subjects.
The latest NAEP survey finds that proficiency levels for fourth-, eighth- and 12th-grade students are in the 20, 18, and 12th percentiles.
I suspect part of this is due to the way the subject is taught. History is boring to many students. It was boring to me in high school and college. Who wants to read about a bunch of dead white men one cannot view on video, or even in high-resolution photographs?
I asked David M. Rubenstein about this. Rubenstein has many titles and accomplishments, including co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group and chairman of the board for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
His new book is titled The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians. It’s a series of interviews with contemporary writers, including Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and David McCullough. All have written highly readable biographies that metaphorically raise America’s Founders and other important historical figures from the dead, making readers feel they are in the same room where they speak to us today.
I asked Rubenstein why U.S. history has taken a back seat to every other subject. He answers—quote—“To some extent it started after Sputnik in 1957 when people were concerned that our science and technology were not as good as the Soviets … then when China came along as an economic and technological threat … the emphasis on STEM [subjects] became a bigger deal. Also, I think parents said to their children ‘make sure you study something that will get you a job when you graduate.’ All of this made history go down and therefore we don’t teach it very much.” End quote.
Here’s something Rubenstein told me he finds shocking: You can graduate from any college without taking an American history class. And more shocking: You can actually earn a history degree at 80 percent of colleges and not have to take American history.
He added this—quote— “A recent survey revealed that if one is foreign born and wishes to become a citizen, you have to be a resident for five years, [then] you take a test. Ninety-one percent of the people pass. The same test was given to native-born citizens in all 50 states by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. A majority failed in every state, except Vermont.”
Rubenstein says in many cases people in other countries know more about American history than people in the United States do. Sadly, the latest history scores seem to bear that out.
Here’s hoping more parents will take matters into their own hands. Rubenstein’s The American Story is a good place to start.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.
NICK EICHER, HOST: We are in Nashville today, getting ready for The World and Everything in It Live tonight. So tomorrow’s program we’ll be recording live in Music City: we’ll have Culture Friday, a review of Frozen 2, and Word Play with George Grant.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
Go now in grace and peace.