As school terms swing into high gear this fall, there are more and more reports of colleges — and even some high schools — including laptop computers in the cost of the semester's tuition. Every educated person must be computer literate. Research is done online rather than with printed texts for the simple reason that physical books cannot be kept up to date. By the time certain materials can be typeset, edited, printed, and bound, they are no longer the latest findings.

One university distributed iPods to every incoming freshman. The small electronic devices allow easy review of lectures and will be invaluable for the study of languages. There will be the additional benefit (or distraction) of music via the same device. Blackberrys, cell phones, technologies galore — all these electronic breakthroughs have changed the face of education.

But there are a few devices that remain constant in the classroom. Even if window-shade maps, slide rules, and dusty chalk have been replaced with better equipment, the good old No. 2 lead pencil is still right there.

From SAT and GRE exams to get into a university to the multiple-choice computer-graded exams in large lecture-hall classes, pencils still rule. Looking back at high school or junior high, math classes teach students how to use calculators but still require pencils for the basics in order to teach the principles involved. And No. 2 pencils are always on the school supplies list for students in the elementary grades. Even in the age of computers, pencils remain basic.

I'm not so sure that makes education different from any other part of life on Planet Earth. There has been abundant change in the past century. This is not the world of your grandparents. It's not even the world of your parents. Hey, it's not the world you remember from high school or college or a couple of years ago!

In spite of the changes ... there are a few constants.
In spite of the changes that make your head spin to recall, there are a few constants. Life isn't about accomplishments or accumulation; it is relationships. Relationships aren't as tricky as we sometimes pretend; love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Love isn't a fuzzy feeling; it is the practical matter of obeying God by treating others the way you want them to treat you.

So why not get a No. 2 pencil, write out the Ten Commandments, and jot down the name of anyone who comes to mind with whom you have a seriously jeopardized relationship? It could be a life-altering reminder about the basics.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. (Hebrews 13:8-9)