Posted: August 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Grey Enigma

Over the weekend, a suicide bomber suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda struck a funeral in Yemen, killing forty five individuals.  The funeral was attended predominantly by members of a militia which aided the Yemeni Army in recapturing a town held by Al Qaeda.  The attack was rightfully condemned by major media outlets.  Viciously killing mourners at a funeral is the very definition of terrorism as it sends a message that no time or place is off limits from a surprise attack.  It shows a complete lack of respect for the sanctity of life.  Al Qaeda has become known for these attacks in recent years.  American national security officials and politicians have reacted by denouncing such attacks as a sign of the utter savagery of the terrorist group.

Yet Al Qaeda is not alone in this tactic.  The CIA’s not-so-secret drone campaign is also guilty of targeting funerals…

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James is knocking it out of the park again!

My dad hit me when I got bad grades. Particularly when I was young and got a bad grade in “Conduct”. Happiness was an “A”. Even better: an “A+”. Sadness was an “F”. It was almost like a joke. Like the only way to get an “F” is if you tried to screw up almost as much as you tried to get an “A”.

But  in twelve years of basic schooling I can’t’ remember anyone asking where the “E” was. It goes A, B, C, D (which was really horrible to get a D. It means you were trying somewhat (so as to avoid the “F”) but you were just plain stupid and got a D. Not even a C.) and then, the magic “F”. Which was more than just a letter but a one-letter acronym. None of the other letters stood for anything. They were just letters. They could’ve been replaced by numbers (Claudia tells me in Argentina they were graded by numbers from one to ten. No letters). It’s not like “A” stood for Amazing. Or “B” Boring. “C” Crazy. “D” Dumb. You could’ve just replaced them by 1, 2, 3, 4. Or a “1+”. But F was irreplaceable.

(the mirror image of the tattoo says “Never a Failure, Always a Lesson”)

“F” stood for “Failure”.  [Note: except when I was really little. There was “O” for outstanding. “S” for Satisfactory. And “N” for needs improvement. I got an N for conduct and it’s the first time I remember my dad hitting me after the teacher told him I was always calling her old, which she was and there is no shame of that but I only realize that now that I am as old as she was.]

So why no “E”. I think teachers got together 5000 years ago. Maybe 10,000 years ago and came up with the horrifying conclusion: Some students might think “E” stood for Effort. As in, “at least I didn’t get an ‘F’. I got an ‘E’ which means I put in an effort.” And doesn’t that go along all too easily with the lie teachers say, “I’m not going to judge you on your grade, I’m going to judge you on the effort you put into this class.”

Did they ever really judge you on that? And if they did, do you really think they would want you to get an “E” on a test and then have to put up with your arguing at the end of a semester when you would say, “See! I put in the effort! I got an “E” on everything and you said that would be how you would judge me.”

“This is awful”, said a teacher at that first convention of the union of the national teachers club. “We have to take the ‘E’ out of the alphabet.”

“But,” said Mr. Maroon. “We spend years teaching them that song: A, B, C, D, E, F, G… to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star. And now we have to tell them there is no E?”

“There is an E! Just not in grades. Why is this such a difficult thing to understand? If we put an ‘E’ in there then our schools will NEVER get funding. All our schools depend on our students, smart or stupid, doing well on those standardized tests where they fill in the multiple choice circles and cyborgs read them and grade them and the better they do, the more funding we get. If we put an ‘E’ into the system the students might clog up the pipes with Effort instead of Amazing. They might even think “E” is for Exceed because at least it beats Failure! WE CANNOT HAVE AN ‘E’!”

I doubt that conversation really happened. They really backed themselves into a corner. They thought by using letters instead of numbers that would fool kids into some state of confusion where they really didn’t know how they did. Like, “is a B good or bad?” But everyone knows where they stand when it comes to 1 through 10.

But now they were stuck with the “E”. Until they decided to strike it from the alphabet. But only some of the time. Except for that one time an entire novel was written without using the letter “e”. That guy knew what he was doing. The insidious removal of the most common letter in the English language.

Because that’s what English is about. It’s not “Anglo”. It’s not quite “Saxon”. It’s not “Latin”. But its a weird mixture of all three, concocted like a test tube baby in some scientist’s laboratory when the aliens landed and impregnated our ancient Mothers with the sperm from their dying planets (since they came from a Federation of planets surrounding a supernova, or perhaps supernovae (there’s that “E” again) ).  So we can keep on experimenting and investing and twisting and testing. Now “google” is a verb, a noun, a business, the beginnings of an artificially intelligent singularity, a map, an email, a social network, and a photo album with the flowers as bookmarks. We don’t need those anymore thanks to Google. No memories are special enough to mark them with a flower, thanks to the newest word in the dictionary.

Ugh, trying to unravel the Rubik’s Cube-like scam of lower education is a full-time job. Once you get a side with all one color you realize you’ve hopelessly prevented yourself from getting the other side to be one color.

I have not read much about home schooling or unschooling so I am no expert. But I’ve thought about it. And this is how I would do it if my kids were to let me unschool them.

A) First, (and again, this is without reading about it at all so I, at best, uneducated on the topic). I prefer the word “unschooling” to “home schooling”. I assume home schooling means I replace the teacher, buy them science textbooks, math, Canterbury Tales, etc. I don’t want to do that. That sounds boring to me and I assume to them as well. Unschooling sounds more like it – i.e. just completely no education at all.

B) Only one requirement: read one book a week. It doesn’t matter what book. I will pay them 10 cents a page. WHAT!? How can you pay your kids to learn? Well, I want my kids to get used to being paid for doing things they enjoy. Later in life (just a few years really) they will have to do it anyway. Why not get used to being paid for something they enjoy right now? This way they will know easily to avoid getting paid for things they don’t enjoy. (this is hopefully a way to avoid them going into a life of prostitution).

Then we talk about it. Then we visit the bookstore and they get to browse other books and see what they like. I get a synesthesia of experience when I go into a bookstore, some sections have bright colors and draw me to them (fiction, current affairs, philosophy, art, comics, history) and some I can just feel the drab greyness (interior decorating, crafts, children). They would browse until something pulls at them. Then they would buy it and read it.

C) Every day: I’d set out drawing and painting materials. They’d also be encouraged to keep a diary. I want the creative neurons going. I can’t force them to do this. But maybe they would want to.

D) At least an hour of sports a day.

(sports are good for kids)

E) I’d set up playdates for after school so they can get socialization. Or playdates with other kids that are being unschooled or home schooled (there are more than you think out there). My kids think that all home-schooled kids are “weird” because they aren’t social. But I ask them, “when do you talk to your friends anyway?” And they say, “after school”. So that argument is out the window.

F) The rest of the time they can do whatever they want: eat, read, watch TV, sleep, blow stuff up, do nothing but stare at the wall, walk around the block, go to the movies. Whatever. In fact, I hope they do a lot of nothing. People get addicted to doing “something”. What’s so great about “something”. I like to do nothing. Even when people do nothing they try to label it: like “meditation”. Ugh, what a boring thing: meditation. Try, “I just did nothing. I even thought about nothing in particular.”

When you are capable of actually doing nothing (not so easy after decades of “something addiction”), there’s a deep well that springs up, and fills every corner of you, crowding at the anxieties, the fears, the pressures put on you from government jobs colleagues bosses friends family. The nothing replaces all the vomit they try to kiss into your mouth.

By doing all the above they have more opportunity to discover their passions, more play time, more creative time, just as much social time.

The standard criticism: kids should learn how to deal with kids they don’t like and doing things they don’t like. People say this to me all the time, ranging from Harvard graduates to my own kids. “Kids should do things they don’t like!” Really?

My answer: Why? It doesn’t seem like adults are any good at that so how did experiencing it as a kid help them?

What makes me an expert on unschooling? Absolutely nothing. And that’s the point. I just don’t want them to do any of the 100 bad memories I (and just about everyone else) has about standardized schooling. Why should they have to go through with it?

And I’m going to grade them every week. I’ll give them a big piece of paper with the letter “E” on it. And we can talk about what it means. Maybe every week it will mean something different. That sounds like fun.

I feel bad. I feel like a sucker. Like one by one I fell for every lie. I talk about “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, and yet I fell for all of them. I’ve been in everything from a cult to the cult of homeownership, the cult of college, the cult of sex, the cult of drugs, every cult imaginable, the cult of corporate safety, the cult of money. Why couldn’t I just be smart from the beginning? Why does it take stupidity to become smart? Or maybe I’m still stupid. Who knows?

Let’s do one of those psychology tests where I ask you something and you say the first word that comes to mind. Here’s the usual responses I get after years of doing this:

  • Me: Home ownership.  Other: “Roots”
  • Me: College:  Other: “Good job”
  • Me: Good war. Other: “World War II”
  • Me: Success. Other: “Fame and money”
  • Me: Iran. Other: “They want to kill all the jews”. 
  • Me: Voting. Other: “Doing something for your country”. 

Home ownership – think about why you want to own a home. Just really take a step back and forget about all your biases. You think “renting is flushing money down the toilet”. You might think “home ownership is ‘roots’ for your family”. Why do you think these things? Isn’t it suspicious to you that everyone else says the same slogans? That I just wrote down the exact things that are you in your head when you try to justify buying a home?

Does it make sense at all that there is a trillion dollar industry (over 20 trillion to be exact when you add in mortgages plus the part of the economy that is dependent on home building) that wants you to own a home? Banks, the government, home builders, furniture makers, real estate agents, etc are all the priests and ministers of that religion. Don’t you think a small part of that 20 trillion goes into hammering again and again the marketing message that you need to own a home?

Just do the basic math on home ownership. It does not work. It will NEVER work. Maybe if home prices go down another 80% but that’s it.

But this isn’t about home ownership. I’ve bought and sold two homes. And I lost money on both. So maybe I’m just bitter. Who knows.

This is about hypnosis. Why we believe, at the bottom of our hearts, the things that are told to us that have such obvious trillion dollar agendas.

Like college. Here is what everyone says: “You won’t get a good job if you don’t go to college”. I’ve proved countless times how this is a lie. Yes, you won’t get a 90 hour a week job at Goldman Sachs if you don’t go to college. And yes, there is no chance in hell you can be a proctologist (although I have known people to start a private practice in this without any degree at all) if you don’t have a medical degree. Ok, you win. On those jobs.

But don’t you think this trillion dollar industry (where costs have gone up ten times faster than inflation, three times faster than the scam healthcare industry) might have an agenda when they put out these “statistical” studies.

What else happens in college? Well, one in four women are raped in college. But because college campuses are one of the few places in the country (Indian reservations maybe being the only other) that provide their own security, you never hear about this. Campus security is not there to protect you. It’s there to hide things from you.

So you can get a job at Goldman Sachs, but you’re more likely to be raped. Or, I guess, be the raper. You choose.

But “don’t you learn how to think” in college? I don’t know, do you? Did you really learn how to think there? Does it really cost $200,000 to think? And what is so great about thinking. Since 1950, when college started becoming almost a pre-requirement for success, incidence of depression has gone up 50 times. How come colleges don’t report on this statistic?

Again, ask yourself where you got these slogans. Even my ten year old repeats the slogans. They are marketing slogans created by, again, a trillion dollar industry.

Insurance. “Everyone must be insured”. “Insurance companies can’t deny you because of pre-existing conditions.” Everyone says this. Again, why does everyone say the exact same thing. Again, this is a trillion dollar industry. They are telling you what to think.

Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s say you have a pre-existing condition. Do you really think they are going to charge you the same amount that someone without a pre-existing condition is charged? Of course not. Your prices are going to go up. A lot! And everyone’s prices are going to go up. Do you think the insurance companies are going to lose money? Of course not. And if you don’t sign up, you have to now pay a fine (a “tax”) to the government. So who wins in this? Do you win? And then the other side tries to go to the other extreme. “Death panels”. Oh my god! Someone’s going to decide who lives or dies?

Of course not. The other side of a lie is not the truth. It”s just another lie.

“The War against Terrorism”. Terrorism is horrible. I lived five blocks from ground zero and watched the first plane go into the towers. Then watched the bodies jump off the top of the building. Now, 11 years later, we’re still at war in two countries. Someone the other day was upset at me and said, “we pulled out of Iraq.” Why did he say that? Because the government told him. We have more soldiers in Iraq now than when the statue of Hussein was toppled. And we are still at war in Afganistan. And everywhere we go we kill civilians and babies. Millions of them. Not to mention our own 18 year olds. And everyone gets upset. “We have to protect our way of life”. “The muslims are going to kill us”. Really? Well, then go fight them. Whenever I say that, everyone shuts up. We don’t need 18 year olds to fight people. 50 year olds can do it. Everyone gets quiet.

I was for the war in Iraq. I listened to Colin Powell in the UN. He said they had nukes or weapons of mass destruction aimed right at Israel. Oh no! I thought. We have to get them. And I believed him. And now millions are dead. And what was the result? The only country that kept Iran in check was Iraq. And now Iraq is pretty much a colony of Iran. We not only killed millions of people, we destroyed the balance of power in the entire region. Now the only way to restore balance, and its our own fault, is to become friends with Iran.

“We need to invade Iran before they invade Israel!” This was said to me the other day. By a guy who quoted statistic after statistic. But who couldn’t explain to me how it will happen. There’s 70 million people in Iran and Iran is completely surrounded by mountains. How are you going to get in there other than nuking tens of millions of civilians. You can’t get in there by ground or boat. Or even aircraft. You have to nuke. And, by the way, most of Iran hates their leadership – as demonstrated by the protests after the last election. Most of the people in Iran are people just like you and me, terrified of being invaded by the US. And Israel has nuclear weapons. Is any country going to really risk Israel, a country that has won every war it’s been in, nuking them?

(everybody eager for war should take a geography class first)

“I won’t be happy unless I’m successful or famous”. Look up Ozymandias for the veracity of this one. And yet, it’s the American dream. So it must be true. Right?

I get many emails: “I need to find my passion.” My question is: why? Passion is like a bridge between your current unhappiness and some mysterious future happiness. Guess what – you might be dead then. Passion is also a trillion dollar myth. First, check to see if your breathing. Are you? That’s pretty good. You’re ahead of most of the other people who have ever lived on this planet.

And finally, we can throw in the massive food industry. Bigger, better, more filling, more nutritious. I have yet to see a food product that doesn’t have a lie on its packaging. Look around your supermarket. 80% of a grocery store is filled with processed sugars that are proven again and again to be bad for you but the lobbyists in charge of the food pyramid (the “FDA recommended daily value” on every box) want you to BELIEVE the religion they propose.

Marketing is not just about clothes or facial products or vacuum cleaners. It’s about the very ideas that you dress up in to lead your daily existence. It’s the lies that trillions of dollars are spent fabricating that are repeated to you over and over again like mantras until they appear to be baked into your soul. Every lie is one step further from you being calm and happy.

You wake up every morning with a clean slate. But within seconds your mind dresses you up in all the lies for the day. Must aim for promotion at the job, must kiss ass to customers, must send my kids to school, must stay with my wife forever, must write a blog post, must go to war to defend American values, must vote, must eat organic (the irony being that if everyone ate organic the world would starve), must must must MUST.

The real you is always there. Before the thoughts enter it. Before the lies obscure it. Before you are convinced you are either one of “us” or one of “them”.

The real you is neither. Test every thought you have. Your thoughts are not you. They are your children. But we forget that children often need to be disciplined. Else they will test your boundaries and slowly take over the sense of what the “real you” is. You will forget the real Self that has always been there. Don’t let that happen.

Most people live in the dark. Do you think the sun ever sees the dark? The sun is outside. But the dark is by itself, with the shades closed, the door locked, afraid to take a peek, afraid to look into an infinite sky.


Source: Education On The Plate

I recently spoke at the #140edu Conference in NYC on the topic in the title. This is what I said.

How many of you here graduated from high school?

#140edu stage - via digital camera#140edu stage – via digital camera (Photo credit: NJ Tech Teacher)

How many of you liked high school?

Just as I thought. Despite the laws mandating it, despite the ominous predictions of what will happen if you leave it, not everyone should go to high school.

Let me say it again, not everyone should go to high school.

This sounds like heresy, especially coming from a teacher.

But even in a time when it seems like you need a college degree to be an auto mechanic, not everyone should go to high school.

When I dropped out of high school for the first time, yes — I’ve done it twice — dropping out was considered a sure path to economic and social failure.

Not much has changed since 1968. Dropping out of high school is still labeled a sure path to ruin. That there are students dropping out of school is still called a crisis.

It is not a crisis. It is a message.

Thinking of drop outs as a crisis leads to solutions that focus on compliance– things like raising the age at which one can leave school, or more truant officers to track down the education fugitives.

But if we look at students dropping out of schools as a message, drop outs tell us is that school sucks, that it is not reaching them, or that they feel they have no hope for success, in high school or beyond it.

They tell us that they are not being challenged enough, or not being allowed to follow their interests, or just that school doesn’t fit them: it is too big, too small, too cliquey or too dangerous.

The reasons students leave school are as differentiated as the lessons we teachers are being told to teach them.

You have heard, and will continue to hear today and tomorrow, about ways to make school better, more enticing, more encouraging, more engaging and more effective.

All that is good, but it is almost impossible for any modern high school to meet the needs of all students.

This is not for lack of intent or lack of effort. It is a result of an increasingly centrally-mandated standardized world. Now we’re all supposed to hone our lessons to the common core. Really? Does anyone really want to be common?

Instead of focusing on how to make school better or teaching better, I’m going to talk about how to make learning better.

My idea of the perfect school is one in which you can  learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it, where you want to learn it, and how you want to learn it.

I say, do what teachers have been telling you to do for so long, take charge of your education and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

I dropped out of high school twice, and college once, because attending was interfering with my learning. I got tired of teachers calling my questions and observations distracting and disruptive. I got tired of being told what to learn and when to learn it.

I figured out that knowledge doesn’t come in neat little packages called math, science, English Language Arts or social studies. Art is not a subject, neither is music, or health.

Knowledge is a massive, ever growing, completely interconnected all enveloping mass. It is the butterfly effect writ large, where everything we learn, every insight we gain, every understanding we come to, changes EVERYTHING.

So I left.

My parents were not happy about any of it, but I had the biggest, most cultured and most diverse city in the world to explore.

I still got a great education because I asked questions, followed tangents and never stopped being curious.

The real key to making dropping out — or opting out if you prefer– is to do it soon enough. Don’t wait until you’re beaten down by the system and have lost interest and hope. Leave school while you still have curiosity, a hunger to know something, to know anything or everything, and before you have to support yourself financially. It may be after 10th grade or it may be after 8th. You will know when it is right for you.

Now you can sleep a little later, but don’t spend the day in bed, or watching cartoons or talk shows. There is a world to explore.

Today it doesn’t matter if you live in Manhattan, like I did, or in East Nowhere, the whole world is available to you.

Think of the tools you have now that didn’t exist when I dropped out. Computers, the internet, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, and more are all there to help you access the world and learn anything you want.

You don’t need a curriculum, a road map or a plan at all.

Just ask a question and seek an answer.

Then ask another question.

Listen to the answers you get. Follow tangents. Focus like a laser or wander aimlessly. Tinker. Play.

All knowledge is connected and things will all start to make sense as you note commonalities, wonder about discrepancies, make connections and develop insights.

Are you in love with baseball? Study it. You’ll learn about statistics – figuring pitcher’s earned run averages takes complex mathematics — develop strategies, learn the science of the curveball, learn about the history of race relations in America, and more. You’ll learn about why the Dominican Republic produces so many major league shortstops and why Japan doesn’t, but produces pitchers. Follow baseball as far as it will take you…then ask another question.

Do you like to knit? Study it. Learn about different kinds of wool, how they differ and where they come from, how they become shocking chartreuse or majestic magenta. Learn math as you figure out how much you’ll need to make that sweater, the physics of tensile strength.

Into dolls, dogs, drumming or debate? Are you passionate about golf, gardening, guitar, grapes or Greta Garbo? It doesn’t matter what. Take the paths   your interests and passions give you.

Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander B...Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander Binder (for Atelier Binder) made the portrait during the filming. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a while you’ll become an expert, an authority. You’ll wander off one path and discover another one, perhaps the secret of life, the universe and everything.

Just keep asking one more question and you will find many more answers. Each of which will lead to more questions.

Joyce Valenza calls it “a never ending search.”

Here are some things you are likely to discover:

People are eager to talk about what they do and what they know, to someone who is interested in learning.

People are eager to tell you their stories, what they think, what they feel, to someone willing to listen.

Your bullshit meter will develop and become more accurate.

You will find the joy of learning again, the joy of teaching what you learn, and you’ll rediscover the excitement of wondering.

You will learn that all answers lead to more questions, better questions, deeper questions.

Keep asking.

Keep learning.

Do all the things school doesn’t leave you the time to do and you will get a better education than any institution can give you.

Don’t worry about getting into college. Getting into a good college requires standing out from the crowd, somehow distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of thousand other high school seniors.

So while all those other kids are all taking the same classes, cramming for exams and spending every extra minute doing every imaginable community service and extra credit assignment, you’ll be having different experiences.

While they’re being told what to learn, you’ll be deciding what to learn. Their learning will be limited by the curriculum, your learning will be free-range, going as far as your curiosity takes you.

Just think of the application essay you’ll be able to write.

And somewhere in the process of writing that essay, you might begin to wonder whether you really need to go to college.
Once you start becoming a free-range learner it is almost impossible to stop. And that is the best part of it all.


by Gary North
Tea Party Economist

President Obama has signed an executive order. He has set up a new bureaucracy. This bureaucracy plans to make inner-city education so good that whites will move back.

You remain skeptical? O, ye of little faith!

This executive order has this goal: to give black children top-flight public education, which means non-flight education. Blacks who have been able to get out of inner-city school districts have been fleeing for several decades. This is what the President is trying to stop.

There is a problem with his plan: public education. It has been declining visibly for approximately 100 years, give or take a decade. The decline has sped up over the last 50 years.

For blacks, the decline has been a disaster. The inner-city schools have been deliberately dumbed down as policy. Thomas Sowell has written on several occasions about the all-black high school in Washington, D.C.: Dunbar High School. From 1870 to 1955, it provided education as good as any white district’s program. (It was surely better than mine, 1955-59.) It taught Latin. It taught advanced courses in science. Its students went to college. Ralph Bunche was one of its graduates. It was deliberately dumbed down half a century ago as a matter of district policy.

President Obama intends to smarten up the inner-city schools. How will he do this? With a new bureaucracy.

His executive order is a litany on the failure of tax-funded education in America. It’s hard to fault him on this. The problem is this: the federal government has been laying down the law to school districts for 40 years. The schools have gotten worse. Dr. Charles Sykes’ book has it right: Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves, But Can’t Read, Write, or Add.

Candidate Ronald Reagan vowed to shut down the Department of Education. Its budget went up every year he was in office.

Obama’s executive order is nothing short of messianic. It proposes to achieve the following.

(1) The Initiative will help to restore the United States to its role as the global leader in education; strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and help ensure that African Americans receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college, a satisfying career, and productive citizenship. . . .

(4) In working to fulfill its mission and objectives, the Initiative shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) identify evidence-based best practices that can provide African American students a rigorous and well-rounded education in safe and healthy environments, as well as access to support services, which will prepare them for college, a career, and civic participation;

(ii) develop a national network of individuals, organizations, and communities to share and implement best practices related to the education of African Americans, including those identified as most at risk;

(iii) help ensure that Federal programs and initiatives administered by the Department and other agencies are serving and meeting the educational needs of African Americans, including by encouraging agencies to incorporate best practices into appropriate discretionary programs where permitted by law;

(iv) work closely with the Executive Office of the President on key Administration priorities related to the education of African Americans;

(v) increase the participation of the African American community, including institutions that serve that community, in the Department’s programs and in education-related programs at other agencies;

(vi) advise the officials of the Department and other agencies on issues related to the educational attainment of African Americans;

(vii) advise the Secretary on the development, implementation, and coordination of educational programs and initiatives at the Department and other agencies that are designed to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for African Americans of all ages; and

(viii) encourage and develop partnerships with public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit stakeholders to improve African Americans’ readiness for school, college, and career, as well as their college persistence and completion. . . .

And how will his executive order achieve all this? By providing lots of jobs in Washington!

(c) Interagency Working Group.

(1) There is established the Federal Interagency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Working Group), which shall be convened and chaired by the Initiative’s Executive Director and that shall support the efforts of the Initiative described in subsection (b) of this section.

(2) The Working Group shall consist of senior officials from the Department, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and such additional agencies and offices as the President may subsequently designate. Senior officials shall be designated by the heads of their respective agencies and offices.

(3) The Initiative’s Executive Director may establish subgroups of the Working Group to focus on different aspects of the educational system (such as early childhood education, K-12 education, higher education (including HBCUs and PBIs), career and technical education, adult education, or correctional education and reengagement) or educational challenges facing particular populations of African Americans (such as young men, disconnected or out-of-school youth, individuals with disabilities, children identified as gifted and talented, single-parent households, or adults already in the workforce).

(d) Administration. The Department shall provide funding and administrative support for the Initiative and the Working Group, to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. To the extent permitted by law, other agencies and offices represented on the Working Group may detail personnel to the Initiative, to assist the Department in meeting the objectives of this order.

I can see the progress! I can see the SAT scores rising! I can see hope restored in inner cities!

And all this from a man who never spent a day in an American tax-funded school.

Only in America!

Continue Reading the executive order on

July 31, 2012

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2012 Gary North

Source: The Monica Perez Show

This summer has me running in all directions, so I haven’t been able to post much. My apologies for that, however, as luck would have it, my sister Booie wanted to share some thoughts on Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed Bill recently passed by Congress….

When England tried to place the colonies under the monetary control of the Bank of England, many in America were strongly opposed. This was one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, the First Bank of the United States was chartered in 1791, thanks to the machinations of Alexander Hamilton, in line with Northern mercantile interests. In exchange for support by the agrarian South for the bank, Hamilton agreed to ensure sufficient support to have the federal capitol moved from its temporary Northern location, New York, to a Southern location on the Potomac.

Happily, the First Bank’s charter expired in 1811 without being renewed. Sadly, “the next several years witnessed the proliferation of federally issued Treasury Notes…to finance the War of 1812” leading to runaway inflation. The Second Bank of the U.S. was chartered in 1816 in the hopes that it would end the inflation. Ron Paul has pointed out that this “aided and abetted ever more [monetary] expansion and the creation of a boom-bust cycle.”

Andrew Jackson denounced the central bank as an engine of corruption, referring to it as “The Great Whore of Babylon.” He felt that “the bank, by controlling the nation’s money supply, had great power over the economy, gave its wealthy owners a large return with very little risk, and was involved in corruption, such as bribing government officials.” This was a major political issue of the 1830s. Therefore, when he was president (1829-1837), he withdrew federal deposits from the Second Bank of the U.S. and it closed in 1836.

(An interesting side note and my favorite thing about the Jackson presidency is that he is the only president ever to eliminate the national debt. No wonder he’s on the $20 bill!)

So, history has shown that it’s possible to get rid of a central bank. And the passage of Ron Paul’s “Audit the Fed” bill (HR 459) in the House this week is very encouraging. Next stop, the Senate!

When Americans Understood the Declaration of Independence

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo



The Fourth of July was not always a national celebration of the militarization of American society and of the federal government’s never-ending quest for world domination (disguised as “defending our interests abroad”). Americans did not always attend church services on the Sunday before the Fourth of July to “honor” their “military heroes” and pray that they may kill many more human beings in other countries that have done them no harm. Americans once actually read and understood the Declaration of Independence for what it was: a declaration of secession from the British empire and a roadmap for opposing a highly centralized, militaristic empire of the sort the U.S. government has become.

The Declaration of Independence was the ultimate secessionist or states’ rights document. “Governments are instituted among men,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, for the sole purpose of securing God-given, “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Moreover, governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” and nowhere else. And “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government . . .”

The way in which “the People” were to express their consent (or lack thereof) was through state and local political organizations. Hence, in the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson wrote that: “We . . . the Representatives of the united States of America . . . are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”

It is important to note that the word “united” is not capitalized but “States” is, and that the individual states are described as “Free and Independent.” Thus, the free, independent, and sovereign states were united in the cause of secession from the British empire. The phrase “united States” did not mean, and does not mean in any of the founding documents, the “United States government,” as is commonly believed today. It is always in the plural to signify that the free and independent states are united in their common cause of protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To Jefferson and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, each American state was sovereign in the same sense that Great Britain, France, and Spain were sovereign states. It was through “representatives of the united States” that the consent of the people was to be expressed (or not).

It was Abraham Lincoln, who Murray Rothbard once described as a masterful “liar, conniver, and manipulator,” whose rhetoric began to fog the understanding of Americans of their Declaration of Independence. Lincoln’s twisted language in The Gettysburg Address that focused solely on the words “all men are created equal” in the Declaration, were designed to reinterpret the preeminent secessionist document as an anti-secessionist document. It was an attempt to fool Northern voters into believing in the absurd notion that he was a Jeffersonian.

Not that Lincoln ever believed that all men were – or should be considered to be – equal in any sense. As he stated in the September 18, 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas: “I will say than that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that here is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race” (emphasis added).

In his first inaugural address Lincoln strongly supported the Fugitive Slave Act and the proposed “Corwin Amendment” to the Constitution, which had already passed the House and Senate, which would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery. Thus, it was his position that slavery should be explicitly enshrined in the Constitution, made “express and irrevocable” to use his exact words, which is hardly the position one who believes that “all men are created equal” would take. It was empty political rhetoric at its worst.

At the time, nearly everyone else in the Northern states understood the actual meaning of the Declaration of Independence, as opposed to Lincoln’s attempt at the rhetorical bastardization of the document. This point is documented in a two-volume work entitled Northern Editorials on Secession, edited by Howard Cecil Perkins. It is a collection of 495 Northern newspaper editorials from September 1860 through June 1861 on the issue of secession. The majority of Northern newspaper editorials, writes Perkins, favored peaceful secession because Northern editorialists generally believed in the Jeffersonian dictum that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The Southern states no longer consented to being governed by Washington, D.C., they reasoned, therefore, they should be allowed to go in peace, however misguided their reasons for secession might have been. “During the weeks following the election [of Lincoln], Perkins writes, “[Northern] editors . . . assumed that secession as a constitutional right was not in question . . . . On the contrary, the southern claim to a right of peaceable withdrawal was countenanced out of reverence for the natural law principle of government by consent of the governed.”

Perkins highlights what he calls “a classic statement” of this position, written by New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley on November 9, 1860: “We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.” At the time, the New York Tribune was the most influential newspaper in America. There are dozens of other statements to that effect from newspapers all over the Northern states. On December 17, 1860, the New York Tribune further editorialized that if “Mr. Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed” is accepted, and “if it justified the secession from the British Empire of Three Millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.”

This view of the Declaration of Independence, the pro-Lincoln Indianapolis Daily Journal wrote on December 22, 1860, “shows us the course to be pursued towards South Carolina. It is to let her go freely and entirely . . . without resistance.” On January 11, 1861, the Kenosha, Wisconsin Democrat added that “the very freedom claimed by every individual citizen, precludes the idea of compulsory association, as individuals, as communities, or as States . . . . The right of secession adheres to the people of every sovereign state.” “The founders of our government,” moreover, “were constant secessionists . . . not only in theory, but in practice,” the Wisconsin paper reminded its readers.

“[I]f disunion must come, let it come without war,” wrote the Albany, New York Atlas and Argus on January 12, 1861. For war would mean “the ruin of business, the destruction of property, oppressive debt, grinding taxation and sacrifice of millions of lives . . .” On the same day the New York Journal of Commerce advocated the peaceful secession of the Southern states by asking, “Shall we, by such a policy [as war] change our government from a voluntary one, in which the people are sovereigns, to a despotism where one part of the people are slaves? Such is the logical deduction from the policy of the advocates of force.”

On February 19, 1861 the Detroit Free Press expressed the hope that “By recognizing the independence of the Southern Confederacy, we should, to a considerable degree, disarm its people of the hostility they naturally feel towards the people of the North.” If so, then the two sections could trade with one another, establishing ties that could eventually lead to a reuniting of the union.

On March 11, 1861 the Trenton, New Jersey Daily True American editorialized that failing to acquiesce in the peaceful secession of the Southern states would be to “embark in the mad and Quixotic attempt of conquering and holding the seceded States in subjugation.” Furthermore, the pro-war argument that “the laws must be enforced at all hazards” [i.e., Lincoln’s argument], “are not new arguments; they are such as prevailed with Lord North and the other minions of George III and their futile efforts to crush out American Independence.” A union maintained by force “would be worse than a mockery,” the New Jersey newspaper wrote.

On March 21, 1861 the New York Times pointed out that even “the Abolitionists everywhere have been in favor of a dissolution of the Union from the beginning” as a way of politically isolating the Southern states and pressuring them to end slavery. (It should be noted that New York did not emancipate its last slaves until 1853). “Let us separate in peace,” the Times editorialized, for “force, as a means of restoring the Union . . . is out of the question.” Even the Springfield Daily Illinois State Journal, from Lincoln’s home town, wrote on April 3, 1861 that “the sooner we cut loose from the disaffected States, the better it may be for all parties and for the nation.” “Public opinion in the North seems to be gradually settling down in favor of the recognition of the New Confederacy by the Federal Government,” the Hartford, Connecticut Daily Courant editorialized on April 12, 1861.

Once Lincoln manipulated South Carolinians into firing on Fort Sumter as a pretext for invading his own country (the very definition of treason according to Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution), newspapers that were associated with and controlled by the Republican Party invented the fiction that there is a supposed difference between a right of secession based on Jefferson’s words in the Declaration and a “right of revolution.” The former was illegitimate, they said, whereas the latter was not. This was not something that Jefferson or any other founders believed. It was an invention of the Republican Party propaganda apparatus, and is repeated to this day by pseudo-historians such as Harry Jaffa and his fellow “Straussian” neocons.

Another Republican Party fiction is the bizarre claim that Lincoln was a Jeffersonian for having mouthed the words “all men are created equal” in the Gettysburg Address. This fiction is the cornerstone of the Jaffa/Straussian false “history” of the “Civil War.” (Jaffa has never written anything about the war per se, or even many of Lincoln’s actions and behavior. His books have to do mostly with the rhetoric of Lincoln’s speeches).

This second fiction has long been a cornerstone of the culture of lies and propaganda that supports American military imperialism. It is the language of permanent revolution, as the late Mel Bradford wrote in numerous articles and books, not too different from the ideology of the twentieth-century communist propagandist Leon Troksky who was also known for his theory of “permanent revolution.” (It should not be surprising that many of the founders of “neoconservatism” who were students of Leo Strauss or his students, proudly boasted that they were Troskyites in their youth. The late Irving Kristol would be the best example).

By the late nineteenth century Lincoln’s bastardization of Jefferson’s language in the Declaration of Independence was employed to “justify” aggressive military imperialism in the name of spreading “equality” around the globe. “All men” means all men, not just American men, the “progressives” argued. Therefore, in the name of the sainted “Father Abraham” [Lincoln], Americans were told that it was their “divine” duty to invade, conquer, and occupy such places as the Philippines in order to bring American-style freedom to those lands. Today the Philippines, tomorrow Europe. For example, one of the most vociferous proponents of the Spanish-American war was Indiana Senator Albert Jeremiah Beveridge, who advocated the war in a speech before the U.S. Senate in which he declared that: “It was America’s destiny to set the world its example of right and honor, for we cannot fly from our world duties. We cannot retreat from any soil where Providence has unfurled our banner. It is ours to save that soil, for liberty and civilization” (Quoted in Gregg Jones, Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream, p. 95).

More than 200,000 Filipinos were murdered by American soldiers in order to “save” their “soil” for liberty. As for the real Jeffersonians who opposed the Spanish-American war, Beveridge mocked them by saying, “the opposition tells us we ought not to rule a people without their consent.” But Filipinos were not capable of self-government, he said. They needed their American occupiers to “rescue” them from “savage, bloody rule of pillage and extortion.” This “march of the flag” is “America’s divine destiny,” he bloviated. This last passage sounds more like the effects of the American invasion and occupation of the Philippines than the cause.

If Americans ever began celebrating the real meaning of the Declaration of Independence, then they would embrace the Jeffersonian rights of secession and nullification as a means of fighting back against governmental tyranny. They would also withdraw their support for the U.S. government’s aggressive wars of imperialism in the Middle East and elsewhere, along with its hundreds of military bases on every continent on the planet. They might even begin an opposition to being plundered by the incredibly corrupt military/industrial/congressional complex and its main funding sources, the Fed and the income tax.

July 4, 2012

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today. His next book is entitled Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.

Copyright © 2012 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

June 28, 2012
Mises Daily

Laissez-Faire Learning
by David Greenwald on June 27, 2012
As a teacher in a public high school, I am daily confronted with the lamentable realities of state-monopoly education. Student apathy, methodological stagnation, bureaucratic inefficiency, textbook-publishing cartels, obsessive preoccupation with grades, coercive relationships, and rigid, sanitized curricula are just a few of the more obvious problems, attended by the cold-shower disillusionment and gradual burnout among teachers to which they almost invariably lead.

While outcomes such as these are certainly tragic, the process that produces them is not exactly the stuff of Greek theater. There is no climactic battle, no cathartic denouement, no salvific moral lesson to be taken home when the curtain falls, and seldom are there any readily identifiable heroes or villains. It is not a single, epic calamity but a thousand trivial defeats a day, each too mundane and too quickly obscured by its successor to be considered noteworthy. Like a bad movie, public education somehow manages to be both tragic and boring. It is only its cumulative result that would have impressed Sophocles.

Oddly enough, although there is overwhelming public support for compulsory, tax-funded schooling, enthusiasm for what actually goes on in public schools is noticeably lacking. Not only are they generally acknowledged to be falling short in their efforts to produce an enlightened citizenry, but it is even conceded that they have failed in what is ostensibly their most exalted mission: the provision of equal opportunity for all via a standardized system of mass instruction in which all students receive the same basic set of knowledge and skills. Nor has this indictment originated solely from among the ranks of those opposed to egalitarianism on principle. To the contrary, it is largely the refrain of embittered progressives for whom “free” universal education has long been the desideratum of social justice, and who cannot understand how the behemoth they so vigorously midwifed into existence and then wet-nursed for a century could have so thoroughly betrayed their loftiest and most cherished ideal.

Yet ironically, it is the unassailable faith in the achievability of precisely this ideal of universal equality that immunizes public education against every reasonable argument advanced in opposition to it. Notwithstanding its manifest shortcomings, none of which has found a remedy despite decades of legislative reform, hardly anyone is prepared to see this system replaced by anything resembling a real market in education due to the deeply held conviction that that those of lesser material means either would not be able to afford market-based schooling or, in the very best case, would receive only substandard services inadequate to the task of ensuring equality of economic opportunity later in life. It is a further irony, though hardly surprising, that neither the economic knowledge nor the analytic discernment necessary for an examination of these claims has ever been or will ever be taught in a public school. No emperor willingly trains his own subjects to recognize nakedness when they see it.

Given this state of affairs, it devolves on individuals, both within and outside of the school system, to educate others about education. In what follows I will attempt to address what I see as the three primary objections raised against the idea of market-based education:

that educational services on the market would be at a premium, with prices high enough to exclude at least the lowest-income strata of society;

that even if the less affluent could afford some market-based education, it would be of a substantially inferior quality to that received by wealthier consumers of educational services; and

that the lack of a universal curriculum and standardized criteria of achievement would render the market incapable of providing the equality of opportunity that public education, however unsatisfactorily, at least aims in principle to ensure.

We will examine each of these arguments in turn. As will be shown, the first two rest on a misunderstanding of markets, while the third stems from a grossly distorted concept of education from which, if they took the time to examine it closely, probably even most progressives would recoil in horror.

Argument 1: Affordability

In order to understand why educational services on a free market would as a rule be priced well within the reach of the vast majority of income earners, we must first ask why the market produces anything at all for such persons. Since it is obvious that the wealthiest few have far more purchasing power per capita than those in the middle- and lower-income strata, why does the market not produce only for the former group and leave the latter two homeless and starving? Why is sugar, once a luxury of the rich, today a household item so widely and cheaply available that the US government feels called on to impose tariffs on imports and buy up domestic surpluses to keep the price artificially high? Why is the same kilobyte of computer memory that cost around $45 twenty years ago today priced at a fraction of a cent?

The simple answer is this: competition. When a good first appears on the market, the supply of it is strictly limited. To the extent that consumers value it highly, they will bid against each other for the minimal stock available, causing the price to rise until all but the wealthiest consumers drop out of the market. As long as there is no expansion of supply, and assuming the consumers do not change their valuations, the good will remain a luxury of the rich.

However, it is precisely this condition that provides producers with the incentive to increase production of the product. The high price yields supernormal profits that draw venture capitalists and entrepreneurs into that line of production, thereby increasing the supply, lowering the price, and most importantly, bringing exponentially greater numbers of consumers into the market. This process continues until that portion of profits that exceeds the general rate prevailing in other industries disappears, bringing the expansion to a halt. But by that time, the good has long since ceased to be a toy for the rich. To paraphrase Mises, yesterday’s luxury has become today’s necessity.

Of course, while this process works in essentially the same way for all goods, some goods — diamonds, for example — tend to remain luxury items indefinitely due to the high cost of producing them. It is, after all, the consumers who, in the aggregate, must ultimately pay for any lasting expansion of industry. If the capital expenditures necessary for the production of a good exceed the willingness or ability of the consumers to offset them, no sustained increase in the supply of that good will be possible.

So how would this dynamic work on a market for education? Assuming that educational services as such would be given high priority on the value scales of most consumers, would the cost of producing them keep them priced beyond the means of the typical wage-earner? Here we must be particularly careful not to engage in what psychologists call static thinking. We must ask ourselves, not how much it would cost for private entrepreneurs to produce curricula and instruction as these are presently constituted, but rather to what extent and in what ways schooling in its current form squanders resources, and how it might be streamlined and otherwise improved in the crucible of free competition.

One point is clear: the greater and more numerous the inefficiencies of the current system, the more radical its transformation by the market would be. And just how inefficient is the present system? Well, who runs it? On what principles does it operate? Does it allow students the freedom, for example, to take courses in what they are most interested in and eschew subjects they do not wish to study? Or does it rather saddle them with a bloated, one-size-fits-all curriculum prodigiously crammed full of skills and information they neither need nor want, thereby creating artificial demand for teachers and administrative staff, stimulating construction of needlessly large (or simply needless) facilities, boosting energy consumption and capital maintenance costs, and so forth? To get an idea of the sorts of “practical competencies” students in today’s public and state-regulated high schools are expected to (pretend to) master and retain for use in later life,[1] here is a randomly-selected excerpt from the scintillating epistle “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Mathematics,” issued by the Texas Education Agency:

§111.35. Precalculus (One-Half to One Credit).

Knowledge and skills.
The student defines functions, describes characteristics of functions, and translates among verbal, numerical, graphical, and symbolic representations of functions, including polynomial, rational, power (including radical), exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and piecewise-defined functions. The student is expected to:
describe parent functions symbolically and graphically, including f(x) = xn, f(x) = 1n x, f(x) = loga x, f(x) = 1/x, f(x) = ex, f(x) = |x|, f(x) = ax, f(x) = sin x, f(x) = arcsin x, etc.;
determine the domain and range of functions using graphs, tables, and symbols;
describe symmetry of graphs of even and odd functions;
recognize and use connections among significant values of a function (zeros, maximum values, minimum values, etc.), points on the graph of a function, and the symbolic representation of a function; and
investigate the concepts of continuity, end behavior, asymptotes, and limits and connect these characteristics to functions represented graphically and numerically.
Got all that?

$15.00 $10.00

Of course, administrative costs and restrictions on entry and labor-market flexibility also impact cost-efficiency. How do public schools hold up in these areas? Are their operational rules and procedures clear, concise, and easy to follow? Or does it take, say, 670 pages and whole cadres of lawyers, consultants, and administrative support staff just to implement a single program? Regarding entry, how easy is it to qualify as a member of the academy? Is anyone who demonstrates a potential aptitude for meeting the educational demands of students given the opportunity to try to do so? Or is club membership restricted by legal quotas and licensure requirements necessitating lengthy and expensive formal training?

And how flexible is the labor market? Can an underperforming or incompetent employee be readily replaced? Or does even a mere suspension require a hearing before a three-member commission?[2]

We do not have space here to speculate on all the optimizing innovations creative entrepreneurs might come up with, and to do so would be presumptuous in any case. As John Hasnas has pointed out, if we could forecast the future market accurately, our very ability to do this would be the greatest possible justification for central planning.[3] Suffice it to say that today’s public and government-regulated private schools dissipate resources with a profligacy that would have made Ludwig II blush. We can hardly claim, then, that these institutions — whose costs are externalized onto the whole society — are paragons of affordability. Yet education is not a capital-intensive industry, and market competition would surely eliminate most of this waste in short order, allowing educational entrepreneurs to reduce their costs, lower their prices, and take advantage of economies of scale. As for those few who might still be unable to pay, lower prices would mean that private scholarships, grants, and student loans would be available in greater abundance than they are today, and the latter would no longer require ten years of indentured servitude to pay off.

Just as with sugar, automobiles, civil aviation, and cell phones,[4] so too in education high initial profits would draw competition, increase supply, reduce cost, and multiply innovation. There is no reason for market-driven educational services tailored specifically to the desires of those who consume them to be prohibitively expensive.[5]

Argument 2: Quality

A second argument against leaving education to the market is that to do so would result in grave disparities in quality of service. The rich, it is said, would get steak, while the poor got rump roast. Of course, there is a kernel of truth in this. The more you are prepared to offer for something, the more quality you are in a position to demand. The market is indeed a place where the principle embodied in the cliché “You get what you pay for” prevails.

But what exactly do you pay for? The answer to this question is not necessarily obvious. To illustrate, I offer a personal example.

Many years ago, I worked at a tavern-style restaurant that was part of a nationwide chain. With its eclectic menu, modest prices, and dollar-a-mug draft beers, it was a place where families could go on a budget, and weekend drinkers could go on a binge. Not exactly Alain Ducasse, but we did offer a steak (T-bone, as I recall) for around $10. What is interesting about this is that right next door was a more upscale steakhouse that also served T-bone; only this one went for something like $22. Nothing unusual about that, but here’s the catch: both restaurants were owned by the same company and both served exactly the same T-bone steak.

At first blush, this seems absurd. Why would any company compete with itself? And why, for that matter, would anyone in his right mind pay $22 for a steak he could get for less than half that just by walking across the parking lot? Situations like this have led to calls for governments to step in and “protect” consumers from their own “irrationality.” But there is nothing irrational going on here. The two restaurants were not in competition, because they served different clientele, and patrons had definite reasons for the choices they made about which restaurant to patronize. Ours wanted to cut the frills, sit at the bar, and save money; theirs were willing to pay more than double the price for the plush seats, subdued ambience, and tuxedoed waiters. The essential thing, however, is that both were eating the same steak.

The relationship between price and quality is therefore not as straightforward as we might imagine. It is certainly true that you get what you pay for, but it is equally true that you pay for what you get. To be sure, on the education market, those with the wherewithal could attend schools equipped with indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, amphitheaters, and state-of-the-art IT. But this does not mean that everyone else could not make do with less extravagance and still get the same basic service.

Of course, all this in no way suggests that quality of educational services would be identical. Such a conclusion would be absurd. What we have demonstrated is simply the fallacious reasoning behind the common assumption that where price is low, product must be unsatisfactory. What does not satisfy is not profitable. Products and services that do not meet the needs of consumers — rich and poor — will soon have, not a low price, but no price.

Argument 3: Opportunity

We now turn to a final argument for public education that goes beyond economics, though even here there is a parallel. Deeply rooted in the belief that justice means equality and equality means identical circumstances, this view holds that educational standards and curricula must be essentially uniform for everyone if all students are to be given the same opportunity to succeed in life. Here, the anticipated failure of the market lies, not in its high prices or disparate quality, but in its presumably excessive flexibility and diversity. In essence, this argument is really nothing more than a special case of the more general socialist contempt for the division of labor. But what is the “division of labor” in education? What is its meaning, and why should we fear its emergence?

We are accustomed to conceiving of education, not as an abstraction, but as a “real thing” existing in the world outside; a commodity possessed by some people whom we call “teachers” and transferred, more or less mechanically, to other people called “students.” This habit of thought is reflected in our language: it is far more common to talk about getting an education than about becoming educated. Yet the greatest thinkers in this area have repeatedly emphasized that education is, in fact, a process of becoming. This is what Maria Montessori meant when she said that if our definition of education proceeds

along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?

Montessori urged an approach to pedagogy that would “help toward the complete unfolding of life,” and “rigorously … avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.”

John Dewey expressed similar views. In his seminal work Democracy and Education, Dewey places the onus of responsibility for education squarely on the shoulders of the individual student:

One is mentally an individual only as he has his own purpose and problem, and does his own thinking. The phrase “think for oneself” is a pleonasm. Unless one does it for oneself, it isn’t thinking. Only by a pupil’s own observations, reflections, framing and testing of suggestions can what he already knows be amplified and rectified. Thinking is as much an individual matter as is the digestion of food. [Moreover], there are variations of point of view, of appeal of objects, and of mode of attack, from person to person. When these variations are suppressed in the alleged interests of uniformity, and an attempt is made to have a single mold of method of study and recitation, mental confusion and artificiality inevitably result. Originality is gradually destroyed, confidence in one’s own quality of mental operation is undermined, and a docile subjection to the opinion of others is inculcated, or else ideas run wild. (p. 311–12)

For both Dewey and Montessori, education starts from the inside and moves outward.[6] Its purpose is to stimulate discovery and development of the personal resources latent within the self by allowing the student to experience the myriad possibilities for bringing them to bear creatively on the external world.

This means that becoming educated is not a matter of passively acquiring what is given, but of actively discovering what one has to give. It means that education does not create opportunity; opportunity creates education.

Regimentation and uniformity must therefore be jettisoned entirely; the individual must reign supreme within the sphere of his own development. The function of the school is to provide a stable environment rich in stimuli across a broad spectrum of disciplines, while the role of the teacher becomes primarily that of the observer who watches as closely — and intervenes as sparingly — as possible.

From this it follows that no two individuals would or could possibly educate themselves in exactly the same way. The self-directed intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual explorations of millions of people simultaneously thus result in an unfathomable diversification of interests and activities that amounts to an educational “division of labor” — one that supports and enhances the division of labor of the market economy, and is in fact its logical precursor.

It must surely be obvious that such a philosophy is in every way wholly incompatible with systems of compulsory or universalized schooling aimed at “equalizing opportunity,” and moreover, that even to use the word opportunity in connection with compulsion or regimentation is to abuse language, otherwise we might just as well reinstate slavery in the name of providing equal “employment opportunity.”

Education, if it is to be worthy of the name, demands a method opposite to that of bureaucratic management and entirely irreconcilable with it. It requires flexibility, parsimony, innovation, and above all, a means of daily subjecting the producers of educational services to the competition of their peers and the approval or disapproval of their clients.

It requires, in other words, the free market.


$10.00 $7.00

In Slovenia where I teach, the verb “to learn” literally translates “to teach oneself.” If the truth behind this linguistic convention were widely recognized, it would discredit the very premise on which all systems of public education are founded. But, as the great economist Frédéric Bastiat warned more than a century and a half ago, there is a pronounced tendency when confronted with important questions to consider only what is seen and ignore that which is not seen. And this just as true in education as it is in economics. We see students go to school day after day for 12 years, do as they’re told, get their diplomas, and finally go on to do something with their lives. Perhaps from our vantage point it does not look so bad. But what we do not see is what they might have become had they been allowed to be the architects of their own fate from the beginning

Here are three quotes from John Holt. We need more John Holt types in what we call ‘education’ today.

“Education… now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of
all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the
modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but
producers, consumers, spectators, and ‘fans,’ driven more and more, in all
parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve
‘education’ but to do away with it, to end the ugly and antihuman business of
people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves.”
— John Holt
(1923-1985) American author and educator, proponent of homeschooling, and pioneer in youth rights theory
Source: Holt, J. (1967). How Children Learn. New York: Pitman Publishing Corporation

“I believe that we learn best when we, not others are deciding what we are
going to learn, and when we are choosing the people, materials, and experiences
from which we will be learning.”
— John Holt
(1923-1985) American author and educator, proponent of homeschooling, and pioneer in youth rights theory
Source: Holt, J. (1967). How Children Learn. New York: Pitman Publishing Corporation

“The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any
school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning
is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of
— John Holt
(1923-1985) American author and educator, proponent of homeschooling, and pioneer in youth rights theory
Source: Holt, J. (1967). How Children Learn. New York: Pitman Publishing Corporation

Eric Peters throws in the woods again.

Going Deep

June 12, 2012


Some friends have been actively talking about their Exit Plans – about getting out of this country before the curtain goes down. While there is still time. They believe the situation to be hopeless. That despite the upwelling of liberty-mindedness among some, the vast majority of Americans are not liberty-minded. That Americans – tens of millions of them – are stupid, unreachable, mean, irrational, authoritarian-minded Babbits and poltroons. People who always speak in “we” – and lust to control others.

Reluctantly, I have to concede the point.

I have had exhaustive (and exhausting) conversations with countless people – some of them probably a lot smarter than I in terms of raw IQ – who just can’t connect the dots.

Or – much worse – don’t care to.

The problem is as much psychological as it is intellectual. There may just be a defective sub-species of human being, homo servilus, who – much like a bee in a hive – is programmed to crave the collective and therefore accepts its corollary – coercion – as the natural and right order of things.

It’s very easy to get these “bees” to reveal their true natures. Their core antipathy to individualism – and its corollary, liberty. Just let them know, for example, that you find sports/celebrity worship disgusting. Or that you don’t subscribe to any particular religious doctrine – or much care what doctrines others subscribe to, so long as they leave you be.

Let them discover that you don’t feel obliged to pay more taxes for “our children” – only an obligation to take care of your own children. Criticize war.

Make a negative comment about cops… .

So, I don’t disagree that jumping ship is probably a smart move. Nonetheless, I’m reluctant to leave the country, for many reasons – high among them just orneriness. This is my country, dammit. I hate the idea of just giving it to … them.

That said, I am beginning to wish I’d “gone deep” when I selected our fallback redoubt. We consciously moved to very rural SW Va. from the Northern Virginia area (near DC) about eight years ago to a great extent to limit our exposure to what’s surely coming. But I am thinking now that we would have been smarter to have moved to rural Idaho or Wyoming or Montana (like Chuck Baldwin did) instead. There are too many Clovers here.

And signs of sprouting continue to worry me.

For example: Several recent “letters to the editor” in our small community newspaper go on and on about how “we” need to raise taxes on real estate so that “our schools” will have “adequate funding.” There is one school – an elementary school in a far corner of the county – threatened with closure because of limited “revenue” and not enough students to justify keeping it open. So the idea was floated to close it and consolidate it with another. “The children” would then get bussed a little farther to their new school. This is an outrage to the parentsites of these children, who believe others should be compelled to provide the necessary “revenue” to keep the old school open for their children.

Everything discussed in terms of “we,” of course. It’s never my children need you to pay for their school.

If I were to speak at a public hearing about this and ask why don’t people who chose to have children bear the responsibility for raising their kids – which includes educating their kids – as opposed to their kids becoming an open-ended claim on the property – on the liberty – of other people who had nothing to do with it… I’d likely be the victim of a mob beating. At minimum, I’d become a community pariah – regarded as “selfish” and “anti-child” (as well as “anti-education”) … because I am troubled by armed men threatening to kill me and take my property so that it may be given to someone else’s kids – kids I’ve never even met let alone had anything to do with bringing into this world. It is no defense, either, that such a policy makes it that much harder for people who’d like to pay their own way to do so.

Other people’s kids take  precedence. Over everything.

It never occurs to these “freedom loving” Americans that freedom can’t exist when you are no longer free to say no to being forced to hand over your rightful property to other people to whom you properly speaking owe nothing – other than goodwill. That if “the children” becomes a justification for theft, then any other reason is just as good a reason.

But don’t dare say it out loud…. these freedom-loving Americans will very quickly show you just how much they actually believe in freedom… including even the freedom to speak your mind, if your mind differs in any meaningful respect from  the parameters of orthodoxical Republican or Democrat parameters.

The only cardinal sin is to commit non-authoritarianism. To state that you don’t want anything from anyone except their respect for your rights – and are willing to extend the same courtesy in return.

It is a thought increasingly foreign to Americans – even here, in a rural southern farming county 35 miles from anything in most places and often a lot farther than that.

Another example:

In our tiny, literally on-stoplight county, the same government that moans about not having sufficient “revenue” for “the children” recently spent probably several thousand dollars painting at least six “pedestrian crosswalks” in town, complete with “safety man” icons imprinted into the pavement plus signage. Apparently, people cannot cross the street unaided here, either. I have no doubt that tickets for jaywalking are right around the corner. Tazerings for the non-compliant.

Signs of the apocalypse.

There is talk of writing zoning laws – which this county has never had – and which will surely mean The End of everything that made moving here worth doing. People will no longer just be able to freely buy and sell their land, to be used however the new owner wishes. There will instead be restrictions on how a lot can subdivided – and what may be “lawfully” constructed on said lot. I can already see a time when BTK-type “zoning enforcement officers” will be knocking on people’s doors, threatening them with onerous fines (and ultimately, county seizure and auction of “their” land) if they don’t mow it, or have too many cars parked on it or a “not approved” shed built upon it… .

Clovers. The god-damn bastards are here now, too.

It only took them eight years to find this place – and ruin it.

It’s entirely possible that nowhere in North America is a safe redoubt.

What happens, ultimately, depends on the character of the people. And the character of the American people – by and large – is one that reflexively defers to authority – willingly, worshipfully. That happily submits to the most despicable degradation if it will “keep them safe.” And which never fails to speak in terms of we.

So, where do the rest of us – the remnant that still believes in I – go to get away from we?

That, friends, is the question of our time.

Throw it in the Woods?