Archive for the ‘Home School’ Category

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 They could’ve been replaced by numbers (Claudia tells me in Argentina they were graded by numbers from one to ten.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.


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.

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

I saw this article over at a short time back. I got sidetracked and didn’t post it. I found it again when I followed Strangers and Aliens today. Great post!

Strangers and Aliens







by Anthony Wile
The Daily Bell

Introduction: Brett Veinotte has worked in private education for the last 10 years, in a variety of activities. As host of the School Sucks Podcast, every week Brett shares his discoveries about American schooling with thousands of listeners. He is also now the vice president of a tutoring and educational consulting company in New Hampshire. Brett worked as an Outdoor Education Leader at a boarding school lin Vermont in 2000, then taught at the Great Expectations school in Manchester, Vermont from 2004 to 2006, where he designed new curricula for all classes he taught, including American History, World History, Media Ethics, Film History and a variety of mathematics courses. While teaching at Great Expectations, he completed masters level coursework in educational leadership, and the secondary education certification program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. After…

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Logo of the United States Department of Agricu...

Makes ya feel safe, don't it?

When I quiz students trailing out of the USDA approved feeding line about the contents of the “meat” on their tray, no one can’t identify it. The usual response is “I don’t know” or “mystery meat.” The mystery is solved. It’s ammonia!

That’s right. Students in our government gulags, trained not to question anything, are thankful to eat this slimy, ammonia hydroxide-treated concoction of meat/connective tissue. The hypocrisy of the USDA (and all State initial-sporting agencies) knows no bounds. Ammonium hydroxide can turn into ammonium nitrate. You know, the stuff used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building. I’m surprised Big Sis hasn’t sent in Homeland Security to raid these pre-terrorist lunchrooms. How does 7 million pounds of potential bomb making material slip by the Feds? It didn’t slip anywhere. The USDA bought it to fed to the schooled children. They have the best interest of your child’s health in mind.

Talk about a gut bomb!

Fast-food giant McDonalds stopped serving this slop, thanks to choice and the free market. In the government school monopoly, your child has to choose between pink ammonia patties or various other mysterious USDA pyramid foods. Or, you could try slipping a homemade lunch past the Food Nazis.

Just color it pink to blend in. Yum!

We live in a sick world…a bubble if you will.

I work in what I call the “Education Bubble” of forced institutional schooling.

Here’s what is taught inside the Education Bubble: Schooling equals education, our Government is benevolent and here to help, mainstream media reports the facts, the group trumps the individual, and the Federal Reserve is a government entity. These are only a few myths promoted in the bubble.

Outside the bubble, people realize: Government schools dumb us down, instead of protecting freedom – the State enslaves, main stream media lies, the Collective erases the individual, and the FED is a private cartel of robbers and murderers. What’s sad is that the herd within the bubble can’t see the truth…or they choose not to see it.

I’m employed to work in the Education Bubble. In a stroke of genius using sleight of hand, our 19th century total-statism elites named forced schooling “education.” More accurate labels such as forced schooling and indoctrination centers were rejected by the Prussian influenced elites for fear of participation in a parade of tar and feathers, with rails provided by the commoners. “Education” is what it’s called.  Schooled is what we get. What a clever way to keep the ignorant masses useful.

Tired of getting schooled?

If so, here are five simple ways to deflate the Education Bubble.

1. Poke a hole in it. Join the other 2 million plus non-“Educated” Americans who sharpened their #2 pencils and poked a hole in the Education Bubble. In my middle class suburban school, I personally know of 4 families that punctured the bubble. This number comes from just the kids I teach. I can only encourage more to follow. That’s what Education Vigilantes do. Also, opt out of standardized testing. Go to The Bartleby Project for more info.

2. Become an Education Vigilante. It’s a shameless plug. Take your education into your own hands. Question everything. Why would you trust the development of your mind, body, soul and spirit to a top-down, failing bureaucracy? My wake up call came 13 years ago. My alarm clock startled me – not the one beside my bed. That internal, eternal ticking noise. The “Matrix” did it for me. After watching the block-buster on the big screen (the best way to view this movie), I realized I was part of the herd in many ways. I was asleep with the sheep, living in the bubble created by our owners. That started my journey out of the bubble. What about you?

3. Figure out a way to get the job done. A coach I worked for years ago said that to me as he gave me the job of renovating the press box for our football stadium. “How much do I have to spend?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said. “Figure out a way to get the job done.” I did. That was a physical renovation. How much more important is your child? Money is not an object if it’s important. Many object to homeschooling and self-education because of money issues. It can be done on a shoe-string budget. Get out of debt and live within your means so your children can be free and free to learn.

The growing movement to self-educate threatens the Education Bubble. State force is the only method to keep this bubble from rupturing.

4. Pursue your passion. eLearning and networking are the wave of the future. There’s not much that can’t be learned off the internet that Al Gore invented. Thanks Al! Figure out where you’re passionate. What makes you pound the table with your fist? Once you find what cranks your engine, pursue it, and be the expert. Become the go-to-guy/gal. It’s got to be something you love, or else people see through you. I read tons of information from blogs. I can tell when the writer is passionate about the subject. It shows in the content and adds value. Add value!

5. Research for yourself…then begin. Beginning is always the hardest part. Trust me, but verify. If the Education Bubble is working for you and yours, great. You’ll probably want to un-follow, un-like, and un-subscribe to my rantings. Reading a self-professed, professional irritant makes for higher blood pressure. Save yourself and quit reading – NOW! If you’ve gotten this far, and it makes sense, then welcome to freedom. Warning: The higher you climb, the fewer people you’ll encounter. Most of the people like to dwell in the valley. Climb anyway. The climb is well worth the freedom you find.

Every sane parent wants his/her children well-educated. Which method works: Public schools, private schools, or self-education via home education? Take a look at this graphic comparing 2008-2009 SAT scores: Homeschooling By The Numbers. The numbers don’t lie. Real education happens outside the bubble.

Sharpen a #2 pencil and get to popping. Your kids will thank you!


“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
— Dresden James

The continued existence of the failed socialist experiment of Government schools proves the above quote.

In the circle of schooled ignorance spiraling down the toilet bowl, I’ve run across several reasons why tax-payer funded educrats hate me and other self-educated, DIY educators.  Here are a few of my “lunatic” ranting that prevent me from rising in rank at the Government school factory (not that it’s my intention to rise to educrat status):

A. The self-educated students threaten the government’s monopoly on education and control of the collective. Follow the money!

B. I don’t serve the good of the group/society.  Self-educated people tend to be very self-reliant.  They aren’t dependent on government handouts. I ask too many questions. This adds sand to the assembly line of ignorance.

C. Non-mass minded individuals are not easily manipulated. It takes too much energy and too many lies to convince liberty lovers to worship stupid State institutions.

D. DIY-educators reject blind obedience to statist views enforced by legally licensed force and embrace moral integrity and self-ownership. We take education into their own hands. 

E. De-schooled students learn by exercising muscles like self-reliance, play, following their own interests, curiosity, passions, and thinking freely. The nature of Government schooling atrophies these vital muscles of learning.

F. Individuality is recognized by DIY educators.  Interest-Led learning is encouraged not crushed by State run curriculum and standardized testing. Added bonus: No BELLS!

G. Un-schooled/home schooled students experience freedom from violence against individual rights. They surpass schooled students academically. If you’re a stat-head, check out our report card here. 15 year-old public schooled students scored below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. At least we’re beating some nations. Mexico anyone?

H. DIY’ers have not forgotten the equation which should be taught in schools but is left out of the curriculum: Government = Force… and the threat of violence. As free individuals, we condemn the desire for power over other individuals.

I. Education Vigilantes recognize and embrace an individuals right to privacy. Big Sis cameras watch our every move in government schools – Except in front of the urinals…at least that’s what “they” tell us!

J. We recognize that no one, from the Department of Education, board of education, principal’s office, or even the most caring teacher, knows more about how YOU learn than YOU.  State-licensed “expert” teachers tell students what, how, when, why, and where to learn. Surely they know. They are the “experts” with the education degree(s).

K. Self-educators reject the State’s lip service to freedom and it’s crusade against ignorance. We recognize a Ponzi scheme when we see one. Institutional forced schooling is centralized control of the herd where the few control the many to create a cooperative, collective paradise. Government schooling is a social duty (a collectivist brain washing term) of all people for the sake of all people.

L. State-run schools promote the myth that the individual detracts from societal happiness. How can we have peace on earth and good will toward men with individualists in the mix? Individuals should melt into one societal glob. Education Vigilantes expose this myth at the expense of the Leviathan. Ouch! Self-education can’t be controlled by the State.

M. The number one reason statist educrats hate me is: I refuse to be collectivized…being right infuriates them!

Feel free to add more reasons in the comment section: Especially any statist trolls lurking!

The quest to turn base metals into gold has been my dream. With the right elixir and large cauldron, I’d be very wealthy indeed! Just think of all the potential gold you may have wasted by tossing those beer cans in the garbage. Another dream of mine (more of a request actually) is to turn Moose, my dog, into a unicorn. He told me he’d like that, especially the one-horn thing.  He says it’d make a great squirrel-skewer.

Just as chemistry has many alchemists to thank for knowledge gained on the road to easy gold, we in the government school business send props to our Utopian-dreaming fathers of publik skools. Like the elusive pot of gold, government schools created a dystopia: An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and fearful lives. But, we continue the search for the impossible by putting our faith and kids in the black cauldron of coercive government schools. If only we could discover the ancient formula buried in the floorboards of a dust covered laboratory. Many tricks and new methods are flooding government schools. None work.


What foolish charlatans! Failing American schools are no mystery to anyone: Especially those tossed in the roiling pot of public collectivism.  Students spend their school days graded by age, bored senseless, fed State propaganda, and made to endure useless tests and worksheets. I tell them, “This is NOT the real world.” When’s the last time you saw adults have to ask permission to go to the bathroom or walk in a straight line down a hallway? Oh yeah, in a prison, right? The few that do open their eyes to their predicament, I target for my Education Vigilante Apprenticeship Program. They’re invited to really explore individual freedom, out-side-the-cauldron stuff (self-ownership, liberty, freedom, etc.).

Thinning the herd is a methodical process. I use a one-on-one strategy. I’m seeing progress in the awakening of liberty in a few. However, the infatuation with government dependence is multi-generational and sickening really. Students aren’t taught history. The whole language reading programs ensure functional illiteracy. How could they know to call Bull$&^!  Deep down they know schooling is not right.

By the way, a huge hat tip to all those parents who realized the dumbing process of schooling and yanked their children from the State alchemy laboratory. Un-school, home school, de-school or anything but government school.  There’s an estimated 2 million American home schoolers who pulled the plug on schooling. Progressives and other statist types hate this growing trend. They brag on government schools, not for their ability to educate, but for the social education forced upon the captives in the cinder block cells. In my state, a score of 800 will meet standards on the high-stakes standardized tests. What parents are not told is that if their child scores 800 on all five sections of the test, they really only answered 50 percent of the questions correctly.  Wow Johnny, you passed the math portion!  It’s the only time he’ll get an ice cream party and a movie for making a F on a math test.

Don’t take my comments here to mean that I’m bashing students who pass the CRCT and other stupid torture tests.  I promote the Bartleby Project. I find it hard to believe the green environmentalists haven’t occupied the Department of Education to stop all the sacrificial tree killings to produce this wasted paper! I’m sure this might be a cause of global warming.

If only we could get all those wayward non-schooling folks back in the crucible, the collective would be complete. We could reach our mountain top and live in Utopia, insulated from stupid.

No amount of money stolen from tax payers or ancient secret formulas can turn the schooled into scholars. Science won’t allow it! Sadly, that’s never stopped the State from trying.


Famous Homeschoolers

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Home School, Liberty

Famous Homeschoolers

Re-Blogged from BLOGDIAL. This is a great resource for all things Libertarian!

Many U.S. Presidents were home schooled, among them:

George Washington, 1st President, 16th taught by his mother, father, and brother

John Quincy Adams, 2nd President accompanied his father to France at 11

Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, mother of John Quincy was taught by her clergyman father and in visits to her cultured grandparents who had an extensive library

James Madison, 4th taught by his grandmother until age 12

Zachary Taylor, 12th taught at home by a tutor

Millard Fillmore, 13th attended school for short periods; studied the Bible and a hymn book at home (those were the basic texts of that time)

James Buchanan, 15th learned arithmetic and bookkeeping in his father’s store

Abraham Lincoln, 16th taught by his stepmother

Andrew Johnson, 17th apprenticed to a tailor, learned to read at 18

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th taught by private tutor, at 19 was sent on the Grand Tour where he learned a few languages

Woodrow Wilson, 28th taught at home by his father in a home full of books, in the company of cultivated minds, until he entered college; didn’t learn to read until age 11 “What need was there to read when I could spend hours listening to others read aloud?”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd taught at home by a governess

Other Founding Fathers

Benjamin Franklin six months of schooling at age 8; worked in father’s candle shop at 10, father taught him to love good books, at 16 his first essay was published

Alexander Hamilton, statesman, politician taught by his mother and a clergyman, worked in a general store from 12 – 16, then entered college

Patrick Henry, Revolutionary leader informally taught reading, arithmetic, Latin, Greek ancient history by his father “Give me Liberty or give me Death.”

George Mason, Revolutionary statesman taught by his mother, occasionally tutored, studied law from an uncle who had a library of 15000 volumes Other Famous Non-Schoolers

Famous People

Ansel Adams, photographer “. . . had difficulty adjusting to traditional schools. His father decided to teach him at home, and the next years were extremely fruitful. Learning experiences were always tapped into the young boy’s intrinsic interests and ranged from playing the piano to visiting an exposition. Years later, after he had become internationally known for his creative photography, Adams paid tribute to the courage of a father who was willing to take risks, to listen to that “different drummer” unique to each child. In his autobiography, Adams wrote: ‘I am certain he established the positive direction of my life that otherwise, given my native hyperactivity, could have been confused and catastrophic. I trace who I am and the direction of my development to those years of growing up in our house on the dunes, propelled especially by an internal spark tenderly kept alive and glowing by my father.’”

– Reader’s Digest


Louisa May Alcott, author Little Women educated by her father

Susan B. Anthony, women’s rights leader home schooled by her father

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of telephone no interest in formal studies; taught by his talented mother

William Jennings Bryan, orator, statesman until age 10, taught my his mother who stood him on a small table to recite his lessons

Pearl Buck, author, Nobel & Pulitzer prizes taught by her mother until she started formal school at 17

William F. Buckley, political columnists taught at home by parents and tutors, father taught him politics at the dinner table

Andrew Carnegie, steel manufacturer Refused to go to school at age five so his parents kept him home. An uncle read to him out loud. After three years he went to school, but quit a 13, later to become one of the world’s richest men.

Charles Dickens, author, A Christmas Carol couldn’t afford school; “passions for reading were awakened by his mother” who also taught him English and later, Latin

Thomas Edison, inventor of light bulb, phonograph When the teacher called him “addled,” Edison’s mother told him that her son had “more sense in his little finger than you have in your entire body.” She took him out of school and taught him herself, making learning fun for him. She bought him books of experiments; then he went off on his own. Later, he hired a staff of educated scientists to work on the electric bulb, finally firing them all and figuring it out himself.

Robert Frost, poet, Pulitzer prize winner disliked school so much he became physically ill; what schoolwork he did was done at home until he passed the entrance exams and entered high school.

General Douglas MacArthur, WWII and Korean War taught by his mother until 13, then tutored; entered West Point with highest entrance exams ever reported

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist “Some years we went to school. Other years we stayed at home and Grandma taught us.” “On some days she gave me a set of plants to analyze; on others, she gave me a description and sent me out to the woods and meadows to collect examples, say, of the ‘mint family.’ , , , She taught me to read for the sense of what I read and to enjoy learning.” “Grandma . . . . seldom took more than an hour a day and left me . . . much time on my hands while other children were in school. One of Margaret’s oldest friends told her in later years, “In my house I was a child. In your house I was a person.”

– Larry M. Arnoldsen, “On Human Learning,” UHEA Newsletter, April 1991

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author, Little House on the Prairie

Brigham Young, Mormon colonizer, founder of 200 towns and villages 11 days of formal education Most of the above information was taken from

An “A” in Life: Famous Home Schoolers
by Mac and Nancy Plent, 732-938-2473

The book can be ordered from:

Unschoolers Network,
2 Smith Street,
NJ 07727

for $9 plus $1 postage & handling.

“The one outstanding and impressive fact that did leap from the pages was that there was a strong and loving figure, usually a mother, father, or other family member, who spent time with that person during their childhood. With some notable [self-taught] exceptions….it was a person, not a school, that made a difference in the lives of these famous and successful people.”

– Mac and Nancy Plent