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Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose on the Right Network

23 Sep

I just finished watching Free to Choose, Milton Friedman’s classic award-winning PBS television episode that was the first of what was supposed to be a 10 part series. Milton Friedman was a Nobel Prize winning economist and a staunch advocate of liberty, democracy, and truly free markets. The Right Network is airing Free to Choose and it is available on the inline. Yahoo for us crazy people without television.

The Right Network is a new television network that just started in September. They have a whole lineup of libertarian minded shows. I’m not sure which cable and satelite companies have picked them up as I don’t watch television. I do all my viewing right off the internet. But I’m pretty interested in seeing how this network plays out.

The fundamental idea behind Free to Choose is distinguishing between the difference between equality of OPPORTUNITY and equality of RESULTS. Understanding the vital difference between philosophies and direction is crucial.

Equality of results is a pipe dream.

If you are more concerned with equality of RESULTS, then you want to make sure that everybody ends up in the same place. You want and expect everyone to have the same kind of living standard, the same kind of grades on transcripts, the same kind of homes, the same kind of lives.

Did anyone see that episode of Fairly Odd Parents where Timmy wished that everyone was the same. This is how unrealistic the concept of “equality of results” is. It is just not possible to guarantee that everyone will have the same outcomes. Nor would it be practical or advisable.
The concept of “Success for all” is not new. In fact, Success for all was the classroom management program used at one of the schools where I taught. And don’t forget “Failure is Not an Option” that was the battle cry of the Hope Foundation. Or what about “No Child Left Behind”? These bizarre philosophies set impossible expectations and mandates for everyone without clearly defining or understanding that success is different for everyone, and failure is an excellent tool for learning.

Equality of Opportunity means everyone can have their own brand of success

On the other hand, if you see the importance of equality through OPPORTUNITY, you have a whole different world open up before your eyes. This is equality in a very real, practical, and possible sense. If you want to sell brownies, you don’t have to jump through ten-thousand hoops of bureaucratic red tape to get the necessary licenses, certificates, building permits and God knows what else, on top of paying out fees to every governmental agency that wants to get involved in your business. You can just start making brownies and sell them to people who want them.

And it’s not just brownies, almost anything that you could possibly imagine has some kind of regulation or restriction making it difficult for the average Joe to do anything. Sure, the rich bureaucrat or mega-corp owner can afford to have other people jump through those pesky hoops. But how is this equal? The socialistic method would be to take the resources away from the wealthy and give them to the poor. But this doesn’t work either. People just want to have a chance to do something that they love doing, without being hammered down by the system.

And the same in schools. Why do we expect cookie cutter children. They are wondrous in their differences. Each child growing up into a unique individual who can produce and contribute in their own way. But we use punishment, peer pressure, and pharmaceuticals to stamp out individuality in favor of conformity, obedience and easy management.

So what is the answer?

There is no one answer. Take a risk and go for a more individualized education for your children. Even if it means plunging into the unknown. Even if it means not knowing what to expect. Why cater to a broken and failing system just because you are familiar with it, just because you know what the typical outcome is.

John Holt – A man WAY before his time

31 Mar

Not so new views on children, childhood, schools, and education.

I’ve been reading a slew of books written by John Holt. What I found most interesting was the dates these books were published. Every book so far has been published before the 80’s. Yet everything he writes about has virtually remained unchanged. The system is still not working for most people. Children are still being forced to submit to the wiles and whims of a system that doesn’t understand them (or rather, doesn’t care to understand them because they know better.)

“At first I did not question the compulsory nature of schooling. But by 1968 or so I had come to feel strongly that the kinds of changes I wanted to see in schools, above all in the ways teachers related to students, could not happen as long as schools were compulsory.

From many such experiences I began to see, in the early ’70s, slowly and reluctantly, but ever more surely, that the movement for school reform was mostly a fad and an illusion. Very few people, inside the schools or out, were willing to support or even tolerate giving more freedom, choice, and self-direction to children. Of the very few who were, most were doing so not because they believed that children really wanted and could be trusted to find out about the world, but because they thought that giving children some of the appearances of freedom (allowing them to wear old clothes, run around, shout, write on the wall, etc.) was a clever way of getting them to do what the school had wanted all along–to learn those school subjects, get into a good college, etc. Freedom was not a serious way of living and working, but only a trick, a “motivational device.” When it did not quickly bring the wanted results, the educators gave it up without a thought and without regret.” ~John Holt, Teach Your Own

As I am reading these books, my first thought is amazement that I never heard of this man while I was going through my teacher training. Then I stop myself and almost laugh at the ridiculousness of this thought. Why in the world would any education certification program discuss the writings, experiences, and research of a man who spent a lifetime working in the education system to find out that it was all irreparably broken? If we had talked about these writings while I was in college studying to be a teacher I would have never gone on with the program. As it was, I experienced almost everything he discussed and left public school education without a backward glance.

The system is broken.

I’m in the middle of Teach Your Own right now. It is basically a primer and an encouragement for taking that first leap into unschooling/home schooling. Right there in the introduction he tells the story of a woman at the beginning stages of trying to plan an alternative school for her children and her community. I am not kidding… it was like reading my story in a book written 50 years before my time! The story was exactly the same.

“She and a friend had decided that they couldn’t stand what the local schools were doing to children, and that the only thing to do was start their own. For many months they had been looking for parents, for space, for money, and had made almost no progress at all.”

That’s the story of Pomegranate Gardens! UNBELIEVABLE! And he gave her the advice that, luckily, my husband and I figured out all on our own… don’t got through the mess of trying to meet regulations,  find willing parents and students, and money, and buildings. It’s just not going to happen. Just teach them at home.

In a way it is sad though. The world needs a school like Pomegranate Gardens. And you know what… when the world is ready for it, I’ll be here ready to welcome them. But most people are not willing to gamble their child’s future like this. Even though they know deep down that the school system is failing, that their children are suffering, that the whole thing is just so broken and wrong. It doesn’t matter. Maybe they think their children need to be ready for the harsh realities of life. Maybe they think children need to suck it up and learn to do pointless and menial work, because that’s what life is. Maybe, I don’t know. But it seems to me to be a vicious and never-ending cycle of despair.

A lack of meaningful work

No, I’m not talking about your job. But maybe I am. Maybe if you had had an opportunity as a child to find what was important to you, you would be living a totally different life. Who knows. How different would our world be if we were all doing work we loved and felt was important?

When we are talking about schooling though, we often hear about the troublemakers. Those kids (and they are growing in number) who cause problems and angst in the classrooms for teachers and students. But these are not stupid kids. These are kids who find school to be meaningless and irksome. In one of his books, Holt talks about a group of kids in an after school program. The lady running the programs talks about how these three boys are the hardest working, strongest, most diligent, most reliable children of the group as long as they are given work that they can view as important. If they feel they are being shunted out of the way with simple busy work, then they revert to the troublesome bothersome boys that everyone expects them to be.

Holt quotes Dean Paul Roberts of Denver at the first graduation of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (I’ve heard this quote attributed to JFK too, who knows, maybe JFK was quoting Roberts).

“To a group of students that included some very unhappy, mixed-up, and self-hating young people, he said: (1) accept yourself, (2) forget yourself, (3) find something to do and to care about that is more important to you than you are…. In telling the students to accept and then forget themselves Dean Roberts was saying something that they, preoccupied, obsessed as they were by how they looked to others, and usualy how bad they looked, had to take seriously. For he was one of the homeliest people any of us had ever seen…. Of course, to accept and forget oneself is not easy to do even when one tries, which is why the other part of his advice is so vital–to find something to do, to care about, to throw yourself into, that is more important than you are.” ~Escape from Childhood

I wanted to make a change – not be changed by the system.

If only schools really prepared us for this. Prepared us for a life full of meaning and satisfaction. This is not too much to ask for. Holt gave up on reforming the education system in the 70s. I became a teacher at the turn of the century hoping to change the world. Mentor teachers smiled condescendingly on me saying “I used to be idealistic too”. I lasted three years.

I watched “A Law Abiding Citizen” not too long ago which talks about the same thing, only with the justice system instead of the education system. Jamie Fox’s character is a lawyer and near the end of the movie he is talking about his career and his choices and says that he became a lawyer to change the system. But then as time went on he made one compromise, then another deal, and then another compromise, and before he knew what happened, instead of changing the system, the system had changed him.

But it’s never too late to stop that train. Make a change right now. I am home schooling my kids right now. It’s great. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle anymore.

Are schools making us stupid?

11 Mar

There are a lot of good teachers in the world. And most of them, like I did, got into teaching to help change the world, make lives better, and work with children.

The reality is so much different though. While some teachers are able to make some meaningful impact on the lives of their students, the scope is narrow and limited. Many teachers are restricted and restrained in what they can do in their classroom and for their students.

I’ve been reading Charlotte Iserbyt for a long time. I have seen what she talks about in her books and speeches first hand. She is part of the reason (other than first hand experience) I got out of public school teaching and started home schooling my children.

What she says is scary. If you choose to keep your children in public school you MUST be aware of the underlying and hidden agenda of the public school system.

Her book The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America is available for free online.

Charlotte Iserbyt served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first Reagan Administration. At that time, she blew the whistle on a major technology initiative which would control curriculum in America’s classrooms.

The Predicament of the New Hampshire Primaries

9 Jan

There is a lot of fuss in the news right now about voter fraud in New Hampshire. This is especially worrisome to me because New Hampshire is supposed to be the “Live Free or Die!” state. I had hoped that things would be a little different in New Hampshire, what with the Free State Project and all. But it seems that I was wrong.

The world is watching the United States right now – watching how we handle our elections. The U.S. frequently barges in on other countries to manage their election. It would seem that elections are just as fraudulent here in the land of liberty. And soon the world is going to know it. What a problem this could pose the next time the U.S. tries to intervene in somebody else’s election.

Let’s hope that New Hampshire fixes this problem. Some are even calling for a reVOTE. That would be interesting to see. Not only was there a debacle with the counting, but they were also using the Diebold voting machines.

Should we go to open elections? Where everyone knows who voted and how? I understand the argument that this could cause some people to coerce votes through manipulations, bullying, and threats. But would it really be much different from now? Now you can vote, but there is no real guarantee that your vote will even be counted. Personally, I’d rather know that my voice was heard – LOUD AND CLEAR.

Primaries.

2 Jan

Tomorrow is the Iowa Caucus. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m pretty excited. Can’t wait to see what happens this time. I’ve heard all kinds of crazy predictions. Even heard Crane, the local radio station’s news “expert” (i.e. idiot) predict that McCain was going to win the Republican nomination. LOL.

Show Me the Money

1 Nov

Just read two articles from Sunday’s local paper regarding education. Very interesting. And it just shows to me, yet again, that big government bureaucracies are so ineffective.

The first article was just a little blurb from Parade (Sunday, October 28, 2007, page 10) entitled “Making a Profit Off Kids”. Not surprisingly, the school testing and testing services industry are making a bundle. Tutoring agencies, test prep courses, and the tests themselves are generating $2.3 billions a year and only five major companies control 90% of the statewide testing revenue. Schools across the country are increasing the number of tests administered to their students and parents are scrambling to get their kids the resources needed to pass these tests. All this activity and profit is a direct result of the No Child Left Behind Law. Schools are trying to fulfill the requirements of this law.

Isn’t it interesting how a few companies are able to profit from this law? And what is it actually benefiting any school or child? Hmmn…

Has anyone watched PBS? Did you notice how many of those children’s programs receive grants from No Child Left Behind? Why isn’t that money going straight to families? Or at the very least going to the schools? Hmmn…

The second article, from the Belleville News Democrat, Sunday, October 28, 2007, front page A1, “Educators seek passage of funding bill”. You guessed it. It’s about money again. The state of Illinois has budgeted a $600 million increase in state education funding (this coming from a state that is nearly bankrupt). Ah, but here’s the rub. They can’t give that money to the schools until they pass an implementation bill that tells the schools how to spend that money. HAHAHAHA. That’s right. The schools still don’t have the money. And as of this report the Illinois General Assembly has not passed the bill. Go figure.

So why do we continue to expect the government to make real changes in the education system? I can’t figure this out. From my experience the whole system is beyond fixing. Some people think that because they live in a good neighborhood they can send their kids to a good school. But those schools are still part of the same failing system.

I’ve been working on editing the state learning standards. Those standards outline exactly what schools are supposed to be covering in their curriculum. And yet, while going through those standards, I saw repeatedly topics that were not covered by my son’s school. How many parents know about this? Kids are passing, but they are still getting ripped off.

Who Is Ron Paul and Why Should I Care?

11 Oct

This is not usually a political blog. Although I occasionally get into history and such, I tend to stay away from actually endorsing a candidate here. But I just can’t stop telling people about Ron Paul. If you homeschool, you really need to look into him. He’s not just anti-war and anti-taxes. He’s all about getting the government out of your lives, and that includes how you teach and raise your kids.

My commitment to ensuring home schooling remains a practical alternative for American families is unmatched by any Presidential candidate.

Returning control of education to parents is the centerpiece of my education agenda. As President I will advance tax credits through the Family Education Freedom Act, which reduces taxes to make it easier for parents to home school by allowing them to devote more of their own funds to their children’s education.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment.

We must have permanency in the Department of Defense Home School Tier 1 Pilot Program, providing recruitment status parity for home school graduates. I will use my authority to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home school activities.

I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. I also believe that, as long as No Child Left Behind remains law, it must include the protections for home schoolers included in sec. 9506 (enshrining home schoolers’ rights) and 9527 (guaranteeing no national curriculum).

Federal monies must never be used to undermine the rights of homeschooling parents. I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to encourage a culture of educational freedom throughout the nation.

Ron Paul 2008 – Issues

Homeschoolers across the nation as well as parents looking for real alternatives to public school know how difficult it is to make sure your kids are well educated. Government has a lot invested in public schools and they are reluctant to give up that control. So if you want to have the control of how your children are educated you need to investigate Ron Paul. He is the only real choice for anyone that is fed up with public schooling.

The following is a video I found on YouTube that really gives you the basics on Ron Paul.

You can’t afford to be apathetic about politics. As Pericles said long ago, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”