Transcending Politics

submitted by jwithrow.
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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Transcending Politics

October 20, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in economic transactions… And just as a seemingly minor invention like barbed wire made possible the fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus altering forever the concepts of land and property rights in the frontier West, so too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an arcane branch of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which dismantle the barbed wire around intellectual property. Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!” – Timothy C. May

The S&P closed out Wednesday at $2,144. Gold closed at $1,270 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $51.72 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.75%. Bitcoin is trading around $630 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Today is little Maddie’s birthday! I still remember, two years ago to the day, witnessing her first breath of life. I can see it in my mind’s eye just a clearly as I see the computer screen in front of me. She has become a fantastically sweet and clever young lady in two years time, and her father’s cup runneth over with pride and joy.

Due to scheduling constraints, we actually celebrated her birthday on Tuesday. A few months back I asked Madison what she wanted to do for her birthday. “I want to ride Leo the horse!”, she responded without hesitation. So that’s exactly what we did. Continue reading “Transcending Politics”

The Future of Education

submitted by jwithrow.
Click here to get the Journal of a Wayward Philosopher by Email

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
The Future of Education

May 6, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” – Albert Einstein

The S&P closed out Thursday at $2,044. Gold closed at $1,272 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $44.32 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.78%. Bitcoin is trading around $453 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Last week we talked about transitioning away from coercive social organization and towards voluntary association. We suggested that financial dependency was one of the primary excuses for coercive government policies. Today, let’s take a look at the education piece of the puzzle.

I won’t beat around the bush with this: the 20th century classroom model of education is all but obsolete.

We know that every individual is unique. We know that every individual has different skills, talents, interests, and passions. We also know that every individual has different learning styles. I doubt that you can find anyone who would disagree with those three statements. Continue reading “The Future of Education”

Reworking Higher Education

submitted by jwithrow.
Click here to get the Journal of a Wayward Philosopher by Email

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Reworking Higher Education

January 26, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Monday at $1,877. Gold closed at $1,108 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $29.77 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.02%. Bitcoin is trading around $395 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

I am too happy to be snowed in with my family! ” Wife Rachel scolded me for suggesting she wasn’t enthused about the snow days in my last journal entry.

Well honey, the art of story-telling requires a little flare every now and then…

But you make me sound like a bad… oh crap, now you are going to use this in your next article!

She makes it too easy for me. Continue reading “Reworking Higher Education”

Decentralization and Spontaneous Order

submitted by jwithrow.decentralization

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Decentralization and Spontaneous Order

November 25, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $2,084. Gold closed at $1,074 per ounce. Oil closed at $42.87 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.25%. Bitcoin is trading around $324 per BTC today.

Not much action in the markets this week as Wall Street humanoids are gearing up for the big holiday on Thursday. Only the high-frequency trading machines remain to trade back-and-forth with one another for a few days. Despite this calm, I get the sense that a big move is brewing…

Also worth mentioning, I appeared on the SovereignBTC podcast with host John Bush last week. We had a blast talking about many of the topics I often muse on here in the Journal. If you would like to listen to the interview, you can find it at the LTB Network here.

Dear Journal,

“That was really sweet what you wrote about Madison…” wife Rachel said after reading my previous journal entry. “But the only thing you said about me was that I wouldn’t read past a certain point!”

“Well did you read past that paragraph?”, I asked with a wry grin on my face.

“No, that’s as far as I got…”

My last entry discussed the potential for the family unit to act as a sovereign institution in light of the burgeoning Great Reset, much to the benefit of both the sovereign family and the local community. The underlying theme of that entry, and of many recent journal entries, has been decentralization.

I seek to offer my unfiltered perspective when I sit down to write these journal entries, and I only write them when motivated to do so for that reason. That’s why the Journal follows no set schedule whatsoever, though I try my best to post a weekly entry. Sometimes when I re-read my unfiltered entries, however, I get the feeling that readers may come away with a more negative sentiment then I intend to convey. Continue reading “Decentralization and Spontaneous Order”

Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever

submitted by jwithrow.peaceful parenting

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever

July 10, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Thursday at $2,051. Gold closed at $1,160 per ounce. Oil checked out just under $53 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.30%. Bitcoin is now trading up around $287 per BTC as the Greek banks remain closed and the Chinese stock market continues to plummet.

Dear Journal,

We examined the Greek crisis last week and we wondered if depositors would find that they had generously “bailed-in” their bank with their hard-earned money when the banks finally reopened. Sure enough, the Greek banks have yet to reopen and there has been talk of a 30% haircut on all deposit accounts in excess of €8,000.

This is yet another example of why it is a bad idea to warehouse your funds in a domestic bank account. Fortunately, the Infinite Banking Concept offers a much better solution to warehousing capital without sacrificing liquidity.

These financial crises that continuously occur from time to time in various countries, along with government’s heavy-handed response in each instance, are the symptoms of a much deeper problem:

Our world is ill.

Modernity has constructed hierarchical systems of power and control and it has elevated the leaders of these systems to positions of prestige and authority. This has created a scenario in which the least among us fight tooth and nail to reach the top of Modernity’s power structures then they work to grow and perpetuate their power. This is done largely by bribing the masses with wealth-redistribution while aggressively cracking down on non-conformists and disruptors. The predictable result has been the disappearance of personal responsibility and basic human empathy. Continue reading “Why Peaceful Parenting is More Important Than Ever”

Creating Learning Communities

by Author Anna Jahns – ICPA.org:learning

“If our earth is to survive, we need to take responsibility for what we do. Taking control of our education is the first step.” —Heidi Priesnetz

Thomas starts the day just like any other child who sets the pace for his own learning. He wakes up with a grin on his face, eager to greet the day that stretches out before him—relatively unscheduled, yet full of learning opportunities just waiting to be discovered. Before he has even rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he is curiously inspecting the progress of the chemistry experiment he stayed up till late in the night concocting, then wanders into the kitchen to meet his family for a relaxed shared breakfast. They all pitch in to finish the chores around the home and garden they have created together, before Thomas and his mother head down to their local resources library to research the solar panel system the family is constructing, and to prepare for his science study group in the afternoon.

Children like Thomas, who are learning naturally outside of the confines of the traditional schooling system, are an emerging group drawing a great deal of interest from those seeking answers to society’s problems. These young people learn to interact with the whole world as their classroom, their parents and others serving as chosen guides, mentors and facilitators. Research proves that these children grow up to be independent thinkers who perform academically ahead of their schooled peers, and have a solid sense of self esteem. A large percentage of them go on to be self-employed, leading fulfilling lives actively involved in their community. Some choose to attend OTEN (Open Training & Education Network) for their higher education, or enroll in university later in life; others prefer to just get on with following their interests into their chosen careers. The lives they go on to lead are as diverse as the learning paths they have chosen to take them there, but one thing they all have in common is a passion for lifelong learning.

With thought processes unfettered by seeking out only the predetermined “right” answers, and free of the fear of being monitored, judged and tested, self-directed learners are free to explore creative ways of problem-solving and of finding information to answer the questions that are meaningful and relevant to their own lives. Parents of self-led learners discover time and again that children really don’t need to be taught in order to learn; learning is a self-actuated process of creating skills, discovering knowledge and satisfying one’s own natural curiosity. As a way of learning, it is built on—and teaches—the inherent right and responsibility of every individual to set her own standards and to live accordingly. As a way of thinking, it instills and fosters respect for the dignity of each individual.

 

Education Shapes Our Future

When we imagine the kind of future in which we’d like our children and their children to live, most often we imagine one in which we have finally found ways to further the viability of our biosphere and to live in harmony with each other in a sustainable way. A crucial step for this to happen as a global society is that we must collectively learn to think in new ways, or we will not be able to transcend the interrelated set of problems facing us today. In this age of information, an era of increasing unpredictability and accelerating change, learning how to learn, and how to fluidly adapt and transfer knowledge and skills to novel situations, will become critical. The ability to process and source information is a far more important skill to be honing than rote memorization of outdated facts and theories. More important, perhaps, is the ability to interact with other human beings with an implicit understanding and respect for our diversity, and to co-create sustainable possibilities for our evolving global society.

Our fundamental assumption—that learning is something that can only happen in schools—is “like confusing spirituality with religious institutions, or wellness with hospitals,” says Priesnitz. The fact is that children do not need to be taught in order to learn.

Most sociologists seem to agree that schooling plays a primary role in reinforcing the social and economic tone of a society. So what tone is being set by our schools today? In her book Challenging Assumptions in Education, Wendy Priesnitz illustrates that the system of education our children are being indoctrinated into today is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago, when it was designed to prepare factory workers for an industrial culture oriented toward manufacturing consumer goods and winning political and economic wars. Through competition, self-repression, standardization, and strict obedience to the clock, it teaches authoritarianism and unquestioned faith in the experts. It’s a billion-dollar industry in and of itself, which by all accounts is ineffective, outdated, disempowering to the individual, and unable even to produce a fully literate population after years of compulsory schooling.

“Let’s face it,” Priesnitz writes, “the majority of the problems facing society today—pollution, unethical politicians, poverty, unsafe cars…the list goes on—have been created or overseen by the best traditional college graduates. Whether these problems were created by design or accident, we cannot fix them by continuing the status quo. We need to create a society that chooses action over consumption, that favors relating to others over developing new weapons, that encourages conservation over production. And this just won’t happen unless we de-institutionalize learning.”

 

Challenging the Assumptions

Priesnitz explores the main basic assumptions in education that must be challenged if we are to envision a more sustainable approach to learning and living. Our fundamental assumption— that learning is something that can only happen in schools—is “like confusing spirituality with religious institutions, or wellness with hospitals.” The fact is that children do not need to be taught in order to learn.

Priesnetz goes on to describe how institutionalized schooling shapes young people’s attitudes toward themselves and the world they live in. “From kindergarten, young people are robbed of their basic human rights and treated as legally minor. They are forced to attend an often unfriendly—sometimes threatening— place, where they are obliged to dismiss their own experiences, thoughts and opinions, substituting the opinions of a textbook author. They may learn about human rights in their social science classes, but are not allowed to experience—let alone practice— these vital components of good citizenship.” Their experience is instead one of disempowerment, with teachers allowed to exercise a kind of power over their students that we only see matched in jails.

Schools then measure a student’s ability to regurgitate a prefabricated curriculum on an increasingly standardized scale, with no consideration given to the individual’s aptitudes or developmental readiness. At the end of the school assembly line, with a large part of their lives already spent being processed for a life as producers and consumers, students with little authentic knowledge are bumped out into the adult world and suddenly expected to make mature decisions based on the distorted, disassociated information they have been drilled and indoctrinated with, largely from textbooks and TV. Through this very process, we lose the power to think for ourselves. “Maybe that’s why so few of us challenge the premises of nursing homes, television, day-care centers, schools and the global economy,” suggests Priesnitz. “These things are received ideas, not the result of individuals thinking about what would make their own lives—and those of their families and communities—better on a day-to-day basis.” The solution to this crisis of learning is to put learning back into the hands of the learner—and to put the learner back into the community where he or she lives.

Priesnitz echoes the voices of countless other education revisionists and deschooling pioneers, from John Holt to Ivan Illich, in proposing that a more relevant public education system should be diverse enough to accommodate learners of all ages, interests, abilities and styles. It would put individuals in charge of their own learning agendas, beginning by identifying interests and providing the means to develop them. Communitybased databases could connect those who want to share their knowledge and skills (with or without university degrees) with those who want to learn. Our communities are already rich with people whose skills, knowledge and talents could be shared.

The same databases could be used to coordinate volunteers and apprenticeships for community services and learning desired skills. Young Canadian entrepreneur Heidi Priesnitz (daughter of Wendy) describes the function of MAX, the Mentor Apprentice Exchange she initiated in 1994. “The apprentice offers hands-on assistance in exchange for the mentor’s skills and wisdom, which is an exciting and inexpensive way to learn. This barter can take place in any field of activity, between two people of any age. It’s a holistic approach that allows for greater integration of business, education and community.”

Libraries are already ready-made learning centers that could expand and prosper. With a few modifications, they could provide the usual services of a library as well as those of a meeting space, office space, music hall, youth center, arts center and free school, all rolled into one. People would continue to come and go at will, whenever they find it necessary, all day long. They would use computers to access information, reference resource publications or simply relax and read. Perhaps they would access points of view not carried by mainstream corporate media. The learning centers could host meetings, classes and guest speakers, or participate in or patronize art shows, craft sales and exhibits.
In fact, every aspect of the community can be involved—as it already is—as a real-life part of the self-learning program: museums, parks, health clubs, shops, banks, businesses, town offices, farms, factories and even the streets and the environment itself. Learning becomes a service to the community as future citizens become locally involved, taking part in all kinds of community activities that are meaningful and relevant to their learning process. In the words of homeschooling advocate and author Beverley Paine, “Self-directed learning builds community from the center out, by nurturing the individual, the family and the community, and thus the world.”

 

Evolving Movement

Around the world, self-directed learning movements are spontaneously self-organizing with exciting innovations in the possibilities for creating learning communities. The Coalition for Self-Learning is an ad hoc group of writers, innovative educators, homeschoolers, autodidacts and educational pioneers with a common interest in the future of learning. The coalition is giving voice to the enormous potential of these experimental models, through its book, Creating Learning Communities (available free online at the coalition’s website, creatinglearningcommunities.org).

In the beginning, only a couple of decades ago, self-directed learners were homeschooled in autonomous family units, each one setting its own curriculum and providing its own supplies and services. Homeschooling alone evolved into homeschoolers getting together to exchange information and provide support to one another through informal get-togethers or organized activities. These meetings give kids a chance to meet other homeschoolers, and to join into study projects together. Groups started newsletters publicizing activities and exchanging books, equipment and other materials; home-based curriculums and materials began being developed, along with organizations to help homeschoolers with legal and legislative matters.

Closely associated with the homeschooling movement are a broad variety of alternative schools that are moving in the direction of child-centered education. From the original Montessori and Steiner schools to free schools like those based on the Summerhill and Sudbury models, the explorations and experiments with alternative forms of education have taken as many diverse turns as the people who have forged them. Some innovative educators have demonstrated that when we shed conventional assumptions, schools can become dynamic, exciting places of learning that are responsive to students, families and communities. Some have explored different ways of implementing school-based community learning centers. Still others have explored learning in other community settings, such as the emerging virtual world of the Internet.

 

Learning Centers

An exciting new phase of homeschooling and self-learning has started to emerge in the U.S. and the U.K. in the last few years, as local homeschooling networks and self-learners have started providing themselves with new forms of support programs. The Coalition for Self-Learning is taking an active interest in developing these models, which are being called “cooperative community lifelong learning centers”—places where learning is respected as an act of self-volition, which is integrated into community activities.

Occasionally the center brings in outside instructors to teach specific classes based on the children’s interests. Elective classes include things like papier-mâché, nutrition, math games, newspaper, paper-making and drawing.

These learning centers are cooperatively organized by the member families. Parents pool their talents, resources and expertise, often providing mentoring as well as classes and workshops, using all aspects of the community for education opportunities. Learning communities as diverse as the Pathfinder Learning Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, for homeschooling teenagers, and the Community School in Camden, Maine, whose “relational education” approach has demonstrated striking results with socially challenged individuals, are presenting sustainable models for viable alternatives to institutionalized schooling.

The North Star School & Homeschool Resource Center outside Seattle is just one model of a democratically governed homeschool resource center. The center provides a place for families to meet, share ideas and study together, with a food buying co-op and babysitting exchange available. Although there is an abundant supply of high-quality games, manipulatives and art supplies, the core belief is that the basics are best covered by the homeschooling parents and their children individually. Occasionally the center brings in outside instructors to teach specific classes based on the children’s interests. Elective classes include things like papier-mâché, nutrition, math games, newspaper, paper-making and drawing. By popular request, the center also offers chemistry, geology, theme unit studies, writers’ workshops, drama and community service projects, which appeal to older students.

Some of the coalition writers believe that community learning centers could replace schools as the primary educational agency in a truly democratic, collaborative, sustainable society. More specifically, many believe that diverse expressions of openended, evolving, community-based education are replacing fixed and hierarchical school systems. CSL spokesperson Ron Miller asserts that authentic communities are able to enhance their own development while at the same time enhancing that of each individual in the community, thereby promoting both freedom of personal choice and a sense of responsibility for the whole.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

The Truth About Homework

by Author Alfie Kohn – ICPA.org:Homework

Widespread misconceptions about learning keep our children busy with needless assignments.

There’s something perversely fascinating about educational policies that are clearly at odds with the available data. Huge schools are still being built, even though we know that students tend to fare better in smaller places that lend themselves to the creation of democratic caring communities. Many children who are failed by the academic status quo are forced to repeat a grade, even though research shows that this is just about the worst course of action for them. Homework continues to be assigned— in ever greater quantities—despite the absence of evidence that it’s necessary, or even helpful, in most cases.

The dimensions of that last disparity weren’t clear to me until I began sifting through the research for a new book. To begin with, I discovered that decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school. Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages. The only effect that correlates with homework is a more negative attitude toward school on the part of students who get more assignments.

In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores (or grades), but it’s usually fairly small, and it has a tendency to disappear when more sophisticated statistical controls are applied. Moreover, there’s no evidence that higher achievement is due to the homework, even when an association does appear. It isn’t hard to think of other explanations for why successful students might be in classrooms where more homework is assigned—or why they might spend more time on it than their peers do.

The results of national and international exams raise further doubts. One of many examples is an analysis of 1994 and 1999 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data from 50 countries. Researchers David Baker and Gerald LeTendre were scarcely able to conceal their surprise when they published their results in 2005: “Not only did we fail to find any positive relationships,” they wrote, but “the overall correlations between national average student achievement and national averages in [amount of homework assigned] are all negative.”

Finally, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the widely accepted assumption that homework yields nonacademic benefits for students of any age. The idea that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits (such as self-discipline and independence) could be described as an urban myth, except for the fact that it’s taken seriously in suburban and rural areas, too.

In short, regardless of one’s criteria, there is no reason to think that most students would be at any sort of disadvantage if homework were sharply reduced or even eliminated. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of American schools—elementary and secondary, public and private—continue to require their students to work a second shift by bringing academic assignments home. Not only is this requirement accepted uncritically, but the amount of homework is growing, particularly in the early grades. A large, long-term national survey found that the proportion of 6- to 8-year-old children who reported having homework on a given day had climbed from 34 percent in 1981 to 58 percent in 1997—and the weekly time spent studying at home more than doubled.

Sandra Hofferth of the University of Maryland, one of the authors of that study, has just released an update based on 2002 data. In it, the proportion of young children who had homework on a specific day has jumped to 64 percent, and the amount of time they spent on it has climbed by another third. The irony here is painful, because with younger children the evidence to justify homework isn’t merely dubious—it’s nonexistent.

Why Homework Persists

So why do we do something where the cons (stress, frustration, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, a possible diminution of interest in learning) so clearly outweigh the pros? Possible reasons include a lack of respect for research, a lack of respect for children (implicit in a determination to keep them busy after school), a reluctance to question existing practices, and the top-down pressures to teach more stuff faster in order to pump up test scores, so we can chant, “We’re number one!”

All of these explanations are plausible, but I think there’s also something else responsible for our continuing to feed children this latter-day cod-liver oil. Because so many of us believe that it’s just common sense that homework would provide academic benefits, we tend to shrug off the failure to find any such benefits. Our belief that homework ought to help is based on some fundamental misunderstandings about learning.

Consider the assumption that homework should be beneficial just because it gives students more time to master a topic or skill. (Plenty of pundits rely on this premise when they call for extending the school day or year. Indeed, homework can be seen as a way of prolonging the school day on the cheap.) Unfortunately, this reasoning turns out to be woefully simplistic. “When experimental psychologists mainly studied words and nonsense syllables, it was thought that learning inevitably depended upon time,” reading researcher Richard C. Anderson and his colleagues explain. “Subsequent research suggests that this belief is false.”

The statement “People need time to learn things” is true, of course, but it doesn’t tell us much of practical value. On the other hand, the assertion “More time usually leads to better learning” is considerably more interesting. It’s also demonstrably untrue, however, because there are enough cases where more time doesn’t lead to better learning.

In fact, more hours are least likely to produce better outcomes when understanding or creativity is involved. Anderson and his associates found that when children are taught to read by focusing on the meaning of the text (rather than primarily on phonetic skills), their learning does “not depend on amount of instructional time.” In math, too, as another group of researchers discovered, time on task is directly correlated to achievement only if both the activity and the outcome measure are focused on rote recall, as opposed to problem solving.

Carole Ames of Michigan State University points out that it isn’t “quantitative changes in behavior”—such as requiring students to spend more hours in front of books or worksheets—that help children learn better. Rather, it’s “qualitative changes in the ways students view themselves in relation to the task, engage in the process of learning, and then respond to the learning activities and situation.” In turn, these attitudes and responses emerge from the way teachers think about learning and, as a result, how they organize their classrooms. Assigning homework is unlikely to have a positive effect on any of these variables. We might say that education is less about how much the teacher covers than about what students can be helped to discover— and more time won’t help to bring about that shift.

Alongside an overemphasis on time is the widely held belief that homework “reinforces” the skills that students have learned—or, rather, have been taught—in class. But what exactly does this mean? It wouldn’t make sense to say, “Keep practicing until you understand,” because practicing doesn’t create understanding— just as giving kids a deadline doesn’t teach time-management skills. What might make sense is to say, “Keep practicing until what you’re doing becomes automatic.” But what kinds of proficiencies lend themselves to this sort of improvement?

The answer is behavioral responses. Expertise in tennis requires lots of practice; it’s hard to improve your swing without spending a lot of time on the court. But to cite an example like that to justify homework is an example of what philosophers call begging the question. It assumes precisely what has to be proved, which is that intellectual pursuits are like tennis.

Learning Versus Drill

The assumption that education and tennis are analogous derives from behaviorism, which is the source of the verb “reinforce,” as well as the basis of an attenuated view of learning. In the 1920s and ’30s, when John B. Watson was formulating his theory that would come to dominate education, a much less famous researcher named William Brownell was challenging the drilland- practice approach to mathematics that had already taken root. “If one is to be successful in quantitative thinking, one needs a fund of meanings, not a myriad of ‘automatic responses,’” he wrote. “Drill does not develop meanings. Repetition does not lead to understandings.” In fact, if “arithmetic becomes meaningful, it becomes so in spite of drill.”

Brownell’s insights have been enriched by a long line of research demonstrating that the behaviorist model is, if you’ll excuse the expression, deeply superficial. People spend their lives actively constructing theories about how the world works, and then reconstructing them in light of new evidence. Lots of practice can help some students get better at remembering an answer, but not to get better at—or even accustomed to—thinking. And even when they do acquire an academic skill through practice, the way they acquire it should give us pause. As psychologist Ellen Langer has shown, “When we drill ourselves in a certain skill so that it becomes second nature,” we may come to perform that skill “mindlessly,” locking us into patterns and procedures that are less than ideal.

Practice Makes Problems

But even if practice is sometimes useful, we’re not entitled to conclude that homework of this type works for most students. It isn’t of any use for those who don’t understand what they’re doing. Such homework makes them feel stupid; gets them accustomed to doing things the wrong way (because what’s really “reinforced” are mistaken assumptions); and teaches them to conceal what they don’t know. At the same time, other students in the same class already have the skill down cold, so further practice for them is a waste of time. You’ve got some kids, then, who don’t need the practice and others who can’t use it.

Furthermore, even if practice was helpful for most students, that doesn’t mean they need to do it at home. In my research I found a number of superb teachers (at different grade levels and with diverse instructional styles) who rarely, if ever, found it necessary to assign homework. Some not only didn’t feel a need to make students read, write or do math at home, but they preferred to have students do these things during class, where it was possible to observe, guide and discuss.

Finally, any theoretical benefit of practice homework must be weighed against the effect it has on students’ interest in learning. If slogging through worksheets dampens one’s desire to read or think, surely that wouldn’t be worth an incremental improvement in skills. And when an activity feels like drudgery, the quality of learning tends to suffer, too. That so many children regard homework as something to finish as quickly as possible—or even as a significant source of stress—helps to explain why it appears not to offer any academic advantage even for those who obediently sit down and complete the tasks they’ve been assigned. All that research showing little value to homework may not be so surprising after all.

Supporters of homework rarely look at things from the student’s point of view, though. Instead, kids are regarded as inert objects to be acted on: Make them practice and they’ll get better. My argument isn’t just that this viewpoint is disrespectful, or that it’s a residue of an outdated stimulus-response psychology. I’m also suggesting it’s counterproductive. Children cannot be made to acquire skills. They aren’t vending machines such that we can put in more homework and get out more learning.
But just such misconceptions are pervasive in all sorts of neighborhoods, and they’re held by parents, teachers and researchers alike. It’s these beliefs that make it so hard even to question the policy of assigning regular homework. We can be shown the paucity of supporting evidence and it won’t have any impact if we’re wedded to folk wisdom (“practice makes perfect”; more time equals better results).

On the other hand, the more we learn about learning, the more willing we may be to challenge the idea that homework has to be part of schooling.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

What is Education?

by Author Bob Webb – ICPA.org:Education

A burning desire to learn is the key to a fulfilling lifestyle. It’s something school rarely inspires.

What is education? Is it knowledge in basic skills, academics, technical disciplines, citizenship…or is it something else? Our formal education system says only the academic basics are important, emphasizing the collection of knowledge without understanding its value. What about the processing of knowledge—using inspiration, visionary ambitions, creativity, risk, motivation and the ability to bounce back from failure? These skills are associated with understanding the value of knowledge, but many education institutions don’t consider these skills. There is a huge, disconnected gap, which is a problem for high school students in particular.

Thomas Edison and many other super achievers never finished school. They succeeded because they knew how to research information for a selected project and process that knowledge. The classroom environment does not work that way. It focuses on the collection of knowledge with no clear purpose other than high grades. If pleasing the teacher does not motivate, then there is nothing to process, outside of memorizing answers for a test. The typical student is academically challenged while being starved for motivation. Lack of motivation is lack of knowledge-processing skills. The typical college graduate will emerge with a professional skill that can provide for life’s basic needs, but that’s all.

What is education? All the elements in my opening paragraph relate to education, and all should be considered. This would be ideal, but “all” is not possible where performance must be measured. Only what can be measured will be selected, and the measuring tool is the written test. Anyone who does not have the ability to put clear thoughts on paper is labeled a failure. Natural skills, including knowledge processing, do not count. What is exercised grows stronger, and what is ignored stays dormant. The classroom exercises the collection of academics, leaving all other natural skills in the closet.

Tests do not measure intelligence or ability; they do not measure how the mind processes information, how motivating experiences develop persistence, or how the mind sorts out instincts, opinions, evaluations, possibilities and alternatives.

Knowledge by itself has no value; it is like a dictionary filled with words. Words alone have no value; they are given meaning by the process of stringing them together. Unfortunately, our education system is becoming a system that memorizes the dictionary. When students have memorized selected knowledge, then they are given a one-day test, based on dictionary knowledge, which will influence their employment opportunities for the rest of their lives. Natural skills are not considered. Is this how America became the world’s economic leader? No! Knowledge only has value when used with a process, and process in an artificial environment is not predictable or measurable.

Achievers in life use inspiration and motivation to overcome barriers. Teaching to the test does not inspire or motivate anyone. Memorizing does not inspire a love of learning; in fact, it does just the opposite. Education’s goal should be to develop a love of learning that stays with students throughout their lives. Education should be a lifetime experience, not limited to youth.

Educators are switching to tests because there is a crisis in education of their own making, and society wants measurable results. This pressure is passed on to political leaders, who base political decisions on measurable academic testing. These tests are based on acceptance of the educational status quo. Every student must now become an academic intellectual, or be labeled a failure. Natural talent and knowledge-processing skills do not count. More and more students are receiving the “failure” label, all because the system measures selected knowledge on a one-day standardized paper test.

Consider a parent who is having a problem with a word processor. On his own, he can’t solve the problem. He’s been collecting knowledge for years, but his knowledge processor is in hibernation. With any new gadget, someone has to teach him; he can’t figure it out for himself. His 13-year-old son comes to the rescue. The boy has limited knowledge, but he knows how to processes available information. He explores the word processor problem until he finds a solution. He is not unusually smart—this is just a teenager’s natural approach to finding solutions.

All young children have a natural talent for creatively processing information. It’s during the teen years that natural creative processing is replaced with the status quo: memorizing knowledge, without regard to how to process it. In the classroom, memorizing is what counts. Standardized testing reinforces the status quo. It kills creative processing ability. Status quo attitudes will follow children into adult life, where they will have to ask their children for help.

Today, the educational system has a new tool on the market: behavior-control drugs. Any student who refuses to accept the status quo is labeled a troublemaker and will be drugged. The glassy-eyed student will then behave in the classroom, and school officials will receive high performance ratings. The student may get passing grades and land a job with a comfortable wage, but that will be the extent of it. His teenage dreams and great ambitions will be gone.

Fact: Self-made millionaires are not “A” students in the classroom. The way they process knowledge conflicts with classroom priorities. The self-made millionaire has a vision. Then he researches specific knowledge, applies intuitive knowledge and processes all the elements, searching for a workable solution. Millionaires are made by finding alternative ways to do common tasks. The secret is vision, research and processing, not pre-stored knowledge alone.

The typical employer wants employees with dictionary knowledge, not visionaries. Businesses want employees who follow orders, are willing to do repetitive tasks, are happy with a limited role, and accept the status quo. Repetitive tasks means efficiency, which is where profits are made. Also, accepting the status quo prevents the exposure of blunders by leaders. Too many blunders, and profits disappear. In a status-quo environment, visionaries become bored quickly and soon receive the “troublemaker” label when they offer alternatives or expose blunders. This sometimes leads to dismissal, even though their ideas can increase efficiency and create new sources of profits for the company. In the long haul, visionaries are the ones who make above-average wages, no matter their formal education level. But with behavior-controlling drugs, the education system now has the tools to eliminate this type of person.

As I write this, e-learning is becoming an education model that the present system cannot compete with. It focuses on what motivates, rather than what the system thinks is good for students. It is also sidestepping politicians, textbook industries, testing companies and unions. These forces are now fighting back, trying to maintain a system that is in their own interest, instead of the students’. At this time, they are focusing on standardized testing, which seems to be a last-ditch effort to maintain the status quo.

What can be considered a quality education? A quality education is custom designed, addressing the unique abilities of each student, and provides a positive emotional experience. Customized education evaluates natural talent and how a student learns. This is why home-schooled students outperform classroom students. Parents learn what works and what doesn’t, and then focus on what works. With this method, students develop a love of learning, and learning becomes a lifelong process.

Which type of education environment do you think will produce consistent winners?

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

A Liberal Education at a Zero Price

by Christopher Westley – Mises Dailyliberal

Frank Bruni saw a woman swoon and sway back in the 1980s, and the recent memory of it caused him to call for increased federal support for liberal arts education.

The woman, Anne Hall, taught Shakespeare at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the days when North Carolina students were more focused on beating Duke in basketball than on Hall’s captivating performance of King Lear. Nonetheless, she made quite an impact on Bruni. “It was by far my favorite class at the University of North Carolina,” he wrote, “though I couldn’t and can’t think of any bluntly practical application for it, not unless you’re bound for a career on the stage or in academia.”

The Purpose of a Liberal Education

Today, some thirty years later and as a New York Times columnist, Bruni recalls this memory to bemoan the loss of liberal education at the large state universities in favor of piddling concerns such as skill acquisition and job placement. Will future generations learn like he did when they are instead focused on learning things that might actually land them a job?

Bruni is right to revere the liberal arts, but wrong to assume that its benefits are purely emotional. The goal of liberal education — at least before state funding diluted it — has always been about teaching students to think clearly about the world around them, develop a sense of right reason when confronting the great questions life, and grasp natural laws so as to better follow them and live happier lives. There is no question that the widespread effect of liberal ideas throughout Europe in the Middle Ages gave common man the framework within which to question the outlandish claims of kings over the people, such as those of divine rights and tribute.

From parish to pub and from family and factory, they were a major contributor to a decentralized Europe, leading to unprecedented levels of human flourishing and social freedom. Indeed, the liberal ideas had to be denigrated and then overcome in order for the modern nation-state to emerge in the nineteenth century, and we know the suffering and death this brought about in the century that followed.

The Shakespeare whom Bruni so admires was himself a product of liberal ideas still reverberating in England despite the efforts of Henry VIII, Cromwell, and others to squelch them. Furthermore, a modern-day Shakespeare would rightly ask the question Bruni avoids, which is whether one can receive the benefits of Lear and the liberal arts without also assuming $40K in debt in order to continue to feed the education-industrial complex (for which Bruni is actually lobbying).

To Bruni, such spending can never be enough, because liberal education is priceless. Whether it is or not, the irony is that the internet can now spread the benefits of liberal education at practically a zero-price, and one no longer must sit in a dank classroom of an elite university to receive its benefits. I speak with experience as a home-schooling father whose children have learned logic, Latin, the Classics, and the sciences, and whose freshman son is now nodding off in the logic class at his university that I (a public-school product) once struggled through as an undergraduate.

Do We Need Government To Fund the Liberal Arts?

Bruni should take heart: Many firms desiring a talented and smart labor force recruit liberal arts graduates. But do tuition revenue-focused public universities now oversupply them, and does this contribute to the problems associated today with the Millennials who are often over-trained, unemployable, and living with their parents? And do those graduates really learn to be critical of, well, anything, as opposed to having developed a sense of (in Bruni’s words) a “rawness and majesty of emotion”?

If so, the liberal education in its modern form has become part of the problem and should no longer be left to postmodern thinkers tied to the government dole. In the 1980s, Peter Drucker predicted that firms would start hiring workers out of high school because (1) they required a lower reservation wage, and (2) they could be trained to suit the needs of the firm in ways that were no longer happening at the universities. Many firms are doing just this in 2015. Thanks in part to the state of federally-funded liberal education, such practices will become more common.

None of this is meant to deny the tremendous need for classical liberal education, as our body-politic is directly affected by the loss of critical thinking skills by the median voter underexposed to it. One might argue this was the actual intent of Progressive Era education reformers who wanted to implement a national education system — modeled after the one in Bismarck’s Germany — in which the masses would be forced into public schools to be prepared for lives in the factory or army. People like Obama or Boehner want the man-on-the-street to be compliant and unquestioning of the world around him, thinking more about Fifty Shades of Grey than perpetual war, the national debt, and the NSA. So from that perspective, it’s exciting to think about how technology is wresting liberal education from those avenues favored by the State, largely by rebels who value it more and who opt out of the system.

Liberal education and the liberal society it fosters, noted Mises in Human Action, brought about “an age of immortal musicians, writers, poets, painters, and sculptors; it revolutionized philosophy, economics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. And, for the first time in history, it made the great works and the great thoughts accessible to the common man.”

It still does. Although much of this is happening sub rosa, the liberal arts are actually flourishing relative to where they were twenty years ago, thanks to the internet and without regard to higher-education funding levels. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the New York Timesto acknowledge it.

Please see Mises Daily for the original article and others like it.

Education is Too Important Not to Leave to the Marketplace

by Ron Paul – Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:Ron Paul

This week, events around the country will highlight the importance of parental control of education as part of National School Choice Week. This year’s events should attract more attention than prior years because of the growing rebellion against centralized education sparked by the federal Common Core curriculum.

The movement against Common Core has the potential to change American education. However, anti-Common Core activists must not be misled by politicians promoting “reforms” of the federal education bureaucracy, or legislation ending Common Core while leaving all other federal education programs intact. The only way to protect American children from future Common Core-like programs is to permanently padlock the Department of Education.

Federal programs providing taxpayer funds to public schools give politicians and bureaucrats leverage to impose federal mandates on schools. So as long as federal education programs exist, school children will be used as guinea pigs for federal bureaucrats who think they are capable of creating a curriculum suitable for every child in the country.

Supporters of federal education mandates say they are necessary to hold schools “accountable.” Of course schools should be accountable, but accountable to whom?

Several studies, as well as common sense, show that greater parental control of education improves education quality. In contrast, bureaucratic control of education lowers education quality. Therefore, the key to improving education is to make schools accountable to parents, not bureaucrats.

The key to restoring parental control is giving parents control of the education dollar. If parents control the education dollar, school officials will strive to meet the parents’ demand that their children receive a quality education. If the federal government controls the education dollar, schools will bow to the demands of Congress and the Department of Education.

So if Congress was serious about improving education it would shut down the Department of Education. It would also shut down all other unconstitutional bureaucracies, end our interventionist foreign policy, and reform monetary policy so parents would have the resources to provide their children with an education that fits their children’s unique needs. Federal and state lawmakers must also repeal any laws that limit the education alternatives parents can choose for their children. The greater the options parents have and the greater the amount of control they exercise over education, the stronger the education system.

These reforms would allow more parents access to education options such as private or religious schools, and also homeschooling. It would also expand the already growing market in homeschooling curriculums. I know a great deal about the homeschooling curriculum market, as I have my own homeschooling curriculum. The Ron Paul Curriculum provides students with a rigorous program of study in history, economics, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences. It also provides intensive writing instruction and an opportunity for students to operate their own Internet businesses. Of course, my curriculum provides students with an introduction to the ideas of liberty, including Austrian economics. However, we do not sacrifice education quality for ideological indoctrination.

It is no coincidence that as the federal role in education has increased the quality of our education system has declined. Any “reforms” to federal education programs will not fix the fundamental flaw in the centralized model of education. The only way to improve education is to shut down the Department of Education and restore control of education to those with the greatest ability and incentive to choose the type of education that best meets the needs of American children — American parents.

Article originally posted at The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.