Leap Year Special – Finance for Freedom

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This 3-hour program focuses on helping you understand money, finance, and economics in order to build a custom-tailored asset allocation model and ultimately achieve financial freedom.

Why Finance for Freedom:

Though it sounds trite, the key to your personal financial success all begins with a thorough understanding of money. If you doubt this, simply ask yourself a question: what is money?

Though there are a plethora of “Personal Finance for Dummies” books and courses out there, Finance for Freedom is the only program that is rooted in a thorough understanding of money and monetary history. Money is half of every transaction thus half of the entire economy therefore it is only possible to construct a sustainable asset portfolio with a fundamental understanding of money.

Finance for Freedom: Master Your Finances in 30 Days will not only convey the necessary fundamentals, but it will also present specific actionable strategies that you can begin to implement immediately to grow your wealth.


  • How to become money-conscious
  • How to analyze your financial statements
  • How to intuitively understand how each decision you make affects your financial statements
  • How to analyze spending, slash debt, and implement a tool to model and monitor a flexible monthly budget
  • How to ultimately master your finances in 30 days time
  • How to analyze macroeconomic trends and leverage this understanding into actionable financial strategies
  • How to construct and implement an asset allocation model
  • How to assess and acquire the prominent asset classes for your model: cash, precious metals, real estate, stocks, bonds, and bitcoins
  • How to implement the Beta Investment Strategy
  • How to integrate alternative investments into your portfolio to truly create antifragility
  • How to build and scale diverse income streams in order to achieve financial escape velocity

Customer Feedback:

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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.

Does an Oracle Have All the Answers? Flaws With the Current Teaching Model

by Simon Paul Harrison – ICPA.org:Teaching Model

A number of years ago I had the pleasure of teaching a class of 9 and 10-year-olds in my native England. We were in the middle of a history lesson when an incident occurred that created a profound change in my understanding of how to best support children.

One of the children asked a question, and, after thinking about it for a few moments, I answered, “I don’t know.” You would have thought I had just announced that I was in fact an alien sent from outer space to suck out the brains of the children before me. Thirty mouths took an intake of breath, and thirty pairs of eyes swiveled toward me, all looking aghast.

“But Mr. Harrison, you’re a teacher,” said one of the children. “You’re supposed to know everything.” The other children nodded in agreement. This was the way the world is, according to them. Teachers know everything, and students learn from teachers.

Naturally, I explained that teachers certainly did not know everything; nobody does. I added that when anybody tells you anything, you should question it to see if it’s right for you. This went down well with some children, but most of them were visibly shocked by my admission of ignorance.

I have spent the best part of a decade in various forms of teaching, which has allowed me to see a wide variety of different educational models. I cannot stress how much damage the “teacher as oracle” culture is wreaking on the long-term development of our children. Just because this model of doing things is normal, it should not be considered healthy.

One of the major problems it creates is that it sets up an environment where children learn that all the answers they need in life are to be found and acquired from an external source. Children come to a point very quickly where they discard their own paths of discovery and substitute their teacher’s answer for their own. This leaves the child in a precarious position: What will happen when the teacher is no longer around to give answers? At best they accept someone else’s version of the world, and live by the creations of others. The worst-case scenario is that, without the prompting of a teacher to ask questions, independent exploration and discovery simply cease. One of the saddest things to see is a child who has lost the passion to explore life.

If a child cannot find answers internally, or does not have the life experience that has fostered a desire to find answers, what will happen to his creativity? What will happen to his confidence? And what will happen to his independence?

We have set things up like this, deluding ourselves that retention and regurgitation of information constitutes success. Maybe it is success, if we’re trying to create a society of robots. However, it goes without saying that a human being is a creature whose very nature is to want to discover every last nuance of life. It is the very core of us, our soul, that drives us to want to go on adventures, discover the universe, and find out who we really are. If the answers come thick and fast from an external source—an oracle—they deprive children of the opportunity to respond to the calling of their souls. And, once the connection to our soul is lost, it’s very difficult to get it back. Apathy runs deep with children in our modern society, and a large reason for this is that we have taught them that answers come from outside themselves.

It seems the oracle is not really an oracle at all, but a system that has completely lost sight of who we really are. Next time a child asks you a question, see if you can answer not with the little snippet of information, but with another question that helps the child use her creativity to find the answer for herself. Watch as she takes delight in responding to the call of her soul. Watch as the next time she has a question, she has the confidence and ability to find out the answer for herself. My experience is that when we support children like this they discover the most amazing things. They dive deeper into life than even we may have, and they in turn teach us.

This long-term approach obviously requires love, and it requires patience. If we cannot find these basics of life in our relationships with children, it might be time to stop considering the role of the teacher and adult to be that of an oracle. It should quickly become obvious we actually have very few answers at all.

Article originally posted at ICPA.org.

Microbusiness for Students

by Mike Smith and Carol Topp – HSLDA:microbusiness

Does your homeschool student want to start a business? Then they might enjoy starting their own microbusiness—while they’re still a student. Find out more with accountant Carol Topp. That’s next on today’s Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: Our guest today is Carol Topp, a CPA and the founder of Micro Business for Teens. Carol, welcome to our program today!

Carol Topp: Well Mike, thanks so much for having me. It’s a joy to talk to you again.

Mike: Carol, how can young people take something they enjoy and turn it into a business?

Carol: Well, they do what most business owners do—they find a need that they can fulfill and they meet that need, and someone will pay them for it. So they might meet needs with any talent or skill that they might be good at or better than somebody else.

Mike: What’s a practical first step for starting up a small business like this?

Carol: Well, I think you start with thinking about, obviously, what you’re good at. So kids don’t always give themselves credit, but sometimes they’re better at some things like algebra, Spanish, piano, pet care, pet cleaning. And you start thinking about what could I do to offer these services or offer my talents or skills to somebody else. I call it creating a mini-market plan, where you just think about, “Who could I help? How could I charge them? How can I find them?”

Mike: What’s the very first practical step they should take?

Carol: They should start by listing what they’re good at, and then try to say, “Is there a need for what I am good at?” It’s a good place to start, because there’s your natural skill and talent. It’s much easier to start with something you’re talented in and then say, “Is there a need out there for what I know, what I can do?”

Mike: Well Carol, let’s say a teen listening to this program wants to start his or her own business. What kinds of businesses have worked well for students, in your experience?

Carol: Well, I think teenagers typically think about selling a product. Girls typically like to sell jewelry or something like that. But I try and encourage them to think about a service that they can offer instead. Because products have a lot of problems; they have shipping and inventory and sales tax—but services don’t! So you know, the typical services that kids have always done, like babysitting and lawn care, are great. But there’s a lot of other wonderful ideas like tutoring, teaching music lessons—I have a virtual assistant who helps me in my business, and he’s only seventeen.

Mike: Carol, are there a couple of success stories that you could share with us?

Carol: Yeah, I want to share with you one about Emily, who was homeschooled. She started ballet lessons in her basement; she called it Modest Dance, because she saw a need for young girls to have a modest form of ballet lessons. That was wonderful. And she can be found on a video that was produced over at Microbusiness for teens, so people can see her in action.

Mike: Carol, can you give our students some tips on how to keep their businesses organized?

Carol: Well, since I’m an accountant I will tell you recordkeeping is the lifeblood of a good business, so you need to keep a good record of income and expenses. And this might mean a student needs to learn how to operate a spreadsheet, which is a very useful skill to have in life. He also might need some skills in time management, which would mean having a calendar and a day planner or keeping a schedule. And parents can do a lot to help with that as students learn these very important life skills of time management and money management even while they’re just teenagers living at home.

Mike: Well Carol, that’s excellent. But we know that any business involves a risk. What should these students do if things don’t go exactly as planned?

Carol: Well, I think students should start without debt, because that greatly reduces their risk. So that’s the first thing. Plan well, try to start a business without any debt, and you’re less likely to have any problems. But also, I think that you can learn from your failures. I used to tell my daughters, “There’s no failure, there’s only feedback.” Take those mistakes, take those failures, learn from them, and do something better the next time you start a business or the next time you serve a client.

Mike: Sometimes it can be hard to get clients to take you seriously, especially when you’re young. Carol, what can teen business owners do to overcome this problem?

Carol: Well, they need to look and sound very professional. So they need to dress well, if they’re meeting their customers face to face. They need to look that customer (and it’s usually an adult) in the eye, stick out their hand, shake their hand, call them Mr. or Mrs. All these things boost the teenager’s confidence, as well as helping them come across as serious about trying to serve the customer well and trying to be a success in their business.

Mike: Well those are the positive things they should do, Carol. What are some negative things they should avoid?

Carol: You know, I think teenagers should avoid starting a business with a friend. Avoid partnerships. They’re usually fraught with problems, and the friendship can be damaged if they go into business with a friend. I think going into business with your sibling, a brother or sister, is fine, because mom and dad are there to help negotiate problems. But I’d say one of the biggest pitfalls I see is starting a business with a friend. It’s almost always a mistake.

Mike: Well Carol, what are some legal issues that micro business owners should know about?

Carol: Well, they need to know if they do business under a fictitious name, they need to register that name with their state or county government. So I just usually encourage teenagers, just use your own name, although they think it’s a lot of fun to come up with a name for their business—but that involves sometimes a cost and paperwork.

But also if they are doing any kind of food preparation, they need to be aware of health laws, to keep that food hot or cold. If they are driving anybody anywhere, there’s laws about that. And sometimes there’s laws about even childcare, like how many children you can care for in your home. So just some practical things to think about—if I want to run a business dealing with food or children, look into the laws in your county, in your state.

Mike: Carol, are there some good resources to guide our young entrepreneurs through these issues?

Carol: Well, I didn’t find a lot, which is why I wrote my series called Micro Business for Teens. And so the website microbusinessforteens.com will be very helpful. I think the Pinterest page, where teenagers like to hang out, is very helpful; I share a lot of my ideas and tips on starting a running a microbusiness. I also have a podcast. And there’s a wonderful video that was produced by a public television station here in Ohio that teenagers can watch. They can find it on my website and on Youtube.

Mike: Carol, thanks for joining us this week, and especially for giving us all this helpful information—we really appreciate it! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Article originally posted at HSLDA.org.

Homeschooling 101

by the Home School Legal Defense Association:homeschooling

Where do I find curriculum and materials?

There’s an ever-increasing variety of curriculum—from traditional textbooks to homeschool-specific curriculum and correspondence courses. Thankfully, experienced homeschool moms have put together review guides, saving newcomers time and frustration. Just two such guides are Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling and Cathy Duffy’s 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

Start by contacting homeschooling veterans in your local and/or state support group—ask what they have tried, what has or has not worked for them, and why. You need to get to know your child’s learning style. Attend a couple of homeschool seminars and curriculum fairs where you can look at your options firsthand. To find a support group or state homeschool convention near you, visit HSLDA’s website.

How much time does it take?

A lot less than you think. Homeschooled students don’t have to take time to change classes or travel to and from a school, so they can proceed at their own pace. In elementary years especially, parents and children often find that they may only need a few hours to accomplish their work for the day.

What if I have several children in different grade levels?

You’ll be surprised at the subjects that can span grade levels. Certain curricula lend themselves to multilevel teaching. You can design your program so that older children work independently in the morning while you work individually with younger children, and then while younger children take naps in the afternoon, you can have one-on-one time with older students.

What about my child’s special needs?

Thousands of families are homeschooling children whose special needs range from Attention Deficit Disorder to severe multiple handicaps. Parents often find that when they bring these children home to be educated, they come out of the “deep freeze” that has kept them from making significant progress. Gone are the comparisons, labels, social pressures, and distractions that a regular classroom may bring. Parents can offer their children individualized education, flexibility, encouragement, and support, which may be ideal for children who are learning-disabled, medically sensitive, or attention-deficit. HSLDA offers resources and help at www.hslda.org/strugglinglearner.

What about socialization & special interests/enrichment activities?

Research has found that most homeschooled students are involved in a wide variety of outside activities, interact with a broad spectrum of people, and make positive contributions to their communities. Experience has shown that homeschoolers are well socialized and able to make lasting friendships across age and cultural divides.

What about the high school years?

Homeschooling your child through high school offers great benefits for parents and students. Sure, there will be challenges such as more difficult subject matter. On the other hand, your high schooler requires less supervision and can take increasing charge of his own education. You can do it, and HSLDA wants to help you! Check out the great resources at www.hslda.org/highschool. HSLDA’s two high school coordinators—moms who’ve graduated their own children from high school at home—bring a wealth of experience and friendly advice to share with member families who are navigating these challenging, yet exciting years.

What about a diploma, graduation, & college?

Homeschool graduates closely parallel their public school counterparts—about two-thirds go on to post-secondary education, and one-third directly into the job market. (Brian Ray, Strengths of Their Own—Home Schoolers Across America, NHERI, 1997.)
Homeschool students who have utilized community colleges for foreign language, lab science, or higher mathematics courses discover as an added bonus that these course credits make it easier to enroll in four-year colleges after high school graduation.

Article originally posted at HSLDA.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.

Common Core and Virtual Education

by William A. Estrada, Esq., Director of Federal Relations – HSLDA:common core\

The Common Core’s impact on public schools is well known. Forty states are now in the process of aligning their public school curriculum with these nationalized standards. Meanwhile, many parents and teachers are concerned that the Common Core is resulting in a dumbed-down, politicized education being pushed upon America’s school kids using unproven teaching methods.

In the growing backlash to the Common Core, some parents—fed up with increasing centralization and loss of parental control over education in the public schools—are choosing to homeschool their children. Private and home education remain outside the reach of the Common Core (although HSLDA has written about the Common Core’s potential to encroach on homeschool freedom).

But there is one particular area of education where families may not realize they are being affected by the Common Core: online public education, which includes virtual charter schools and any other online programs offered through the local public schools.

New Alignment

These programs use the same curriculum, testing, data storage, and privacy policies as the local public school. If your state has adopted the Common Core, every course offered through these virtual public school programs is either already aligned with the Common Core, or very soon will be.

There is no escaping it. Any end-of-year tests offered through these programs will be aligned with the Common Core. And all of the information that the school district collects or requires parents to submit as part of these programs will be stored in the public school’s database.

HSLDA has long been concerned that these programs, marketed to homeschool parents as a way to receive a free computer and other support from the local public schools, carry a risk to homeschool freedom. Nothing from the government is actually free, and these virtual public school programs can open the door to public school officials looking over the shoulder of families who use them.

Because these online courses are actually public school programs, HSLDA is unable to provide legal representation to our member families in connection with any children enrolled full-time in them.

We understand that homeschooling is not always easy or affordable. That is why we partner with the Home School Foundation to offer support, funding, and even free curriculum to homeschool families who are struggling. Due to the generosity of our members, there are other alternatives besides using online public school programs.

Article originally posted at HSLDA.org.

Does Common Core Lead to National Data Collection?

by Will Estrada and Katie Tipton – HSLDA:common core

The U.S. Department of Education is prohibited by law from creating a national data system. But the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 gave the federal government the authority to publish guidelines for states developing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). Over the past decade, a slew of new federal incentives and federally funded data models have spurred states to monitor students’ early years, performance in college, and success in the workforce by following “individuals systematically and efficiently across state lines.” We believe that this expansion of state databases is laying the foundation for a national database filled with personal student data.

Home School Legal Defense Association has long opposed the creation of such a database. We believe that it would threaten the privacy of students, be susceptible to abuse by government officials or business interests, and jeopardize student safety. We believe that detailed data systems are not necessary to educate young people. Education should not be an Orwellian attempt to track students from preschool through assimilation into the workforce.

At this point, it does not appear that the data of students who are educated in homeschools or private schools are being included in these databases. But HSLDA is concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to protect the personal information of homeschool and private school students as these databases grow. Oklahoma’s P20 Council has already called for databases to include the personal data of homeschool students.

The Development of a National Database

The Department of Education laid the foundation for a nationally linkable, comprehensive database in January 2012 when it promulgated regulations altering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA formerly guaranteed that parents could access their children’s personally identifiable information collected by schools, but schools were barred from sharing this information with third parties. Personally identifiable information is defined by FERPA as information “that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty,” including names of family members, living address, Social Security number, date and place of birth, disciplinary record, and biometric record. However, the Department of Education has reshaped FERPA through regulations so that any government or private entity that the department says is evaluating an education program has access to students’ personally identifiable information. Postsecondary institutes and workforce education programs can also be given this data. This regulatory change absent congressional legislation has resulted in a lawsuit against the Department of Education, though a judge in the U.S. District Court for D.C. dismissed the suit on an issue of standing.

Guidelines for building SLDS that can collect and link personally identifiable information across state lines have been released by task forces funded by both the Department of Education and special interests groups. Many of these recommendations were compiled in the National Education Data Model (NEDM) v. 3.0, a project funded by Department of Education and overseen by the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the organizations that created the Common Core. According to the NEDM website, 18 states and numerous local educational agencies are using this model for their state longitudinal databases. In addition, numerous states are still following other database models such as the Data Quality Campaign’s 10 Essential Elements, the State Core Data Set, the Common Education Data Standards, and the Schools Interoperability Framework, an initiative that received $6 million of federal funding in Massachusetts alone. Concentrating data collection around a few models means that states are getting closer and closer to keeping the same data and using the same interoperable technology to store it. Forty-six states currently have databases that can track students from preschool through the workforce (P-20W).

Driving the Data Collection

In addition to funding data models, the federal government has driven a national database through legislation. The 2009 federal stimulus bill created the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund as “a new one-time appropriation of $53.6 billion.” With this money, the Department of Education gave money to states who would commit to develop and use prekindergarten through postsecondary and career data systems, among other criteria.

Additionally, $4.35 billion was given to make competitive grants under the new Race to the Top (RTTT) challenge. RTTT is an ongoing competition for federal funds that awards tax dollars to states that promise to make certain changes in their state education policy, including adopting the Common Core. Every state that agrees to the Common Core in order to receive RTTT funding also commits “to design, develop, and implement statewide P-20 [preschool through workforce] longitudinal data systems” that can be used in part or in whole by other states. Data collection must follow the 12 criteria set down in the America COMPETES Act, which requires states to collect any “information determined necessary to address alignment and adequate preparation for success in postsecondary education.” The 23 states that did not receive RTTT grants but are part of one of the two consortia developing assessments aligned to the Common Core are also committed to cataloging students from preschool through the workforce.

In addition, in 2011 the Department of Education attached RTTT funding to its new Early Learning Challenge (ELC). ELC gives this money to states that meet standards and mandates for early education programs. Some of the standards that states must meet to receive these special funds involve establishing statewide databases. Known as CEDs—Common Education Data Standards—they are “voluntary, common standards for a key set of education data elements … at the early learning, K-12, and postsecondary levels developed through a national collaborative effort being led by the National Center for Educational Statistics.”

Supporters of RTTT are correct when they say that there is not currently a central database kept by the U.S. Department of Education. However, the heavy involvement of the federal government in enticing states to create databases of student-specific data that are linked between states is creating a de facto centralized database. Additionally, in 2012 the U.S. Department of Labor announced $12 million in grants for states to build longitudinal databases linking workforce and education data. Before our eyes a “national database” is being created in which every public school student’s personal information and academic history will be stored.

How is the Common Core Connected?

The adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards has furthered the government’s expansion efforts, because the authors of the Common Core are clear: the success of the standards hinges on the increased collection of student data. The Data Quality Campaign clarifies by explaining that the Common Core’s emphasis on evaluating teachers based on their students’ academic performance and tracking students’ college and career readiness requires broader data collection.

The authors of the Common Core have been heavily involved in developing data models and overseeing data collection. The National Governors Association started an initiative to collect data on states’ postsecondary institutions. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation not only funded the creation of the Common Core but currently funds the Data Quality Campaign, one of the leading voices on database expansion and alignment. The Gates Foundation and CCSSO previously partnered with the National Center for Education Statistics (a division of the Department of Education) to build the State Core Data Model, a model that includes data from early childhood through the workforce. CCSSO now manages another data model: the National Education Data Model.

The connection between those pushing the Common Core and these expansive new databases is obvious. The Common Education Data Standards, a division of the Department of Education, even says, “The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia.”

What Can I Do to Stop this Data Collection?

A crucial part of the responsibility of parents is protecting the privacy of their children. This enables parents not only to guard their children’s physical safety, but also to nurture their individuality and secure opportunities for them to pursue their dreams apart from government interference. The rise of national databases threatens these freedoms.

At the federal level, HSLDA continues to work to defund and eliminate Race to the Top, the Early Learning Challenge, and other federal programs that are using federal funds—your tax dollars—to entice the states into creating national databases in exchange for federal grants. But since RTTT and the ELC are priorities of the Obama administration, it will be difficult to end these programs.

The states, however, can choose to reject these federal funds in order to safeguard student data. Please contact your state legislators, including your state’s governor, to discuss this issue with them. Ask them about their position on the issue…

Article originally posted at HSLDA.org.