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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arne Duncan talks about Home Centered Education

I listened to NBC interview with secretary of education Arne Duncan this morning and he said a lot that I agree with and he really cares about changing the state of our education and moving away from the status quo “No one is (defending) the status quo.”

“Parents are always going to be their Children’s first teachers and always their most important teachers.” As a home centered education advocate I cannot agree more with this statement. Arne Duncan said they are going to “double our budget in parental involvement.” I’m not sure how money will make parents more involved in their children’s lives unless it involves bribes. I would hope the fact that they are your children you would already be involved; obviously this is not the case. A teacher actually asked him if they are looking at forcing parents be involved under legal penalty. Thankfully parents that are participating in home centered education have already taken responsibility for their child’s education. “Good things happen when families learn together” thank you Arne Duncan – we who educate our children around the home already know this. Learn more at and Classical Conversations

Tomorrow I will address some issue with teacher burnout, dropout rates, and other spicier subjects in the interview.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gap - Between Rich and Poor

I hear this term all the time the gap between the Rich and the Poor is growing. Therefore we need to tax the rich to help the poor out more. This Logic is false. The rich got there by providing a service better, cheaper and more effectively than anyone else and people were willing to pay for that service or product. Therefore all the people that bought that product were better off because of this person. This also gave the person more time/energy/money to spend on a different activity/economic stimulation that they wanted to do. This activity/purchase was provided by someone who was able to perform the desired task at a less expensive, more efficient, better way than his competition. This is how a free market and free choices work.
Thomas Edison was very intelligent, would taxing his intelligence and giving it to someone with less means made the world better off? Would the light bulb been invented? Sure this is a stretch, but not as much as you would imagine. You can’t legislate intelligence any more than you can whose rich and poor.
Democrats sight Warren Buffet as a rich person who says he needs to be taxed more. If Warren Buffet wants to be a free person (which I tend to doubt) he could either : 1.) Not pay accounts tons of money to do his taxes and just send in what he think he should pay above and beyond his current tax amount. This could save him money and he would pay the taxes he thinks are fair. 2.) The government has set up a separate tax account that you can pay into if you feel like you don’t pay enough. 3.) He could set aside that extra money he feels he should be taxed every year and give it to an organization that currently is getting government money.
Warren Buffet know much more at making money than most people in the US, especially me. If he really wanted to make a difference in the nation he could use his money in one of the 3 ways I mentioned above. He could even devote his time to a charity and make it so valuable that it didn’t need tax dollars to operate – wouldn’t that be wonderful. His statement on his taxes therefore is not based on his actual feeling on his wealth, but on political motivation to see people’s choices controlled by the government. He knows how the government operates and how to make money off government controlled programs better than anyone(then Al Gore), of course he wants us taxed more!
The best way to close the gap on the rich and poor is to better the education in the USA. You can’t do this by pouring money into the system, you can only do this by teaching people how to think. When you teach people how to think you don’t need big government, you don’t need unions, you don’t need others to do for you, because you can do for yourself. Maybe this is why it is going to be impossible to turn education around in the US, without a fundamental change to the way we view it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Education week has started on NBC
“Education – The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life”

NBC Education week has started. I am encouraged that we are addressing Education as a national concern. I am a firm believer that if we had a good education system we would not be in the economic turmoil we are today. We would require less government control, which would mean a smaller government, we wouldn’t be in to debt to China who knows how much and we would be experiencing more individual freedom than ever, as opposed to being restricted more than any time in the history of the United States.

Currently we rank “25th in math and 21st in Science out of 30 developed countries” according to data obtained by NBC and their polls show 58% of the public believe we need a complete overhaul and 77% give our public schools a C grade or less. So the public is finally starting to understand how poorly our public schools are doing. My theory is because of the high unemployment and the realizations that they were never educated.

According to Arne Duncan we have “A lot of money in the reform movement” and we are not giving it to the “status quo.” I think by now we would have figured out the spending money on education was not the answer. We spend more money than anyone on education, and receive significantly less bang for our buck. Our education system is the equivalent to a brand new fully stocked BMW, but without an engine. We have the bells and whistles; the children are entertained, when not sleeping on their desk.

The issue will not be solved by increasing our dependence on Chinese yen (see debt). We must go back to the same teaching methods as the 1 room school house. Where an untrained 16 year old could teach 4-15 year olds how to conquer a country, read and comprehend Greek and Latin. We must teach our children how to be free by giving them the tools to think for themselves. There is a simple solution and it is real inexpensive. 1.) Teach young children to memorize, and how to make it fun. 2.) Teach children in middle school how to think, logic, about the information they are learning and how to relate it to the world around them. 3.) Teach children in high school how to logically think and express their opinions in their unique way.

From Arianna Huffington , Editor-In-Chief, Huffington Post new Book “If America’s Public Education System were a product, it would have been recalled. If it were a politician, it would have been impeached.” In the 1960’s the greatest generation had over 90% prose literacy rate and very little federal government involvement. Schools were run by local school districts and designed to educate, not build up false self esteem. Now when schools are designed to build up self esteem and not to educate prose literacy has dropped to 14%. Our children may feel real good about themselves when there 16, but being unemployed, not having the ability to think, pay bills, vote intelligently is not fun and they will not feel good about themselves when they turn 24 and reality hits them in the face. It’s time to get back to the HARD WORK of learning and teaching the students to teach themselves. It is time to go back to the future: classical education.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

President Bill Clinton I have an answer for you!

Perhaps this morning I finally found my muse for writing on my blog title. Today it is President Bill Clinton. There was a very interesting interview today on MSNBC on the economy and on his Global Initiative. His initiative since it is not a corporation or government is able to cut through red tape and do things “faster, better and more quickly.” So he just admitted that a free market is the best market for turning our economy around. Now he was quick to say that he won’t comment on if the “government or corporations” are the best means of doing that. Kind of funny since he will fully admit that his free market Initiative is doing awesome, but this will not be the focus today.

The quotes that really got me were if we could fill the open jobs that people are not trained for “we would be in a different world we’d be looking at 6.9% (unemployment) not 9.6%” and “How can we get people trained for those jobs quickly.”
The second quote is where I will focus. The issue with education today is it is focused on jobs. Our public school system is designed to educate the masses to be obedient and good workers. However those who are innovators are changing the world so quickly that by the time a person is a College Graduate over 50% of what he learned as a Freshman no longer applies. That is if they graduate in 4 years, not 5.5 like me. How can a school system work when its focus is on making people job ready, when we don’t even know what jobs are going to be there for them in 5, 10 or 15 years from now. It is rather presumptive by our school boards and federal government to say they know what is best job path is for our children.

So what is the answer? Children must be taught to think, love to learn and know how to learn; a classical education. There is a basic cycle to learning and you cannot deny it and be true to yourself. Take something you love to do and are good at it. The first thing you did was learn the grammar behind it. What words describe what you are doing… you may have learned those words early in life and it is second nature, such as for a golf shot “bend your knees” or it could be new words you have to learn like in rugby “the prop shall not bore into the opposing prop and cause the scrum to collapse.” The second step is to learn how to do that action well. After years of practice I finally hit all my drives straight because I have my knees bent in the proper position every time. The third step is teaching it to someone else. Johnny when you hit the gold ball you need to keep your knees like this, and you’ll have to practice a lot to hit your shots straight every time. These steps are call the Trivum: Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom.

If we understand for a person to be good at something, they will take these three steps if they want to or not. So for someone to be good at a job it would be wise he has these steps ingrained in them and the skills to master these steps. It doesn’t matter if they are making photo cells for solar panels or building a house. If they have these skills they can adapt to any job that is presented to them. Imagine if you had a job opening as someone came in for an interview; “I know I’m not qualified based on my resume, but I know how to learn. I will learn the terminology of my new job, I’ll work on doing it perfectly by coming to work every day and doing my best in every task you give me and since I’m new to this industry I’ll do it for less money than the ad says because I know there will be some extra training cost to you. By the time I’m done training I’ll be able to explain how to do it to the next person you hire.” That person would be hired in an instant. If he did what he said he would do then he would move up the company very quickly.

Instead our education system is designed to create mindless drones who are told what to do, just graduate and there will be a job for you. Thankfully a good number of you, 60% now a days, strive for something more then what the government gives you in education and do quite well. The rest are getting left behind. The masses are beginning to notice. The only way to have sustained unemployment numbers below 5% without future destructive government policies, like we saw in the 90s, is through education, a Classical Education.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The hits keep rolling

Watching HSN this morning this popped up. To be fair it probably wasn't the pubLic schools fault. Although I have not heard where the 4 people who reviewed the spelling were educated. "As a product of public school my entire life I can say I'm not surprised," said one of the HSN analyst.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CNN Homeschooling Report Response

CNN had a very neutral home school report today. It was almost a very positive report, but of course they had to reiterate some stereotype thinking. The article itself, which you can read here is very positive:

The issue I had was with the onscreen reporters. I understand they have to report on a number of issues and homeschooling is probably something they did not take time to research and it was not a big part of their day. So I do not blame them, but I do want to answer some questions they brought up.

How do they know they are not falling behind or how do they get caught up to other children? They then touched on the fact they are tested yearly, and the “parents” say they are doing well. This is true, but you don’t have to ask the “parents” you can look at the statistics. According to research by Dr. Brian D Ray,, “Repeatedly, across the nation, the home educated score as well as or better than those in conventional schools 15 to 30 percentile points higher.” It is not a maybe homeschoolers are doing well according to their parents, it is a Statistical FACT! Perhaps a better question would have been what can parents who send their children to a traditional school do to keep up with their homeschooling peers?

This is the question our Government needs to answer. I believe until they answer this question a teacher who spends 8 hours a day, for 8 months and never sees the child again can only have a limited impact on that child no matter how much they care and try. A child is not meant to learn from 1 Adult with 29 other kids distracting them.

They also brought up the fact that parents are trained teachers and how that is an issue. Another interesting fact according to 2009 study by Dr. Brian D Ray,, “Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.” So this thought that a Mother or Father who is not traditionally trained in teaching can’t do a good job is incorrect. The text books that homeschool students use are designed to be read and self teaching. Meaning a parent can read it and the child can read it and they can understand it together. As the children get older the less they need to ask the parent to help. The parent doesn’t have to know everything about everything, they just need to know how to read the text book and help the student out where he is struggling. If you don’t feel confident in helping someone 20+ years younger than you understand something, it is probably because you are not confident in the education you received. So instead of trying to understand that subject and struggling through it you want to send your child to the same education system that made it so you couldn’t teach someone a basic math, science or grammar fact, that my friend is the definition of insanity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

College Transition

I was home educated my entire life. As the oldest of 4 boys I can safely say that I was the Lab Rat. My younger brothers are receiving a higher quality education than I ever received. I am not worried about them going into college or the real world, and neither should you worry about your child because if I did it, then so can your student.

In college you have to study on your own, you have to make yourself go to class; you have to know how to read a text book and study. All of these skills are better learned at home than in a modern school setting. So being prepared for the college academic experience is not the issue people must worry about.

I believe the question must refer to home schooling socialization. I had no trouble making friends, sure I didn’t know all the in and outs of making fun of people and how to act at the big frat party right away, but is that true and good socialization? This was probably due to how I was raised and that I wasn’t at the high school parties and I enjoyed building up my friends. I also believe that my personality is just that, my personality. When you come from a different background people assume that is why you act how you do. You are home schooled people assume that your quirks are because of that. I can safely say that neither I nor any of the home school students I know that went to college had any issues making friends or acting socialized. Typically I was asked why I behaved so well.

I never once had a person ask if I was home schooled, so I must have fit in well. Personally I probably fit in too well. Which is another concern of parents, will my children continue to follow the values that I lay forth. According to Research done by Dr. Brian Ray ( 94% strongly agreed or agreed to the statement, “My religious beliefs are basically the same as those of my parents.” Contrast this to information found on “After your kids spend 12 years in public schools, there is a 70% chance that when they leave home, that they will quit going to church.” So if your goal as a parent is to raise your child to love God, then home schooling is clearly beneficial.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Classical Education and Freedom

Classical Education and Freedom - Jennifer Courtney
For centuries, the classical model of education prepared generations of young adults for the challenges of leadership and government. The goal was to produce virtuous leaders and citizens, not to produce skilled workers. This focus on free thinking and self-government is especially crucial to the life of a democracy. A classical education focuses on critical thinking skills, logic, debate, and rhetoric, i.e., the art of expressing the best ideas in the best way. In the true sense of the liberal arts, the lessons in a classical education are designed to make men and women more free. As Americans search for solutions to current issues, we should address past educational models that worked.

With its focus on critical thinking skills and practice in eloquent oral and written communication, a classical education prepares students in a democracy to be informed, self-governing citizens. In his book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future, Mark Bauerlein notes Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of the link between freedom and an educated populace: “Education would preserve the sovereignty of the people, and without it, the very system designed to represent them would descend into yet another tyranny in the dismayingly predictable course of nations” (2008, 212). Modern schools aim to produce good workers, a form of utilitarianism, while turning their back on the important task of raising adults who understand human nature and the complexities of human institutions.

Classical education is steadily gaining momentum as more and more classical schools open around the country. Likewise, many home-educating families have turned to this model, and they seek to educate their children with excellence. Leigh A. Bortins has founded a company to address these needs. Her corporation, Classical Conversations, has established classical communities across the country to support families who wish to give their students a classical education. Students meet once a week to discuss great literature, debate current events, conduct science experiments, present philosophy lectures, and generally sharpen one another’s thinking and communication skills. In her book, The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, Ms. Bortins outlines the goals of a classical education: “Both factory and computer education rob a child of the need to think and replace loving, caring mentors with a machine or a system. The classical model emphasizes that learning feeds the soul and edifies the person rather than producing employees to work an assembly line” (2010, 5).

Now that the goals of a classical education are established, the method itself can be examined. To summarize briefly, the classical model occurs in three phases of learning known as the Trivium, which is Latin for “three roads.” Grammar, the first stage, roughly corresponds to our elementary schools, lasting until the student is 11 or 12. This stage involves memorization of the rudimentary facts of any subject. Memorization comes easily to these young students and is critical preparation for the higher orders of thinking. The goal of this stage is not rote memorization or cramming of meaningless facts that will soon be forgotten; in contrast, parents and educators train students to acquire a base of facts that they will use in later studies and to develop a mental system for organizing and retaining those facts.

Logic (or dialectic) comprises the next stage, corresponding to the junior high school grades. Students naturally become interested in asking why, debating issues, and reconciling ideas. The classical model complements their natural tendencies by teaching them formal logic and debate. In preparation for their own debates, they must be equipped to recognize and avoid errors in logic. Classical educators work with a student’s natural developmental tendencies at this stage by facilitating Socratic discussions of history, literature, philosophy, and science while helping them hone mental discipline through studies of Latin, formal logic, debate, and higher math.

Grammar and logic, the first stages of a classical education, have prepared the student for the final phase of the Trivium―rhetoric. By the end of the rhetoric stage, students should be able to speak and write persuasively and eloquently about any topic they have studied. One of the fundamental premises of a classical education is that words are important. During the logic stage, instructors teach students not to fall prey to the words of others. During the rhetoric stage, classical educators teach students to captivate others with their words. Like logic students, rhetoric students continue to discuss big ideas through history, literature, philosophy, and science. In addition, they now cultivate the best means of communicating these ideas through writing and speaking. They are not working to create clever or catchy sound bites (this is our modern conception of rhetoric); rather, they are honing their skills of recognizing what is true, good, and beautiful, and persuasively and eloquently communicating their knowledge to others.
A concrete example will help to illustrate the Trivium. A grammar stage student will learn that George Washington was the first president of the United States, that he was inaugurated in Philadelphia in 1793, and that the Constitution gave him certain powers as the leader of the executive branch. A logic stage student may delve more deeply into the reasons the Founding Fathers felt so strongly about separation of powers and checks and balances and may discover why Washington voluntarily stepped down after two terms. A rhetoric student will apply Washington’s leadership lessons to a position in a student legislature, deliver speeches about presidential precedents, or debate current events and legislation in light of Washington’s presidency.

In addition to employing a methodology that works with the mental and spiritual developmental stages of students, a classical education embraces material that prepares students to understand the philosophers, political leaders, authors, and artists who have influenced our culture. Perhaps it is time for American educators to re-examine the classical methodology in order to produce leaders who are prepared to preserve and re-energize our democratic society. Perhaps we could aspire to John Milton’s vision in Of Education by stirring our students to have “high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages.”

Jennifer Courtney, with her husband Tim, has been classically home educating her four precious children for six years. She currently serves as the Oklahoma State Manager for Classical Conversations, Inc. In this role, she recruits and trains directors in the establishment of classical home education communities. She also writes classical education articles and speaks to parents and other educators who want to understand and implement a classical education. Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma State University with an Honors degree in English. Her background in the liberal arts inspired her to encourage others who desire to mentor young people as they explore the great ideas of the past in preparation for the future.