Decentralized Education

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Citizen Doctor
Don’t Tread On Me

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power.” — Thomas Jefferson

The Problems with Centralized Education

How did America slip from top of the class to average in world education rankings? Through central control of the educational system. George W. Bush’s national No Child Left Behind program is seemingly yet another failure of central planning, but by the elite’s standards it is has been huge success since their long-term objective has been to deliberately dumb down the population, according to former government insider Charlotte Iserbyt, interviewed by Alex Jones.

How could it be an oversight that Americans are not taught many of the most essential concepts required to be informed citizens in a constitutional republic? For example, we are taught next to nothing about something so basic and vital as the monetary system. Most Americans have no idea about the true significance of the paper bills in their wallets. Consequently, wealth accumulated by past generations is being stolen from right under their noses.

Under federal central control, our schools are failing. Failure will accelerate as funding for the prevailing centralized, high-overhead education model vanishes with increasing budget cuts and a reduced tax base. Perhaps this is just as well, given that most of our public schools have become more like day care/indoctrination centers, if not prisons complete with armed guards and metal detectors.

The federal government has no business being involved in education; it is the province of the States by default. The framers of the US Constitution understood that decentralization is the best defense against tyranny. Authority in some limited areas was originally granted to the federal government by the States only because there was compelling reason to do so and then only with safeguards against abuse of power. Presidential candidate Ron Paul understands this well and so has long advocated the elimination of the federal Department of Education.

My Journey to Disillusionment

I view my 12 years in the public school system as one long prison sentence. I was forced to memorize and repeat, obey authority, and sit in a chair. The system tried to destroy my curiosity and creativity, but I countered its efforts to stifle my development by visiting my local library after school to educate myself. I also joined the Boy Scouts to learn about leadership, first aid and safety, swimming and sailing, orienteering and camping, rifle shooting and archery, and many other skills not taught in public school.

My extracurricular efforts paid off. To the amazement and dismay of some of my teachers who had low expectations of me, I scored among the highest in my school on several of the College Board achievement tests and so managed to escape “prison” to what I perceived as the freedom of college.

I was thrilled by the relatively unconstrained college campus life. My enthusiasm propelled me all the way to a doctorate, but along the way I learned that college was no utopia. As I became more aware of the very serious problems in our society and world, I realized that our institutions of higher learning, which one would think of as having the best understanding of social problems and to be the best equipped to devise solutions to them, were not doing so — at least not very effectively.

I decided to work within the system to improve it by becoming a college teacher myself. Part of my preparation was to study experiential learning as exemplified by the Foxfire program in rural Appalachia. I later introduced this philosophy into my department’s curriculum through project-oriented courses with opportunities for creativity and teamwork.

My courses were successful, but there was little professional reward. Promotions, tenure and raises were given to those who published technical papers and won research grants, regardless of how poor their teaching evaluations were. Indeed, professors usually spend less than half of their time actually teaching, often shunting the responsibility for teaching lower-level courses to inexperienced graduate students. Most academics ride on the backs of young people striving for a good life. Shame on them.

Equally disturbing was the feeling of being in an intellectual box. My college saw itself as a bastion of academic freedom, but there was invisible pressure to conform to an orthodoxy. Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance helped clarify what was disturbing me. The author had taught college Rhetoric and came to the conclusion that our college system is a “church of reason”. The academic world bears a strong resemblance to a religion or cult, complete with priests, holy books and cathedrals.

In the Church of Reason, a rational rather than romantic approach to life is preached. The cold and sterile intellectual processes of the mind are considered to be the arbiters of truth, whereas the compassionate intuitions of the heart are discredited. This reflects the suppression of the feminine in modern western society, and accounts for the tragic state of our world.

There is nothing wrong with rationality, but it must be balanced with intuition to discern quality and truth. Deduction and reduction must be balanced with integration and synthesis. Native American wisdom teaches that your heart tells you what to do and your mind tells you how to do it.

Our Flawed System of Education

The dominant system of education preys upon young people starting out in life, indoctrinating them, shaping them into useful tools for corporations to exploit and burdening them with debt so that they end up spending their productive lives as captives of the system. Our school system has become like a high-overhead factory assembly line (see Decentralized Manufacturing) churning out robotic workers to serve the corporations.

In my day, at least college was affordable and there was a reasonable expectation that the investment would pay off. This is no longer the case, as college expenses have soared and the assurance of a satisfying career with a healthy salary has become an empty promise for many. Students are saddled with an onerous and inescapable debt and are likely to find themselves moving back in with their parents upon graduation. In desperation, some have turned to prostitution to finance their education. There are even suggestions to pay for a degree by selling a kidney. Something is seriously wrong with a society that so cruelly exploits and abandons its young.

Our intelligentsia should be at the forefront of society, leading the way toward a modern Age of Enlightenment. Instead, they are either neutralized: compartmentalized by the overly specialized disciplines or distracted and intimidated by the publish or perish culture; or they are co-opted: gatekeepers and agents of the dominant system of central control, conditioning and filtering candidates for suitable roles within hierarchical corporate structure.

Just look at the Economics discipline, at how utterly it has failed to educate and lead society out from under the domination of the banksters. They have obscured the truth about the Federal Reserve Banks and have endorsed intellectually bankrupt Keynesianism. The corruption of Economics was accomplished by co-opting the points of central control, by funding chairs of prestigious academic departments and infiltrating editorial boards of prestigious journals. Case in point: our illustrious Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke was formerly Chair of the Department of Economics at Princeton University.

We should ask ourselves, why are there so very few honest intellectuals of the caliber of recently passed historian Howard Zinn leading society out of ignorance? I say to today’s intellectual elite, in modern internet parlance: Epic Fail. As Treebeard said of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings: “A wizard should know better! There is no curse in Elvish, Entish, or the tongues of men for this treachery.” Looking at you, Ben Bernanke.

A Better Way

We need to return to the old-fashioned decentralized system but with the enhanced opportunity made possible through effective use of technology. A decentralized system does not guarantee excellent education everywhere; but freed from the yoke of central control, local communities will have no limits on what they can give their children.

Decentralized education begins in the home and community, according to local customs and cultures. In traditional and indigenous cultures, the elders are the primary teachers of the young. At their stage of life they have the most wisdom, experience and time. In a healthy society, they would be well-established and secure, having achieved their goals in life and having a natural desire to pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generation. Our unhealthy society devalues their worth and relegates them to nursing homes. Perhaps they would not need to be in a nursing home if they felt useful and valued.

I recommend reading about the Foxfire program in rural Appalachia to learn what community-based education can be like. Students collect traditional wisdom and knowledge from the elders and craftspeople of their community and record it in magazine articles and books, making their own decisions about how to learn required material. They emerge from the program as functional, independent adults able to contribute to the community which has supported them.

Nowadays, traditional educational techniques can be  effectively supplemented by technology as demonstrated by Sal Khan and his Khan Academy. Students learn at their own pace until they are satisfied that they have mastered a topic through video instruction and interactive computer exercises.

Some classroom teachers have found that the traditional model of teaching can be turned on its head with much better results. Instead of lecturing in class and assigning homework exercises, students are asked to watch Khan videos at home so that class time can be better used to work on exercises, with individual attention given to students who are stuck — attention from both the teacher and from other students who “get it”.

All the knowledge of the world is potentially accessible to humanity right in their homes through the internet. It is like the Library of Alexandria raised to the Nth power. Just as the big box stores are being eclipsed by online retailers, the current education model is becoming obsolete. An expensive diploma doesn’t guarantee a million extra dollars over the course of a lifetime of employment as it once did; indeed, you’ll be lucky to break even. Watch the video College Conspiracy for more details (but beware of the NIA).

Choosing your path

I once knew a very wealthy business man from Asia. He explained that he had already achieved all his ambitions in life. He owned banks, factories, retail stores and more, all over the world.  His pleasure in life now came from passing on his knowledge to apprentices he would seek out and take under his wing for a few years, having them practice managing at one of his locations, negotiate deals for new properties, and so on. The first step in evaluating potential apprentices was to ask them if they had an MBA degree. If they did, they were automatically disqualified because, he claimed, they had been so damaged by the educational system that it was not worth the trouble to repair them.

So I encourage young people to consider alternatives to going into debt to attend college. Start a business, become an apprentice to a skilled craftsmen, or travel the world instead.  Of course, there are some career or vocation choices that require the resources that centralized education offers, so there is no single best strategy applicable to all. But there is much room for greater decentralization in education. Be bold. You are a sovereign individual and access to the accumulated knowledge of human civilization is no more than a few keystrokes away.

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