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Education & Parenting

Don’t Throw Education Out With the School Wastewater

Writes Lisa Van Damme over at her blog Pygmalion of the Soul:

I am appalled by the state of American education. I am appalled not primarily by the crowded classrooms, decrepit buildings, unmotivated, unionized teachers, severed arts programs, drugs, violence, or many-children-left-behind, but by that which should be the central, fundamental, defining element of any school – the education. Even those schools with richly appointed, sprawling campuses, dedicated faculty with PhD’s, and reputations for academic excellence backed by test scores to prove them still suffer from the same basic pedagogical problem. Education, the actual “learning” that goes on within the walls of our schools, has come to consist primarily, almost exclusively, of mindlessmemorization.

From the causes of WWI, to Newton’s laws of motion, to types of literary devices, to the formulas for area, etc., etc. etc., we are asked to memorize, and regurgitate, and study, and memorize, and regurgitate…and forget. Today’s schools are failing utterly to provide children with a real, functional, life-enhancing, lasting education. That is why I sympathize with the widely popular rallying cry well captured in this viral video, of people who “love education” but “hate school,” and the message, “We will not let exam results decide our fate.” They recognize that their education is bankrupt, and they refuse to define themselves by the schools’ standards of success.

But sadly, this rallying cry and most of those like it are not a rejection of education in its current, empty, memorization-driven state – they reject education as such. The idea that school must “change with the times,” that education is fundamentally for “getting a job” or “satisfying society’s needs,” that our “different genes” mean we must be educated by “different means,” that Google, Twitter, and Facebook are as legitimate means of personal development and self expression as any schooling, betray a basic hostility to the very concept of education. This should not be surprising, given that those sounding the call are victims of the very educational system they decry. How could they know any better?

What a real education actually looks like, what basic purpose it serves, what it does to enhance the life of an individual, why it is essential to life as a mature and thriving adult – these are enormously complex issues. But for my own peace of mind, I want at least to offer some food for thought, and a rallying cry of my own: Protest the “education” in today’s schools, but not education in and of itself.

What does a real education provide?

Read the rest of Schools May Be Cesspools – But Don’t Throw Education Out With the Wastewater.

Event: Free Speech and Artistic Expression

A Free Speech Dialogue to take place this fall at The University of Texas. It will be held on Thursday, September 26, from 7-9 pm. Location: The College of Liberal Arts Building (CLA), Room 0.128. As always, the dialogues are open to the public.

The topic is Free Speech and Artistic Expression. Panelists will consider questions such as: Should artistic expression be any less protected than political speech? What is* artistic expression? When is art obscene, or educational? Should artistic freedom depend on who’s paying: public subsidies or private patrons?

Speakers:

  • Greg Lukianoff, President of (FIRE) Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
  • Daniel Jacobson, professor of Philosophy at The University of Michigan
  • Nora Gilbert , assistant professor of English at The University of North Texas

Event Format: The speakers will offer brief presentations (about 10 minutes each), followed by an hour or so of interview-style dialogue with the other panelists. The final half hour will be given to questions from the general audience. More information about the Free Speech Dialogues* can be found on our website: www.freespeechdialogues.org

“We Don’t Talk About College”

Writes Lisa Von Damme at Pygmalion of the Soul:

Years ago, I accompanied an 8th-grade student I had homeschooled as she visited prospective high schools. At one school, the director of admissions welcomed us and then proceeded to assault my student with the information that entry to college had become highly competitive, and she must therefore chart the right course through the right high school to stand even a chance of admission to the better colleges. She then proceeded to sell the school with the following: my student would need to take multiple AP courses—this school offered a wide variety; she would need to complete the IB program—they were honored to be a member school; she would need to be competitive in a sport and ambitious in an extra-curricular activity—they had many from which to choose. As the director mapped out all that my student must do (with the unquestioned assumption that admission to Harvard was her foremost educational goal), I looked over—and saw her wilt.

This was a child of whom I had endless vivid, touching stories from the classroom—stories of her gasping out loud when she was irrepressibly moved by a passage from Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three; stories of her eagerly recreating science lessons at home with her parents as students; stories of her writing with ferocious confidence (though she had previously loathed writing), because, she said, I taught her how. Now, before both our eyes, education was becoming nothing about the development of invaluable, life-long skills, nothing about the discovery of joy and utility in the acquisition of knowledge, nothing about the deepening of a capacity for emotional experience. Admission to high school was about… admission to college, which was about…

The answer to that was nothing more than a vague, unstated apprehension of doom.

Many years later, I am the owner and director of a private K-8 school of 140 children in Aliso Viejo, CA. And eternally conscious of that visit to the high school and all the educational principles it implied, I am proud to say that I have a refrain here at VanDamme Academy: “We don’t talk about college.” We talk about how…

Read the rest of “We Don’t Talk About College.

“We Don’t Talk About College”

Writes Lisa Von Damme at Pygmalion of the Soul:

Years ago, I accompanied an 8th-grade student I had homeschooled as she visited prospective high schools. At one school, the director of admissions welcomed us and then proceeded to assault my student with the information that entry to college had become highly competitive, and she must therefore chart the right course through the right high school to stand even a chance of admission to the better colleges. She then proceeded to sell the school with the following: my student would need to take multiple AP courses—this school offered a wide variety; she would need to complete the IB program—they were honored to be a member school; she would need to be competitive in a sport and ambitious in an extra-curricular activity—they had many from which to choose. As the director mapped out all that my student must do (with the unquestioned assumption that admission to Harvard was her foremost educational goal), I looked over—and saw her wilt.

This was a child of whom I had endless vivid, touching stories from the classroom—stories of her gasping out loud when she was irrepressibly moved by a passage from Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three; stories of her eagerly recreating science lessons at home with her parents as students; stories of her writing with ferocious confidence (though she had previously loathed writing), because, she said, I taught her how. Now, before both our eyes, education was becoming nothing about the development of invaluable, life-long skills, nothing about the discovery of joy and utility in the acquisition of knowledge, nothing about the deepening of a capacity for emotional experience. Admission to high school was about… admission to college, which was about…

The answer to that was nothing more than a vague, unstated apprehension of doom.

Many years later, I am the owner and director of a private K-8 school of 140 children in Aliso Viejo, CA. And eternally conscious of that visit to the high school and all the educational principles it implied, I am proud to say that I have a refrain here at VanDamme Academy: “We don’t talk about college.” We talk about how…

Read the rest of “We Don’t Talk About College.

Matt Damon Makes The Case For Private Schools

From Matt Damon: where did it all go right for the leftwing activist, devoted dad and intelligent action star? | Film | The Guardian

A father of four (three daughters, aged seven, five and three, and a stepdaughter, 15), this summer he is moving his family from New York to Los Angeles, and the challenge of giving them a childhood that remotely resembles the one he enjoyed is about to get even harder.

Choosing a school has already presented a major moral dilemma. “Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. And it was a giant family discussion. But it was a circular conversation, really, because ultimately we don’t have a choice. I mean, I pay for a private education and I’m trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It’s unfair.” Damon has campaigned against teachers’ pay being pegged to children’s test results: “So we agitate about those things, and try to change them, and try to change the policy, but you know, it’s a tough one.”

Comments John Nolte:

Actor Matt Damon is a strong supporter of America’s public schools. Just two years ago, the star spoke passionately about the importance of public schools at a Washington DC “Save our Schools” rally. In fact, the actor is so impressed with public school teachers that he has demanded they receive a pay raise. That passion and conviction, however, does not apply to Damon’s own children, who will not be enrolled into the Los Angeles public school system.

[…]

This would probably mark the first time anyone has ever complained that America’s public schools, especially in Los Angeles, aren’t left-wing enough.  [Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools]

Education Thought Police: Promote “Sensitivity” By Banning Words

From War On Words: NYC Dept. Of Education Wants 50 ‘Forbidden’ Words Banned From Standardized Tests « CBS New York:

The New York City Department of Education is waging a war on words of sorts, and is seeking to have words they deem upsetting removed from standardized tests. Fearing that certain words and topics can make students feel unpleasant, officials are requesting 50 or so words be removed from city-issued tests.

The word “dinosaur” made the hit list because dinosaurs suggest evolution which creationists might not like, WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported. “Halloween” is targeted because it suggests paganism; a “birthday” might not be happy to all because it isn’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[…]

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE is simply giving guidance to the test developers. “So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct. This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests,” Walcott said Monday. […] There are banned words currently in school districts nationwide. Walcott said New York City’s list is longer because its student body is so diverse.

The words to be possibly banned include:

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
  • Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
  • Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
  • Bodily functions
  • Cancer (and other diseases)
  • Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
  • Celebrities
  • Children dealing with serious issues
  • Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
  • Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
  • Crime
  • Death and disease
  • Divorce
  • Evolution
  • Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
  • Gambling involving money
  • Halloween
  • Homelessness
  • Homes with swimming pools
  • Hunting
  • Junk food
  • In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
  • Loss of employment
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
  • Parapsychology
  • Politics
  • Pornography
  • Poverty
  • Rap Music
  • Religion
  • Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
  • Rock-and-Roll music
  • Running away
  • Sex
  • Slavery
  • Terrorism
  • Television and video games (excessive use)
  • Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
  • Vermin (rats and roaches)
  • Violence
  • War and bloodshed
  • Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
  • Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

CIP and CFACT countering Sierra Club’s “blackout rally” with Light Brigade educational counter-protest

From Center for Industrial Progress:

On Sunday, February 17, the Sierra Club will lead what is being billed as the world’s largest ever “climate rally.” In fact, it’s a blackout rally, as the Sierra Club opposes all practical energy sources–fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydro. Join Center for Industrial Progress (CIP) and Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) in our Light Brigade counter-protest. This is an educational counter-protest where energy philosopher Alex Epstein, physicist Eric Dennis, climate journalist Marc Morano, and other experts will be engaging the protesters on camera, while other Light Brigade participants hand out crucial information on fossil fuels and our environment that the mainstream media never mentions.

Read the rest…

Leonard Peikoff’s “Philosophy of Education” now available as a free online course.

WOW! This is awesome!

ARI has produced a free e-course based on Leonard Peikoff’s Philosophy of Education lectures. This course will answer the following questions.

  • What is education?
  • What is its basic purpose?
  • What subjects should children be learning in school?
  • How should these subjects be taught?
  • What can we do about the dismal state of today’s public schools?

This course presents an account of the philosophy of education from an Objectivist perspective. The course is adapted from recorded lectures that Dr. Leonard Peikoff gave at a conference for fans of Ayn Rand in 1985. Primary and secondary education are Dr. Peikoff’s focus, but many of the principles discussed apply to all levels of education.

Topics include: different theories of the basic purpose of education; how to teach thinking methods, with special emphasis on the principles of proper motivation, integration, and hierarchy; a proper curriculum; teacher’s colleges and the politics of education.

Click here to view the course outline.

Public Schooling Will Ruin Your Children’s Lives

My Word: Jack Chambless Is it time to think about home schooling your child?

Drawing from a sample size this large multiplied by two decades multiplied by hundreds of thousands of test answers has put me in a good position to offer the following advice to any reader of this paper with children in Florida’s K-12 public schools.

Get them out now before you ruin their life.

While this may seem to be a bit harsh, let’s look at the facts.

First, my best students every year are in order — Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and home-schooled Americans, and it is not even close when comparing this group to American public-school kids.

Since it is highly unlikely that any of you plan to move to Beijing, Warsaw or Bangalore, you might want to look at the facts concerning public vs. home-schooled American students.

Read the rest at the Orlando Sentinel

College Education Meltdown

Writes Mark Cuban in The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon:

I don’t think any college kid took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt with the expectation they would get a job working for minimum wage against tips.

At some point potential students will realize that they can’t flip their student loans for a job in 4 years. In fact they will realize that college may be the option for fun and entertainment, but not for education. Prices for traditional higher education will skyrocket so high over the next several years that potential students will start to make their way to non accredited institutions.

While colleges and universities are building new buildings for the english , social sciences and business schools, new high end, un-accredited, BRANDED schools are popping up that will offer better educations for far, far less and create better job opportunities.

As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.

[…]

The Higher Education Industry is very analogous to the Newspaper industry. By the time they realize they need to change their business model it will be too late. Higher Education’s legacy infrastructure, employee costs /structures and debt costs will keep them from being able to re calibrate to a new generation of competitors.

Private Schools for the Poor

James Tooley writes in Private Schools for the Poor:

The accepted wisdom is that private schools serve the privileged; everyone else, especially the poor, requires public school.
The poor, so this logic goes, need government assistance if they are to get a good education, which helps explain why, in the United States, many school choice enthusiasts believe that the only way the poor can get the education they deserve is through vouchers or charter schools, proxies for those better private or independent schools, paid for with public funds.

But if we reflect on these beliefs in a foreign context and observe low-income families in underprivileged and developing countries, we find these assumptions lacking: the poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on Earth have managed to nurture a large and growing industry of private schools for themselves. [“Private Schools for the Poor“, The Catholic Education Resource Center]

Bringing The Arts To Life

From Lisa VanDamme:

Two of the greatest pleasures, greatest revelations, of my teaching career have had to do with the arts.

The first – that reading classic literature need not be an academic, didactic, spiritless chore. Given my own education in literature (and most of yours, I wager) how could I have believed otherwise? If literary analysis is no more than a discussion of the profound symbolic value of the green light at the end of the dock, or the finger-counting composition of a sonnet or haiku, or the unearthing of incipient feminist themes in Shakespeare (yes, really) – what’s the point?

I learned the point. The point of literature is to captivate you with enthralling, carefully crafted, tension-building conflicts, distinctly drawn and timelessly memorable characters, unique and penetrating insights about life and man – so that when you open the cover you enter a universe that is brightly-lit, and when you close it you find your own life illuminated.

The students at VanDamme Academy have learned the point. Had you seen them the day I walked in to class to read the conclusion of Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three and found them sitting at attention, watching eagerly over their shoulders, having placed a box of tissues next to my desk (and many of their own) you would know just how well.

Now you can too. How? http://www.bringingtheartstolife.com/

The second – that visiting a museum can be more that just a stroll through a gallery, looking cursorily at work after work, forming some superficial, unexamined response (“that’s pretty”), and after hours of surveying the collection, coming away drained. Yet that is how most people recall the experience.

I learned from Luc Travers, VDA Literature Teacher and author of Touching the Art (www.luctravers.com), how to be immersed in, enraptured by, and moved to tears admiring a work of visual art. He has taught me, and years of lucky VDA students, what it truly means to appreciate art: how to stand before it giving it due attention, noticing every little detail, integrating all the elements, arriving at an understanding of the “moment” depicted in the work, and connecting that moment to my own life.

There was a time that that Millais’ Hugeunot Lovers on St. Bartholomew’s Day (http://tinyurl.com/millais) adorned the school’s walls as decoration, and I admired the lovely couple, their rich attire, and the creeping green vine. Thanks to Mr. Travers’s method, now when I pass by it I am moved by a portrait of momentous decision, the aching fear of losing a loved one, and the calm reassurance of a man of profound integrity. What a change.

Now you can undergo the same transformation. How?

www.bringingtheartstolife.com

For years, Luc Travers and I have worked hard to turn our students into passionate art devourers. Now we want to count you among our converts.

The conference will include:

  • A 2 ½ hour poetry course with Miss VanDamme
  • A 2 ½ hour art course with Mr. Travers
  • A guided tour at the beautiful Getty Center
  • A banquet at the Getty restaurant, with breathtaking views of the LA basin
  • A rare opportunity to observe a VanDamme Academy art and literature class
  • And more!

Capitalist Solutions

Damn.

We’ve just been reading Dr. Andrew Bernstein’s latest book and it is a barn-stormer. Entirely relevant to today’s political and economic problems this short volume is the perfect antidote to the problems the Occupy Wall Street children’s choir are crying about.

Go grab yourself a copy (and a few for your liberal– and conservative — friends) as it is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction: Resolving the Country’s Problems

Part 1: The Relevant Principles of Objectivism

Part 2: Rational Solutions to Current Moral/Political Problems
1 Repudiating Environmentalism in Theory and Practice
2 Defeating Islamic Totalitarianism
3 A Free Market Solution to Problems of Health Care
4 The Right to Abortion as an Application of Individual Rights
5 The Superiority of Free Market Education to Government Schooling
6 Individual Rights Applied to Representative Issues

Epilogue: Re-Stating the Theme

Scholarships to Study Free-Market Economics and the Philosophic Foundations of Capitalism

National University of La Jolla, CA has a limited number of scholarships available for three online courses that focus on free-market economics and the philosophical foundations of capitalism. These scholarships are being funded by a grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The scholarships cover the full tuition for the courses plus the application fee to NU. Two courses (ECO 401 and 402, Market Process Economics I and II, respectively) use Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics by George Reisman as the required textbook. One course (ECO 430 – Economics and Philosophy) uses Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal as the required textbooks. These courses can be taken from anywhere in the world, as long as one has access to the internet. The courses incorporate live chat sessions in which the professor and students interact in a virtual classroom, much as they would in a traditional classroom.

The courses run for the next time in the summer and fall of 2012. More information about the courses on the web can be found here:

ECO 401 – Market Process Economics I

ECO 402 – Market Process Economics II

ECO 430 – Economics and Philosophy

To apply for one or more of these scholarships, send your name, transcript from your high school or university, and an essay of no more than 750 words discussing why you believe you deserve a scholarship and your future education and career plans to Dr. Brian P. Simpson.

Send them to [email protected] or 11255 North Torrey Pines Rd.; La Jolla, CA 92037. Please indicate which course or courses for which you are applying for a scholarship. You can apply for one to three scholarships, depending on how many courses you are interested in taking. Note that to receive a scholarship you will have to apply to National University and enroll in the course(s). If you have questions, please contact Dr. Simpson at the email address above or 858-642-8431.