Link Love

This is an idea I got after reading Copyblogger. I decided to start a meme. Please read this post to understand how it works. These are just a few of my favorite blogs. Pass the link love on.

I want to thank you all for a wonderful 2006. Have a great 2007.

Grace Seeker
eMoms at Home
Verve Coaching
Jane on Careers and Life
The Fast Lane
Josh Kaufman
Cultivate GREATNESS | Personal Development
WendyPiersall.com
The Closet Entrepreneur
Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers
Will Wilkinson / The Fly Bottle
The Golden Pencil
Copyblogger
Success From The Nest
The Digerati Life
Cultivate Greatness
John Cox
Empowerment 4 Life
Creating a Better Life
The Copywriter Underground
Shards of Consciousness
Christine Kane
Adventure Dad
Balanced Life Center
Unusual Businesses Ideas
Craig Harper
The German Girl
Soni Pitts
Salem’s Lots
Reach for Magnificence
Moirsolace

How a 5-Year-Old Orphan Realized his Dreams

I was planning on taking a few days off, but I heard a story today I couldn’t wait to share with you.

I spent today with my 4-year-old son at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Both he and I love the place.

Kids over 8 can do experiments in the laboratory. The museum was quiet today, so I asked a woman if she would make an age exception for my 4-year-old. She smiled and said “I’d love to.”

So we donned our goggles, white gowns, and rubber gloves and sat down at the ‘Cheek Swab’ experiment. You swab the inside of your mouth with a toothpick, drop the cells onto a glass slide, dye them blue, and view them through a microscope.

We couldn’t find the cells on the slide and Walter – a museum volunteer – helped us find them. When we found the cells, Walter explained them in detail.

My son became restless and distracted and I said, “he’s a little young for this.”

Walter replied, “When I was about six (1940s), I was at the St. Paul winter carnival and I ducked into a big red brick building to warm up and I saw a bunch of people experimenting with microscopes. It so piqued my curiosity that I began to read about microscopes at the local library and that led to an interest in biology, which eventually led to becoming a doctor, and now I am a father of three doctors. I was orphaned at five you know. I had no parents. You’re doing the right thing. You don’t know what curiosity this moment my lead to. People ask me why I volunteer here when I could be out making money speaking and lecturing and I tell them it’s because I owe my success to this place. That red brick building I ducked into sixty years ago was the old Science Museum of Minnesota. I volunteer hoping that I can pique curiosity in more youngsters.”

I was amazed, but the impact of his story didn’t hit me for several minutes. I walked away. As my son was zapping Rhino viruses at a video console, I approached Walter and said, “I have a website and I want to tell your story. I want to confirm – did you say that you are an orphan that became a doctor and went on to father three more doctors?”

He replied, “Yes”

“Can I write about your story”, I asked.

He cleared it through the Science Museum of Minnesota and gave me more detail.

Here’s a few more tidbits…

After he was orphaned, a local church took care of him and his sister. They didn’t have family in America so they were alone. When a church member offered to adopt him, he told the church he didn’t want a new daddy because he loved his old one. So he didn’t get a new family. The church separated him from his sister and sent him to work on a farm.

Not only was he an orphan, but he was also stricken with polio a year later.

As a teenager he moved to the city and took a job at the Armour slaughterhouse in South St. Paul. He almost bought some farmland, but he realized farming wasn’t his passion and enrolled in college. He worked his way through college working two jobs, one at the slaughterhouse and another at 3M.

He founded several cancer research foundations.

I asked him what he thought was the key to fathering three doctors. He said, “I never taught them anything. I don’t believe in teaching. Everyone is self-taught. You don’t learn a thing until you ‘discover’ it for yourself. I coached them. I did it by asking questions – questions that spurred curiosity. The best teachers I ever had just asked me questions. Don’t lecture or tell your kids anything, ask them great questions. It’ll get ‘em thinking and they’ll be fine.”

I hope Walter inspires you as much as he inspired me.

The strange thing is…
He didn’t ask me many questions.

Happy New Year

Christine and I will be taking the next few days off from work and blogging to spend time with our family and friends.

Thanks for kick starting this blog in 2006. Because of you, the results have exceeded all expectations. I am grateful for every one of you. Thanks for being part of this site.

May the New Year bring you peace, happiness, and success.

Have a Happy New Year!

Don’t be afraid to change your business plan, some plans don’t make sense

For those that are new to our blog– I’m Christine – Steve’s wife. Some of my previous posts are here and here. I haven’t posted in a couple of months because I’ve been so focused on my book business. Anyway…

My dream is to own a successful profitable business doing something I love. I want to make money, but it must be doing something I love and I love books.

I’ve always planned to open a retail bookstore – a discount bookstore with all bargain remainder type books. I’ve been in the book business for over 14 years. I visualized every aspect of my new store:

  • The employees I would need
  • The computer architecture
  • The shelving
  • The trim
  • Where I’d position the counter
  • The name
  • The style
  • The logo
  • Everything

I’ve owned and run several small businesses. I read tons of books on running small businesses, retail trends, and why people buy – see my favorite booklist below. I thought… when my boys get a little older, when I have a little more time, when I have a little more money, you know the excuses… finally, a few months ago I thought, why not now? I can do it. We have the money, the kids are in part-time Montessori, and I can make it work. I started scouting out my surrounding area and took down phone numbers of both new strip malls and older out of the way places. After making several phone calls my dream of a retail store began to fade. Rent was outrageous! The new malls wanted $22 per square foot plus $8 – $12 for taxes and maintenance fees. The second rate malls wanted $15 – $18 plus the added extras. A well-stocked bookstore needs lots of space. I was looking at $4000 – $6000 per month just in rent. To be honest, I think I could make it, but it doesn’t make sense to pay that amount in rent. It isn’t profitable enough. I could probably find cheaper rent in a downtown area but I wanted a suburban bookstore. A place where stay at home moms could drop in during the day and browse books with their kids or dads could give mom a break on the weekend and the kids could play in my ‘kids den’ area, all while dad shops for books at a cheap price.

Altering the Dream

2 weeks ago I had one last phone call from a property owner and he said he had a great deal. After speaking to him I knew I had to alter my dream. The “great deal” was $14.00 per square foot. Wow! I thought it was pretty good considering the location. Then he said “Oh, and the taxes and CAM (common area maintenance) are $8.00 per sq. foot.” My heart sank. I cried. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not about to give up on the book business, but my plans needed to change.

I run an online bookstore from the basement of my house. Business has been awesome. I’ve broken my yearly plan by over $10,000. My sales are double what they were last Christmas Season. My original plan was to build up my inventory and move it into a retail bookstore, running the retail store with a large web presence. After discovering the cost of retail space and finishing the book Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers I realized my retail dream is dead. When I look at all the tax write offs I have for running a business out of my home and employing my kids when they get older, hands-down a home based business is the clear winner. In Minnesota we could buy a 6,000 sq ft house on 10 acres and build a 5,000 sq ft building for less than the 6K per month I’d shell out on retail rent.

The new plan is to just keep growing my online business.

It’s hard to change my plan to own a retail bookstore because I love the idea of being a visible part of our local community. You are a destination where people come to shop and feel happy. When you are online you are a mystery. Nobody knows or cares who you are just as long as they get their product. My plan will now consist of buying a bigger piece of property. Something I can build a large 4-season outbuilding on. Instead of nice wooden shelving with the books organized by category it will contain steel shelving with books sorted by barcode. Instead of having a staff of knowledgeable ‘book people’, I will have my children and neighborhood teenagers running around folding boxes and slapping address labels on them. I’m not giving up; I’m just accepting the changing reality. All this is fine with me because – in the end – what I really like to do is – make money doing something I love. And I love being surrounded by books.

You can browse my eBay bookstore here:
http://www.soconik.com

Recommended Reading List (sorry, I don’t have them in my inventory right now)

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers

EBay Powerseller Secrets

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Cashflow Quadrant

Own Your Own Corporation

Why We Buy

Call of the Mall

The Future of Blogging

The Internet is the CB Radio of the 90s.” – an unnamed ABC executive.

My wife came home from her Bookstore in 1997 and said, “I’m going to sell books on the internet.”

To which I replied, “Yeah, good luck with that. Nobody’s going to buy anything on the internet, it’s just hype like those cable shopping networks in the 80s.”

I rarely thought positive in those days. I was dark. But I was a completely different person back then. (Quote – Mickey Knox – NBK – my favorite movie in ’97)

Obviously, I was wrong – dead wrong.

My wife saw the opportunity before most of the people near her. The first place she sold books was on ABE and Bibliofind. Here’s a history of these book sites. The book business has evolved and she is evolving with it.

There is still endless opportunity on the internet. Blogging is one opportunity that will remain an opportunity for anyone that is creative and inspired enough to make it work for them. But it is evolving too.

Blogging is just a new buzzword for an old profession. My favorite part of the old school print media is the columnist. I love a good columnist and I love a good blogger. To me they are nearly synonymous.

Column from Dictionary.com

5.a regular feature or series of articles in a newspaper, magazine, or the like, usually having a readily identifiable heading and the byline of the writer or editor, that reports or comments upon a particular field of interest, as politics, theater, or etiquette, or which may contain letters from readers, answers to readers’ queries, etc.

Blogging won’t die like roller disco, it will evolve like rock and roll.

As long as people have valuable original thoughts to write and the barriers to publishing those thoughts remain low, people will write and people will read.

This post has been submitted to the the Problogger Group Writing Project.

Are Your Fears Real or Imaginary?

The innate intelligence present in small children amazes me. They have an uncanny ability to cut through the B.S. and get right to the truth. I don’t recall having thoughts like the one in the story below. Do you remember thinking this way?

Around midnight last night, my 4-year-old son was sobbing at our bedroom door. My wife got up to comfort him. She went to his room to snuggle and talk with him in his own bed. This is the story my wife told me this morning.

“What’s wrong buddy? What are you scared of?” she asked him.

“My imagination… It’s too big. It scares me.”, he said.

He wasn’t able to describe what he imagined that frightened him.

Before she left his room, she asked him, “Would you like me to leave the door open a little?”

He replied, “No, the stuff I’m scared of is in my imagination and that’s in my head, so leaving the door open won’t help.”

OMG! My 4-year-old knows his fears are inside his head and that’s where he must deal with them. Having the door open was an outside solution that wouldn’t help.

It took me most of my adult life to realize this basic truth. Did I know it when I was four too? If so, how did I unlearn it?

Almost all of our fears and all of our worries are imaginary. If we can change what we imagine, we can change reality.

More Clicks of the Week

Every weekend I post links to stuff I’ve read the previous week.

Why Journalism is Dead by John Cox. I realize that he’s talking about my article, but I love what he says about journalism. He’s right. Modern mainstream journalism is the paradoxical combination of sanitized negativity.

Make your Readers Famous by Darren Rowse. I need to incorporate my readers more. You folks reading this blog are the most critical element of the blog. Without you it’s an academic exercise. Thanks for reading. I am grateful for each of you.

Blogging to Peak in 2007 at Yahoo news. I believe they are wrong. It’s going to grow for years beyond that. We might not call it blogging but it will continue to grow.

I Lie, Cheat, and Steal at Empowerment 4 life. I like the way he took these negative traits and spun them into gold.

Antidepressants by Lyman Reed. I’m with ya brother. Been fighting that battle since six years old. Good Luck.

The Dreams Dilemma of the Parent and Spouse by Wendy Piersall. Good stuff. I struggle with this dilemma daily. It’s hard to train your mind to think win/win.

The 80s Arcade at Triplets and Us. If you are a child of the 80s this is great stuff.

The Biggest Gamble of Your Life (Is College Worth it?) by Michael Robertson. Michael takes an economic look at college costs and returns. I’ve always thought college was too expensive, but this sheds a new light on the subject.

Changing Minds – This is a fascinating site.

Microsoft To Show Search Engine Users The Money by John Chow. Microsoft may pay you to search.

How to be better at almost anything by Kathy Sierra. Quit listening to your glib inner voice and head straight to infinite wisdom and creativity through intuition.

A Long Forgotten Leadership Trait

Here is a leadership trait that you rarely see in corporate America today. But you don’t have to be a business leader to use it. Anyone can use it. In fact I believe it’s one of the great secrets to wealth.

Be generous – especially at Christmas time.

On Thursday all 300 employees at my company received an email invitation to an impromptu meeting in the lunchroom. We all wondered what the announcement was.

Our company founder’s son and daughter opened the meeting saying:

Our father was a generous man and loved each and every employee of this company and we decided that he would want to give you all a gift this Christmas. Our family has been financially blessed this year and in our father’s spirit we wish to share our blessings with each of you. This gift is not from the company, it is from our family.

Our founder passed away in 2005.

They proceeded to call each employee to the front, gave her a hug and handed her a Christmas card.

When everyone had received a card the daughter said, “Go ahead and open it.” Inside each card was $500.00 in cash. Five green franklins! The family handed out $150,000 in cash 10 days before Christmas.

You should have seen the outpouring of emotion. There were people in tears. Nobody expected this.

Then the daughter said, “This isn’t a company sponsored event so I don’t need to be politically correct – Merry Christmas.”

This happened at a company that regularly gives its employees double the industry standard annual raises, has a generous profit sharing program, and a generous bonus plan, so there was no need to do it. It was done out of kindness and love.

They gave the same amount to everyone from the CTO to the worker on the factory floor. The goodwill and positive energy in that room was overwhelming. In my working class days, we had many years where we survived on less than 10K a year and Christmas was depressing because of the financial strain. I know this gift meant a lot to every employee, but imagine what it meant to the single mom struggling through college while putting together widgets on the factory floor.

For most companies, the Christmas bonus has gone the way of the pension plan and free medical insurance. To me, Thursday at work was a trip back in time. To a yesteryear when Christmas was truly about goodwill, love, peace, joy, and giving. I don’t know if that day actually existed in the past or its a wishful revisionist history, but it existed at a factory in Eagan Minnesota on Thursday Dec 14th, 2006.

So in the spirit of our passed away founder, remember this Christmas season – people are the greatest asset on earth. Be generous to each other. We are all one.

How the Public School System Crushes Souls

“It has been said that whoever asks about our childhood wants to know something about our soul. Society must take time to inquire.” – Isa Helfield 2001

Let me bare my soul for you.

When you read about the problems with American education, you usually read statistics about literacy and dropout rates. But those statistics don’t do the subject justice because the problem with American education is a human story. Every dropout is a human being, every illiterate teenager is an individual, every teen that commits suicide was somebody’s baby, and every kid that’s doing 20 to life is a real breathing person – full of potential.

People are too quick to criticize parents, teachers, administrators, and students. The failure of government education isn’t theirs alone. It’s every American’s fault because we continue to allow the unrestrained growth of government schooling. Haven’t we learned anything from our own experiences in government schools?

At the end of this post, I will list some books on this subject, followed by a list of links about this subject. But before that, I will share some thoughts and stories that expose the American K-12 meat grinder.

The Girl Who Sat in a Bathroom Stall for a Year

My wife is a beautiful, capable, intelligent, self-confident, ambitious, entrepreneurial woman. She had all these qualities as a child as well. During her senior year of high school, she spent her lunch hour hiding in a bathroom stall. She didn’t eat lunch for a year. Why? Because no one sat with her in the lunchroom and sitting alone in a bathroom stall ashamed and frightened was better than public humiliation. Don’t think that she is an isolated case, she isn’t. I just stumbled across this last week.

For a significant percentage of kids in our government school system, survival is the only goal. Based on my experience, I’d guess 10 to 20% of government school students suffer from severe psychological and emotional abuse. Smaller percentages suffer physical and sexual abuse.

My wife and I both describe our years in the government school system as a prison sentence. My wife kept a running countdown of days left in government school, like chicken scratches in a prison cell.

I asked her to write a blog post about her experiences with government education, but she won’t do it because thinking about it is too painful and depressing. She describes it with one simple word – horrible.

My wife and I were in the same grade and attended the same Jr. and Sr. High in Bloomington Minnesota from 1981 – 1987. We didn’t know each other when we were students. During our school years I had no idea she existed. She was ‘a nobody’.

I would have been ‘a nobody’ too, but I decided after 18 months inside that I wasn’t going to allow the public education caste system to brand me ‘a nobody’ and I became a highly visible renegade burnout. She knew about me. In her yearbook she wrote “biggest dirtball druggie in the whole school” next to my picture. She said the only time I communicated with her during those six years was when I bumped into her in the hall and growled at her like an animal.

Now before you jump to the conclusion that we were in a rotten school in a poor school district and had screwed up parents, let me set the record straight. During the 1980s, Minnesota had the #1 or #2 educational system in the US (they still do). Within Minnesota, Bloomington was one of the top two school districts in the state. The schools we attended (Olson Jr. High and Jefferson Sr. High) were the best schools in the district. So our example comes from the best of the best of the best government schools in the United States. We both came from Beaver Cleaver families, with adequate income, no divorce, abuse, or family violence.

My wife and I have talked about our negative experiences for eighteen years and neither of us believes we learned anything of value within the system. Everything worth knowing we learned outside of school.

I used to skip school and sit in the public library and read all day. I have an insatiable desire to learn but I couldn’t learn in school. The political, social, and sexual tension in school was too distracting.

I was born with this intense desire to learn and grow, but sometime in the second grade, school became an obstacle to learning. I felt thwarted at every turn by fellow students, teachers, and meaningless assignments. It’s hard to learn when you are constantly afraid of having your head flushed in the toilet.

The 10-Year Old College Prodigy

My father is an autodidact engineer. We had computers (TRS-80) and teletypes in our home since 1977. I taught myself to program Level II Basic at eight years old. By 10, I was hacking into commercial programs to improve them. By 11, I was enrolled and succeeding in college level programming classes at North Dakota State University.

Junior High Computer Class Failure

Two years later in Jr. High, I took an Apple II computer class. On the first day of class, I looked through the syllabus, found the last lesson, loaded the 5 1/4 inch floppy, and completed it. I beamed with pride and arrogance. The teacher looked at my program, turned bright red, yanked me out of my seat by my ear, and I fell to the floor humiliated. He pointed to the door and said, “get out of my classroom.” He forced me to sit in the hall the rest of the semester and failed me.

I didn’t complain to my parents or the administration, because they never listened before, so I had no reason to believe they would listen this time. That day ended my stint in education – I showed up – sometimes – but I never returned mentally. So even though I have a diploma, it’s fair to say my formal education ended in the 8th grade. I never bothered trying to please the system again and I checked out of programming and computers for 15 years. I contracted a 15 year case of the F*ck Its (A term my brother learned in AA for an attitude that leads people to fall off the wagon).

This single event didn’t push me over the edge. It was years of institutionalization and constant emotional, psychological, and physical harassment. From 2nd to 8th grade, I was harassed for having the wrong haircut, the wrong jeans, the wrong belt, the wrong look on my face, the wrong brothers, the wrong parents, and the wrong attitude. The harassment ended in 8th grade when I fought back violently. It worked, earning me a lasting respect. At the time, I believed it was my only viable option.

I spent most of my life believing I was defective

I believed I was defective until recently. I thought the reason I couldn’t function in school was due to some inherent incurable defect. But in my thirties, I discovered that I wasn’t defective, I was just different. Three years ago I read this article from Josh Shaine at MIT and it changed my life. His story was just like mine (except the expensive prep school part).

Government school doesn’t work well for kids that are different

I know there are oodles of success stories from government schools. I understand the system works great for some people. But what if you aren’t one of those people? What if your spirit won’t allow you to follow directions? What if your heart forces you to be different? Then what?

Why are you throwing your life away?

If you conform, the system rewards you. If you rebel, it destroys you and someone in authority will inevitably ask you this question…

Why are you throwing your life away?

Think about the implication of that question. Your body and soul in the back of a garbage truck on the way to the dump.

I’m not angry or bitter

You may think I sound bitter about all this. I’m not. I am grateful for my experience because I believe it’s my purpose in life to tell these stories. I am never going to stop talking about it. The emotional abuse of children in our government schools is shameful and the story must be told.

The Intergenerational Code of Silence

Few kids tell adults what really goes on within the school building. Did you? When you finally got out of school and went to college or work, most of you wanted to forget about the place.

A famous comedian said “you know who scares the sh!t outta’ me? Those f..king people that liked high school. What are they sadists – masochists – what the f… Did they go to the same freaking place I did?”

When we have children, we don’t want to tell them about our experiences, because if we told them the truth – the horror stories and the wasted time – we’re afraid they’ll use it as an excuse to fail. Besides, if you admitted the truth about your experiences, how could you justify putting them on the yellow bus every morning.

Is it just part of growing up?

When I talk to people about this, most don’t want to hear it. And the most frequent response is, “Everything you’re talking about is just a normal part of growing up.”

Emotional abuse and self-denial is not normal childhood development.

There is nothing normal about enduring years of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse in a government institution. I have met dozens of home-schooled kids and they don’t suffer from these problems. When I talk to them, they stand upright, look me in the eye, and speak confidently. Many of the government-schooled kids I meet won’t look me in the eye. They hang their heads and speak in muffled tones I can’t understand. Many of them act like abused puppies. The contrast is astonishing.

What’s normal about a homely awkward girl walking into the lunchroom and hearing three hundred kids chant her name, “Trina, Trina, Trina, Trina, Trina, Trina, Trina,” until she breaks down sobbing and runs from the lunchroom? I saw it and I am sad to say I participated in it.

Things are Different Today – Yep – It’s Worse

When my sons were born, I wanted to believe that things were different today, and I discovered that they’re worse. I met a local mother with teenagers several months ago while I was anguishing over what to do with my son’s education. I asked if her kids were in the local public school district (which has an outstanding reputation). She said, “We pulled ‘em out. It was horrible.” I prodded her for more information. She spent most of her nights with her kids trying to correct the damage done at school earlier in the day. She said there was a lack of basic decency and respect throughout the institution.

She said the students intentionally elected an obese, awkward girl as homecoming queen as a joke. Funny huh?

Her kids said that racism was so rampant that life was intolerable. Racism is something I didn’t have to deal with. Sure racism was there, but there wasn’t any racial conflict. I’ve read racial conflict is a constant problem in many of today’s government schools.

About a year ago, while I was planning my writing projects, I contacted my 12th Grade English teacher. He was one of the few teachers that treated me like a free spirit instead of a caged animal. He was one of those teachers that fought the status-quo, and I respect him for it. I asked him what had changed about his students over the past 25 years. This is a paraphrased summary of what he said:

Critical thinking skills have been absent from my classes for years. Kids used to read the book “Catcher in the Rye” and then describe what Holden Caulfield meant to them. Today, they read it and expect me to teach them what it means. Not just most kids, all kids. I haven’t seen a critical thinker in my classroom in five years.

The top students learn the system. If they are free thinkers, they hide it, because they’re after top grades and independent thinking is too risky and unpredictable.

What’s different today is the nature of the mediocre and poor students. They don’t confront and challenge us like they used to. They seem brain dead and indifferent.

Our zero tolerance policies have created a larger gulf between the students and us. From the late sixties until the mid-nineties, the students and their culture were somewhat accessible. Today they completely shut us out.

The Poisonous Pedagogy

Yesterday my 4 year old son asked, “You never say no to a teacher, right dad?” I asked where he heard that. His Montessori pre-school teacher said it. This is an example of what Alice Miller calls the Poisonous Pedagogy. I didn’t answer my son’s question directly. But I believe we should teach our children to question authority and refuse to follow blindly. I plan to talk to the teacher and the administrator of the school. I realize the need for an orderly classroom, but she can maintain control without demanding blind obedience.

The Gifted and Talented

We have a new label in our schools called – Gifted and Talented. I believe everyone is gifted and talented, so I don’t care for the label, but… The gifted child learns advanced material earlier than the mean. And they have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. They tend to be highly emotional and in some ways, it is a social and learning disability. Patricia A. Schuler writes about the high risk facing this group of kids. She quotes the triggers as “lack of intimacy and rejection.” So these kids need intimacy and acceptance? Does anyone believe they’ll find these qualities in our government schools? I don’t.

What is the solution?

So let’s say you agree that government school may be the worst possible place for kids to learn. Then what is the solution?

Is it private religious schools?
No. Most of the above problems are present in the parochial schools – especially large ones. The biggest benefit the parochial school offers is the ability to easily remove abusive kids and teachers. But the smart covert tormenters will survive. The larger the institution, the harder it is to expose them.

Can we reform the existing system, minimizing these problems?
No. As long as you put hundreds or thousands of kids in a large government institution, the Lord of the Flies scenario is inevitable. Institutionalizing large numbers of children before they form a moral foundation will always lead to abuse.

Possible solutions:

  1. Home-schooling – Millions of people are home-schooling in the US and it grows every year. It isn’t just for religious fundamentalists anymore. 25% of home-schoolers are non-religious. This is the best solution if you can do it.
  2. Small neighborhood based co-ops – Small cooperatives of parents and professionals creating home based neighborhood-learning centers.
  3. Small entrepreneurial schools – This is what I have opted for with my 4-year-old. He will be attending a small private Montessori school, with three teachers serving 20 students in a single room.

How is the Post Related to Personal Freedom?

My personal development program directly attacks the fears I learned during my stint in government school.

  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success or fear of responsibility
  • Fear of rejection

My personal development program also attacks this belief which is clearly taught within our government schools.

  • My happiness and success are dependent on another person’s evaluation of me and my performance

This is an extremely damaging belief that I work hard to eradicate. As long as I continue to look outside myself for validation, I will be dependent and addicted.

A little controversy

A post over at ww-success.com (link no longer valid) cites the statistic that only 18 out of 100 American high school freshmen will earn a college degree within six years of graduating from high school. He goes on to cite statistics that show the relationship between education and income. I don’t dispute either of these statistics. He then makes the argument that the economic future of our nation depends on increasing the percentage of students that graduate from college. Based on our current system, he’s right.

But why do we need to keep this system? Our current government schooling system causes this problem. It’s designed so 20% rise to the top and the rest fall out to the factory floor. We have an antiquated system designed to supply labor to an industrial economy that doesn’t exist anymore.

As a society, shouldn’t we question how we discriminate between job applicants?

  • Are high school and college graduates more productive or is that assumption prejudicial?
  • Couldn’t prejudice be the root cause of the average income disparity between various educational levels? Similar to disparities between sexes and races?
  • If 82% of children will never graduate from college, why don’t we open more doors to them and see if they can make it? Wouldn’t that be in everyone’s best interest?
  • What could it hurt?
  • What are we afraid of?
  • Why punish and discriminate against people that don’t make it in formal schools?
  • What purpose does it serve?

“one of the best programmers I ever hired had only a High School degree; he’s produced a lot of great software, has his own news group, and through stock options is no doubt much richer than I’ll ever be.” – Peter Norvig in Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

Test taking is the most valuable skill you can posses in school
My brother-in-law is a doctor and a successful student. He says that test taking is the most important skill necessary to succeed in college. I know he’s right. But what does that say about college? Who’s going to pay anyone to take a test? What does a test measure? It measures your ability to memorize stuff. Who is paid to memorize stuff? Actors? Pilots? I don’t know. I’ve never been paid to memorize stuff.

The most valuable skill you can possess in life

The most valuable skill you can possess is the ability to acquire useful knowledge and apply it to solve real problems. Once you own this skill, you have all the education you’ll ever need.

More History and Background

An Irish commenter on Reddit asked if American government schools are as insane as they are portrayed in movies and TV.

No, the stuff you see on TV and most movies is mild. The only two movies I’ve seen that come close to modern American youth culture are Kids (Warning – This Movie is Extremely Disturbing) and Over the Edge. But the last twenty minutes of Over the Edge isn’t accurate – but everything before they burn down the school is an exact time capsule of American youth culture in the late seventies and early eighties.

How I became so passionate about this subject

Since my first son was born in 2002, I’ve gone through a 4-year period of growth, healing, and introspection. His birth changed me forever. His birth got me asking questions about how my life became what it became. One of the things I needed to know was where all these crazy insecurities and fears came from. I looked to my parents and I think some of it came from them, but not most of it. I wasn’t born with these crazy fears. I joined 12 step programs. I dug into self-help books. I immersed myself in the work of Jung. But I never found the root cause of the baggage until I found this book – The Underground History of American Education. After reading the book, I saw reality through a new lens. My life made sense again. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but about 70% of it directly applied to my educational experience.

I was also terrified after reading this book. People are going to think I’m nuts if I talk about it. What am I going to do about my kid’s education? Am I going to home school them? What am I going to do? I was flummoxed.

My wife and I had discussions over several nights and we decided that we would do anything legal to keep them out of government school.

But I still question the decision because I want my sons to be ‘normal.’ If I send them to some alternative school, will they hate me? If I homeschool them, how will they learn to pick up girls? Will my neighbors think I’m a freak? Constant questions enter my mind.

Recommended Reading…

Book List:

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling

Beyond the Classroom

Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education

Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves

The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom

The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School

Not Much Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Links:

Students Dropping Out of High School Reaches Epidemic Levels

1.1 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2003

The Public School Nightmare

Underreporting Crime In Public Schools: A Shell Game?

I’ll share the results of our journey on this blog as it progresses. So subscribe to my RSS feed for easy updates. If you don’t have RSS, get my feed via email.

Trust the people, give them choices, and the school nightmare will vanish in a generation. – John Taylor Gatto

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

 

Stuff I Clicked this Week

Every weekend I list a few of the things I read the previous week.

Why Continual Learning is so Important at Cultivate Greatness. Travis Wright reminds us never to stop learning. Good Advice.

Why Gratitude Makes You Happier and Wealthier at Christine Kane. Christine reminds us of the importance of gratitude.

7 Reasons Why Personal Blogs Rock at problogger.net. Darren points out how useful it is to learn to write with a personal blog.

Credibility at Smart Graduate School Applications. This writer makes a good point about increasing your credibility by showing a negative trait.

Making Money Consciously at Stevepavlina.com. Steve writes a stellar piece on why making money isn’t immoral.

The Art of Mystery at The Copywriter Underground. Great tips on keeping readers interested.

What is Your Mythology? at Shards of Consciousness. Rick gives us some insights on religion and spirituality.

Seven Ways to Beat Procrastination at Cultivate Greatness. An excellent article on beating procrastination.

Five Things to Trump Your Fear at Success from the Nest. Tony gives us insights and tips on how you can fight fear with pain.

The End of Potty Training at Adventure Dad. I’m jealous. I’ve got one trained and one to go.