Category Archives: Education

Fighting Poverty

Paul Tough wrote a phenomenal article for the New York Times magazine in which he tells the story of Ruby Payne who harnessed the Law of Attraction to start a multi-million dollar business, change her life, and fight poverty.

By accident, over thirty years ago, she discovered vast differences in the way poor, middle class, and rich people think and appropriately named it ‘Class- Consciousness.’

Ruby’s story resonates with me.

Change is possible

It is critical that you change the way you think if you wish to change anything about your circumstances. And the best way to change the way you think is to examine the people that have escaped poverty and the entrapments of working class servitude, and model how they think. Instead of hating and envying the successful, learn from them!

The Giant Sucking Vortex of Poverty

If you come from a poor or working class background, and you wish to change your thoughts and actions, the biggest obstacle is the notion of selling out. The pressure to stay in the circle of damaging thoughts and beliefs is tremendous, and it comes from within the class structure like a giant sucking vortex.


I can relate to Ruby’s anecdotes. I’ve seen grown men with families take home $1,000 on Thursday and ask for an advance on Friday because they blew the entire check on booze, cocaine, and pull-tabs. Not only did they think this was normal, they blamed other people for their actions! Meanwhile their wives and children suffer.

Schools of Thought

It appears there are two schools of thought about reducing poverty.

  1. Poverty is mostly due to a cyclical pattern of thoughts and actions that adults can change if they choose to implement certain options available to them. Outsiders can help, but it is a at best an 80/20 proposition.
  2. Poverty is structural and the poor cannot help themselves. Expecting them to help themselves “blames the victim”, is counter productive, and will only lead to more poverty. Alleviating poverty requires the power elite to lift the poor from poverty.

#1 says – you can do it and I’d love to help you – you are more powerful than you imagine.

#2 says – you are a helpless victim of a massive conspiracy. Don’t even try to change. You couldn’t if you wanted to; it’ll only make you depressed and angry, so please hold tight until we get enough funding to help you.

I used to believe in #2 and it led nowhere. Waiting around for someone else to fix your life is a dead end. You’ll die waiting.

UPDATE: Thanks to some thoughtful readers who have sent me links, I understand a little more about Ruby Payne. She seems to have made enemies in some high places. That can be a good, because it means she’s shaking things up and making people think. Her critics seem to have two strong points with which I agree:

  1. She is enriching herself by taking money from the government schools. It’s a fair criticism. Sucking on the teat of the government sow, doesn’t create wealth.
  2. She is a proponent of GWBs No Child Left Behind. I can’t understand how so called conservatives got hoodwinked into centralized education. Washington should have no… and I mean no say over what happens locally. The best way to ensure this is by complete deregulation and privatization of education.


Visit Ruby’s Blog

A couple of Ruby’s most popular books:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty

Hidden Rules of Class at Work

The book that inspired Ruby to create her company:

Creating Money

How We Can Change Our Failing Education System

What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good? Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.’ – Steve Jobs refering to public schools

The only way to change our stagnant inefficient education system is through innovation and competition not protectionism. We need to remove the government shackles from the innovators – even if they are non-degreed dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell – and allow them to fix education.

Watch this brilliant video of Sir Ken Robinson (Ph.D) talking about how schools today kill creativity.

How the Public School System Crushes Souls is the most popular post ever published on this website, and the latest comment from Ian is the most common rebuttal, so I am going to take this opportunity to counter Ian’s main points which are (dare I say) the mainstream arguments against ending the current government school monopoly.

In his comment, Ian did not mention the best solution (in my opinion) to our education problems– small entrepreneurial schools.

Please read this fantastic story about people dedicated to improving education and how the government thwarts them. If you care about education, read this today, I don’t care about your current opinion on the issue, just read it – it’s inspiring, especially part 2. These are stories about people making a difference – people that are ending our education nightmare.

Legalizing Markets in Happiness and Well-Being (Part 1)
Legalizing Markets in Happiness and Well-Being (Part 2)

I will address Ian’s comment – in its entirety – in three parts.

Part 1:

First of all, 2 cases doesn’t make something a common problem. Never has, never will. The same isn’t true here, either. Though I do agree that there are kids that get screwed over in the system that is school, there are far more kids that benefit severely

Ian is partially right. I will agree that the severity of Christine’s and my experiences are not the average public school experience, but they aren’t as uncommon as Ian would have you believe. I can name over a dozen people in our school that had worse experiences than we did.

But here is an important distinction to understand – if you are having a good experience in public school. Great! I am happy for you. But if your experience is pure torture, like Christine’s, I believe you should have alternatives. Lot’s of alternatives – not just Catholic School.

Three facts:

  • 33% of American public school students drop out
  • 50% in many major cities
  • 78% in Detroit

While this evidence doesn’t empirically prove large numbers of kids have a poor public school experience, it certainly suggests that it is quite common.

Part 2:

I want to address Ian’s point about giftedness. I poorly communicated what I meant in the original post and Ian is not the only one that misunderstood what I meant about giftedness. This is what Ian wrote:

Though, the biggest offense I take from the article is the fact that you give Gifted kids (which is a perfectly acceptable name, despite what your personal values are. Not everyone can be gifted, or else it really isn’t a gift, now is it?) the label of a disability. I may sound snobbish, but I honestly doubt anyone really wants to be labeled with a disability, especially those who excel in learning and comprehension.

Gifted and Talented children learn faster than other children, and as such need a faster paced course, lest they get bored and occupy their time with other things. That’s it. We have few other needs then that, and each of those needs are based on the individual, just like any other person. I know as I was born and raised as a gifted and talented child, and i turned out no worse than most of my friends, besides the fact that I’m usually horribly bored at school, and feel like my time could be spent doing much better, more useful things, thus hating school like no one else I know. Do some more research before showing disdain at something, as it’s not wise to insult people, especially those who form a piece of your argument, however small.

I don’t have a problem with the gifted and talented. Me, Christine, my son, several of my brothers, my parents, and many of my friends fit the ‘Gifted and Talented’ label. The problem I have with the ‘Gifted and Talented’ label is that it is yet another way of alienating and driving wedges between people.

The government should get out of the business of testing, categorizing, labeling, numbering, segregating, and institutionalizing our children. We should be free to decide whether accelerated courses are for us, much the way we freely decide everything else in our lives. We should be free to decide whether our child attends a disciplined structured school or self-directed democratic school. What is good for one child may not be good for another – even when they are gifted. But the government system rarely makes that distinction; they herd them like cattle into segregated corrals with little regard for the desires of the parent or the child. We wouldn’t allow the government to choose the food we eat. Why do we accept government dictates concerning the food (education) that builds our child’s mind, character, thoughts, and personality?

In our society, being gifted can be a social disability. This article clearly demonstrates a link between high intelligence and social, academic, and economic failure. I knew a Valedictorian of a prominent Minnesota high school who was homeless. Did you know the columbine killers were gifted? Believing you are smarter than everyone else is a dangerous place to be.

I personally believe neither forced integration (denial of individual differences and learning styles) nor forced segregation (labeling, grouping, and separation) of gifted students will produce the optimal results. We will achieve the best results when we stop institutionalizing our children and begin to treat them as individuals capable of self-direction and self-discipline. Our current model of K-12 education was not designed to promote individuality and creativity; it was designed to crush it.

John Wesley recently wrote an excellent post about the dilemma of giftedness at

Part 3:

The solutions you offer are hardly solutions at all. Not every parent can home school. it’s impossible, and suggesting otherwise would be doing a disservice to single parents, and those who work full time.

As for the neighbor hood coop, you once again have the lack of time, and you have the lack of skill and available parents. Not every parent I know can teach advanced math, and just watching some of my substitute teachers stumble through biology notes *my teacher is sick quite often* makes me shiver at the thought of something like that happening every day.

Please note that Ian did not even mention the possibility of small entrepreneurial schools.

Again, Ian is partially right. True, not all parents can homeschool, but many that could, do not even consider it. Sometimes having a second income is not a matter of survival, sometimes it’s about having a Lexus and a McMansion while your kid falls apart in public school. For many people, choosing whether or not to homeschool is a matter of values and priorities, not survival. My family is an example, so far, we have chosen not to homeschool, but we know it is an option. It would involve sacrifice, but we could do it.

Contrary to Ian’s claim, single parents can and do homeschool. Nothing is impossible. Read Kyria Kalata’s moving story about 24 hours as a single working homeschooling mom. She’s also an entrepreneur. Maybe the nay sayers could drop her a line reminding her what she is doing is impossible.

196,000 children were homeschooled by single parents in 2003. 283,000 homeschooling families earned less than $25,000 annually in 2003. – so there’s 500,000 people doing the impossible.

Contrary to Ian’s claim that co-ops are unworkable, there are thousands of community based education co-ops operating successfully in the Untied States. Here is one example. I learned about educational co-ops from co-workers that praised the advanced material their children learned at co-ops, including college level (AP) Algebra and Biology. One homeschooled boy has earned over 30 college credits without ever stepping foot in a classroom.

Large government institutions like schools and prisons do not treat people like individuals. They can’t, the task is too complex and expensive. So instead of doing something about it, making education more entrepreneurial, we throw our hands up and saying – the current monolithic government system is the only way.

Why do we believe that only government can deliver educational services to children? It’s an outdated concept. Even modern models for universal health care don’t resemble our antiquated education system. They don’t propose that all medical workers in the United States become unionized government employees in government owned hospitals and clinics. Even socialists know such a proposal would be an unmitigated disaster. But that is exactly the model we have in American K-12 education.

We must start treating children and parents (the true consumers of education) like the unique individuals they are and allow them to make their own educational choices.

Contrary to what some people would like…
The government does not own your children…

Understanding Your Intelligence – The Best Resources

Do you have questions about intelligence?

  • What does it mean to be intelligent?
  • Why are so many highly intelligent people unhappy?
  • What is the link between high intelligence and insanity?
  • Why don’t precocious children become successful adults?
  • Why do so many people with below average intelligence think they are highly intelligent?
  • Why do so many highly intelligent people have low self-esteem?
  • Can you increase your intelligence?
  • How much of intelligence is genetic?
  • Is high intelligence a social disability?

So instead of trying to answer all these questions, I decided to provide you with some of my favorite websites, news articles, and blog posts about understanding intelligence. I will be updating this post as I find more resources. If you have links to resources on intelligence feel free to post them in the comments.

Real World Careers

In 10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed – I said I wished I had never believed a person couldn’t be successful without a college degree and went on to post the follow up 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position Without a College Degree.

A new book on this subject was released this month – Real World Careers – Why College is NOT the Only Path to Becoming Rich by Betsy Cummings.

I read the 180 page book in single evening (easy read). The first half of it is excellent, but after that, some of it seemed like filler. The author could have condensed this to 90-100 pages without losing anything. But I would still recommend the book to anyone that is considering skipping college and jumping directly into a job or entrepreneurship. Continue reading Real World Careers

My Escape from the Culture of Fear

I am about share with you a powerful discovery I made about myself. I write about it with the desire that this self-discovery will be as valuable to you as it was to me.

I think there is something strange about the way I learn. I just began to figure this out in the last three years. I learn subjects in detail through long focused obsessive immersion. I find something captivating, and I immerse myself in it obsessively until I either burnout or reach a level of knowledge and ability that satisfies my desire. And I get angry or depressed when I am forced out of this hyper focused state.

They use the term hyperfocused in ADHD circles. I’m not saying I am ADHD – I don’t know, and I don’t really believe it’s a “disorder” anyway. – See footnote

My learning style doesn’t allow me to learn something I am uninterested in. I know, I know, I’ve heard it before, “don’t give me that crap you narcissistic ass. Just put the pencil on the paper, do the work like everyone else, and quit thinking you are so effing special.” But for me this is real – I can’t just snap out of it – I would have if I could have. Continue reading My Escape from the Culture of Fear

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 (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


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


10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree

I know this will work for you, because it worked for me and I’ve seen it work for dozens of others.

Warning: I gave these tips to a co-worker when she asked how she could get off the factory floor and into cubicle world. She listened to tips 5-8, and interrupted me saying, “But I don’t wanna do all that.” To which I replied, “then you better get back to school.”

  1. Make a list of small to medium sized business in your area. Start by calling the local Chamber of Commerce and asking for the names of the fastest growing small to medium sized businesses. Remember, you don’t want companies that are too large – above $250 million in revenue. Large corporations rarely hire or promote non-degreed people. I’ve seen it happen, but it is so rare, I wouldn’t count on it. Small to mid-size companies will promote anyone with ability and allow them to learn any job in the company.
  2. Remove all retailers, restaurants, and hotels (really most of the travel industry) from your list. Retailers, restaurants, and hotels of all sizes are likely to exploit you, promote you to assistant manager, pay you less than 20K, burn you out, and never promote you. Find a fast growing business in the technology, manufacturing, construction, real estate, or transportation sector.
  3. Research the companies on your list. Read every page on their websites. Look for bios on the founder, president, executives, and other people that work for the company. If the leadership bios stress educational achievement above business achievement, cross them off your list. Rate the companies on your list numerically.
  4. Go get a job at one of these companiesany job. Start with the company you like most. First memorize their website, their products, services, history, leaders, and then apply for any open position, even if it is – beneath you. But apply for the best job you qualify for. If they don’t have any openings, go to the management bios on their website and find a manager or executive you can identify with, then stop by the company in person and ask for that manager and tell her how much you love the company, what you can do for the company, and how much you’d love to work there. Dress professional, and leave a cover letter and a resume. If she won’t see you, leave a hand written note. Don’t rely on email only. Do everything you can to meet them in person. Persistently pursue employment at your top choices for several months then continue down your list. If you follow these tips you will get a job, probably at one of the top companies on your list. But the job will suck and it will pay little.
  5. Learn to do your job better than anybody has ever done it before. Tell your manager you want to learn every job in your department because you want to backup anyone that leaves or takes a vacation. When another department is hurting, walk over to the department head and tell her that you are willing to help anyway you can. When you see a problem, never complain, look for a solution, and offer to implement your solution on your own time over the weekend – for free. Even if no one notices, keep busting your ass anyway. When you see a problem, question management only if you have better idea and are willing to articulate the solution. If you have a solution, good managers will love to hear it. If you don’t have a solution – it’s a complaint. Don’t ever complain.
  6. When asked to work late or over the weekend without pay, don’t complain. Volunteer for it and do it with a smile on your face… without exception.
  7. Volunteer for everything that you can. If a new team is created – volunteer. If they need people for a booster club – volunteer. If they need people for the safety committee – volunteer. Volunteer for every educational opportunity offered. Volunteer willingly at every opportunity.
  8. Never stop talking and thinking about how great the company is and how great its products are. Never go to the bar and sit around complaining about the company. Show your passion for the company, its products, and its leaders in everything you do.
  9. When you meet an executive say this, “I’m am so grateful to be here at Company X. This is the greatest company I have ever worked for. I want to know everything there is to know about this business. I want to know how you guys come up with new products and services. I want to know your sales processes; I want to know operations. I want to help this company grow. Will you help me learn more about this company? How can I be of more service and value? I have no problem learning and working at night or on the weekend. I love this place.” Make this speech your own and memorize it. Tell it again and again to the executives, the founder, and every manager. Plan to put in 70-80 hours a week because they will take your offer. Learn every valuable piece of information you can about your company.
  10. In 1-4 years you will be one of the most valuable employees in the company. In many cases you will know more about the company than most of the managers. When management openings arise, apply for every opening you are interested in, even if it requires a degree. If you are persistent, someone will eventually give you a management position, because you know so damn much about the company. This entry-level management job will likely pay 40-70K depending on your industry, company size, and geographic location. Congratulations! You’ve reached the entry point of a college graduate. From here you can try to continue to climb the corporate ladder and your soft skills and intelligence will matter far more than your educational record. Good Luck!

So you still think it can’t be done? Read about ninth grade dropout Guy Mingo.

Want more information…
Read the Go-Getter, a short story about succeeding in the corporate world. Peter B. Kyne wrote it in the 20s and it is timeless (if you can overlook the political incorrectness).

These tips will work wonders for your career even if you have a degree.

Note: These are tips to acquiring a management position without a college degree. These are not tips on how to acquire a management position in the company of your choice, in the industry of your choice, at the best salary. If you want to do that…
Get a degree.

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

The Seven-Lesson School Teacher

My wife sent me this email the day after we watched ‘The Secret’ together.

Are we born onto earth knowing the laws of attraction? Babies are loved by most, they attract people, people want to be near them, people want to hold them, they feel the energy babies give out and feel refreshed.

What do you think when you see babies? Look how active they are, look how they take everything in, look how they absorb and learn. Even toddlers and young preschoolers have this. They attract attention because of their life force. Babies learn how to walk because they are determined; they learn how to speak because “that is what you do”.

Somewhere it starts to slow down and stop. Somewhere you stop wanting to learn, you start to think it’s too hard, you start thinking I can’t do that. Babies don’t, they try even though all odds are against them. What happens? When do we stop? Why do we stop? When do we start getting cynical? Where do we learn “I can’t have that”?

I believe she is right; we are all born knowing how to use and harness the powers of the universe. After observing my sons grow, it’s obvious to me they have no problem harnessing the Law of Attraction. But where does it go wrong?

We learn to deny our inner-self in our homes and other institutions like church and school. In America, it goes wrong for most people in school. Sometime between the 4th and 8th grades, the kids become jaded about learning. I even see indifference in the kids in my neighborhood where many parents have advanced degrees. I believe the American school system teaches us 6-8 hours a day for 13 years to quit using our God given powers by punishing us when we fail to follow blindly. Bob Proctor said that the problem with education is that it teaches us what to think, not how to think. Bob is wrong. It’s much worse than that. Our schools teach us to think destructive thoughts which produce negative results in our lives and in the world. I know this sounds crazy and defies conventional wisdom, but it isn’t an attack on teachers or intellectuals. They are victims of the same monolithic government system as the students. Most teachers know intuitively how screwed up the system is and they know they are powerless to change it. So instead of explaining my position, I’ll let the New York State Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto make the argument in his essay The Seven Lesson School Teacher and his interview in Fast Company.

I am sorry to say – as a child – I learned all of John’s seven lessons and today my Personal Development program is necessary – because to grow – I desperately need to unlearn the lessons Mr. Gatto so eloquently describes.

I believe this is what Personal Development is…

Replacing destructive thought patterns from our past while remembering what we really are and what we are here to do.

This post has been listed on the Personal Development Carnival at Creating a Better Life. – Thanks Lyman

This post has been listed on the Cultivate Growth and Blog Success Carnival at Cultivate Success. – Thanks Travis

This post has been listed on the Personal Growth Carnival at – Thanks Bryan