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…