Parents Should Teach Children to Read

Children must be taught. The child will crawl by itself, but must be guided to not lick the electric outlet. He or she will walk, but must learn to not dash into traffic. Nothing a child is taught is more important than reading. Reading exposes them to other people’s thoughts beyond their immediate contacts. Reading shepherds the child into an expanding world. As the child is exposed to other people’s ideas, he or she will distinguish one from another, true from false, fantastical from actual, and eventually develop a mature ability to think. Parents should teach children to read. No other parental responsibility is more important.

Contemporary public schools are not interested in teaching students to discover their innate freedom of thought, of speech, or of communication. Public schools teach reading but focus on developing normative students. They treat all exceptions as special needs projects. Socrates could not teach in any public school today for the same reason he was jailed in Athens. Athenian authorities wanted children to become good citizens first and good soldiers second. Socrates taught students to question the lessons and offered the students a method of inquiry. Nothing has changed in the oldest case study in education. Socrates’ heresy is still heresy. No Socrates would be hired at an American public school. He would still be a corrupter of youth.

The education of the young can serve the prevailing ideology or it can serve the individual. Athens had one opinion and Socrates another. Today the state prefers one and many families the other. This remains an unequal contest because the state, specifically the education establishment, has legal authority over children, and therefore does not care much what families think about individual learning.

American public education uses a mutable progressive ideology. Mutable because it changes gradually over time and with the goals of educators, but without losing focus. Ideology because the ideas of the curriculum interlock to create a self-referential reality. The result is designed to limit freedom of thought. A population emerges that is limited in its ability to discriminate good ideas from bad, or truth from partial truth.

Public educators understand that learning to read does not create a free mind. The process of teaching reading can itself be a vehicle used to bind the thoughts of children, like ancient Chinese women had their feet bound.1 The resulting chattels walked gracefully for the teacher, but could not wander off. Functional literacy may be the right skills for a good student or a good citizen, but not for a person destined to wander away from the institution.

Compulsory education law demands that parents hand over children to state authority and indoctrination. Even homeschools do not escape this authority. Homeschools must submit to state regulations and local supervision. Home schooled students must be tested in the core educational ideas of the local public school. Local school boards, social services, and the police are on hand to enforce this authority.

Much damage has been done. America is no longer the most literate country on Earth. The normal American operates the government and most business. The labor force is just functional. This is by design. Liberty always irritated the leadership. Industrialists did not approve of free thinking workers any more than planters wanted literate slaves. Business still does not want literate employees in call centers and box stores. Normative behavior and politically correct thought are the ideal for workers and citizens. The two ideas grew together in the United States and both work toward a common goal: a compliant functionally literate worker. Grandpa Johnny Couldn’t Read and his kids came of age listening to creole pidgin hip-hop. Millennial children coming of age live in a world of images and surfaces a few inches from their faces. The most reasoned statement they see is a meme. Normal people in all three generations have become disinterested and docile. The 2020 emergency demonstrated how docile.

Ironically, the dual track education system, one for the leaders (private) and one for the workers (public), that solved the initial problem of too many literate workers was damaged by the health emergency. Many people came awake and are now questioning whether the compulsory public education that set the standards for good workers and good citizens is still helpful in their lives. Something can be done immediately to push back against this indoctrination. Parents should teach children to read.

Parents must see the harm in letting public school teach the child to read and choosing the texts. Public education aims for minimum proficiency. It aims for functional literacy. It aims to instill specific ideas about the world. Control of the narrative must not be allowed from the first reading lesson.

Parents should derail the process by teaching children to read before and during their public education to counter-balance the indoctrination. The child has no chance of meeting a teacher in school who is interested in their reading skill and their freedom of thought. Parents should get quality material in front of the child as soon as possible. Middle school or high school is not too late to read a little Thomas Paine or Murray Rothbard. The more children who think independently, the fewer Prussian adults the state can march off into the permanent military underclass staffing Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Ukraine.

Parents should teach children to read as early as possible. In or out of public school, the parents should expose the child to non-ideological, traditional texts. Every step closer to emancipation is a win. The family that takes this path will have a fight to the last school day with authorities who want supremacy over the child, but there is a fighting chance if the free thinking child is in the family’s corner.

1J. S. Mill, On Liberty

Local Education Authority (The School Board)

Every state requires parents to send their children to public school with two exceptions, private schools and homeschools. Private schools are regulated by the same state political entities as the public schools. State regulations vary, but most regulate private schools like public schools. The difference comes as private schools provide their own local authority under state law.

The state sets guidelines for registration and certification.1 Requirements for teacher certification and length of school day and school year are set. Curriculum must be approved and meet state minimums. Records must be kept and things like attendance reported to the state. Health and safety certifications of teachers and staff from the state adhere to the qualification for all educators in the state. Textbooks and testing may have to be approved, depending on the state. Parents engage the private school and authority is transferred by the state for that child to the private school.

Homeschools fall under special statutes within each state. This is also summarized in the private school document referred to above. Because no mechanism exists for transferring education authority to the parent-teacher, the homeschool child remains under the same Local Education Authority (LEA) as the public schools. Homeschools must meet fewer state standards than other private schools, but the ultimate authority lies in the LEA. Usually, parents deal with the district employees who work for the superintendent who represents the LEA.

When parents withdraw children from public education, it is a political act, not necessarily for the parent, but always for the district. The parent may not recognize the political impact, but the district does. The public school loses revenue and loses influence. The elected school board and the district superintendent retain primary educational authority over the child. The district assures that the family adheres to all state and federal laws. If a family naively breaks a rule, the district can and will call the sheriff or social services.

Consequently parents should never just file the declaration of withdrawal and happily run off with their children and Charlotte Mason2 to pursue learning. Even though most districts have a light touch with homeschoolers, the parents should do two things to assure they do not run afoul of the LEA or any district employees accidentally.

First, the prospective homeschool parent should identify the various people in the local district, but especially the Superintendent and the Board Members. This information is often hard to find. Call the local school to get the times of the next public meeting. Attend. Attend online if the COVID rules are still in force. Take notes. Be on the lookout for policies, or changes in policies, that will affect your homeschool.

Second, the parent should learn the day jobs, resumes, and public statements of members. School boards set policy and make decisions for a public school district. Since no elected homeschool parent sits on a school board, it is fair to assume that all the members on the LEA are politically opposed to what the homeschool parent is doing. School Boards are both rule-making and enforcement groups, just like the County Commissioners and the City Council. Decisions in school board meetings affect the community. Much local regulation in your area comes from school politicians. School boards are the most powerful local government. They have huge budgets. Small does not matter. COVID teaches that local power over individuals can be devastating. Who could name a County Public Health Administrator in 2019?

school board
“screened” by new 1lluminati

Public education is a very powerful political force in every state. Education in Colorado is 34% of the entire state budget. Many millions of dollars are dispensed from the state government through the unpaid school boards. The education budget is much larger than the municipal budgets in most districts. The elected school board members are among the most influential politicians in the state. They also strive to be low-key. Bottom of the ballot. Nothing to see here.

Parents should follow the money. Paid School Board Members receive modest compensation. Often they make less than custodians at any school. They hold other jobs. The parent should know who pays specific district school board members. Many have income associated with education. No district allows board members to be district employees, but many are teachers’ union employees or consultants on education policy. They are democratically elected by the voters in the district. Like most judges, LEA members are non-partisan elected officials who serve 2, 4, or 6 year terms with staggered elections so that no more than a third are up for election. No single election could change the ideology inside any existing board.

As a governing body a school board strives to administer by consensus, keeping individual disagreements and perspectives private, backing the actions of the superintendent. This sort of democratically elected administrative and rule making body used to be called a soviet, but fashion is off that term. Under any name, this is the democratic organization most vulnerable to authoritarian influence. Anyone who tried to get changes through the PTA, or in a parent-teacher meeting, will understand that the voter-parent has very little influence and is included only to provide consensus. Board Members receive orientation when elected. Usually this orientation comes from the National School Boards Association, where the majority of members in any district belong. In the NSBA words the mission is to provide leadership.

The NSBA is a lobbying organization that educates the 19,000 individual elected LEA members. National policy runs downhill to all the 12,000 school districts in the country. The Department of Education and State Secretaries of Education listen to the NSBA. Local members join to have influence over state and federal policy.

Homeschools stand in opposition to this massive political machine. Because homeschools are legally self-funded, they are also a drain on the machine resources. The justification for taxation and appropriation to fund this multi-billion dollar industry comes from “butts in seats.” The LEA cannot stop a homeschool parent who abides by state law, but it might like to.

Moreover, public education continues a movement. The people who run for this political office at the local level, and serve on the cheap, see themselves as good people. They continue a great tradition in public education. As Frederick Taylor Gates said, “In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand.” Gates’ dream of 1913 is the public school reality of 2021. Homeschool families are not yielding themselves with perfect docility. Homeschools are suspect.

Homeschool parents want to teach their children the basics away from dangerous and ideological environments, but this is not how the district administration will see it. Many LEA members see the homeschool as pulling away from all the good things that public education brings to society.

school board
Texas Cotton Family Then

This is not the 20th Century and the last of the ignorant rural folk faded long ago with the cotton sack into old pictures. Now most families work in offices and stores. People no longer need to be condescended to, if ever they did. In 2021 every person who has a smart phone or access to the internet has more information and educational opportunity available than the most educated elite in 1913. Automation and information changed everything. The cotton fields of LBJ’s Texas are mechanized. Everything changed and got better except the public school system and it’s archaic political skeleton.

school board
Texas Cotton Family Now

Homeschooling is the future as surely as the smartphone replaced dial-tone. Homeschooling serves the people destined for something greater than the local district has in mind for them. The incubator is here today where literate adults mature, where children emerge from the home prepared to become lawyers or preachers, politicians or statesmen. How can we know this? We know because homeschool creates excellence when it is focused on the individual talents and needs of individual children, run by the people who know them best and care for them most. Nothing stops that.

school board homeschool
“College of DuPage Engineering Club Hosts STEM Learning Event for Homeschoolers 2018

1“State Regulation of Private Schools” by The Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Office of Non-Public Education https://www2.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/regprivschl/regprivschl.pdf 

2The Gentle Art of Learning https://charlottemason.com/ 

Homeschooling Off-the-Grid

No government wants people living off the grid. No jurisdiction in The United States allows families to live completely off the grid. Doubly so if you have children. The Back to the Earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s caused a legal reaction in most rural jurisdictions. Local governments implemented anti-hippie regulations in zoning, water rights, sewage, electrical connection, and children. State and federal authorities provided enforcement when necessary.

Off-Grid Homeschooling

Families who want to live and school off the grid must first reduce the digital fingerprint. Familiarity with local regulations and local precedent is critical information before putting up a dry cabin, installing septic or electric services, and especially before off-grid homeschooling.

Some families living off-grid continue to send the children to public school just to avoid the inevitable accusations of child endangerment or abuse. This works only poorly. Local education authorities monitor children in public schools to identify off the grid home behaviors. A casual comment like, “We have an outhouse at home,” can trigger a social services investigation or even a sheriff’s visit.

Sign Out, Shut Down, Unplug 1

The issue in off-grid homeschooling is not the schooling. Homeschooling requires at least one child and an adult who can read and write in one language. The next step seems difficult because everybody is more or less institutionalized in the United States in 2021. No computer, smart phone, or the Internet is required to homeschool children. Leaving the compulsory education system is an act of nullification over compulsory education and the indoctrination attached to it. Unplugging from the network is the act of a sovereign individual. Government at every level hates this. The zoning inspector or public health administrator is not a harmless bureaucrat. 2020 taught that rights can be taken away by proclamation, even by your local health administrator. Do not allow the local zoning inspector to derail your homeschool.

The Spartan Path

Most children schooled at home in the past learned to read and write using books, pencil and paper, with the regular recitation of previous lessons. Parents can begin with just the materials at hand. Teaching children the basics, then leading them into more advanced subjects with those basics is simpler than teaching them to speak or to use the toilet. The simplest approaches to homeschool start with books, pencils, and paper, whether your family lives in a city apartment, in a small town, in a rural district, or in an RV.

Even those without any resources, the homeless or off-grid rural families can follow George Washington Carver. Born a slave he scrambled from opportunity to opportunity to get an education. Mr. Carver was literally unschooled.

He understood that basic learning is a survival skill. He learned to read and write with the Bible. This was bravery. Basic literacy was dangerous to the owners during slavery and could get an individual sold or killed. Learning still happened. Quietly. Off-grid homeschool is bravery too. Parents cannot be sold off, but confiscation of land, vehicles, tools, houses to be sold off by investigators is common in most states. Some states regard digging an outhouse as criminal.

off grid homeschool
Education is the Key to Unlock the Golden Door of Freedom

The Blended Model Path

Not everybody wants to be completely off-grid. Those who are moving some parts of life off-grid, who must work in the system, but want to substitute solar power or composting toilets and want to homeschool still can. The family can augment the public school curriculum with directed tutoring. This approach is common today among Indian technical workers who supplement the children’s public education with something like the education the parents received in India.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain 

Alternatively, parents can withdraw students at the compulsory minimum age. Work and homeschool can follow. Going to work was common as recently as the 1940s. In the 1950s most craftsmen and artisans still went to work with just the basic education. School can be the first step in a lifelong self-education. The Great Books Program of Mortimer Adler supplemented the learning of millions of blue collar families over the years before homeschooling was available.

Now that homeschooling is permitted, the homeschool path can start directly with a set of graded readers like McGuffey. A library card to a nearby physical library helps, but remains difficult in 2021 when most public libraries are still closed. Parents should contact the local librarian to see how access to the collection works. Haunting the used book stores and Goodwill stores for additional books on math, science, history, and other interesting topics also works inexpensively. Thousands of Adler’s Great Books live today in used book stores.

The Tutoring Path

Children of corporate workers and suburban professionals can be educated at home by the parents. This was once the choice only of the upper middle class. John Stuart Mill studied at his father’s desk as James Mill worked at home. This style homeschooling is more possible than ever with the COVID distance working making one or more parents available to run the homeschool.

Dog and Cat Off-Grid
Dog and Cat Off-Grid

Homeschooling offline seems radical in the digital culture, but people attempted it recently. The “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” movement of the 1960s and 1970s put it’s heart in the right place, as much as mass movements have hearts. Drugs and deep media immersion derailed the the dropping out. Not much off-grid happened.

The government actively stamped out as many of the freak hippies as it could. Now it focuses on preventing them. Parents who want to walk on this path in 2021 must understand the triggers for the state. The joke in the 1990s was that the Internet was a trap for perverts and criminals to identify them to the police. It is now a trap for the nonconforming. To be avoided off-grid are social programs, especially financial, and medical programs that give the experts an excuse to classify parents as anti-social or even dangerous.

Homeschools must avoid being demonized, criminalized, and attacked by a bureaucracy that does not want any homeschooling, a state that will not tolerate off-grid activities, and bureaucrats that can use the homeschool as an excuse to confiscate property. Getting off the Internet is the first step off-grid. The autonomous individual should raise autonomous, thinking, reasoning children, and look out for both the bureaucrats who want to end it and the police who will profit from confiscation. Parents should not let a zoning inspector, a child protective worker, or a truant officer end the off-grid dream or disrupt your homeschool.

Children today can be literate. Even slaves learned to read.

But Quietly.

1Margaret Beetem 2021.

The Problem With Experts

Compulsory public instruction confronts students every day. Who do we blame if this instruction fails to educate students in basic skills and useful knowledge? Not classroom educators. They present the lessons. Experts design the curriculum contents. These lessons support specific ideas and social goals. These ideas are not political, but politicians get ideas from somewhere. Educators deliver lessons to individual children. To qualify only two qualities are needed:

  1. Educators must stay on message
  2. Educators never publicly question the message

Classroom educators understand that they are only a degree and an interview away from being corrections officers. Or clerks. Ordinary people choose teaching because it is a respectable profession. Some are selected, trained, given a teaching certificate and then inserted into the teaching profession. They have no control over what message the experts give them to teach.

Many reject what they find in their first job. It is not quite what they expected. They are blocked from teaching. They leave. The rest settle into being educators. They leave content to the experts. They teach to the greater plan. They introduce new ideas. Instilling belief in ideas is critical.  But sometimes the content is wrong. Sometimes the experts are wrong.

Accepting expert opinion is part of classroom discipline. If a fact fits into an internally consistent set of ideas, it must also be accepted without much examination. Ideas allow no reasoned questioning of  basic principles. Inconsistent facts are rejected and further examination is impossible. Rejecting a foundational idea by a teacher or student is not tolerated. A recent example of this is gender theory. Imagine that a student learns and believes that gender is a social construct and not a biological imperative. This idea becomes true for the individual. If someone insists that only some people have wombs, reality itself is challenged. The question challenges the idea that social constructs are more important than biology.  The question challenges the constructed reality. The challenge is a lie.  As Pilate said, “What is the truth.”

Climate Ignorance

Climate science, unlike gender as a social construct, is an accepted idea beyond realistic challenge. Thirty years of classroom materials supported environmentalism. Two generations of people learned from climate experts. Teachers taught environmentalism from a curriculum. But when did the school teachers become believers in climate science? They didn’t. Experts created the ideas and the curriculum. Educators just dispensed it. They probably were exposed to a certain amount of public information about the environment before college. They chose education careers. On graduation they were certified. They got jobs. About 1.3 million got jobs to face children every weekday. And they went to work. At work they were presented with the product they would teach to the children.

Rachel Carson made little headway with the idea of global environmental crisis in Silent Spring. Al Gore pushed against the amorphous mass of enviro-sceptics with his book An Inconvenient Truth. He was widely ridiculed for “inventing the Internet” and for his belief in global warming (climate change). These ideas had no firm core of believers. Nevertheless, a generation of students all watched the movie at school and read the book.

Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth
Still Inconvenient

Environmentalism needed two generations of students indoctrinated at school to really catch on. The idea also needed thirty years of public information support, NPR to the Ad Council, from dead birds in oil spills to unusual weather before convincing the mass public of climate crisis. Climate change is a foundational idea. It is the truth. Today any objection to climate science is wrong. “Climate deniers” are met with angry rebuffs and are often blacklisted from public events. The idea is entrenched. Reality is secure. Climate change is the truth.

Total Belief

The profession of educator is not the teaching of a century ago. This professionalism keeps them on message. An educator who deviates from the approved class material is removed or censured. This happens rarely because the classroom teachers, administrators, special needs instructors, coaches, principles, nurses, secretaries, and the teacher’s aides are mostly true believers.

Roger Berkowitz by anokarina
Roger Berkowitz by anokarina

 ““Leaders of these mass totalitarian movements do not need to believe in the truth of their lies and ideological clichés. The point of their fabrications is not to establish facts, but to create a coherent fictional reality.” —Roger Berkowitz” 

Is it fair to call public education a totalitarian movement or environmentalism a coherent fictional reality? The experts speak with one voice across all subjects, so yes, totalitarian. What about our example curriculum, climate science? One Washington state science curriculum for hundreds of classes for educators called ClimeTime comes directly from the state. The prospectus is openly ideological.

ClimeTime

“All nine Educational Service Districts (ESDs) in Washington are launching programs for science teacher training around Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and climate science, thanks to grant money made available to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) by Governor Inslee. This group includes teacher professional development and instructional materials resources developed under this grant. “2

The new offering for 2021 includes “A new virtual training, COVID and Climate Change helps teachers explore the relationships among climate change, COVID, and social injustice.” 3

A visit to the ClimeTime web site shows at a glance that “climate science” in that reality is not science at all. It is social engineering. 

Expert truths in the education industry are often ignorant and poorly informed. The idea that Earth Science is ClimeTime enforces the educators mission to indoctrinate children to accept ideas without question.

To the outsider this information is barely intelligible. Ridiculous. Unbelievable. To the student teachers, this information is required to graduate. This blinding of the rational process trains the educator to never distinguish the right wrinkle cream from bad social policy. That’s the truth.

2Washington Open Educational Resources Hub; https://www.oercommons.org/groups/climetime/4081/8036/?&__hub_id=1

 

Why No Indians on the Enterprise?

In “The Kumars at No. 42”, Patrick Stewart, the captain of the Starship Enterprise, is interviewed. The grandmother asks him bluntly, “Why didn’t you have any Indian characters on your show? A ship that big must have had a huge IT department!”

Fair question. The tech industry would be inconceivable without men and women from India, even more in the United States than in Britain.

The Education of Indian Technical Workers

What began in the 1990s as a simple cost-for-quality swap at most US companies became a choice of quality by 2021. The best candidates for reliable on-shore and off-shore engineers, and high-quality technical staff come from India to staff major companies like Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Facebook, Twitter, and Cisco.

To be fair, engineers from China, Ireland, the UK and Russia also arrive, but the vast majority of technical staff come from the Indian subcontinent. Many transit other countries like France and Canada to make the H1B quota work, but they originate in Indian schools.

Quality of training:
The national education system in India is old fashioned at best. Maybe even backward. The images of ranked, uniformed students in front of chalkboards is still true. The education of Indian technical workers begins with the elementary system and secondary system. These schools run the gamut from traditional Catholic schools, and urban schools,  to government village schools. All operate with guidelines from the government. The emphasis is on basic skills like languages and mathematics. Everyone speaks at least two languages, their native dialect and English. Those who do well, advance to college or technical school. The village girl who took bowls of milk out to the fields for the cobras can be a test engineer at Oracle and work seamlessly alongside her more urban coworkers. Finding talent and then training the talented is the key to the system.

Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft
Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft

At the top if the engineering food chain in India are the twenty-three regional India Institutes of Technology (I. I. T.). These schools rank easily with MIT or Stanford for difficulty and quality of graduates. The I. I. T. system formed in 1956 and incorporated a vestigial British university system with a Soviet inspired model for technological institutes. Pavlov, not Freud, as one engineer explained it.

The students in these institutes often work through courses together. Living arrangements tend toward the informal and the communal. Students come together across the ancient ties of family, class, clan, religion and language. The union is not perfect, but it is superior to what society produced in 1956. Indian students cooperate across the boundaries of company, project and geography.

Generalization is foolish when speaking of India, but for the education of Indian technical workers, especially engineering students, long hours in school, tutoring in the evening, and hours of homework at night are typical. Rote practice, drill, memorization with grueling competitive tests for advancement are common. The application of abstract learning to tangible collaborative projects is also common. Learning technology related directly to a specific job, in a specific industry, with a specific company in mind is often the rule.

Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc.
Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc.

Ability to work together:
While students are in school, collaborative living spills over into collaborative studying. This creates the habit of working together, a valuable asset later in the workplace.

The budding software engineer at the Indian Institutes of Technology spends long hours and long years learning to be engineers with the emphasis on real-world application of that knowledge.

Arvind Krishna CEO IBM
On the Right: Arvind Krishna CEO IBM

Ability to collaborate outside the company boundaries:
The resulting engineers solicit help and give help to people through social networks, friends, relatives, colleagues and peers. While this does not nullify the corporate non-disclosure, it does add to the research capabilities and the effectiveness of individual employees.

Learning the technology of a single company differentiates the education of Indian technical workers from others.   Technology learned in anticipation of joining a specific company is often sponsored by the tech giants in technical programs in Indian schools and universities. At the job interview the resulting focused knowledge of company culture and technology is compelling for most technical hiring managers.

Adherence to process and standards:
Strict adherence to processes and procedures requires definition of every detail of a task, the chain of tasks to a goal, and the goal itself. Processes methodologies, like Six Sigma, have taken root in many Indian companies. American software developers and IT professionals traditionally saw this approach as unimaginative, not creative, tedious factory work.

American business managers saw the opposite. Businesses want people who deliver what the business wants, when it is needed, and at the lowest possible price. American programmers traditionally did not understand what is desirable about the Indian approach to technology. With more Indian leadership in firms, this is changing.

Shantanu Narayen CEO Adobe
Shantanu Narayen CEO Adobe

Urge to color within the lines:
The difference between computer science and software engineering is about who gets to draw the lines. The education of Indian technical workers removed the focus  from designing during the project to producing quality manufactured functions within the design. Data communications is a great example. Modems once required extensive configuration to connect two devices and to transfer data. The Internet arrives with all that connectivity in place. Coloring within the lines has been a good approach to achieve predictable performance.

Padmasree Warrior U.S. CEO and chief development officer for Chinese electric autonomous vehicle startup NIO,
Padmasree Warrior U.S. CEO and chief development officer for Chinese electric autonomous vehicle startup NIO,

Reliable delivery:
Coloring within the lines also contributes to reliability. The jobs in the software industry are normalizing just like the Victorian railroads. Originally, the hydraulic engineer needed to ride along on the steam-powered trains to assure the boiler functioned correctly. The railroad engineer became the driver long ago. Now the creative software developer is an industrial manufacturer. Pushing creativity to the inception of the process makes delivery of the design reliable.

Nikesh Arora, CEO Palo Alto Networks
Nikesh Arora, CEO Palo Alto Networks

Desire to work:
Finally, something traditionally American makes Indian technical workers competitive in the US. They want to work, to gain respect, and to succeed. They want the American Dream, the house, the car, the healthy family, the clean streets, and sometimes even the temperate weather. This may come from vivid memories of poverty. It may come from the absence of a social safety net for their families at home. It may come from family pride. It exists. The new technical immigrants not needed on the Starship Enterprise are needed now in Silicon Valley.  Sometimes they are the captain and assimilation is not required.

In Search of the Victorian Education

Why Can’t Education Change?


Queen Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1837 and reigned continually until her death in 1901. The UK was the preeminent Colonial Super Power when she came to power, although that term was not used. Spain and Portugal lost their colonies in the New World. The Holy Roman Empire gone. Russia emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as a great empire but was not a global competitor with the UK. France, changed by the Revolution, lost the Napoleonic Empire, and the United States ended at the Mississippi River.

Wealthy British children in 1837 were educated at home by governesses until about age 10 when the boys went off to Public Schools like The Rugby School, The Harrow School, or The Perse School and girls continued education at home. Poor British children grew without formal education and most could not read or write. In 1870 a law passed for compulsory education of all children 5 to 10 years old. As most poor children worked, this put a great strain on many British families to maintain even a subsistence living. Nevertheless, the push was to end child labor, not necessarily to provide education. This movement spread like Abolition and proved as irresistible.

The United States education was different in 1837. The large number of religious dissenters who settled in the colonies influenced education. After the Reformation that began in 1524 Martin Luther called for mandatory education laws in Europe to ensure that more Christians could read the Bible. Massachusetts passed a compulsory education law in 1647. Unlike their British peers, most American children learned to read from the Bible at an early age.

Spread of Compulsory Education

Compulsory education spread across Europe and by the 1830s most countries were using the Prussian Model of education. The Prussian Model of Gottlieb Fichte provided hierarchical education for commoners, guided by those who determined the needs of society. Called “Prussian” because it was supported by the Emperor. His army’s defeat in 1808 at the hands of Napoleon seemed to come from too much individuality in the army. He proactively sought a solution.

The Prussian Educational System consisted of tiers. All education would be free for eight years. During that time, elite pupils would be elected to continue their educations at a secondary level and would be trained to think, control, educate, and rule the country in their adulthoods. The rest of the students, the 99%, would, during that same eight year education, be trained well enough to subserviently work in the lower sectors of industry, agriculture, and the military.” (From Weebly.com. See the reference below.)

Prussian Model of Education
The Prussians Set the Bar

The British compulsory education act curbed child labor, but Americans, particularly American industrialists saw the benefits of the Prussian Method and led the way in education. Massachusetts expanded the compulsory education law in 1852 to require every city and town to offer primary school, focusing on grammar and arithmetic. The secular philosophy prevailed. The state fined parents who refused to send their children to school. Egregious cases required the state to strip parental rights. The children taken from a bad environment were apprenticed to other families to be schooled.

By the 1850s most places continued to provide education through private schools and through churches. The Common Schooling Movement of Horace Mann took hold as communities tried to curb the influence of parochial schools on the immigrant children coming from Catholic countries. This moved the emphasis from church and private schools to secular public schools.

Compulsory Education Law

Compulsory education is the still the law. Exemptions exist for homeschooling and the Amish, but every state requires that the homeschoolers follow specific regulations. Ironically, the most pressure for home schooling now comes from Christian dissenters who are not happy with the results of government common school where it is unlikely children are exposed to the Bible. Private schools must also comply with education law. In every sense public school, common school, and compulsory school is government school. What was just a vision for European, British, and American reformers at the start of Queen Victoria’s Reign, is now an accepted right of the state, the law of the land.

The vision realized, now public schools take responsibility not just for compulsory attendance to limit child labor, but following in the early Massachusetts model, they aggressively take responsibility for the welfare of the child, often protecting the child from the family. Today Social Services and Foster Care provide this government intervention, but the philosophy of enforcing the government’s rights over children remains the same as it began in Massachusetts 168 years ago. During the strictest COVID-19 lock-down in 2020 when public schools provided no classroom education, they still provided meals and health care to students. When all education stopped, or went online, the schools still provided social services. Public schools may not create good industrial workers anymore, but the central mission is unchanged. Compulsion. Control. Schools delivers social welfare. It really does take a village to provide public education in America.

Online Resources:

The Prussian Model

Compulsory Education Law

Victora

Historic Maps 1837 

Victorian Children

Early British Public Schools

 

Teaching Yourself and Your Own Children

We make choices for children to further some unstated goal. We live in the best place we can afford to live. We make choices about neighborhood safety. We try to sort out bad influences. We control the content of social media and entertainment. We monitor online activities to protect kids from predators and the wild impulses of their peers. We try to live a life by example. We teach them our values. We make choices. Schooling choice, for example. People know the neighborhood schools before buying a house. Knowing where the neighborhood school sits is not the same as knowing that it is the right choice for your kids.

The next step is knowing what certifications the children will need. Public schools provide a standard set of certificates, maps of progress K-12, records of periodic proficiency test scores, aptitude test scores and graduation certification. Human Resource Administrators use these to evaluate job candidates. Post-secondary schools use the transcripts for admissions. These certifications are the most common reason people who cannot afford private school choose the neighborhood school. Private schools provide all this and allure, that is, an aura of merit for the students who go private. So you found the house. Now the choice is can I map out the necessary certification and learning for my child? Can I afford private school? Or do I schedule a visit to the admissions officer at the local public school.

private school child

Believe it or not, the answers to those questions will be driven by your core values. NPR progressive values, traditional conservative values, Christian, Islamic or secular values all require different learning paths. Any values can be wedged into any choice in the child’s preparation for a career at a company, working for the government, working at the local garage, or in an insurance agency. All schools bring baggage. Life at school becomes more productive when the school shares the family’s values. If your values are preeminent, then teaching yourself and your own children falls into the same bucket as the good neighborhood. People who are motivated by creed might find common public education resistant, since a part of public school is inculcation of a specific ideology. People who are more secular may not care what the school injects. Those who chose private schools probably chose specifically for this socialization. Government common schools and public education make life difficult for families who do not share their values, so these are well advised to homeschool, or find a strong alternative suitable to their core values, like Hebrew Day School for religious Jewish parents.

I’m sure you get the point. Most parents use their education as a guideline for their children. If a parent is content with his or her education, choices are easy. If the experience was unhappy, new things are attractive. For example, the adult with means who attended private boarding school will try to send the child to the same or similar school. The parent who attended public school or Catholic School, will probably send the child to a similar school. Unfortunately, many parents make the wrong choice. They sent the kids to private schools that will move the kids into a different class than the family. Or they choose the neighborhood school because they need the “school-care” provided, and they are surprised by the continual friction against their own beliefs.

This brings up social status. The choice of schooling, private, public, or home, has implications in the stability or mobility of the family and the child in relation to the family. Income goals and social status are decided here. Do you want your kids to have what you have? Something better? Something different? Surprisingly few parents look honestly at this issue. A poor child with the right advanced degree can rise to any level in society. A rich kid may just coast and never have a reason to get good at anything. A smart kid, or an independent kid, can be permanently stunted in a public school.

Academic certification is the key to social mobility not wealth.

Many entrepreneurs got an education, but did not bother with academic certification. As Bunker Hunt, the billionaire oil tycoon said at a business seminar at University of Texas, “I dropped out of college because I didn’t want to work for someone else. Doctors, lawyers, and business executives all work for someone else. They needed college to get that job. I didn’t.” Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and many more have the same story. It works for the smart, independent kid, but is not for everyone.

Those who want to work for themselves require education, not certification. As Elon Musk says every so often, you can learn almost anything on the internet. You don’t need a degree for that. The people who work for him need degrees. He didn’t. This is true for all but the richest 1% who are not reading this anyway. 

Teaching yourself and your own children is simple once the difference between education and certification is understood. The choices between institutional learning and education are obvious. If you want your child to be President, then you have a set of tasks to get the right certifications. If that child is destined to be an organic farmer or eCommerce shop owner, then just educate.