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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
The Future of Education
May 6, 2016
Hot Springs, VA
"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." - Albert Einstein
The S&P closed out Thursday at $2,044. Gold closed at $1,272 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $44.32 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.78%. Bitcoin is trading around $453 per BTC today.
Last week we talked about transitioning away from coercive social organization and towards voluntary association. We suggested that financial dependency was one of the primary excuses for coercive government policies. Today, let's take a look at the education piece of the puzzle.
I won't beat around the bush with this: the 20th century classroom model of education is all but obsolete.
We know that every individual is unique. We know that every individual has different skills, talents, interests, and passions. We also know that every individual has different learning styles. I doubt that you can find anyone who would disagree with those three statements.
So why on Earth do we keep trying to hammer kids into a standardized curriculum that is taught to the lowest common denominator!?
Well, one reason is because the educational system is a major employer, and it has accumulated gargantuan pension liabilities. Another reason is because the system molds a compliant populace which is appealing to industrial-minded government officials.
Perhaps the most relevant reason is that both parents now have to work full-time to make ends meet due to constantly increasing costs of living. This is a function of the fiat monetary system that has systematically destroyed the purchasing power of national currencies. With most of their time necessarily spent at work, few parents have the time or energy to facilitate their child's education independently.
The Information Age is changing the dynamics of commerce, however, and I suspect this will lead to a more favorable work-life balance for families as the trends continue to play out. With that in mind, this entry will focus on educational resources for the Information Age.
Before we do, however, it is important to point out that the best learning medium in the world by far is experience. If you want to learn something, just do it. You will probably make a ton of mistakes at first. You will steadily get better as you identify and correct those mistakes, and then you will become proficient. If you keep on doing whatever it is then one day you will become a master.
The key is you cannot be afraid to make mistakes.
Want to know how I learned to be a skilled stock investor? I put 40% of my portfolio into a $20 stock and watched it plummet all the way down to $2. That's when I learned about position-sizing and trailing stop-losses. It took me nearly two years, but I eventually recovered that loss using my new investing skills, and I haven't looked back since.
I don't have to tell you that the classroom model takes the exact opposite approach: mistakes are punished and ridiculed. Many kids learn to be so frightened of making mistakes that they will never do anything outside-the-box ever again.
I also need to point out that the obsolescence of the current system has nothing at all to do with the teachers, and it has everything to do with the model. As with every profession, a few teachers are absolutely fantastic, and most are average-to-above-average. The problem is these good teachers are completely handcuffed by the gymnasium model of schooling.
This is the authoritarian model that segregates students by age and regiments their day according to subjects and tight schedules. When the bell rings, all students are required to scurry off to their next assigned station - tardiness will not be tolerated.
This model gives the best teachers a very narrow window within which to convey knowledge, passion, and creativity to those students most interested in the particular teacher's specialization. In fact, standardized curriculum all but ensures these teachers are unable to go above-and-beyond for the interested students because they are stuck teaching a standardized test to the lowest common denominator.
Please keep in mind that my emphasis on individualized education is not meant to imply that teachers have no role. Most highly successful people will credit their growth to a few great teachers and mentors. They key words being 'few' and 'mentor'. Neither teachers nor students benefit from a standardized cookie-cutter model.
I am so passionate about this topic because I sincerely think this model of schooling hinders true growth and development. Students are completely isolated from the real-world for twelve to sixteen full years thus many have no idea how the world outside of academia works. Worse, they have been conditioned to look to an authority figure for direction and permission at all times. At least, I assume this is the case for many students; it was certainly the case for me.
Self-motivation and self-governance are the first victims of authoritarian schooling. This was not a severely limiting factor in the world of big factories, lifetime employment, corporate pensions, and solvent Social Security. But that world is long-gone. The few factories still in operation are largely automated, lay-offs are frequent, corporate pensions are gone, and Social Security has accumulated $210 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
It's time for a new model of education.
The word educate stems from the Latin word educo which means “to bring up; to draw out”. You see, education is not about teaching; it is about learning. There is only learning. We’ve had it backwards for quite some time now.
The development of technology has, for the first time in history, made access to a world-class education free to everyone with a computer and an Internet connection. You can go online and read essays or view lectures on any subject imaginable.
There are millions of articles and countless books available to read online at no cost to you. In addition to the free content, there is an ocean of paid educational content floating around on the Web with fees and subscription prices much lower than the cost of sending one child to a public school.
Pursuing individualized education in this manner enables individuals to move at a much faster pace, thus giving them plenty of free time with which they can gather real experience from the world around them.
At the K-12 level, education should focus on:
Instilling in students the values of self-improvement, personal responsibility, and self-government.
Preparing our children to one day be creative, self-sufficient adults.
Teaching our children to seek knowledge and thus educate themselves.
Assisting our children in finding their calling, then encouraging that development.
Educational curriculum should empower students to take more control of their own education as they progress in maturity and responsibility. As students mature and discover their own unique talents they should be free to hone those talents and test their skills in the real world.
There are many ways in which this could be done. Here are a few examples:
A student skilled in creative writing or poetry could write a short-story, novel, or book of poetry and publish it as an e-book for sale online.
A student skilled at graphic design could take on paid projects at a freelance website.
A student who learns a second language could pursue paid translation projects at a freelance website.
A student skilled in computer programming could develop a simple smart phone app to take to market and engage in freelance work.
A student skilled in baking could sell baked goods at the local farmer’s market.
A student skilled in carpentry could construct furniture and other items to sell locally and online.
A student with musical talent could record an album for sale online and maybe even put on concerts locally.
Such projects would give students real-world feedback as to what their strengths and weaknesses are. Any income derived from these ventures would help students gain real world personal finance experience also.
Additionally, students could seek unpaid internships at local businesses to further gain real-world knowledge and experience. It is highly likely that local doctors, dentists, CPA’s, restaurants, retail outlets, tradesmen, artisans, and other local businesses would be interested in helping students in the community explore career possibilities by taking them on as unpaid interns. Just a few hours per week of real-world experience in this manner would likely benefit a student more than the entire twelve years of classroom education.
The possibilities are endless!
None of this precludes students from enjoying their childhood. Students would be free to choose which clubs or activities they wanted to participate in, just as kids in the school system do today. Students could still take dance or karate lessons, play sports or a musical instrument, or what have you. In pursuing these activities voluntarily students would develop strong communication and social skills.
The Information Age approach to education will instill creativity and a spirit of self-improvement in students. Compare this to classroom education, which indoctrinates an Industrial Age mentality where students expect to be told what to do by their ‘superiors’ for the rest of their life.
As for higher education, tuitions have far exceeded the value of most college degrees today. I suspect this disparity will come back into balance over the coming years as the student loan bubble bursts, and I suspect that the higher educational system will necessarily move more towards a pay-to-play model rather than a standardized diploma mill.
In other words, I expect the value of a college education to shift more towards networking and hands-on opportunities. I wouldn't be surprised if the college degree itself is thrown out entirely over the course of the next century.
So let's look at a handful of online resources:
Khan Academy - www.khanacademy.org/
The Khan Academy's material spans from kindergarten all the way up to advanced specialized content, and it is 100% free. Students can learn math, science, computer programming, history, art, and more. The curriculum is designed to be comparable to the curriculum of a quality traditional school except it cuts out the classroom entirely.
The Ludwig von Mises Institute - mises.org/
The Mises Institute is the global epicenter of the Austrian school of economics and the modern libertarian philosophy.
The Austrian school is the modern heir to the classical school of economics, and it is advocates for free markets and non-intervention on a global scale without compromise.
The libertarian philosophy is the heir of the classic liberal intellectual tradition that disappeared in the U.S. in the early 20th century. This is the social philosophy that is embedded in the Declaration of Independence which views individual liberty as an unalienable right that cannot be infringed upon under any circumstances. Government's only acceptable role is the protection of life, liberty, and property. Laissez faire et laissez passer, le monde goes lui meme, in other words.
You can go to the library at Mises.org and read hundreds of books on free market economics, money and banking, financial markets, entrepreneurship, the classic liberal tradition, libertarian philosophy, and world history – all absolutely free.
I can say with confidence that my time spent reading free books and articles on Mises.org has been far more valuable to me than the time I spent at a public university pursuing a finance degree.
In addition to the free resources, the Mises Institute also publishes a myriad of affordable paid courses on topics ranging from economics to history to logical thinking to legal theory to ethics, and many others. The courses include forums, live chats, and live interactions with the professors. This enables students to network with other students and experts in the field.
You could literally use the Mises Institute to gain a superior liberal arts education in the fields of finance and economics for much less than the cost of a single semester at a traditional college. You just wouldn't get a state-sanctioned degree for doing so.
Code Academy - www.codecademy.com/
To be honest, I'm not sure what half of those things even are, but I bet you would have the makings of a lucrative IT-related career if you learned all of them.
Udemy - www.udemy.com/
Udemy is a global course marketplace where you can learn just about anything you can think of directly from people knowledgeable and passionate about the particular topic. Udemy boasts a student base of more than 10 million people world-wide, and there are now more than 40,000 courses available on the site. From finance to marketing to photography, Udemy has something on any topic you can be interested in.
You can also build your own course around those topics you are passionate about and upload it for sale on Udemy. In fact, I would recommend doing so.
Skillshare - www.skillshare.com/
Skillshare is similar to Udemy in that it hosts courses on all kinds of topics, but it focuses on learning actionable skills in concise lessons. These courses tend to be shorter and more action-specific.
More to come,
We have just released the Zenconomics Guide to the Information Age to members of the Zenconomics Report email list. This guide is 28 pages in length, and it discusses: money, commerce, jobs, Bitcoin wallets, peer-to-peer lending, Open Bazaar, freelancing, educational resources, mutual aid societies, the Infinite Banking Concept, peer-to-peer travel, Internet privacy, and numerous other Information Age tips and tricks with an eye on the future. We are offering a free copy to all new mailing list subscribers at this link: Zenconomics Report Free Registration.