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Monday, May 14, 2007


Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. - Nelson Mandela

So why are we failing?

Most everyone agrees that the U.S. public school system is antiquated, in a shambles, and produces "the poorest product for the greatest amount of money"--like the monopoly that it is. Yet, teachers are always asking for more money to throw at the problem. If you want to know who the next president is going to be ask any teacher who she/he is going to vote for. The teacher's union in America is one of the largest and strongest in the U.S. and whomever the union leaders select as "the education candidate" is most likely to get elected. Yet in most inner city schools (with some of the highest average teacher's salaries) frequently LESS THAN 50% of the students graduate from school at all, and many of the students who do graduate are not prepared for the world of work, much less college.

When I moved to Hawaii (Hawaii Island) in the 80's there was a saying: "If you hate your children, you will send them to public school." Suffice to say, it wasn't much better in Connecticut (urban schools), and everyday I am learning that too many public schools are not meeting the needs of our children.

How can we fix our education problem? The key is for parents (or students themselves) to take responsibilty of the eduction of their children.

One Unique School Idea --
A dozen parents pool their money, and hire a few teachers of their choice. For four hours a day, four days a week their children are taught by these hand-selected teachers/tutors - specialists in their fields of study. The learning venue can be anywhere--a home, a public library meeting room, a church basement or Sunday school room...really, anywhere. The fifth day of the school week parents take turns taking their children to either their workplace to "job shadow," or on a field trip --anywhere thast' interesting.

One of my favorite schools is the "Museum School" in NYC--four days a week students visit a different museum each day, all day long, then on Friday, they discuss what they have discovered and learned.

I will present more ideas in later blogs, but for now, I strongly recommend that parents start eductating themselves (students too!) about education and educational alternatives.
I suggest you start with any of these books and articles:

  • Any of the writings by John Taylor Gatto (twice New York City Teacher of the Year). Gatto's history of education in America is brilliant and an enormous eye-opener.
  • An article by Lewis Perelman entited "Schools Out--the End of Education" --see archives of "Wired Magazine" 0n-line, the premier issue.
  • "What Smart Students Know" by Adam Robinson --read the open letter to educators, parents, and students in the back of the book.
  • "The Teenage Liberation Handbook or How to Drop Out of School and Get a Real Education" by Grace Lewellyn; also her great follow-up book about kids who actually did drop out...their stories are impressive.
  • "Unschooled" (a book)
  • there are many books and information on homeschooling --but don't be too rigid or uncreative, or you will just be replacing the failures of public school.


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Nelson Mandela

Today's job market--

It isn't so much about where a person went to school or how many "A"s they received, but more "What do you know?" and "What skills do you have?"

A student in computer science knowledge said that her courses (taken two years ago) are now obsolete! and that newer computer science information is being deseminated weekly...soon it will be daily she said.

So much for thick, over-priced text books. And though technical information tends to change faster than, say, information about literature in the middle ages, many other courses of study are increasing new information at an exponential rate.

One of my daughters characterized high school as "day care" and therefore took a state test (like the GED but somewhat more difficult) allowing her to graduate from high school early. At 16 she enrolled at the local city college, but she soon left and got a job in management.

The best part of her career strategy is that she does not have a huge school loan debt to pay off! In contrast to my daughter, a friend of mine's college loan debt is $50,000 --even with a B.A. in Psychology, he can't find a job in his field (without more education)--he now says getting his degree was a waste of time--not to mention the money--unless he seeks a higher degree.

Speaking of debt, I just gave another daughter this book:

"Pay It Down" (review from Amazon)

Jean Chatzky has been working with viewers of NBC’s Today show for a yearlong series on how to get out of debt once and for all. Her method, both on TV and in this book, is simple yet powerful: the key is saving just $10 a day that you currently waste. It doesn’t sound like much—a movie ticket or lunch for two at McDonald’s— but $10 really can take you from debt to wealth in just a few years. And because it doesn’t feel like an impossible goal, people are more likely to stick with Chatzky’s plan than an extreme regimen of spending cutbacks.

Chatzky is focusing on debt because it’s the single biggest threat to our financial health. The average American family has sixteen credit cards and high-rate debt of more than $8000, not even counting car loans and mortgages. They pay more than $1000 a year in interest alone. Debt makes people feel depressed and overwhelmed, leaving them without enough money for the truly important things in life—education, retirement, owning a home, feeling secure.

Chatzky, one of America’s most popular personal finance experts, writes in down- to- earth, woman-next-door language about how to get started right away, without giving up the things that truly give you pleasure. She offers practical, accessible strategies to help readers find the money to pay off their bills, lower their interest rates, and improve their credit scores. Featuring real-life examples of people featured on her Today show series, Pay It Down can transform debtors into future millionaires. END

On getting a good paying job:

The fact is, there are many more "blue collar" jobs out there paying far more money than most white collar jobs requiring a BA. Many community colleges have great (and inexpensive) two year certification programs--from computer science, film production, interior decorating, nursing assistant, to culinary career training, etc.

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