Episode-1536- Reclaiming Education in Modern Society — 27 Comments

  1. Well written Jack!
    I learned the 2 most valuable things in life from High School.
    1. One semester of typing class in 9th grade (manual typewriters) has served me very well in life. Nowadays I can bang a keyboard at 110 wpm.
    2. Driver’s Ed: “never go so fast you can’t stop in the distance you can see”.
    3. Nobody taught me that an algebraic equation is a sentence, in a different language, had to figure that out for myself. Never had to use algebra in real life (I am 59) but I am wonderful with a tape measure.

    Unfortunately sex ed class failed to prevent me from getting girlfriend pregnant, so I got married and that messed up my life.
    After graduating High School, being married with child, I served 4 years in USAF while my peers were going to college. That probably saved me from wearing a suit and tie and hating myself 😉

    Thanks Jack for making the world a better place.

  2. Lets see how good education is. I have a Masters Degree in organizational management with a specialization in HR. I am working out of the field because frankly I can make more at a blue collar job in my area and do not want to move to chase a job.
    The most important thing I learned in graduate school was that I was part of a failed experiment at a previous employer. End result I left the company after six weeks. On my work history it appears I did not conform when in reality the company intentional tried new procedures knowing some would cause attrition.
    That very knowledge reenforces Jack’s advice about creating your own income stream. In the end employees are just training aids to executives in training as the enlisted racks are training aids to junior officers.

  3. Thanks for doing this one Jack.

    This is something that I get a little passionate about. I earned my associates having only done 1 semester in a classroom and swore off ever attending a physical class again. I’m working on my bachelors online now.

    I’ve also taken various other programs online for writing, photography, web design, etc. The point about certification is a great one. If solid certification platforms were built and supported by businesses, the vast majority of problems would be overcome.

    I now have a web design business. In this field, the vast majority of people either have no degree or an out of field degree. When it comes to hiring or outsourcing, I’m usually looking at portfolios more than a certification, but if someone showed up with a set of certificates from, I can generally trust that they know what they’re doing.

    I’m also working with educational programs right now. Here in Colombia, I’m setting up a website for and Language institute. Their techniques are different than the standard courses, but their students can pass the government exam for whatever they need, but most students don’t need that certification because their English will be tested in interviews anyways (the state standard is too low for employers).

    I have tons of experience on a student end and it’s exciting to finally get the opportunity to implement ideas from the design end. I’d love to hear if anyone else is involved in building educational programs.

  4. I love it when a guy like Jack, who scorns the conclusions of thousands of scientists on a certain subject (to remain unmentioned because of the filter he’s put on posts here), tells us how to educate the young. The irony is delicious!

    • Oh hello there coward, you haven’t been around for a while, I see you are still a coward afraid to say who he really is. I have missed your constant whining and bitching and tireless attempts to make points that no one will ever take seriously from a coward who hides who he is.

      And what about the other thousands of scientists that say I am right or might be right? They don’t count do they.

      Anyway coward, I have an open offer no one has claimed yet, disprove one fact presented in this video, AND tell the world who your cowardly ass is, and I will give you a cool thousand dollars.

      The offer has been out there about a year, it has yet to cost me a dime, now go back to being a coward and hiding in the shadows and attacking with words those that are acting with deeds, that is of course what all cowards do.

    • I just watched that video in it’s entirety, and the timing was great. I got into a short but somewhat heated conversation with a good friend, who is intelligent, but is buying the AGW argument. We agreed to disagree, but at some point I may convince him to watch it. Sigh, thanks for posting Jack.

    • Saw that video a few months back. Great video by the way, I immediately turned around and shared it with a number of people. Definitely worth a listen if anyone has the chance and hasn’t seen it yet.

      You can keep your $1,000 Jack, I got nothing, and I was a guy who was totally committed to the global warming argument. But, once you understand permaculture, you understand how they’re using the truth about desertification to justify taxing people for breathing. I still agree that we need to do everything we can to prevent desertification, but planting trees and adding organic matter to my soil is something that I’ll do on my own. Thanks but no thanks on those taxes.

      • @The Sorry Ass Coward Bob,

        Again 1K to disprove ONE FACT in that video, go for it!

        Stupid shit like saying that a quoted authority is no longer with the institution he was with when he made the quote? Weak sauce there “Bob”! Who gives a fuck! That is not challenging a fact, it is actually proof that a person has no argument against the facts.

        Saying something has been debunked, doesn’t debunk it.

        Showing a graph that looks different from another graph when your graph stops in 2002 and the previous graph stopped in 2007 does not “debunk” the 2007 graph.

        That video is an example of a person with a cool accent taking directly around every made point, then using fallacy after fallacy to discredit the opposition, rather then actually respond to or directly oppose the facts.

        Coward, you keep using the word debunk, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  5. I’m actually of the opinion that if you take the state COMPLETELY out of it, bullying would largely disappear from schools on its own without administrative. interference.

    Bullies thrive on a system where defending one’s self is disciplined.

    • @Lukkas – I think you nailed it! That is easily the worst problem with the current education system in my opinion, however, it is sometimes hard to decide, there are so many.
      An environment where the bully is punished, but regardless of how the victim reacts, the victim is punished just as severely gives an extra set of satisfaction to the bully. It’s almost like, “if I do this, then not only will I bully this kid, but so will the dean, principal, teacher etc.”
      Before, there was a pecking order. Which wasn’t ideal, but the bully was restricted to only someone who would be able to beat up the smaller, weaker kid. The solution was rather simple: learn martial arts so you know how to defend yourself better than you look like you would, and keep your head down and don’t challenge anyone bigger than you. Now, since both get punished regardless, it could be anyone, the small girl in class could be the bully, because any retaliation against her would result in severe punishment for the victim.
      Luckily for me, this “Zero Tolerance” nonsense didn’t start until I was already established with my classmates. But, since I was much shorter than average, it took a lot of defending myself to get there. Since I knew martial arts, this wasn’t a problem at all, and word quickly spread in all 3 places I grew up that I shouldn’t be messed with, but now that would result in suspension or expulsion.

      • Indeed, I’ve heard stories from my Uncle [born in ’58] about how back in his youth when guys got into scraps the teacher would set them up with gloves in a boxing ring to get the fight out of them.

        As far as the ‘pecking order’ goes, that also creates a sort of economy where tougher students [those who are not of the bully persuasion] are able to offer security to the weaker, where mutual relationships are formed in a group of friends where one might be stronger, one might be smarter, one might have a hefty allowance or be paid by his parent to assist them somehow, while yet another might have a way with words for diffusing situations/eliciting aid from the public… there’s a value exchange going on there.

  6. Regarding Bob Well’s Plant of the week, most of the plants he recommends are “adaptable to Zone 9” or so. I live in zone 10b, would it work? Or is there some reason that plants are adaptable to Zone 9, but not zone 10. It seems to me, that if it can live wild in the Utah desert, it can grow in my back yard on a trellis and with irrigation, but maybe it needs cooler winters than I have or something, not sure.

    • Zone 9 gets colder than you do in winter. Some plants have chill hours and others even need to experience a freeze in order to produce the following year.

  7. Commenting as I listen, so forgive me if this is addressed later on.

    Jack’s observation that “traditional” age-cohort-driven education is unrealistic really resonates with me.

    When have you worked at a job where all of your colleagues/coworkers are within 1-2 years of your age with one supervisor who is significantly older? I guess that model works well for preparing folks for military service; someone who has actually served could probably tell me whether that is actually true.

    In fact, all of the research bears out that mastery learning (and consequently grouping students by ability and interest instead of age) blows “traditional” models out of the water. So why don’t we (by we, I mean educators) do that? It’s too hard. Seriously, that’s it. Kind of sad.

    I’d love to see a model that uses mastery learning (“you do it until you get it right”) paired with direct mentoring (1 on 1) in a field that the student is actually interested in, otherwise known as apprenticeship.

  8. Commenting as I listen as well, so I apologize if this was covered later.

    I am playing a little bit of devil’s advocate here, because I agree with a lot of what Jack has to say.
    But, the argument that the schools are a piece of 1880’s technology and why bother repairing outdated technology, what other piece of technology from the 1880’s do we use anyway, seems like a weak argument to me. The school system we use today dates back to then, but there have been a number of changes along the way as developments progress. So, what piece of equipment or technology, with changes as developments progress have we used since the 1880’s: bicycles, guns, cabled communications networks, musical instruments etc. a lot of things, the list is practically endless.
    Looking at the agriculture industry as an example there’s basically 3 schools of thought right now: traditional agriculture- these things help us, so we use them; organic- I don’t trust that these things do more good than harm, so I don’t use them, but I still have x,y,z problems, so I’ll use these instead; or permaculture- let’s redesign the whole system so that we can get a better outcome without any of the toxic elements that are currently necessary.
    To me, Jack’s arguing for a permaculture type approach to education. Which is awesome! I’m completely on board! Anything that can educate kids without having the smart ones bored, and the slower ones left behind is something worth pursuing. Teaching them things they’ll actually need to know, instead of wasting a half semester on factoring (never figured out what that could be useful for).
    The biggest obstacle to such a change, will inevitably be the various school boards and the Teacher’s Union.

  9. I listened to this episode at work yesterday during my break, lunch and after work – at my job at a public elementary school! I agree that the system is broken and outdated. I’m excited to see what innovative solutions people come up with to take its place. Insurrection!

  10. I tell teachers that complain about their pay, why dont you monetize your skill on youtube. Get a webcam, teach the same thing you teach at school, tweak it a little, teach it better, put some ads on the video. Set up an amazon affiliate for your subscribers to buy the books or equipment for what you teach. Charge $20 for a private skype lesson if someone still has trouble. You might not make much at first but what if you were so good at what you teach you went viral. Maybe start a “teacher network” so if a kid needs more hands on help they can meet a local teacher at the library for a fee (every teacher can make some extra cash now). If the kid likes that his parents can pay a annual fee for access to any teacher in the network as often as they need. One kid tells another…..

  11. Some interesting statements I was just reading in ‘Social’:

    education spending in US $800 B
    out of 34 countries US is – 25th in Math, 17th in Science, 14th in Reading

    performance on IQ tests drops 16% after being ‘rejected’ verbally
    performance on GRE tests drops 43%

    and the stunner for me.. kids spend 20,000 hours in school before graduating from high school.

    of what children learn, within 3 months they’ve ‘lost’ 50%
    after a year retention is 30% or less

  12. First of all, thank you for this episode. It is actually the first time that I have listened and I was pointed to this episode because I have taken an interest in unschooling/homeschooling my son when the time comes (he’s not even one yet, so that’s a few years in the future for us). I have found myself doing some unschooling of my own as an adult and I wish I had done it so much sooner. Ultimately, I’m hoping to save my son from the one-size-fits-all education that my generation received because I am really undoing mine right this second. Turns out, school was not just like the real world, so you were spot on in saying that. Oh, and did I mention that my teacher husband is all for it?

    I think we could all talk about education for a year straight and still not have covered all of the issues (and positives) with the system. I actually went to college to be a music teacher and ended up finishing just a student teaching semester short graduating with just a music degree because I just couldn’t imagine being happy teaching in the current system. Basically, good teachers are punished for being good by having to conform to the boundaries and end up so paperworked to death that there just isn’t time for real teaching. It places so much emphasis on the teacher doing what they are told, that the success of the students is often overlooked and they essentially just becomes numbers and letter grades and not people with real interests. I felt like I would just be wasting the students’ time as well as my own time and that wasn’t going to be a rewarding career.

    Not fully related, but anyone watched Waiting for Superman? That’s a worthwhile independent film if you haven’t. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but the basic premise is charter schools are better at serving a wider variety of students than public schools and students and their families are FIGHTING to get into them. Unlike this episode, though, it does happily place blame a large portion of the blame on the teachers, but specifically the teachers’ unions. It doesn’t provide the ultimate solution to everything, but it’s a good starting point for some further discussion. Some of you may be interested in watching it.

  13. Running a little behind but awesome show. Just this morning I was contemplating home schooling after getting a nasty gram from the school regarding 2 unexcused absences (which I did excuse but I’m sure they lost the doctor’s note). They had the balls to cite Texas Education code 25.093 and 25.094 and threaten legal action if the unexcused absences continued. The kid had strep throat for God’s sake. They sent her home with a fever on Wednesday and I kept her home the rest of the week. I did them a favor by keeping her at home (following the doctor’s recommendation).

    And don’t get me started on the ass backwards way of teaching math under common core. 8 + 6 is no longer a quick mental exercise. It is now 8+2 = 10, 6-2 = 4, so that 10 + 4 = 14.

  14. Thanks for this Jack, loved it.

    Of course I am one of those radical parents that has kept my kids home (17 years experience as a parent and 4 as a preschool teacher (just don’t do it, preschool is overrated)). I will no longer use the word homeschooling because that is not my goal. I want my kids to think for themselves. As John Taylor Gatto has said, “we must take our education, no one can give us one”.

    BTW, it is my opinion that homeschooling will continue to grow but the learning gap in increased test scores produced by homeschooler’s will diminish. The reason homeschooling used to create self motivated learners and the quality is due to the lack of involvement from the state. Too many are emulating school at home, are involved in school based homeschool programs, and worry about testing. They are not ‘lighting a fire, they are filling up buckets” (John Holt).

    Bash me if you want for those comments but I see it almost daily among my friends kids. These kids are apathetic toward learning. Read about the Colfax family, John Taylor Gatto’s articles, Charlotte Mason’s (original writings not those who claim to follow her ways), and John Holt’s articles and books. These are true visionaries in the education movement.

    And no, I am not linking to anything. You search for it. Take your education into your own hands.

  15. Going to put this here, and in the ‘starting a business’ podcast.

    Here’s your ‘think different’ education moment teachers..

    Kim Ki-hoon teacher <= Google is your friend!

    $4/hr.. per student, all internet, all the time. Median income in South Korea is less than half of what it is in the US. Take home? $4M

  16. I just started listening to your podcast, and am working backwards. Great shows presented in a very intelligent ‘outside the box’ manner.

    I’m about halfway through this episode, and just wanted to “dump” some comments. I’ll be sure to return to edit or modify once I’m finished the episode…

    I think education serves different purposes to different people, and while many of those purposes may overlap, they may be prioritized in different orders for different people.

    For instance, number one on my priority list is wealth. I explode my bank account in order to send my kids to an eliteish private school to give them the best shot at being wealthy when they grow up. I’ve seen so many sub-mediocre people pass through private school systems to go on to be very successful, and land an income easily twice what they would have most likely landed had they gone to public school.

    If I wanted them to just “learn”, I have no doubt that I could totally yank them from formal school and just let them follow their interests. But I don’t primarily send them to school to just learn, nor is learning at the top of my priority list.

    You mention innovation a number of times, and while that’s great for society, it’s not very related to my aspiration for my kids which is wealth. CEO’s, lawyers, doctors, bankers, etc. don’t have to be innovative to be rich. They go through the system, and wealth is virtually guaranteed. Sure there are rock star entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, but our children have about as much a chance of becoming Steve Jobs as they do of becoming the next Michael Jackson. Selling rock-star level entrepreneurship to our children is doing them just as much of a disservice as is selling them on the idea that they’ll be rich pop stars. How many impoverished entrepreneurs and pop stars would have done much better in life had they simply pursued an advanced accounting degree?

    Another thing that I wanted to mention is the concept that everyone can’t be successful. Our entire system depends on stratification. Back in the old days this stratification was largely set by which class you were born into, and who your parents were. While this is still an influential aspect of our system, we have set up a parallel system of absurd educational, spending, and testing hoops to jump through. Law School and Bar tests for lawyers is a perfect example.

    My point is just that everyone can’t be wealthy/sucessful, and that funnels, choke-points, and hurdles will always exist to determine who get’s to be in the top 20 or 30% of earners. We can teak and adjust those hurdles, but there is no utopian system in which everyone gets to be successful. And the way the system is now, those students whose parents forgo car payments and oversized homes, and spend that money on expensive schools will be the successful ones. Sure there will be the odd Justin Bieber or Bill Gates to emerge out of the middle-class, but those cases are as rare as lottery winners.

  17. part 2.

    My children went to public schools until my eldest entered grade 6. They went to three different schools in two different states, and were academically in about the top 2%. One school was “fantastic”, one was “pretty decent” and the last was “horrible”. And the thing that went hand in hand with those three levels of performance was the income level of the parents. The horrible school was in rural North Carolina, average family income was 42k. The pretty decent school was in middle class North Carolina – average family income was about 80k, and the fantastic school was in a wealthy area of Atlanta where the average family income was probably about 160k with many many families earning closer to 300k.

    Of course the budget was much higher in the wealthy school, but I think the most significant difference was not the quality of the teachers, but in the stupidity of the students. Teachers teach to the majority, and if the majority come from families where the parents are barely literate, and the kids grow up not expecting to attend college or move out of the trailer park, academic performance falls off a cliff. And if your daughter reads at a grade eight level by grade 3…

    But we might be talking about different things here. I’m not sure if you’re alluding to some kind of indoctrination issue, but I’m talking purely about academic achievement.

    Is there a solution to academic achievement in schools populated by the kids of lowly educated parents? Not that I have so far seen. The best solution I can fathom for people who do not have the means or want to endure the sacrifices required to send their kids to a good private school is to do the research, and purchase an 80k home in a district full of 300k homes.

    We are currently in the process of selling our 6 acre gorgeous farm to move about an hour away, because that is where the best private school that we can afford is. (we’ve been driving our kids back and forth for a year) We don’t want to pay twice as much for half the home, and trade 6 acres for half an acre, nor do we want to drive our ten year old vehicles that are paid off, but we love our kids enough to make those sacrifices.