Friday, March 20, 2015

America is often said to be a land of second chances

Just not for 7-year-olds. At least, not when they’re in the public school system.

Back in 2013, a boy then in second grade in Anne Arundel, Maryland, was suspended for two days for what was deemed a “gun-related” offense.  It was also a Pop Tart-related offense.

No, he didn’t shoot a Pop Tart; he bit his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. There’s a dispute as to whether he then pointed the high-calorie weapon at the ceiling or at other students. Either way, unless the strawberry filing was piping hot (it wasn’t), there wasn’t really anything to fear.  Still, school officials pretty much freaked out.

Of course, the incident did occur just months after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, when six- and seven-year-olds were feeling the full weight of adult hysteria about guns, pastries, pointed fingers, etc.

Fast-forward to the present: the Maryland lad’s parents are still fighting to clear this gun-related black mark from his permanent record, fearful it could damage him even decades from now. I don’t blame them.

Unfortunately, last week the Maryland State Board of Education upheld the suspension. A spokesperson for the local schools claimed it was warranted because of the lad’s “long history of disciplinary issues,” adding that the school “has gone to every conceivable length to assist that student.” The attorney for the family says they will appeal.

My kids have been homeschooled, but next year my youngest will attend a public high school. I just hope we can find a good, inexpensive attorney to go with her.


Raising children in an increasingly obsolete system

Sixteen years ago, fresh out of high school, I remember forking over $3,800 to take a Carlton Sheets real estate coaching program. I desperately wanted to learn about buying real estate in order to make a living without going to college. Just months out of high school, at age 18, I bought my first rental property. However, it had nothing to do with the Carlton Sheets coaching program. Well, at least not the expensive portion I bought. The real value that helped me was a $99 packet of DVDs that was included. Through these videos and my own actions, I was able to acquire over a million dollars in real estate by age 22 with very little money.

At age 19, I took my one and only college class, “Real Estate Principles”, where I sat in a room with a hundred other kids and listened to dozens of lectures by our instructor. This will always go down as the biggest waste of time in my adult life.

For today’s kids, this type of education is an even greater misallocation of time and capital, because the unconventional means of education is 50x more efficient than it was fifteen years ago. And the best part: it usually costs you nothing.

Fifteen years ago, I could have purchased a DVD to learn real estate principles in a matter of 8 hours. Today’s kids can do the same, only they won’t even have to buy a DVD. Instead, they can simply watch a series of YouTube videos.

Education in a college classroom is a lot like a $200,000 Hillary Clinton speech… what could she or your professor teach you that you can’t easily pick up on the Internet for free?

Or what about those one to three thousand dollar investment conferences? My goodness, the same speakers have hundreds of videos on the Internet.

Besides YouTube, you also have iTunes, and think of all the blogs available to us. The best thinkers in the world are all sharing their information and research for free. And for the most part, unless they are famous, all are very reachable via email or Twitter. I’ve emailed and spoken to three billionaires in the past week! Jim Rogers, Eric Sprott and Carlo Civelli… they don’t know me, but do respond to emails. and can help you learn real-world skills for 50 bucks. Forget about four years and $30,000 of debt. With the way technology and information sharing is becoming easier and easier for all of us, college classrooms for most people are becoming obsolete.

Technology is making education more efficient, yet there are still millions willing to get in debt to spend years and years in a classroom, when at the click of a mouse, they have an entire world of information just waiting for them. All they have to do is let go of the idea that their education comes through structured (and expensive) academia.

Given the incredibly rapid pace of technological advancement, one has to wonder if a student who enters college in 2015 will even have a relevant degree in 2019.

There are companies today who in a few years will be introducing body scans that can predict diseases that you won’t have for years. In a decade, most of us won’t even be driving our own vehicles. Driverless vehicles will reduce traffic, collapse the price of auto insurance, and make all of our lives safer and more efficient. Entire industries will be radically changed through the creative destruction process.

As a parent of three children between 11 months and 5 years, these are some of the things I think about today. I am thinking about what the world will look like for three adults in 2032.

I have no idea what the world will look like, but I do know it won’t reflect the demands of today. Employment, business, and education will all look much different. The U.S. itself, and the current monetary system we’ve lived under for the past 60 years, will have likely changed as well. With the rise of digital currencies and an entire continent (Asia) currently decoupling itself from western rule, big changes are coming.

The conventional way to raise your kids at this moment in time is treacherous, in my opinion — specifically with regards to their education.

Ultimately, a child will need to emerge as their own person, separate from you and free to pursue their own interests. Being able to learn independently could be a huge advantage. Yet if you look at what is accepted as normal parenting today, I think we overly encourage reliance on schools to teach our children. In my opinion, children should be encouraged to learn from experience. Experts, teachers, and instructors are all important when it comes to refining your education and experience, but the traditional idea that learning comes through academics appears to be little more than statist dogma.

Teaching a child the basics; to read well, speak well, and write well, will give them the liberty to self-teach.

Problem-solving skills, learned from play time and the pursuit of your own interests, are all one in the same. Talk to any successful person, and they will tell you they love what they do. Conventional parenting has separated the two; self-interest and play time are at home, and learning is at school. The source of education is not school, it’s in the way you interpret and learn from experience using what’s between your left and right ear.


Leveling the playing field for online education

Governments at all levels annually give traditional colleges about one-third of a trillion dollars.  That's roughly $1000 per American per year, a massive subsidy.

Question: Why don't cheerleaders for online education loudly call for slashing or ending this subsidy, to put traditional colleges on an even footing with the online alternative?  In my experience, even libertarian fans of online education rarely make a big deal out of these subsidies - even though they are a very big deal indeed.

A few possibilities:

1. The cheerleaders want to "level up" rather than "level down."  They want online education to enjoy the same generous subsidies as traditional college, not compete in a genuinely free market.

2. The cheerleaders think arguing for cuts in college subsidies is politically hopeless in the face of Social Desirability Bias.

3. The cheerleaders think online education is so awesome it can beat traditional education despite the tilted playing field.


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