Friday, November 17, 2006

Sheep to Slaughter

I punched up dunderhead Greg Mankiw's textbook on Amazon and was semi-shocked to see it cost near $130.

It brought back memories of my own college textbook purchasing at UPenn.

Of course all students used to buy their books from the University book store but I think it was my sophomore year, 1993, that Campus Text arrived to attack the monopoly.

Some upperclass student looked at the enormous mark-up on textbooks and saw a tremendous economic opportunity. He perused the course syllabi, ordered the books, and sold them out of a rental truck on 38th street, right next to the book store. An $80 dollar book in the University store could be found for $60 in his truck.

The guy's name was Doug Levy. Again, he was only a student, yet an obviously precocious businessman. Everybody bought books from him. He hired students, advertised, accepted credit card payments, etc. He had to easily make tens of thousands of dollars by just working a week before each semester. I didn't know the guy personally but saw him late one night at a frat party. I asked him how much money he made. Doug misread my sentiments and responded, "The question is, how much did you save?"

Well, I saved a lot less than he made, but that was beside the point. I was in full and complete awe of his success.

He expanded to other schools and made a fortune. Campus Text is still running, Doug sold the business six or seven years ago. Some googling revealed that Doug went on to bigger and better things. He founded internet consulting firm imc2 in 1995. Do I even have to say that was some tremendous timing on his part?

What's a more powerful educational lesson, watching a classmate artfully get rich right before my very eyes or learning about Laffer curves and Nash equilibria?

Let's back up for a second.

How in world would a twenty-year old kid think to take on an Ivy League university and sell books out of truck?

He clearly must of had a lot of early exposure to the business world.

To shed more light, I'll get auto-biographical.

Though every conventional educational metric in my life told me I was a genius, there was no way I could have ever come up with an idea like Doug's, not at age 20 anyway.

I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts which was, unbeknownst to me at the time, an economic wasteland. The only economy there is the oxymoronic Government Economy. Let me just give you a run down of my family members' professions:

social worker

The only people in my immediate family that worked in the private sector were two retired grandparents.

My exposure to the business world and entrepreneurialism was absolutely zero. My experience was not very atypical for Massachusetts either; there simply is no private sector vitality. There are no jobs or careers far removed from the government teat. The reasons for this are aplenty and copiously referenced throughout my blog, but that is not the topic du jour.

I, and so many others, could never have the early life success of Doug Levy because I was deprived of the necessary exposure and tools. (Economics was a pariah of a subject in my schooling.)

Make no mistake this deprivation is by design. How often have you read in the paper or seen on television an entrepreneurial success story? Forbes is the only place you'll find them consistently.

Any impartial observer would insist there must be a Big Media ban on optimism.

You see, Big Media is a pure shill for Big Government. They simply do not want a country of financially or intellectually independent citizens even though that was America's founding profile. If scores of people start believing that they can run their own businesses, save for their own retirement, pay for their own healthcare, care for their own parents, educate their own children, etc. then Big Government will lose not only its clients and unwitting supporters, it will lose its mandate.

Thus stories with a patina of hope or a wisp of empowering individualism have been smothered for decades. Socialism needs a steady diet of bitterness, and the Perma-Negative New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, network news are about the only buffet in town.

In some places like Massachusetts, they've been so effective that there simply aren't any more success stories to suppress. Mission Accomplished!

The other trenchant evidence that Big Media shills for socialism is its complete refusal to ever report on government waste. They can't take the risk that taxpayers unite and revolt against Big Government. There is so much waste, a 24 hour news channel would have its hands full covering just this subject. But I digress.

Sure the media plays a major role in stunting the ambitions of Americans, but the larger culprit is Government Education.

Consider this Gatto snippet,

I once had a thirteen-year-old Greek boy named Stanley who only came to school one day a month and got away with it because I was his homeroom teacher and doctored the records. I did it because Stanley explained to me where he spent the time instead. It seems Stanley had five aunts and uncles, all in business for themselves before they were twenty-one. A florist, an unfinished furniture builder, a delicatessen owner, a small restauranteur, and a delivery service operator. Stanley was passed from store to store doing free labor in exchange for an opportunity to learn the business. "This way I decide which business I like well enough to set up for myself," he told me. "You tell me what books to read and I’ll read them, but I don’t have time to waste in school unless I want to end up like the rest of these people, working for somebody else." After I heard that I couldn’t in good conscience keep him locked up. Could you? If you say yes, tell me why.

I submit that little Stanley could be the luckiest kid in America.

Devil's Advocate - But he's being deprived of his childhood....

Yes, he'll enjoy less kickball and peer pressure but he's more likely to become Doug Levy than other kids his age. As Gatto has said, modern schooling "grotesquely extends childhoods" which thereby deprives people of their young adulthood.

That canard reminds me of another I keep hearing,

Homeschooling will stunt your child's social skills.

After most people say this, they reference the one kid in their hometown that was a social misfit and homeschooled. But that is a classic case of distorting correlation. Misfits are misfits; they aren't made that way by homeschooling. There's simply no causal relationship.

I have to laugh about this "social skills" argument when I think of Massachusetts. Remember my theory that the people here are the dumbest BECAUSE they are the most educated and degreed group around? Well also consider that these people are the rudest, most self-absorbed, ANTI-SOCIAL people you'll ever meet.

So 16 to 20 years of formalized government education apiece hasn't really made Bostonians so friendly now has it?

Gatto's book is mostly an indictment of government education but he does offer some prescriptive nuggets such as,

If you can keep your kid out of any part of the school sequence at all, keep him or her out of kindergarten, then first, second, and maybe third grade. Homeschool them at least that far through the zone where most of the damage is done. If you can manage that, they’ll be okay.

Now contrast that with Massachusetts governor-elect Deval Patrick's vow to extend government school kindergarten to a full day. As usual, government failures are consistent arguments for more government intervention. When is the public going catch on to this ruse?

Consider that kindergarten, the very class that Gatto claims does the most damage, is the one Patrick wants to expand. From Deval's own website,

I see every 3-and 4-year-old with access to quality early education, and every 5-year-old with access to full-day kindergarten. Experts agree that such early opportunities have a life-time impact on young learners in terms of greater academic readiness, higher test scores and improved social skills. All children deserve this opportunity.

Here we go, "experts" and "improved social skills"....

Patrick also disgustingly admits,

I believe the best teachers seek to educate the "whole child".

People just can't see through the rhetoric. What he means is, teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic shall not bound the aspirations of Big Education. Even the most casual glance reveals that schools are teaching birth control, multi-culturalism, obedience, irreverence for family and church, government dependency, anti-American history, evangelical environmentalism, and countless other extra-curricular subjects completely estranged from what used to be considered a classic education. This is what's really meant by the "whole child".

More from Deval Patrick,

Public education in America began in Massachusetts. In my administration, we will lead again.

Yeah, Deval your state foisted a hideous Hindu and Prussian invention on an unsuspecting public. Compulsory government education has proved a fascist, thoroughly dehumanizing monster. It's almost impossible to quantify the damage in its wake. Yet Deval can comfortably trumpet the success of government education because both he and his constituents are Moronic byproducts of it.

Why do you send your kids to school to be taught by strangers, agents of the government?

Well most likely because you yourself went to a government school. Just as most teenagers would not think to open a competing college book store, most parents have never thought about teaching reading and writing to their own children. The notion simply is not alive in anyone's consciousness today. I fancy myself pretty informed, yet didn't even know what homeschooling was until I was 30 years old.

Back in 1850, Massachusetts began mandating government education and the cycle of homeschooling was broken. The socialists have had inertia ever since.

Government schools may spawn hordes of illiterates, but nevertheless their graduates are natural apologists for the system that screwed them. Nobody really wants to think that they are thoroughly uneducated; after all, they have degrees that scream otherwise.

Nobody wants to think that as children they were lied to, manipulated, and deprived by calculating elitists.

This is quite frankly too much for many people to bear. After all, most people cherish their childhood memories. Why sully the nostalgia?

But the biggest impediment of all is that nobody today wants to think they are a bad parent today for outsourcing the care of their most prized possessions. Heck, everyone does it; it must be the right thing to do.

Devil's Advocate - But my sister is a teacher and she is great. Everyone loves her and she's very dedicated to her profession...

Ah, yes more small-brained Captiousness. She doesn't have to be conscious to be a part of the people's educational conspiracy against themselves. We'll get to the details of this in subsequent posts. BUT ask her or any other teacher to explain the history of schooling to you.

I'll bet 99% of them can't. How comfortably would you do you toil at your job each day if you didn't know exactly why it existed in the first place?

Ignorance is not bliss, it's blight.

More Gatto,

What few knew then or realize now is that they were also a Hindu invention, designed with the express purpose of retarding intellectual development.

Here is just a window into the Prussian (i.e. German) origins,

Traditional American school purpose—piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc.—was scrapped to make way for something different. Our historical destination of personal independence gave way slowly to Prussian-purpose schooling, not because the American way lost in any competition of ideas, but because for the new commercial and manufacturing hierarchs, such a course made better economic sense.

Prussia itself was a curious place, not an ordinary country unless you consider ordinary a land which by 1776 required women to register each onset of their monthly menses with the police.

In 1839, thirteen years before the first successful school compulsion law was passed in the United States, a perpetual critic of Boston Whig (Mann’s own party) leadership charged that pro-posals to erect German-style teacher seminaries in this country were a thinly disguised attack on local and popular autonomy. The critic Brownson allowed that state regulation of teaching licenses was a necessary preliminary only if school were intended to serve as a psychological control mechanism for the state and as a screen for a controlled economy. If that was the game truly afoot, said Brownson, it should be reckoned an act of treason.

"Where the whole tendency of education is to create obedience," Brownson said, "all teachers must be pliant tools of government. Such a system of education is not inconsistent with the theory of Prussian society but the thing is wholly inadmissible here." He further argued that "according to our theory the people are wiser than the government. Here the people do not look to the government for light, for instruction, but the government looks to the people. The people give law to the government." He concluded that "to entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master. The fundamental difference between the United States and Prussia has been overlooked by the board of education and its supporters."

Under Frederick William II, Frederick the Great’s nephew and successor, from the end of the eighteenth century on into the nineteenth, Prussian citizens were deprived of all rights and privileges. Every existence was comprehensively subordinated to the purposes of the State, and in exchange the State agreed to act as a good father, giving food, work, and wages suited to the people’s capacity, welfare for the poor and elderly, and universal schooling for children. The early nineteenth century saw Prussian state socialism arrive full-blown as the most dynamic force in world affairs, a powerful rival to industrial capitalism, with antagonisms sensed but not yet clearly identified. It was the moment of schooling, never to surrender its grip on the throat of society once achieved.

Big Government does not simply confiscate money from its subjects. It deprives us of individualism, of hope, of knowledge, time, and humanity. A scheming mind couldn't concoct a better instrument to disembowel family, faith, and spirit - the bedrocks of civilization.

I would like my children to be knowledgeable enough to start a business long before I was.

I want them to get their values from their family, not from other kids in the schoolyard (or MTV).

I want them mature enough to marry and have children while they are young.

I want them to see educating their own kids for what it is, a wondrous opportunity to cherish rather than a burden fit for outsourcing.

If I am lucky, my kids will be far more successful and educated than I was. Maybe they'll buy me a Cadillac and nursing home room with a view at Del Boca Vista.


Anonymous said...

I just had a discussion with two people today on this very topic. They were insistent that public education (mandatory) is benefiting society and doing everyone a whole lot of good. I tried to provide examples of where forcing people to be educated isn't doing them good and doesn't really do anyone else any good. Then I tried to bring up the "wrong to coerce" people, to balance my argument with some utilitarianism and natural law argumentation.

Anyway, they weren't really having it and you could tell they were outraged that I would even suggest that abolishing public education would be a wholly good thing.

I wish you'd consider joining us over at Degrees of Freedom. This is just the type of thing I'd like to see at our site.

This is really well written. Great job C-Nut!

CaptiousNut said...

When I first read Gatto, I thought him a bit loony but after subsequent contemplation it all sunk in.

I have read and reread his book several times. I constructed a 50 page MsWord file of select profundity from his book so I'll be quoting him for quite a while.

A single conversation will never convince anyone on an issue like this. As I said in the post, most people will prove natural apologists for a system that graduated them.

It's analogous to these older Morons that defend the Social Security Ponzi scheme. Even though the government has rebated them a mere 1% return on their money while any and every other possible combination of stocks and bonds would have returned muliples of that, they remain unmitigated defenders of a system that screwed them.

Anonymous said...

This is really an excellent piece, and I'm seconding sologue's idea that it would be great if you'd join us.