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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Part I Off-Topic; Part II Hits Target; Part III Promotes, September 21, 2013
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This review is from: The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System (Kindle Edition)
DISCLAIMER: I love Ron Paul. In 2007, while flipping through network TV, I stumbled across the GOP debates where a Republican blasphemed against GOP dogma by challenging the legality and ethics of our preemptive wars; he warned our country was on the verge of economic catastrophe. Abandoning pseudo-Marxist tendencies and the Democratic Party, I moved toward anarcho-capitalism. Ron Paul showed the way. However, I'm not a sycophant and will criticize the former congressman when he demonstrates vagaries of reasoning.

Overall Review Summary:

Three stars--Good

As a teacher (and a libertarian) who has documented rampant waste, fraud, and abuse in government schools, I was thrilled to read this book. However, "The School Revolution" was a little disappointing, but I'm probably not the target audience. The first part feels like an overextended intro, and the last part promotes a curriculum that I'd love to work to develop, but for which, as a non-parent, I have no use. The middle hits the target and outlines the way that public education may collapse due to market competition. A lack of citation of evidence continues throughout, resulting in promotional commentary rather than scholarly writing. Having read Rothbard's "Education: Free & Compulsory", Richman's "Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families", and Gatto's Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10th Anniversary Edition, I expected more from Ron Paul. This book will be useful for those new to the topic and for parents seeking liberty-based homeschool curriculum. Experienced libertarian teachers may want to look elsewhere. In my case, it may be time to write my own book.

REVIEW: Part I: The Centrality of Education

This section earns two stars--Could be better

Summary: The first part disappoints by relying heavily on unsupported assertions and by veering off topic so much that it annoyed this reader and lead to speed reading or skimming some paragraphs.

Details:

Paul asserts that "most educators assume that the parents are not competent to be the sole providers of education." This certainly reflects my anecdotal evidence. Just yesterday, my colleagues and administrators criticized a parent's parenting ability. This message characterized my eight years of classroom experience: teachers, many of whom do not have children, assert that they know better how to raise children than do parents. The weaknesses of Paul's assertion is a lack anecdotal or empirical evidence. He could have interviewed teachers. As Dr. Paul has not been a public school educator, the first part of his book is rife with unsupported claims. In the introduction, Paul writes, "I've had several members of my family teach in public schools, and some are still involved." Yet he quotes none of them.

Paul is correct that "tax-funded high school or college" did not teach us about the evils of statism; instead, we "were taught that the expansion of the state is positive, and that without this expansion into the lives of all Americans, the capitalist system would lead to great inequalities of wealth and massive poverty." This is still true of public education and history texts, which are essentially statist propaganda. Paul's assertion would be bolstered by anecdote or quotes from history textbooks.

The weakest chapter, "Educating for Leadership," goes off topic, even annoyingly foraying into praise for Alcoholics Anonymous. Ron Paul writes about the importance of critical thought throughout part one, but he applies none to AA, and about AA there is much to be critical. (The NYT published a story titled "Challenging the Second 'A' in AA"; see also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholics_Anonymous#Criticism ). At any rate, I didn't buy Ron Paul's book to read about leadership and AA; I bought it to read about the relevant and direct problems of and solutions to government education.

Finally, Paul is simply economically wrong when he asserts that "[t]eachers...are paid to do the most important thing they can do, and for which they would be most difficult to replace." A Google search reveals a teacher glut; for my previous teaching job, which was at a highly undesirable school, more than 80 candidates applied. In my current district, hundreds of candidates apply for one position. Teachers are easily replaced due to government intervention in the higher education market, which allows public and private colleges and university to suck the student loan teat while mass producing teacher candidates, many of whom can't find employment. However, in part two, Paul maintains that "educators are going to have to adjust [to technological innovations]. This revolution of communications is not going to show any mercy to classroom teachers who are incapable of adjusting to these new technologies...When students...learn that online education offers benefits equal to classroom education...there will be a shift to online education."

REVIEW: Part II: A Strategy for Educational Reform

This section earns four stars--Very Good

Summary: The second part hits the target by focusing on how market-based online education will undermine government school monopoly. The dearth of citations continues, but it's more strongly supported than part one.

Details:

The first key point of part two is that "[t]here will never be any successful system of reform ... that is not accompanied by a change in funding." This involves cutting off federal and state funding and parents paying for educational costs directly. Dr. Paul claims that such reform is "simply utopian. There is no possibility of any such reform." It seemed like standard GOP talking points on vouchers might follow, but Paul uses this chapter to show that innovation in online teaching technology and online classes, some of them offered for free, will be the catalyst for education revolution. Part two outlines "three developments [that] will reform education: the restoration of family-based education, the restoration of open competition in education, and the development of educational programs that rely on self-teaching and student-run tutorials."

Thankfully Dr. Paul doesn't paint private school as a panacea for government school ills. He illustrates that "private school is an expensive version of the 'free' public school." He also goes at length to show that the state highly regulates private schools. He uses a requirement that "private schools have libraries of at least 1,500 books." While a citation is need for further research, my state heavily regulates private education; private schools have to be approved by the state via application, and the state mandates length of the school year, teacher requirements, base curriculum, etc. which "limit[s] the supply of schools that compete against public schools." Ron Paul expertly demonstrates that government schools constitute a de facto government monopoly, which limits competition and erects substantial barriers to entry.

Paul touches on for-profit bias by education bureaucrats. I've experienced this with several teachers and a guidance counselor who told me she "hates" for-profit schools and thinks "they should all be shut down."

The strongest chapter is "Online Education" characterized as "the future of education". Paul paints a vivid picture of how technology and online classes will undermine expensive, bureaucratic, and outmoded government schools. He also outlines benefits for students, who will "be able to go at [their] own pace...[they] will not have to interact with bullies and other negative aspects of compulsory education" including long bus rides, illicit drugs, and an inflexible schedule. Paul finally uses a powerful anecdote, a story about a student who received college degree by his eighteenth birthday for only $13,000. "This is the wave of the future," Paul writes.

Paul does not suggest a "libertarian takeover" of public schools. He advocates for educational freedom, which means that "[p]arents who are convinced that the curriculum materials in the tax-funded schools are not what they want for their children should be allowed to provide alternative curricula in the privacy of their own homes. ... for those families committed to the principle of limited government--federal, state, and local--my curriculum is the best thing available for them. Other families are not equally committed to this principle. They will have to seek out curricula structured in terms of whatever first principles they are committed to. That is what liberty is all about: choices."

REVIEW: Part III: The Ideal School

This section earns two stars--Could be better

Summary: The third part essentially promotes Ron Paul's online curriculum. As a capitalist, I have no problem with self-promotion; it's just not what I was looking for. Lack of adequate citation continues, and in my professional opinion, Ron Paul's grasp of pedagogy, particularly surrounding writing and assessment of learning, is limited.

In section three Ron Paul promotes his online curriculum, which "target[s] students in the top 20 percent." He believes that 80% of classroom students "should not be the targets of a homeschool program." This focus is quite narrow and we're left to assume that the other 80% will attend private school, remain in government schools, or enroll in online school.

Paul shows lack of pedagogical experience when stating that "I am not in a position to assess what is needed by students who are...C-average students at best. ...education is a form of competition. This is why most programs issue grades."

Again, as a professional teacher (who is also a libertarian) I could not disagree more with these assertions. Paul fails to understand that assessment (grading) is primarily to communicate information about students' academic progress and achievement. Authentic assessment is not done to rank students. Also embedded in the "C-average" statement is an outdated understanding of assessment where grades are averaged and based on work completed and points earned. This is an archaic system, and narrative descriptions of student achievement are far more effective in communicating present performance levels. An education revolution must break from a punitive system of point accumulation that assigns a letter rather than describes performance. Think of worker evaluations: they're often descriptions of performance in various categories; they're not just one letter or ranking. Nor are performance evals given to rank workers. I suggest reading Stiggins' An Introduction to Student-Involved Assessment FOR Learning (6th Edition) for an empirical, researched-based approach to the latest best practice in student assessment.

There is more to criticize, including the assertions that fast reading is effective reading, that writing quality will improve over time without direct instruction and immediate feedback, that all students should learn how to speak in public. Experience teaching writing has shown that students need direct step-by-step instruction and immediate feedback.

Paul makes some solid points, but fails to provide evidence for claims like "a degree is not worth a great deal of money" because "over half of all students with college degrees wind up in jobs that do not require a college degree." His assertion that students have different wants than teachers rings true when detailing how teachers "who majored in English" want "to teaching literature in terms of the academic criteria of English departments. The teacher focuses on plot, mood, tone, and a lot of concepts understood only by people who majored in English. The typical student is not going to major in English; nor is he particularly interested in the subtleties of literary creation, let alone literary criticism." As a writing and history teacher, I could not agree more. Why every student needs to be able to write literary criticism is beyond me. Why every student is forced to read literature is equally beyond me. English departments elevate literature to mythic status while pooh-poohing non-fiction reading, even though the vast majority of work-related reading is non-fiction!
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Showing 1-10 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 23, 2013 12:34:34 AM PDT
IndigoSilver says:
I thought this was just a fantastic review. You should thoroughly consider writing a book of your own on this subject!

Posted on Oct 20, 2013 7:26:52 AM PDT
CuriousOne says:
Great review which said what I thought. Education psychology acknowledges that every student learns in a different manner and speed. The ideal has always been one-on-one tutoring, as the student competes with himself. For 40 years I have looked for technological answers, and finally see today as a revolutionary age in providing the ideal education for everyone, not just the brightest (who usually learn in spite of bad teaching methods). Friends who homeschool have proven that kids who love learning outperform public school students by years. If you know kids in the 12 + age group, you know the electronic age is already a part of their lives, as they communicate via cell phones with each other, and this is a major departure from old people's concepts of relationships.

We have all been indoctrinated via government schools in the concept that government is our protector and the good guy where the myths of 'robber barons' are still being perpetuated. Everything taught even back in the 1950's has been based on myths. There are publications easily available that tell the unvarnished truths, such as 'The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History'....Government has now grown to the extent that very few economic freedoms exist, and if you've studied the inner workings of the USSR central planning, the US now is a mirror image. The country is spiraling downward for the same reasons - elites cannot possibly know enough to make decisions for millions of independent humans. If we the common people start now to live independent of the nanny state, we won't suffer when the economy collapses.

Posted on Dec 29, 2013 1:01:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2013 1:23:22 PM PST
I have to say after reading your review that I'm surprised you still gave the book three stars. You do understand that as a professional teacher who presumes to teach other people's children, Paul and a lot of other conservatives/libertarians see you -- yes, YOU -- as the problem. They believe that you are indoctrinating students to be liberals, which Paul makes clear throughout the book. As he says on page 140, "Schooling is a recruiting process." So are you recruiting students to be liberals?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 1:25:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2013 1:41:17 PM PST
RangerX says:
Is there anything you disagree with in my review? If so, let's discuss it without getting personal as your comments about recruiting students to be liberals is a red herring and doesn't add to the discussion.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 2:50:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2013 3:03:14 PM PST
I'm just wondering how all these bureaucrats, from the federal government on down, could try so hard to systematically indoctrinate our students, and yet you -- a teacher who identifies as a libertarian -- somehow still has a job. And the majority of kids who graduate from public schools and four-year colleges still identify as conservatives and libertarians. I mean, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe schools are a HUGE failure if that is their goal, right?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 3:40:00 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 11, 2014 12:50:03 PM PDT
RangerX says:
You're still making this discussion personal. You make assumptions that I was actually open about my political philosophy. You make other assumptions.

You use a bare assertion fallacy and provide no evidence that "the majority of kids who graduate from public schools and four-year colleges still identify as conservatives and libertarians."

You still have not responded to my question: "Is there anything you disagree with in my review?" Your intent seems to be to distract at best and to troll at worst. Please come back to my review and discuss it if you'd like.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 5:24:02 PM PST
In truth, I really like your review and I think it is well-reasoned and accurate. I'm just struck by the fact that you agree with Paul that public schools are indoctrination centers. You say that the indoctrination "...is still true of public education and history texts, which are essentially statist propaganda." So that sparked my question: Are you trying to indoctrinate your students?

And do you have examples of "statist" textbooks because a true liberal history would be something like Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present." I don't think public high schools are adopting that book anytime soon.

To me, the true bare assertion fallacy is the ubiquitous conservative claim that schools are some sort of brainwashing cabal constructed solely from the pit of liberal hell. If that were true, then high school and college graduates would be overwhelmingly liberal, which they are not. See "Indoctrination U.? Faculty Ideology and Changes in Student Political Orientation" if you want evidence.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 29, 2013 8:07:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2013 3:25:37 PM PST
RangerX says:
I reject the liberal/conservative dichotomy. Fundamentally, there is little difference between the two when it comes to state intervention in the economy.

But I saw countless teachers who were unabashedly teaching with extreme bias and making patently false statements. (One example: This fall one new teacher claimed that there had been a systematic defunding of public education that had lasted for decades; this is completely false as the Dept. of Ed. shows; Google: "Total education funding has increased substantially in recent years at all levels of government, even when accounting for enrollment increases and inflation.") Talking points rule and critical questioning is viewed as dangerous. Those who question are often ostracized, punished, or evaluated out of a job.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2014 9:16:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2014 4:40:26 PM PST
I can't defend every thing that teachers do because there are good and bad teachers just like there are good and bad professors, good and bad police officers, good and bad physicians, etc., etc. But even 100 handpicked anecdotes (confirmation bias) do not overturn the fact that large proportions of high school and college graduates still somehow manage to grow up to be conservatives and libertarians. And what Ron Paul clearly doesn't understand is that a proportion of students bathed in a constant libertarian education will still grow up to become (*gulp*) liberals.

In fact, I think those students might be even more susceptible to well-argued liberal ideas if they hear them for the first time while Juniors or Seniors in college. When you learn everything you know about a political position from enemies of that position, you get a very two-dimensional view that doesn't stand up to counter-arguments. IMHO, this is why a lot of college students go through a "Marxism" phase, because it seems so new and subversive after their committee-approved high school curriculum. If anything, conservatives/libertarians should be thanking liberal professors for pulling those folks back from the brink of lunacy. In the 1960s most teachers and college professors were conservative and just look what happened with the antiwar movement, but perhaps I digress...

But your liberal/conservative = statist, libertarian = non-statist distinction is interesting. I would just say one quick thing that applies to Ron Paul's title, specifically the "New Answer" part. The main problem with libertarianism is that it didn't work the first time we tried it (i.e., the 1700s and 1800s). There was a time when parents were expected to educate their own children using unregulated for-profit tutors and charities (e.g., pauper schools) prior to widespread compulsory education, and the result was that a large proportion of our society was illiterate (although historical estimates vary, all are low). Once the right to vote was extended to non-property owners, women, and minorities, the illiteracy problem came front and center: How can we have a functioning democracy when large proportions of the electorate can't even read a newspaper? Enter the state, and enter tax-supported public education. Voted on and accepted by our great-great grandparents and their representatives. And it worked. Depending on how you define literacy, current estimates hover around 99% of the U.S. population. Paul ignores this success entirely and makes it seem like state intervention is just some willy-nilly whim of liberals and other perceived political foes who tricked our great-great grandparents into giving up the good thing they had back then. Rothbard blames it on the "educationists" ("-ist" is the most evil of all suffixes, apparently) who used public schools to establish a conformist, socialist utopia while enriching themselves with extravagant teacher salaries. Remember when all that happened? Sure. But in Paul's case, this paranoid nonsense is coming from someone who presumes to teach history to our children. With videos. Online.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2014 11:37:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 21, 2014 11:52:15 AM PST
RangerX says:
"The main problem with libertarianism is that it didn't work the first time we tried it (i.e., the 1700s and 1800s). There was a time when parents were expected to educate their own children using unregulated for-profit tutors and charities (e.g., pauper schools) prior to widespread compulsory education, and the result was that a large proportion of our society was illiterate (although historical estimates vary, all are low)."

You've asserted that libertarianism didn't work, a bare assertion, which is akin to the thought-terminating cliche "capitalism doesn't work" spouted by Marxists.

You've asserted that "a large portion of our society was illiterate" when scholars have shown higher literacy rates in colonial American than in modern America. Consider this from the Freakonmics website (and Google it for the exact link): "In the extensive NAAL survey, only 13% of adults attained this level. Thus, the proportion of Americans today who are able to understand Common Sense (13%) is smaller than the proportion that bought Common Sense in 1776 (20%)."

See also LITERACY IN COLONIAL NEW ENGLAND; An Enquiry into the Social Context of Literacy in the Early Modern West where Lockeridge demonstrates that there was a nearly universal literacy rate in New England by the end of the colonial period. Cremin in American education;: The colonial experience, 1607-1783 shows a colonial literacy rate spanning 70-100%. Even 70% is quite amazing given the nature of the rural agrarian society of the time where many never traveled more than a day's journey from home. A lack of discussion of period's technology, the expense and availability of books, and the overwhelming immigrant character of the populace shows a faulty comparison to modern literacy rates and reveals the weakness of the assertion that literacy rates are primarily due to government intervention in the education market. (And a LiveScience article shows the dubiousness of a 99% literacy rate: "...about 1 in 7 can't read it [the article]. They're illiterate. Statistics released by the U.S. Education Department this week show that some 32 million U.S. adults lack basic prose literacy skill. That means they can't read a newspaper or the instruction on a bottle of pills.")

So. Enough.
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