Tag: education

A School Without a Building

(originally posted at LoudounLiberty.com)

…yet.

For those of you who have been following the drama surrounding Dominion Academy and Leesburg Christian Church, who decided on April 10th to close down the school, there is some good news for Dominion Academy parents.
providence
The owners of the property surrounding Destiny Church has offered their new 26,000 sq ft building, set to begin construction next year to the school.  Greg Wigfield, the pastor at Destiny Church hosted an audience of teachers, parents, and other interested folks on Friday night.  Over 200 people crammed into a barn and listened to Marie Miller (the fearless leader of the new enterprise) and several other committee heads give an update on the school.  Mr. Wigfield said he had no desire to control the school, so whatever the relationship with Destiny Church is going to be, it sounds like it would be a hands-off one.

The catch is, of course, that the building which Mr. Wigfield is providing for the cause wouldn’t be available (theoretically) till Fall 2015…which means the school is looking for a two-year home.  Now I don’t know much about commercial Real Estate, but it seems to me that a 2 year lease might be something of a challenge.  The head of the Real Estate Committee cited three prospective properties which looked promising, including the Loudoun Parks and Rec building near Downtown Leesburg, along with the Sheriff’s office on Harrison St. which will be left vacant in time.

None of these locations are a sure thing yet, but one thing was clear from the meeting, and that’s the feeling that a school has way less to do with buildings and facilities than it does dedicated teachers, committed parents with kids who are eager to learn.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the author of a book (not excessively new, but new to me) called “The Beautiful Tree” in which the author, James Tooley, makes a discovery while studying private schools in India which launches him on an unexpected journey through for-profit, private education in the third world.  He discovers that hundreds of thousands of children amongst the poorest of the poorest of the poor in the third world were getting their education, not from their governments but their neighbors seeking to provide a service and make a living…and the quality of education exceeded that which the government – through financial support from the developed world – was able to provide.

Story after story after story is told of: negligent teachers, greedy government bureaucracies, and frustrated parents who would rather spend from their meager means for a real education than send their kids to a school which doesn’t really teach their kids much of anything…when they show up. In other words, all the horror stories and implications of public education in the U.S.–which are really only true some of the time, and in good school systems like Loudoun is the exception to the rule (at least the negligent teachers part) and to a very small degree–are the rule in the third world.

“The Beautiful Tree” is a fascinating read, but the biggest thing that it leaves the reader with is the unmistakable reality that education has nothing to do with technology or fancy buildings or nice playground equipment and “programs” but the relationship of one child with one teacher one lesson at a time in which the child furthers their knowledge of the world.  This is true in Loudoun just as much as it is in Kibera. And it’s important that we…all of us…begin to think outside of the boxes of classroom sizes and 90 acres school plots.

Which brings us back to Loudoun…the barn as the setting of the meeting made a few people joke, “why not just have the school right here in the barn?” At a previous meeting a parent had made the statement that people used to be taught under trees and turned out just fine.

On another note, there are a couple things that the press (even the latest article from Leesburg Today which very fairly covers the above mentioned meeting) keeps getting wrong is the idea that “declining enrollment” was the main reason for the school being closed down in the first place.  According to one spokesman from the new school, the capacity of Dominion Academy was between 268 and 284, they’re currently at 238, and as of the end of March they were already at 218 with another month left before the application deadline for the 2013-2014 school year. They’ve had previous years with less than their current…so enrollment doesn’t seem to be the main driver behind the decision. Besides, the press release that the school board sent to parents and staff didn’t indicate declining enrollment as the issue, but instead only that the church was no longer able (willing?) to subsidize the school, and that the school would not be able to survive without that subsidy. Period.  That was the reason.  There was no reason given (by the church leadership or the school board — kind of the same thing) why the church was no longer able or willing to support the school…just that it wasn’t.

One of the most concerning parts of the whole affair has been the church’s position that none of the equipment –including desks, a full library, and interactive whiteboards (donated by an ardent supporter of the  school not the church, necessarily) — since it was the property of Dominion Academy, Inc., would revert back to the church once Dominion was terminated. The “New School” committee decided that it was more important to focus on finding a new location and getting all the other pieces in place than getting involved in a protracted legal battle.  So they’re operating under the assumption that they’re working from scratch from an equipment standpoint.

The most disturbing thing, though, is the name battle.  It seems that once it became evident that Virginia Academy was not going to come in and take Dominion Academy’s old space (presumably without aforementioned subsidy from the church) — because most of the parents, teachers, and the Chief Academic Officer (Ms. Miller) were lining up behind a new school — that the church took it upon itself to call down to the State Corporation Commission in Richmond and reserve every name possible for a school that included the word “dominion” in it.  Since the original idea was to name the new school “New Dominion Academy,” this put a damper on things, but the committee for the new school decided on a different name…within a day or two: Providence Academy. This little SCC stunt, though, together with the new school’s insistence on focusing on the positive and “turning the other cheek” on the classroom equipment issue, has the school looking like the adults (Christian adults) in the room, and the church leadership looking a little petty.  Maybe none of this happened the way they intended, but they’ve handled things quite poorly.

And the new school, Providence Academy, in less than three weeks: has some options for a temporary home, has an offer for a permanent home at a sprawling new campus within the town limits of Leesburg in a couple years, has 175 enrollees already confirmed for the 2013-2014 school year, almost all of the current teaching staff at Dominion having expressed interest in continuing with the new Providence Academy, and to top it off, a relationship with a church (which, as Mr. Wigfield pointed out in his presentation, can provide a tremendous amount of help when it comes to zoning and special exceptions for schools) that doesn’t seek to control the school as their previous church did.

For more info and updates on Providence Academy, go to: providenceacademyva.org 

UPDATE: Some of the details involving enrollment numbers a few paragraphs up have been adjusted and clarified.

UPDATE 2: There is more news on the horizon, so stay tuned.

Hypocrisy in the “Village”

(Also posted on LoudounLiberty)

It takes a village…right?

That’s what we’ve heard, anyway. That’s the mantra of many who feel that schools and “communities” should help parents make better decisions about what their children watch, read, eat, etc. They feel that parents – families – are inadequate, and even harmful, if not buttressed by the undying and committed support of the collective “village.” There was a recent hullabaloo about Melissa Harris Perry talking about how “children belonged to the community” which got her a lot of attention, and she is still quite adamant about.Harris-Perry/Gosnell

OK, then what about the victims of Dr. Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortion doctor (who had some of his charges thrown out yesterday by the judge, but still faces first-degree murder charges) who allegedly committed blatant infanticide in his clinic by simply snipping the backs of the neck of infants who managed to be born alive? Where was the “village” then?

Seriously…either life begins at birth or not. If THAT’S the line, then that’s the line. It should be a “takes-a-villager’s” dream. Here is a parent who has made the ultimate decision of not wanting to be responsible for their child. Where is the team of villagers with “We Love Hillary” badges swooping in and protecting innocent child victims? Where is the outcry of community responsibility and collective love?

No where…silent. Or in some cases outright defiance (not in relation to Gosnell, but infanticide in general) in the case of Florida Planned Parenthood.

One can’t help but believe this is more than simply intellectual inconsistency, but a moral hypocrisy when kids born…alive…with explicitly no one willing to take care of them, are allowed to be simply slaughtered.  This is not a legal line that is complicated to thread.  The far left is either serious (in the case of infanticide REALLY serious) about  a woman’s “right to choose” how (and of course, when) they want to raise their families; or they’re in unabashed support of children “belonging to the community.”

It’s fair to ask: are parents ultimately responsible for the life, growth, education of children?  If they can simply toss the life away by having their doctor snip the back of their neck, then they can certainly choose how they are educated…right? Alternatively: if children, basically from birth, “belong to the community” then it stands to reason that there should be a team of “villagers” standing in front of any abortion clinic offering them their home…right?

Which is it?

Systems

You hear it all of the time:

“Our educational system needs reform!”

“The healthcare system is all screwed up.”

When it comes to logical and reasonable discussions about what the solutions to some of our problems in healthcare and education (high costs, low quality, mediocre results…all three), the side of liberty and choice loses when we allow the English language to be stretched and abused to the point where calling the delivery of health care or diplomas a “system.”

network_managementNow think about it. What makes healthcare a “system” but…say…auto manufacturing an “industry?” (One would think that since the Federal Government felt comfortable taking over a good chunk of the car industry, they’d call it a “system” too, but I digress.)

Healthcare and education are systematized because everyone in the United States (presumably) needs healthcare…and (presumably) needs formal education, so the logic is that it needs managing to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

But everyone in the United States needs clothing…shelter…and food.  Are these systematized by Governments and managed systematically?  Well food was for a while. We discovered years ago that price fixing in food markets didn’t help farmers and didn’t help consumers.  But food, clothing and housing are markets.  People pay for them.  They choose what to pay for.

For some reason somewhere along the line, it was decided that education and healthcare needed to systematized and here we are…calling them “systems.”

Why? BECAUSE WE ARE NOT PAYING FOR THEM ANYMORE.

Education is filtered through governments through taxes (or highly subsidized by taxes in the case of higher education), and healthcare is filtered through a series of governments, employers, and insurance companies. If we aren’t paying for it, then someone else is controlling it, and if “they” (whoever they are) want to change that system, we have to advocate for them to change it in a way in which you feel will help.

But we’ve already lost the argument.  Once we’ve conceded that it’s a system, we have ceded the freedom of individuals to control their own destiny.

Until we explicitly make the statement that education and healthcare need to be treated as free markets, where individuals choose their own destiny and pay the price they’re willing to pay, then we will NEVER gain the liberty we seek on these fronts.

The “ROI” of College

Two conclusions I’ve reached over the last few weeks:

1) The problems with the cost of education (and especially higher education) are almost exactly the same as the problems with the cost of health care–namely: too much Government control over the delivery, and too much Government influence on the financing; comCollege is getting too expensivebine that with the textbook industry who uses their relationship with universities to rob students even more, and what we have is an education that is so expensive.

2) The return on the investment is simply not there. There’s a good website that shows “ROI” for leading universities around the country.

http://www.payscale.com/education/average-cost-for-college-ROI

And right off the bat, I’m quite convinced that it’s complete and total nonsense, for one reason and one reason only: they have NO IDEA how much a kid who is intelligent and capable enough to get a college degree is capable of doing if they choose to go another route. The reason why the salaries for non-college grads are so much lower is that anyone with the ability to go to college is manhandled and coddled and bribed (see number 1) to go to college. Great video on the topic:

YouTube Preview Image

If you take Suzie Q, who has the intellectual capital to graduate from Harvard, and she chooses to do something productive for 5 years (that MAKES money, God-forbid start a business or something), she’ll end up being decidedly more productive in the long term than Bob, who has the intellectual capital to go to Stanford, and studies Anthropology. There are just too many variables.

Not saying there should be no Universities, but unless someone is choosing a decidedly intellectual pursuit, there is no real need for it. Many of the great high-tech success stories were made by those who learned on their own and tinkered out of their garage. Making ALL of our children slaves to debt and then to a mortgage and a corporation that pays for both is just an outdated and outmoded model. It’s a product of the industrial age gone awry.

There is too much information available for too little money for us to continue to believe that we need to spend $100,000 for students to get this information.

“But wait, what about all the intangibles that students learn…teamwork, critical thought, problem solving, don’t they need guidance from educational professionals to help them learn these processes.”

NO. They need a job. Think back to when you graduated from college, and tell me that you didn’t learn more in TWO WEEKS in a real job about all of these things then you did in four (five, six) years in a University.

PLUS, you could pay private tutors $25,000 a year and fill the gaps…or just forget about the degree itself and take a class at a community college.  Everything you need to know, you could get from the public library or on ebay.

The REAL problem…the real dirty little secret:

The American public has become convinced that High Schools are preparing students for College, but what they’re really doing is making sure they’re NOT prepared for life…so they HAVE to go to college. It’s not malicious, and it’s not a conspiracy (many things, despite what the video indicates don’t have to be conspiratorial to be bad); it’s just a fundamental shift (over many decades) of education designed around logic, reason, knowledge, enterprise and problem solving at the earliest levels to one that is designed around feelings, multiculturalism, social justice, and “world citizenship.”

The result is a New Age primary and secondary education feeding students into an Industrial Age higher education model.  Universities serve the same noble purpose that an insurance company does in health care: they (with lots of Government help) get in between the end-user and the “service provider.”

The result is a lot of wasted money at every level, and a generation or two of children who along the way have missed the one thing that they needed to learn to be productive members of society:

HOW TO THINK.

Last but not least, someone else who really gets to the heart of this issue–the guy from PayPal who is recruiting top talent FROM Universities:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/307400

It was the inspiration for this post, along with my dad (who just graduated his last), saying something along the lines of: “A fella could go to a trade school and become a plumber, and you look out 30 years later, I guarantee he comes out ahead.”

Obama to Address Public School Students-Sept 8th

On the first day of school, public school kids will have a treat:  they will be addressed by the POTUS for the first time “about persisting and succeeding in school.”  While I can’t imagine anyone having a difference of opinion regarding the importance of persisting and succeeding in school, I can foresee difference of opinion in how this is to be accomplished.  As it stands now, I feel that the current and previous administrations believe that such success is not possible without the government.  Loudoun County School District has not published this unprecedented piece of news; I can only assume that all schools will air this broadcast.  My questions are:

1.  Will they air the broadcast?
2.  Will participation be mandatory?
3.  Will students receive a diffing perspective or will only one be presented?
4.  Is this the first of many addresses to students? 

There are some who are calling for boycotting the address by keeping kids home from school that day and others who will politely and boldly asking these questions from their local school board.  What will you do?  While I feel that the government has it’s uses, like creating opportunities for success it is not their responsibility to ensure such success.  The broadcast will broadcast live on the Whitehouse website September 8th at 1pm.