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Book Reviews

The French Way

June 16th, 2012 // 5:45 pm @

Many people around the world are discovering the principles of great education that those using TJEd are already applying.

The conveyor belt approach to learning has two big competitors in this second decade of the twenty-first century.

The first can be summed up as, “Don’t just participate in the conveyor belt, excel at it!”

This is the idea widely popularized in the Tiger Mom book and debate which swept through American education circles during the past two years.

The second approach, the one adopted by Montessori, TJEd, and several other highly-effective educational viewpoints recently gained another proponent.

In the enjoyable book, Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, we learn about the core principles of parenting used by French parents.

Those familiar with TJEd will find many old friends among the French techniques, and all of us can learn from these ideas.

For example, according to Druckerman, here are some of the “secrets” of effective parenting widely utilized in the French culture:

  • A focus on parenting as a pleasure rather than a chore or grind
  • An emphasis on helping children experience growing up as a joy rather than a job
  • Taking it slow and enjoying the journey rather than rushing to stay ahead of the neighbors’ kids or meet standards set by unnamed experts
  • “Establishing firm but gentle authority…”
  • “Favoring creative play over lots of lessons…”
  • “Never letting a child become the center of your existence”
  • Realizing that children aren’t “projects for their parents to perfect. They are separate and capable, with their own tastes…”

“French parents just don’t seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts,” Druckerman tells us, but rather help them experience quality in growing up and learning.

The focus is more on the current goal of being happy children and the end goal  of becoming well-adjusted adults than on striving for adult goals as toddlers and young children.

Throughout the book, those using TJEd will find familiar themes couched in an interesting European experience.

The following ideas show up repeatedly and in new and interesting ways: classics; mentors; structure time, not content; you, not them; simple, not complex; quality, not conformity; secure, not stressed; teach to the appropriate phase, not one-size-fits-all education; personalize, instead of joining the conveyor belt.

Above all, Druckerman emphasizes the French emphasis on wisdom (rather than grades, gold stars, or other external accolades) as the central purpose of learning, and for that matter of family and life.

The fact that Druckerman is an American who learned these principles while living in France adds to the book—it is practical in the American way while being idealistic and even artistic in the French way.

In short, it’s a great read, even if you don’t use TJEd but especially if you do!

 



Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Education &Family &Featured

Next…?

May 14th, 2012 // 10:16 am @

THE NEXT BIG TREND: Pooled Sovereignty
by Oliver DeMille

I recently spent two days in a Barnes and Noble reading the bestsellers on current trends and issues. I do this as often as I can—at least three times a year.

Sometimes I emphasize business bestsellers, and other times I focus on political books.

When I was too ill to do these visits for a time, I used Amazon to order the bestsellers every four months. But I prefer the bookstore, because in addition to books it has all the leading periodicals.

How to Read a Book(store) in 4 Easy Steps

I usually find a comfortable chair and stack 20-30 volumes and magazines on the table or floor next to me. Then I skim everything that looks interesting. That’s Step 1.

Step 2 consists of reading the books and articles that really pique my interest. I read them closely, and take notes in my notebook. Step 2 takes at least three hours and sometimes a lot more. If needed, I go back for a second day of reading.

Step 3 is buying the books and periodicals I want to have in my personal library, and Step 4 is re-reading them and organizing my notes from the trip and writing as needed.

On this trip, my travel plans got delayed, so I ended up staying longer than expected. I perused the business bestsellers and added more books to Step 2. Then I skipped to Step 4 and studied three books I’d already read over the last two days.

When I do these bookstore research trips, I’m always looking for something special. I want to see developing trends, new directions, and significant key words that signal where cutting-edge thought is headed. Only once in a while do I find a truly Big Trend, one which promises to remake the future. “Pooled Sovereignty” is just this kind of trend.

Sovereignty Broken Down

Sovereignty is the final say on something, or, having the ultimate power. The American framers were so concerned with the abuses caused by the limitless power of the British government that they established America with split sovereignty.

This meant that the federal government had just twenty powers, all listed and numbered in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The final say, or sovereignty, over everything else was left to the states, or to the people – and the states were limited in their respective constitutions.

The people were ultimately sovereign.

Moreover, just in case the federal government tried to ignore the Constitution and usurp sovereignty from the states and the people, the framers divided the smaller portion of sovereignty given to Washington D.C. into three branches and established checks and balances to keep too much power from accumulating in any one place.

For decades scholars, students and interested citizens from both Left and Right have warned that sovereignty is centralizing in Washington, that split sovereignty is being replaced by a massive centralized sovereignty—all power in one place.

Pooled sovereignty is even worse. This occurs where international organizations or treaties make the final decisions for the people, regardless of what national governments say. Indeed, some of the most damaging choices being made today are decided without the consent of Congress or the Supreme Court – not to mention the states or the people. They are made by treaties, the United Nations, G-20, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other international organizations.

Most Americans turn off their thinking when they hear this list of international agencies—but the elite perk up with interest. This is where the buzz is.

The breeding ground for a global system that supports pooled sovereignty is found in top universities, and it is promoted by the bureaucratic elite in many nations. Much of what occurs in Washington only makes sense to those who understand this drift toward globalization.

The Grand Design

For example, a push for increased government spending, debt and regulation on small business (even in the face of recession and a struggling economy) make perfect sense if the goal is to shift the American economy away from international leadership to global participation—to make the U.S. economy and government more like those of Europe and Asia.

Stimulus, universal health care, less entrepreneurship (through increased levels of government regulation)—all are necessary to create an American economy that can fit seamlessly with the industrialized European/Asian nations.

Another step in this process is to end the use of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and replace it with an IMF or other currency. The IMF has already proposed this change, and international support for it is growing.

Just to be clear: When the dollar replaced the British pound as the world’s reserve currency in the 1970s, the average net worth of nearly every home in Britain fell more than 30% the day after the change. The British economy has still never fully recovered, nearly forty years later.

If the same change comes to the U.S., we will likely experience a worse economy for the next four decades than we have over the past four years.

Unfortunately, as Forbes reported, “It’s hard for the State Department to imagine an international agreement to which America is not part.”[i] Republican and Democratic presidents since FDR have drastically decreased American freedom using treaties. This is bad for Americans, good for pooled sovereignty.

Ultimately, there are two types of leadership that can turn this around: presidential leadership, and citizen leadership.

We Need You to Lead Us

Sadly, few presidential candidates (from either party) and exactly zero elected presidents since 1959 have effectively pushed back against this growing threat.

As for the American citizenry leading the charge: find out what percentage of your friends can tell you the details in the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Rome Statute, or UN Agenda 21, and that is a predictor of how likely the people are to effectively lead.

In fact, this lack of citizen leadership means there is little incentive for presidents to take action against pooled sovereignty. Or to put this in practical terms, a half-century with a bad economy is likely ahead.

Unless something changes…

We need citizens who study what our government is doing, who read treaties and court cases and executive orders, etc. Without this, the age of American prosperity will continue to decline.

Where to start? The three books I closely studied at Barnes and Noble are an excellent beginning. If you are liberal, try Drift by Rachel Maddow. Conservatives will probably prefer Dick Morris’s book Screwed. If you’re an independent, read them both. In addition, everyone should read How Do You Kill a Million People by Andy Andrews. Just reading these books and the documents they cite would be a great study on current America.

The future belongs to our citizens—and the level of our citizenship will determine what happens in the years and decades ahead. If we are Type B citizens (who vote, go to jury duty, and watch the news), we’re going to witness the decay of American freedom and prosperity.

We need Type A citizens, who in addition to voting and jury duty also deeply study the issues, government documents and decisions our government officials are making. We can only influence things if we know what’s really happening.

And: Next?

The second day at Barnes and Noble, the intercom announced that children’s reading time was starting. I took a break from reading and walked over to see America’s future. One mother brought her small son, and she read a thick book while he enjoyed reading hour alone. I was surprised they went ahead with the reading hour when only one child showed up. I don’t know why others didn’t bring their children, and I wonder what kind of America this boy and his peers will inherit.

I asked his mother what book she was reading. It was titled—no lie—City of Lost Souls. I wish that boy had been joined by an army of his peers—preparing to lead.

All through history, free people have been nations of readers. When the people oversee the government, they remain free. When they don’t…

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Book Reviews &Citizenship &Constitution &Current Events &Foreign Affairs &Government &Independents &Leadership &Statesmanship

TJEd and the “French Way”

May 14th, 2012 // 7:46 am @

A book review of Druckerman’s Bringing up Bébé

Many people around the world are discovering principles of great education that those using TJEd are already applying. The “conveyor belt” approach to learning has two big competitors in this second decade of the twenty-first century.

I Can Conform Better Than You Can

The first can be summed up as, “Don’t just participate in the conveyor belt — excel at it!” This is the idea widely popularized in the Tiger Mom book[i] and debate that swept through American education circles during the past two years.

The second approach, the one adopted by Montessori, TJEd and other highly-effective educational viewpoints, recently gained another proponent. In the enjoyable book Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, we learn about core principles the author observed in the parenting philosophy and style of French parents. Those familiar with TJEd will hear a familiar ring to these “French” techniques, and all of us can learn from these ideas.

Les Sept Clés

For example, according to Druckerman, here are some of the “secrets” of effective parenting widely utilized in the French culture:

  • A focus on parenting as a pleasure rather than a chore or grind
  • An emphasis on helping children experience growing up as a joy rather than a job
  • Taking it slow and enjoying the journey rather than rushing to stay ahead of the neighbors’ kids or meet standards set by unnamed experts
  • “Establishing firm but gentle authority…”
  • “Favoring creative play over lots of lessons…”
  • “Never letting a child become the center of your existence”[ii]
  • Realizing that children aren’t “projects for their parents to perfect. They are separate and capable, with their own tastes…”[iii]

“French parents just don’t seem so anxious for their kids to get head starts,” Druckerman tells us, but rather help them experience quality in growing up and learning.[iv] The focus is more on the current goal of being happy children and the end goal of becoming well-adjusted adults than on striving for adult goals as toddlers and young children.

Throughout the book, those using TJEd will find familiar themes couched in an evocative European experience. The following ideas show up repeatedly and in new and interesting ways:

  • Classics
  • Mentors
  • Structure time, not content
  • You, not them
  • Simple, not complex
  • Quality, not conformity
  • Secure, not stressed
  • Teach to the appropriate phase, not one-size-fits-all education
  • Personalize, instead of joining the conveyor belt

Above all, Druckerman highlights the French emphasis on wisdom[iv] (rather than grades, gold stars, or other external accolades) as the central purpose of learning — and for that matter, of family and life.

The fact that Druckerman is an American who learned these principles while living in France adds to the flavor—it is practical in the “American” sort of way while being idealistic and even artistic in the French way. In short, it’s a great read, even if you don’t use TJEd but especially if you do!

 


[i] See Oliver’s commentary on Tiger Moms here and here.

[ii] See “Books: Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman,” Reviewed by Kim Hubbard, People, February 20,2012.

[iii] Pamela Druckerman, Bringing up Bébé.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] See Oliver’s commentary on “Wisdom” here and here and here.

 

Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Education &Family &Featured

Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hitt

April 10th, 2012 // 8:54 pm @

5 stars
Reviewed by Oliver DeMille

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that nearly all Americans are Cartesians, even though few of them know that a “Cartesian” is one who follows the philosophy of Rene Descartes.

Cartesians are famous for following the maxim, “I think, therefore I am,” which translates into little faith in experts and a deep belief in the ability of one’s own mind to figure things out.

In short, Tocqueville was saying that most Americans would rather think on their own, look over all sides of things and draw their own conclusions than give credence to the so-called “authority” of the experts.

One side of this coin is a trust in one’s own mind, thoughts and abilities, and the other side is a deeply imbedded mistrust of experts, officials, politicians, bureaucrats or anyone else claiming any kind of superiority, credibility, class standing, celebrity or special credentials.

The American founders wrote this philosophy right into our founding documents when they outlawed titles of nobility.

In a new book, Bunch of Amateurs, author Jack Hitt writes that this spirit of self-confident amateurism is central to the American character and that indeed, “the amateur’s dream is the American Dream.”

This is an enjoyable book that reminded me a little of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks, and a lot of The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.

It is an interesting addition to the important genre of understanding the American character.

For those who enjoy this kind of societal analysis, Bunch of Amateurs is an enjoyable read.

I didn’t agree with all of Hitt’s points, but this just added spice to the debate.

I loved the inclusion of the history of Franklin and Adams and how their interactions provide an iconic look into the American character.

The juxtaposition of these two founders with modern commentators Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert is worth the price of the book.

I am a longtime fan of social commentary, and for me Bunch of Amateurs is like a mixture of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, Tribes by Seth Godin and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.

In places, the writing reminded me of books by Steven Pinker, and in other places of Roy H. Williams—both are excellent writers.

If I was only going to read one book of this kind and on this subject area, it would be the brilliant book Rascal by Chris Brady.

Bunch of Amateurs is a quality addition to this important conversation about the American character and, by extension, its emerging future.

I highly recommend it.

***********************************

odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Citizenship &Leadership

A Truly Excellent Book on Genius and How to Develop It!

April 3rd, 2012 // 9:41 pm @

Genius by Mike Byster

5 Stars
Reviewed by Oliver DeMille

I love it when a plan comes together. Okay, it isn’t really a plan. But I still love it when I read a book that says what we’ve been saying for years in Leadership Education.

I enjoy disagreeing with books too, which is why I love to talk about Lord of the Flies or 1984 with people who have read them repeatedly and given them a lot of thought.

But today I read a book that agreed with much of what I wrote about in A Thomas Jefferson Education and that I’ve been speaking and writing about for a long time.

I had the same experience when I read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich, The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, and A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.

Today’s book was Genius by Mike Byster.

Those who have followed Leadership Education and Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) know that we have long taught that all people on the planet have genius within them, and that it is a fundamental purpose of good education to help them find and develop their genius.

Byster goes a step further, by teaching the reader how to develop one’s areas of inner genius, and the result is a truly excellent book.

Those familiar with Leadership Education will resonate with several recurring themes.

For example, Byster argues that a major problem with modern education is that we put too much emphasis on teaching subjects rather than helping students learn how to effectively learn and think.

He quotes Albert Einstein and Alvin Toffler, respectively: “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn,” and “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Most significantly, at least for me, Byster outlines a plan or pattern of teaching and learning genius.

Again, many of the themes are familiar to me, but they are couched in new ways and combined with new concepts, examples and ideas that make the book an instant classic for me. I’ll read it again and again.

Byster teaches the following “Six Skills of A Genius,” and gives suggestions and exercises for mastering them:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • “Retaining Massive Amounts of Information Without ‘Memorizing’” (This is accomplished by making learning fun, exciting and otherwise engaging one’s own love of learning and areas of passionate interest.)
  • Thinking Outside the Box
  • Organization (This includes finding patterns in things and reorganizing information to better intersect with one’s own mind and world.)
  • Forgetting

What a great outline. I especially like the last one, which reminds me of counsel I often gave to freshmen and sophomores: “Only take notes on things you deeply care about and want to remember, rather than just summarizing whatever lecture you attend.”

Not trying to remember things you don’t want to recall is a vital part of remembering the important things.

Again, this book resonated with me in so many ways that I was excited to go back and read it again.

The first time I just read it through, then I spent the evening and long into the night reading it a second time and taking copious notes.

Maybe the most enjoyable thing about this book is that many of the exercises are focused on math.

I hope that doesn’t stop anybody from reading it, because it was some of the most enjoyable and downright fun math I’ve done since…well, ever.

This was a very entertaining, pleasurable, amusing book. I learned so much! I recommend it everyone, whether you know anything about TJEd or not.

For those with a background in Leadership Education, I think you’ll love this book as much as I did. Principles of truth are principles of truth, after all, and this book is full of such principles.

I add it to A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider as one of my all-time favorite books on math, and also as one of the best books on “Leadership Education.”

Read it, love it, have fun with it. Enjoy!

***********************************

odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

Category : Blog &Book Reviews &Education &Featured &Leadership &Mission

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