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Education

A Review of Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady & Orrin Woodward

September 15th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

launchingaleadershiprevolutioncoverAs a fan of leadership books, I try to read everything that comes out in this field.

Unfortunately, reading hundreds of books on the same topic means there is seldom something really new—fresh, exciting, revolutionary that uplifts the entire genre.

The last such surprise for me came several years ago in the writings of Steve Farber. But now, finally, comes another great addition to the leadership genre: Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

Their subtitle, “Mastering the Five Levels of Influence,” sounds like typical management book fare, but it isn’t.

Each level is vital, well-taught and interesting, and together they form a truly revolutionary model for leadership.

This is not exaggeration—this book is excellent! I rank it right along with the best of Drucker, Bennis, Blanchard, Gerber, Collins, Deming, and Farber. It is destined to be a classic.

Brady and Woodward teach that everyone will be called upon for leadership at some point in their life.

They then turn leadership upon its head, noting that while many people seek leadership for the perceived benefits of power, control, or perks, the true life of a leader is actually built upon

“…giving power (empowering)…helping others fix problems…and serving others. Leaders lead for the joy of creating something bigger than themselves.”

This follows Greenleaf’s tradition of servant leadership, but with a twist.

Launching a Leadership Revolution shines because it gets into the specific work of leadership. It outlines many pages of work leaders must do, and explains which work to focus on most.

But the book seldom uses the word “work”, instead preferring the active “working.” Just the list of “working” items for leaders is worth more than the price of the book.

Maybe the best thing about this book is the authors’ ability to take traditional, classic leadership basics and give them new, profound definitions.

For example, the definition of learn goes from the old “a leader is always learning” to “a leader must be able to learn from anyone.”

Imagine the leadership revolution that would occur if top executives and government officials really did seek to learn from everyone!

Another example: The meaning of perform is transformed from “please your boss” or “improve the bottom line” to “persevere through failure to find success.”

This is the best definition of leadership performance I’ve ever read in print. And the book teaches the reader how to do it.

Likewise, the advice to develop others as leaders moves beyond all the clichés to become “learn to trust your people.” It includes fitting them to be truly trustworthy.

That’s what leadership should be– but seldom is even considered.

There are many other examples. This book is a revolution that builds on the best ideas and thinkers of the past by applying them in fresh new ways applicable to the information age.

We learn from case studies such as George Washington, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and many others right along with contemporary needs and challenges.

Above all, the book places leadership success squarely on the success of mentoring and gives excellent advice to mentors on how to help people bring out the leadership inside them.

Everyone serious about Leadership Education will want to read this book, and apply the principles to our learning and mentoring.

In truth, great leadership is simply using great influence for great things, and this book can help each of us do this.

In these times of government bailouts and “fixes,” it is important to remember that the American Dream never was a government program. The American Dream was a leadership revolution, where regular people chose leadership and became leaders.

This revolution is still needed today, perhaps more than ever before in history.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the 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 : Book Reviews &Education &Leadership &Mission

Vampires as Aristocrats?

September 9th, 2010 // 11:42 am @

twilightposterIn the last few years, as the vampire genre has gone from cult popularity to fringe and then to mainstream and mega-bestseller, I have wondered what vampires signify to our culture.

The bestseller vampire story Twilight and its sequels swept American teen reading circles, and these books were also read by a lot of adults. When the movie came out, millions watched and book sales once again soared.

Knock-offs followed, and vampires are now a rapidly growing part of American pop culture. From libraries and bookstores to HBO and regular network channels to the movie theaters, vampire stories are growing in popularity and quantity.

This mainstream and even super-stream popularity of vampires is new to America. Even relatively obscure vampire works are now more popular than the highly-touted Dracula was in a past generation.

Heroes & Villains as Cultural Indicators

You can tell a lot about a culture by its heroes as well as its villains. Cowboys were the quintessential American heroes — leading sales of fiction books, movies and television programs for the bulk of the 20th Century.

Over time westerns evolved into science fiction and fantasy — fans were entertained by space cowboys, space shuttles and alien cultures rather than ranchers, running horses and various tribes of outlaws or Indians. Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Narnia and so many others featured cowboy plots and characters albeit in new, unique and often fantastic settings.

Later, Americans adopted professionals as our heroes — mostly police officers on television and in movies, followed by doctors, with some lawyers, nurses, politicians, military pilots, firemen and even a few teachers thrown in to the mix.

Like cowboys and space heroes, the professionals met life head on, faced down and overcame difficulties, and showed the rest of us how to live in difficult times. They conquered enemies, lived their genius despite annoying bosses, solved difficult situations, and inevitably they all faced and mostly triumphed over deep personal weaknesses and crises.

Most of these heroes followed the patterns laid out by Shakespeare’s 22 major and numerous minor plotlines, and unique characters from MacGyver, Remington Steele or James Bond to Joan of Arcadia, the Cheerleader on Heroes or Hancock kept fans coming back for more.

Like Plutarch’s Lives, a series of stories that were widely read and studied closely by the American founding generation, nearly all of these pop heroes followed basic heroic patterns — think Hercules or John Wayne.

Vampires: A Different Mold

Vampires are different. They don’t save, they kill. They see themselves as superior, and secretly hold power over the lives of unsuspecting “normals.” They are the opposite of Men in Black; they are not cowboys or even outlaws but something altogether different.

Outlaws were at least the equals of the law-abiding cowboys, whereas vampires are entirely above and even beyond the law.

Back to my original question: What deep societal meaning(s) do vampires manifest? Or more to the point, what profound cultural theme(s) does their popularity indicate? They are too popular not to mean anything.

It is a real question. After all, cowboys, Starship captains, Jedi Knights, comic-book heroes, fantasy kings in hiding (who always carry swords with names), modern homicide detectives, CSI experts, sacrificing attorneys fighting for the little guy, skilled and romantic doctors, caring nurses, inspiring inner-city teachers, top gun pilots and so many more all fit the same heroic model.

But vampires? They are a different plotline, any way you look at it.

Then it clicked. I was researching the growth of class divides in America, and came across a reference in an ad for Harper’s magazine that asked if capitalists and vampires are the same, or something to that effect.

My mind was racing. Vampire. Capitalist. Upper class. Aristocrat.

Blood-Sucking Aristocrats

mooreimage1Note that I am not equating capitalism with bloodsucking. But let’s be clear — that analogy is widely accepted in our time.

It’s probably obvious to everyone but me that the growth of vampire-lit popularity coincided precisely with the Enron and following meltdowns of big business credibility.

I think the analogy is a stretch, and I think we are witnessing too little free enterprise rather than too much. I do believe that the worst types of aristocracy are vampirical in nature.

The parallels are numerous. Bloodsucking, powerful beings live and prosper by taking our very means of life from us. We have no power to fight back — they are too fast and powerful. We don’t even know what hit us when one of them attacks.

In such a situation, we are “lucky” to receive a mention of our demise in the newspaper.

Oh, and it turns out that there are bad vampires and good vampires. The good ones find other ways to feed themselves, leaving us mere humans our blood. These ones are our friends.

By the way, this separates American from European vampires. The old-country variety are much more ruthless and, frankly, the bloodier the better.

In contrast, Americans like their vampires to be “vegetarian” like the heroes in Twilight or HBO’s True Blood. Oh, and while European vampires are villains, in America the great heroes are the good vampires who protect humans from the bad vampires.

Reread the last few paragraphs and insert the word “aristocrat” wherever it says “vampire” to see how apt the analogy is.

A Recipe for Apathy & Dependence

The similarities continue. For example, the regular people feel that there is nothing you can do about “them.” “They” control everything, anyway, so why try to make a difference?

The only way to compete with them or fight them is to join them, to become one of them, and that is done by having one of them bite you.

“It takes money to make money,” we are told, or “it’s not what you know but who you know,” or “your wealth and success will be the average of the top five people you hang out with — so if you want more money, get some wealthy friends.”

Here’s my favorite: “It’s just business, nothing personal.” This is the attitude of all the bad vampires in the literature.

Compare the reassuring thesis of the “good” vampires: “You poor people, of course you can’t save yourselves. Don’t worry, we’ll fix everything for you. Trust us. We’re the good vampires. Just go on with your lives. We’ll take care of you.”

This is aristocracy at its worst and worst. Bad aristocracy takes, manipulates, forces, feels and acts superior, and sucks away our life and livelihood. In contrast, “good” aristocracy takes care of us like the inferiors it thinks we are.

Some people seem to be saying, “Thank goodness for these good, caring, powerful aristocrats who fix everything so we can just live our lives.” Maybe that’s too sarcastic.

But seriously, the analogy is powerful and should make us think.

The System Sucks

One thing is the same in nearly all vampire stories: the vampires hate their life. Many of them despise what they are. Again, the parallel is profound. Few aristocrats enjoy their system. True, they prefer being aristocrats to commoners, but both groups want something better.

Free, prosperous societies that have learned how to function without the painful traditions of class division have always boasted much happier people. In short, aristocracy is not a great system for anyone — even the aristocrats.

This may be the most frequent theme in English, French, Spanish and Russian literature. And these cultures know aristocracy!

Traditional Horror v. Vampires

I know that vampire and other dark literature has been around for a long time, but it has never been mainstream in America like it is now. In fairness, I am not a fan of any kind of horror. In fact, I don’t remember watching a horror movie since I was in high school.

I just don’t appreciate the darkness. I think movies should be uplifting and inspiring. Happiness is our deepest quest in this life, and I want my entertainment to directly help with this goal.

There is, of course, classic literature like Dracula, Frankenstein, Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, and a number of plays by Shakespeare that deal with dark themes, but in all of these the overwhelming messages are about overcoming temptations and inner weaknesses. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis followed this pattern.

Modern horror, however, seems to be all about the shock value. But I don’t think that most horror movies are about aristocracy.

Vampire works, in contrast, at least the recent stuff that is incredibly popular, are all about how we are starting to notice an upper class growing in the shadows, increasingly perceptible but not yet out in open daylight, and that seems to control so much and be incredibly powerful, mysterious and even scary.

Instead of calling them all villains, as the Europeans do, Americans are hoping that the “good” aristocrats will protect us against the bad ones. And more and more we are hoping to “get discovered,” win a reality-show contest, hit the lottery, or in some other way get bit by success and join the upper class.

Surprised Parents in a Fourth Turning

If this sounds overstated to you, you are in good company. A couple of years ago I mentioned the growing popularity of vampire literature to a group of very involved and caring parents. They were surprised at the topic, and in fact it only came up as I attempted to answer a question posed by a seminar attendee.

When I asked them how many of their kids were reading such works, only a couple raised their hands. I assigned them to go home and ask their kids that night about it, and to report back the next day.

The following morning, it was a surprised group — nearly all the attendees had learned that their children were reading about vampires.

When I got home I told this story to my own kids, mainly to teach them about the struggles of raising kids in some urban area. My oldest three teens started laughing.

“What?” I asked. They had been discussing a popular vampire series the day before I got home. They pointed out a lot of good lessons they had learned from their reading, and I read the books and had some long talks with them.

I would never have assigned these books, and I likely would have discouraged them from the series if I had known sooner what they were reading. Still, we had some positive discussions, and in fact it was this experience that got me wondering why so many youth are now in to vampires.

Welcome to the fourth turning. The youth want the power, speed, mystery and freedom of being entrepreneurs and part of the upper class. They also want to help the world, to increase freedom, peace and prosperity.

Those in the Y Generation (born between 1984 and 2007) don’t want to be Company Men. They want to be The Man, but a nice version of him. To them John Wayne is too selfish and mean, Luke Skywalker is too independent and insecure, and the CSI cops are too poor, bureaucratic and lonely.

That leaves two choices: Be a good vampire, or be the true friend of one. Consult the overwhelming bestseller Twilight and other popular vampire plotlines and characters to find out how to be good at these two roles.

Can We Defeat the Vampire Aristocrats?

tca_coverAristocracy is coming to America, and joining it or working for it is the most popular career of the future — unless, of course, regular people can drop their fear of the aristocrats and stand up wisely and effectively for freedom.

To do this, they’ll need the type of education that has always trained leaders — from the aristocratic leaders of Europe to the citizen leaders of America’s first 150 years.

There really is a difference between those who deeply know the classics and those who don’t. History is clear on this point. When only a few really know the classics, an aristocracy always dominates the people. This upper class controls, oversees, manipulates and lives off the blood, sweat and labor of the regular people.

When, in contrast, many study and apply the classics, they elect and oversee their leaders and vigilantly replace them when needed — freedom is maintained and flourishes. It is really that simple.

When the people are as fast, strong and wise as their leaders, no bloodsucking is allowed. When bloodsucking becomes the nature of hero and villain alike, and the young want to be one or the other — anything but the weak, oblivious masses described in Harry Potter and Twilight — a society is in trouble.

We are such a society. The classics are the answer. Unfortunately, telling the youth this is akin to the zealous but impotent religious preachers who fail in most vampire tales.

Youth believe what they are shown, and it is time for two generations of adults to get past their conveyor-belt education hangovers and finally set the example of getting the kind of great education necessary for a free people.

If this is too much for our generation, we might as well bare our necks and welcome the aristocrats.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the 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 : Aristocracy &Culture &Education &Government &Liberty

“Mr. Head Democrat”: The Future of American Politics

September 9th, 2010 // 11:39 am @

In my recent book, The Coming Aristocracy, I wrote that the United States now lives in the era of the permanent campaign.

A young pollster in the Carter administration, Patrick Caddell, coined the term back in 1976, and he hit the nail right on the head. America used to gear up for campaigns, elect one of the candidates, and then settle down to let the winner lead the nation.

Not anymore.

Now we elect a candidate and then immediately increase the fervor of the debate. We pick sides before an election, and once the election is over we get really serious about the fight.

In the modern era of politics since Watergate, this permanent battle trend has continually increased. It is a new kind of politics, where few things are about leadership or wisdom and everything is about beating the other side.

In the last presidential campaign, I expected Senator Clinton to win the election — and I was surprised when Barack Obama took his party’s nomination. I quickly set out to learn everything I could about him, from original sources — his writings, speeches and public utterances.

What I found was interesting: Obama’s pre-presidential record and especially his book, The Audacity of Hope, was a blend of dynamic-populist leadership with an old-line liberal politics. The Democratic Party hadn’t seen that mixture since JFK.

My prediction was that Obama’s populism would him bring him a victory and then we’d see whether he emphasized leadership or liberalism. If he emphasized the leadership aspect, I said, he would become one of the great presidents of American history.

It was Leader Obama versus Politician Obama, and I was very interested to see which one would win out in the realities of modern Washington.

Three Americas

So far Politician Obama has dominated. This leaves the United States in an interesting place. In fact, it changes everything.

If you watched the historic night of the 2008 election and listened to the now-famous “Yes We Can” speech, you may not realize that this was the height of the Leader Obama.

Politician Obama has changed everything since that night.

For example, Leader Obama did something truly amazing in the modern political era — he carried a majority of the wealthy voters (those who make over $200,000 per year). He was the first Democrat to do so in the post-Watergate era, and this amazing statistic seemed to indicate a new type of politics ahead.

But his hard shift to the left after inauguration has changed this dynamic.

Note that the change isn’t among conservatives — they never liked him and few voted for him. The shift is in the 39% of the voting population that now don’t want to be called either liberals or conservatives.

This tri-lateral divide of the American political landscape is fascinating. There are roughly 28% of us who would donate to the Sierra Club, a competing 28% who would donate to The National Rifle Association, and a whopping 39% made up of two kinds of people: those who would donate to neither, and those who would donate to both!

We have the liberals in one camp, the conservatives in another, and in the largest faction we find a mixed group called independents. The far left and extreme right form their own small camps at the fringes.

“Mr. Head Democrat”

When President Obama took office he had a 70% approval rating — liberals, most of the far left, and nearly all of the independents. By September 1, 2009 his approval rating was down to 50%.

This is the biggest fall in the history of new presidents in so short a time, as David Brooks recently wrote in The New York Times. Brooks also noted that national anxiety is higher now than before Obama took office, and 59% of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Three events have underscored just how wide the divide in our nation has become. First was the outcry against President Obama’s address to school children — clearly many saw him as a politician rather than their president.

Second was the surprising money-raising power generated by Congressmen Wilson shouting “you lie” during the President’s speech (which the Senate rewarded by promptly adopting what Wilson was promoting with the outburst).

Third was the interesting way that President Obama managed to use his speech on health care to effectively accomplish two things: appear totally in charge and at the same time give up on many of the main points the Obama Administration had earlier supported (e.g. deficit spending on health care, no capped tax exemptions on health care, and raising taxes on the rich to pay for health care, etc.).

The strategy seems to be to get any bill called “Health Care” to pass.

These three concurrent events all point to one thing: President Obama is seen less as President of the United States and more as the Head Democrat. Politician over leader.

Ironically, this was the same story in the Bush Administration. Conservatives saw him as the President and liberals as the Head Republican. Today the roles are reversed.

But the telling point is how independents see the president. When they see a president as leader, popularity and support soars; the opposite occurs when independents see a president as politician.

Independent Power

The power resides in the independents, though neither major party has yet to admit it. Independents want three main things:

  1. Wise use of money by government.
  2. Strong national defense.
  3. Decentralization of power along with maintenance of state, local and individual powers.

Independents are more pragmatic than ideological, they don’t engage in emotional party-supporting, and they just want things to work.

Independents want to be safe from international and terrorist attacks, free, and prosperous. They want a strong government that does certain things very well and leaves the rest to the state, local or private sectors.

When the Bush Administration started its tenure with these goals, it won the conservative and independent votes and support, but lost independents when it turned to big government answers and huge spending increases (much higher than Clinton Administration budgets) in its final term.

When Leader Obama promised to cut foreign spending and bring a new era of real leadership to Washington, independents supported his candidacy against the daunting possibility of continued Bush-like policies under McCain.

Where liberals voted for Obama in the 2008 election, many independents voted more against Bush/McCain.

Later, as President Obama shelved his Leadership hat and flexed his Liberal-Partisanship muscles, independents were disappointed and reluctantly began to wane in their support for the Obama Administration. This trend is just getting started.

Independents are also withdrawing their support from the Democratic Congress — as they watch it too turn to party politics and shun leadership.

Of course, liberals still consider the President a great leader, as many conservatives did even when President Bush tried to spend and regulate his way to popularity.

But independents aren’t tied to any one party. They want results, and they’ll support candidates, Presidents and other officials who get the results they seek.

In this environment, leadership means getting support for your projects from your own party plus independents. Anything else fails.

Three issues drive presidential politics in the U.S.: national security, the economy, and a sense of leadership. Win two, and you win the presidency. Win three, like the Republicans did with Reagan and the Democrats did with Obama, and you win the Congress too.

In the fall of 2009, President Obama is winning only one — the leadership thing — and this because he is a superb speaker, and so far independents see no true alternative to his leadership.

He must pass a health care bill, no matter what it actually does or says, just to maintain this leadership edge. Lose that, and the nation will return to a Carter-like period of no-trust and malaise.

A Tipping Point Trend

Of course, liberals naturally think President Obama is winning all three and conservatives say he is losing them all. That’s normal.

The fact that he has also lost the majority support of independents is the issue. He won on the leadership thing, but has turned increasingly politician ever since.

This rise of the independents is creating an interesting tension between the two-party system and the voting electorate.

If the Obama Administration backs away from hard-line liberalism, the expansion of government, and attempting to solve everything through increased regulation, and instead emphasizes leadership and pragmatic policies that really work, independents will swing Democrat in the polls and future elections. If not, they won’t.

Either way, the power of the independents will increase the divide between the left and the right. Indeed, divisiveness is a hallmark of an era of shifting like the one we are experiencing.

The first two such shifts in American history created a new political party — the Democratic Republicans in 1798 and later the Republicans in 1856.

The last time we faced such a major shift we totally restructured government power by creating the Social Security Administration, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, a host of secretive agencies in Washington, and a drastic increase in government regulations and red tape.

Whatever the current shift brings, let’s hope for more of a Freedom Shift than a transfer of more power to Washington.

Some may say that a rebirth of freedom is too hard, that we can’t do it. Our response should be, “Yes we can.”

In truth, it is a matter of leadership over politics.

If independents keep being stifled in both of the major parties, their frustration will continue to grow.

When they side with the Democrats, the result is usually more spending on national programs that further undermine America’s fiscal strength, free-market system, and national defense.

When they side with Republicans, the result has been increased spending on international projects and even corrupt governance that weakens the economy, freedom, and American power.

In short, at some point independents are likely to either totally reform one of the parties or just start their own.

Investing in the Future

On a personal level, many independents are investing in gold (which always seems to increase in value when the government spends beyond its means) and McDonald’s (which grows when the economy is booming and keeps growing internationally even when the U.S. economy recedes).

On a national level, during a time of shifting it is natural to see people a little confused about where they stand. After all, the constants they have believed probably don’t apply anymore.

For example, Republicans are no longer the party of the rich and Democrats have quit being the party of the little guy. Also, voters can no longer count on the old certainties that Republicans want to reduce the size of government and Democrats want to decrease foreign involvements and focus on domestic policy.

Indeed, now both Republicans and Democrats drastically increase government spending and foreign entanglements — whoever is in office.

Learning From Both Sides

I once invited a regional politician, a well-known liberal and vocal Democrat, to speak at a graduation ceremony. His speech was liberal and, well, liberal.

Afterwards conservatives railed and argued for days about my selection of speaker. The students, in contrast, learned a great deal and the speech provided material for many long discussions and assignments.

A few liberals congratulated me on our selection of speaker, but conservatives called with their frustration. A few donors even stopped sending contributions.

A few years later we invited a conservative talk-show host to speak, and the entire process repeated itself — this time the conservatives were happy, the liberals were upset, and once again the students and anyone willing to relax and listen learned a great deal.

The most intriguing lessons from both of these events came from the few who made a point of really listening and learning from views not naturally their own. We often learn more in our disagreements than from those who just repeat what we already believe.

Nearly all who closely listened and learned from the speaker of a differing viewpoint exhibited the basic views of independents. This is a rising power in America, as of yet mostly unnoticed, but sure to shift everything in the years ahead.

Winning Elections Through Leadership

I doubt that any U.S. President, liberal or conservative, will be seen by the nation any time soon as truly “Mr. President” rather than “Mr. Head Democrat or Republican.”

When it does happen, it will be because Mr. or Madam President drops partisan politics and adopts the values of independents: strong national defense, a free economic system that spurs prosperity, and a strong and active government that does what it should and also leaves the rest to state, local and private entities.

I look forward to being led by a President, current or future, whose policies win the long-term support of Party + Independents. That’s leadership. Anything else is merely partisan politics.

Frankly, the next election feels a long ways away, and I hope President Obama will shed his partisan hat and take on the mantle of leadership that comes through so clearly in his book The Audacity of Hope. (I had the same hope with President Bush and his promise of compassionate conservatism, but it never materialized).

If not, other elections will come and the biggest block of voting Americans will go searching for a leader who will finally represent their goals. Whatever happens in elections, this growing group is poised to remake the future of American politics.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the 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 : Education &Featured &Government &Independents &Liberty &Politics

Censors Versus Bashers: The New Education?

September 9th, 2010 // 11:24 am @

A friend once suggested that we should remove the writings of Robert Kiyosaki from our curriculum. When I asked him why, he said that Kiyosaki’s books contain a number of errors.

“Do the writings of Marx contain errors?” I responded.

“Well, yes,” he admitted.

“What about the writings of Freud, or Dewey?”

He agreed that these contain errors also.

“Should we remove them from the curriculum, too?” I asked, “Or do you think the students actually get a better education by reading these authors and facing their errors head on?”

“That makes sense,” he said.

I asked, “Which books do you know that contain no errors — that are totally perfect?”

He said that the scriptures come to mind, but he couldn’t think of any other books with no errors.

Before I could continue, he broke in: “But when you’re reading these known classics, of course you point out the errors. In the case of Robert Kiyosaki, people just read it and accept it at face value.”

I replied, “But isn’t that all the more reason that a great education would include reading Kiyosaki and other influential books of our time and considering their truths as well as their errors?”

We had an excellent discussion, and he left agreeing that students were better off reading Kiyosaki and really thinking about it than not reading it at all.

Push Your Comfort Zone

But the question concerned me because I’ve heard it so many times before. Like the concerned parent who didn’t want her son to read or discuss Lord of the Flies.

After realizing that we would be discussing its flaws, she suddenly was very excited for her son to participate. Or the executive who objected to The Tipping Point because he felt that some of the conclusions weren’t adequately substantiated. When told he could share his views with the group, he was excited to attend.

thethinkerThe amazing thing is that so many of us today just assume that if someone puts a book on a reading list she must agree with everything it says.

Or we assume that if she has strong disagreements with something, she won’t recommend reading it — a sort of reverse censorship.

The result is the end of learning. If you don’t study new ideas that challenge the accepted wisdom, all that is left is brainwashing.

You end up with people who just accept whatever they read at face value; or you get people who believe they are deep thinkers because they know how to disagree with whatever they read.

Both of these extremes are lacking. The whole point of an education is to learn the ability to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, excellent and mediocre, true and false, useful and irrelevant, etc.

The best way to learn this is to experience great classics, and clarify their truths as well as their errors.

Once we gain this skill, we should apply it to current books, ideas, candidates, etc.

So why do we sometimes want to only read things we already agree with? At one level, it’s just more comfortable.

But at another level, education is about pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones — especially in our thinking.

The Battle

Unfortunately, we may be living in a strange conveyor belt saturated world with two competing sides — the Censors and the Bashers*. The Censors only want to read things without errors or personality. In other words, textbooks.

Every teacher knows that the quickest way to get rid of controversy is just to “dumb something down” to professional or technical jargon.

Ironically, when a book doesn’t say anything important, when it is “boring,” nobody seems to disagree with it. C.S. Lewis worried about just this thing when he wrote that our textbooks are educating “men without chests.”

The new formula for selecting a curriculum seems to be: No Genius or Personality = Flat and Dumbed Down Reading = No Controversy = Good Curriculum.

Of course, this makes for terrible education, because it shuts down thinking. The Censors don’t mean to do this, but the result of only reading what you agree with is the end of real thinking.

As for the second group, the Bashers, they thrive on controversy. But they never build anything. They just attack, criticizing those who are trying to make a positive difference.

Bashers never risk anything to make the world better, but they think they’re helping if they attack those who do. They are the natural response to the Censors.

Censors try to make sure that no controversy occurs, and in the process they unwittingly stop thinking (and suggest that everyone else do the same).

Of course, it’s vital to shelter children from evil and confusion, but Censors take it to the level of trying to shelter adults from dangerous ideas. In history, this always has terrible results — from Caesar to Hitler.

Bashers criticize the Hitlers of the world, but attack good ideas with just as much gusto. In fact, Bashers have come to believe that thinking means criticizing. They seldom use the word “thinking” without the modifier “critical” thinking.

But real thinking, including actually applying new ideas to build and improve the world, requires much more.

Are these two extremes the result of two full generations of conveyor belt education? Censors read The Lord of the Flies, Marx, Kiyosaki, or anything else that challenges the currently accepted wisdom, and say: “Let’s take this off the list — it has errors.”

Bashers, on the other hand, read the same books and say: “Here are all the errors; let’s list them one by one and focus on them.

Better still, let’s just attack the authors.” They believe this is critical thinking, but most of the time it only amounts to criticizing.

Be a Builder

Educated people, in contrast, read with eye for errors and also an openness to truth and application—whatever the source.

In fact, that’s a good definition of what it means to be educated: the ability to recognize and apply truth, regardless of its source or delivery.

As a result, a truly educated people is a free people. What we need is to be thinking people, and that is the purpose of education.

Even if some of our schools fail to educate, we can still put thinking at the center of our reading. Consider this three step approach:

  1. Let’s read the challenging books of our time, and carefully think about what they say.
  2. Where they’re wrong, let’s discuss and learn from the errors.
  3. Where they’re right, let’s work hard and take risks to apply them and build a better world.

As my friend and I finished our conversation, he surprised me — and taught me something. He said, “Before I leave, can you suggest several books I should be reading that will help me think more deeply?”

The truth is, most people aren’t really Censors or Bashers at heart. We just get into bad habits. Most people are really Builders, if you give them a chance.

In a world where widespread Conveyor Belt thinking has conditioned many of us to automatically censor or bash new ideas, we all need to do more thinking.

This simple but profound change could make all the difference in our society’s future. It would certainly have a wonderfully positive impact on modern education — or even just the personal education of anyone who applies it.

I think my answer surprised him, too: “I suggest that you start by reading Kiyosaki again, and this time write out a list of everything you learn that is true.

Then put it next to your list of errors. Finally, as you study both lists, consider what you can use from the lists to make a positive difference in the world.”

To his credit, my friend was open and excited to think, learn, and build.

*Thanks to James E. Faust for the concept of “Bashing vs. Building.”

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

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the 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 : Education &Featured

Reconnecting with True & Effective Education

September 9th, 2010 // 11:01 am @

In recent years we have seen a domino effect of compounding crises, one following another.

Behind each crisis is a history — a series of causal events and circumstances that made the crisis inevitable.

Our failure to recognize the common root cause makes it unlikely that effective solutions will ever be put in place to free us from this cycle.

While many correctly note that education is the key, this is usually only an introduction to an even more troubling crisis.

Violence, addiction, cultural decay, the degeneration of the family unit, deterioration of an aging infrastructure of buildings and resources, high rate of dropout of students as well as teachers, political manipulation of curriculum and personnel, and mediocre and falling test scores are all issues of extreme importance.

But after all of the other criticisms that can be made of our educational system, the final indictment is that too many of our children simply aren’t learning.

Because of this education disaster the twenty-first century has not fulfilled its promise as an Information Age, a Post-industrial Age, or an American Age.

It has instead been an Era of Crisis.

To break free from this long-term pattern of crisis we must first fix education, and to fix education we must address the real problem.

The deep reality of this failure is that education now too seldom involves the right kind of connection.

Consider the deeply moving and transformational experiences you had with teachers and educators in your life and I think you will agree that connection was a defining characteristic in virtually every example. Somehow that great teacher or mentor found a connection with you, and it helped you when you needed it.

Now add to your mental list the best characteristics of the greatest teachers in history, from Socrates to Mother Teresa. Now include those of the greatest mentors in literature and books, like Jo in Little Men, or the priest in Romeo and Juliet.

Add to the list the best from great teachers in contemporary movies, like Dead Poet’s Society and Freedom Writers.

Within this list we find a prescription for how to truly connect with, teach, and mentor young people.

This list is what great education is. This list is what Leadership Education is all about.

Our purpose is to put great mentors in the classroom with students and then watch as greatness emerges. And it does — because when teachers know that their entire purpose is to be the things on that list to the students in their care, miracles occur.

athomasjeffersoneducation-150x220-customAs I wrote in my book A Thomas Jefferson Education, academia today struggles because both teachers and students have lost the vision of their role in the educational process.

Every conceivable “fix” has been tried or proposed, while neglecting the obvious: It is the student’s job to supply the desire and effort to get an education for himself.

To this end, it is the teacher’s role to inspire — to do all those things on our mental list that lead to connection.

When teachers do those things, students study and learn and work hard; they actually get a great education and prepare for a great life.

Imagine a world where classrooms are filled with teachers who believe their students have genius within them and that it is their job to help each student find it and develop it.

I hope that in the decade ahead millions will read the book A Thomas Jefferson Education and help make this vision a reality in their homes and schools.

We must all spread the message that we can’t accept mediocre education anymore without dooming our nation’s freedom and prosperity, and that great education comes only when students choose to do the hard work of studying.

Students do this when they are exposed to transformational teaching and personalized mentoring.

So, what can you do? Be a mentor. Get fifty copies of A Thomas Jefferson Education and give them to people you know; tell them of your conviction that the future of America depends on great education as outlined in this book.

Start telling the story of the teacher or mentor who most changed your life, and ask others how teachers changed theirs.

We need to start talking about our great teachers, to make this discussion an American pastime. Great education means the difference, literally, between a future America of free enterprise and opportunity or something much less desirable.

In the next decade, we are choosing what kind of future we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.

And the choice will happen in our classrooms.

*This post  was adapted from prepared remarks that were delivered as a speech by Shanon Brooks on behalf of Oliver DeMille at the George Wythe University 2009 Philanthropic Gala at the Utah State Capitol.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the 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 : Education &Leadership &Statesmanship

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