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Generations

The Declining American Dream

January 31st, 2011 // 9:55 am @

We still hear about the American Dream. But more and more it seems we’re in a Matrix-like dream state where our perceptions are being manipulated. It’s actually a pretty common plot in cinema: The Minority Report, The Sixth Day, Total Recall, Inception, The Adjustment Bureau and others riff on this theme. We’re living in a reality out-of-synch with some truth we’ve lost, and we don’t even realize it. Somehow our collective memory and our assumptions of “normal” are slowly morphing, and our definition of the American Dream at present is so far removed from the original concept as to be a pretty fair Doublespeak[i] idiom.

Back when the Cleavers[ii] and even the Bradys[iii] were the icons of American families, what was the definition of “The American Dream”? What did it mean to be “middle class”? There are some features of it that were fairly well accepted once upon a time:

1. Home Ownership I

Perhaps the most traditional measure of middle class and the American Dream is the ability for every man to be the king of his own castle. In this the U.S. was a beacon to the world, and other countries even began to adopt the value that every person might aspire to own his own dwelling. The historical and sociological significance of home ownership includes the moral and political empowerment of being “landed,” and affiliation with the natural aristocracy. Homeowners were believed to have a deeper sense of responsibility to invest in their property improvement, an elevated pride in and loyalty to their neighborhoods and communities, and a higher commitment to the good of society in general.

2. Home Ownership II

Now we have to dig a little deeper into our genetic memory. Home ownership a generation or three ago meant not only that you weren’t renting from somebody else, but after a maximum of thirty years in your home you weren’t renting it from the bank, either. A 30-year mortgage left the likes of Ward and June Cleaver without a house payment right about when the grandkids started showing up, and they were able to be a boon to their young married children as they were starting out. If the idea of Home Ownership I as a definition of “The American Dream” is still generally accepted (and I believe it is), the Home Ownership II definition has been deleted from our collective memory. Not only do we have a 30-year mortgage that gets refinanced ad infinitum, but we have seconds on our vanishing equity—and our seniors are living on the funds derived from reverse mortgages.

3. One Income

For the Cleavers and the Bradys, Home Ownership I and II were accomplished on one income. Dad had evenings and weekends for leisure; mom could volunteer with the PTA and community service organizations. Both could participate in book clubs, bowling leagues, gardening and other vocations. The Women’s Lib movement sent the modern woman into the workforce by choice; now Home Ownership II is entirely out of reach for the middle class, and Home Ownership I requires a minimum of two incomes—and often multiple jobs for an individual worker—in order to be a reality.

4. Two Cars

The family had a car—and later two. They were American made with pride, and they were built to last. Paid with cash from savings, or with a little help from the local bank, they were paid off long before they were sent to the salvage yard. Some families even scandalized the neighbors by giving each of their teens a car as soon as they were legal to drive.

5. College for Kids

Part of the understanding for middle class families was that they would be able to pay for their kids to get a college education. Now all that’s left of that understanding is the guilt for failing to live up to it. No one seriously expects one-income families to be able to pay off the house and cars and simultaneously send several kids to the University. Scholarships, loans, grants and lingering debt into the career years are now the means for those who want a college education.

6. Discretionary Income

With all of the above, it was still an expectation that a married couple could live within their means and have savings, investment, yearly vacations with the whole family at some destination spot, and still have a few dimes to rub together at the end of the month.

7. Retirement

Ah, and after all this came the golden years. The Cleavers could now spend their expanded leisure time, afforded by an empty nest and the retirement from the company (complete with gold watch honors), in community service and nurturing the rising generation. They had savings, investments and retirement income to fall back on, a house and car paid free and clear, and the greatest resource: Leisure Time. They were elders in their community, and relied upon for wisdom.

The percentage of families enjoying these luxuries shrinks every year. Where did our American Dream go? Somehow, point by point, it has slipped away from us, and taken with it our definition of “middle class.” Would that we could wake up and reclaim the best of that dream; instead, we’ve awakened to a reality where our elusive American Dream is just out of reach; and these seven points that were once considered the legacy of any hard-working family are being deleted from our list of aspirations. If they are middle class expectations, the majority of America is no longer middle class.

[For a follow-up article on the how and why the middle class is shrinking, and how to reverse the trend, read Oliver’s article, “The Rule of Leisure,” featured in the February 2011 monthly newsletter for The Center for Social Leadership.


[i] See Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four.
[ii] From the 1950 – 60s classic sitcom about the traditional nuclear family of Ward and June Cleaver, “Leave it to Beaver”.
[iii] From the classic 1970s sitcom about the non-traditional nuclear family of Mike and Carol Brady, “The Brady Bunch”.

Category : Blog &Community &Culture &Economics &Entrepreneurship &Family &Generations &Politics &Postmodernism &Producers &Prosperity

The New Man

December 23rd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

I wrote in an earlier review of several recent articles and books on “the end of men.” Such writings sparked a lot of discussion on the national scene, mostly among women.

Men, it seems, aren’t paying much attention to such things. Where men do take exception to the predictions and statistics about man’s falling value to society, it has mostly come in the tone of irony.

For example, Colin McEnroe slaps back in the September 2010 issue of Men’s Health with arguments like:

“But listen up, ladies: The buttons on that remote aren’t going to push themselves.”

“They would miss us, right? There would be subtle repercussions. For example…jar opening, wasp-nest nuking, rodeo riding…knife fights in malls…”

“Women are still free to seek our elimination, of course, but my advice is to keep a small number of us—300 or 400—in some kind of zoo, for breeding purposes. Like albino alligators, we may play roles in the ecosystem that even we cannot see.”

And Jeff Wilser says the top seven man rules are:

  • Tip well;
  • You only recognize primary colors;
  • Know how to give a compliment;
  • Never say “blossom”;
  • Keep an empty urinal between you and the next guy;
  • Pack two pairs of shoes or fewer;
  • and Outperform the GPS.

Male joking aside, the man’s role is in serious question—among men and women. The use of humor often highlights the fact that this topic is definitely on the docket in the American dialog.

The New Man Rules

A few things are clear. During this post-economic-meltdown era, certain things are in, like brown dress shoes, a little facial hair, leather bands on watches, v-neck sweaters, cuff links, and sneakers that are simple and cool.

“Women may not take note of the hours you log working out, but they will notice if you wear sneakers outside the gym,” one column assures us. The Prohibition-era look (recession, but not yet depression) and early sixties fashions are in — a rebellious comment against the Establishment.

But the serious advice to men is worth noting: “Optimal living isn’t about saving time. It’s about seizing control over the ways you spend it.” Get more done by getting out of bed as soon as you wake up, take real vacations to reboot, and “buy a trip, not a toy.”

Men are also told that “The New Rules for Men” include standing for something that matters, unplugging from electronics when it’s time to do important things, customizing many of the things you buy in life to fit your real needs and wants, and accepting that you can’t control everything.

“Standing for something” was the title of a book by Gordon B. Hinckley promoting, among other things, being a real man by being a truly good person, husband and father.

The “ideal of unplugging” was taught in the seventies by John Naisbitt in the bestselling Megatrends; he called it “High Tech, High Touch.”

“Customizing” was predicted in the 1990s as a major growing trend in our times by business guru Harry S. Dent, and the promotion of “accepting that which we cannot change” (and taking positive action to change those things we can and should) are as old as the Cicero, Cato, Aurelius and the Stoics. But bringing them all together for our time in history is, I think, quite profound.

It seems that while some women commentators are noting the popular ascendance of women and relative decline of man’s power, others are quick to point out that the equality of women is still a major unfulfilled challenge for feminism.

And where some men are ignoring or brushing off the trend with humor, at least one significant thing is happening among men: A lot of them are talking about what it means to be a man, how to be a real man, and what being a good man is all about. That’s not a revolution or a reform, it’s an internal renaissance among men.

This trend started (mainly among religious groups and authors) in the nineties, but it is taking on an increasingly mainstream tone.

For example, Philip Zimbardo of Stanford and John Boyd of Google teach in The Time Paradox that men who want to keep up with the coming future take more risks, remain goal-oriented, have strong impulse control, and take time to enjoy the present more often. Sounds almost Biblical. Or Shakespearean.

Boys 2 Men

Men are telling each other to be good. Somehow, in some way, the Great Recession moved a lot of men away from the playboy values of the roaring nineties toward more grown-up ideals.

Current advice to men includes: Eat better, drink more water, add fruits and vegetables to most of your meals, listen to more relaxing music, stop smoking, get more sleep, and so on.

This sort of advice has been served up for a long time, and there is a lot of the play-while-you’re-single commentary still, but some things have a newer ring: Work out more often in chores like “chopping and splitting wood,” “planting trees,” and “operating a floor sander,” eat more eggplant and also kale.

Also: Read more often in the deepest books, express more gratitude to your significant other, go out on more dates with her instead of just hanging out, give more service to your charity.

Make your own fate. In a political discussion, turn things to solutions instead of attacking sides. Spend less at restaurants and cook for her more often. Clear and clean the dishes.

Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed to increase the quality of your sleep. Be yourself, and better yourself.

Do wild things that make you feel like a man, and do them smart. Start a business. Increase your education. Take long hikes (customize and make your own trail mix).

“What a fairy-tale, romantic version of a man,” my 18-year-old daughter said when she read this. “Where did that list come from?”

When I told her it was mostly from one issue of Men’s Health, she was shocked. “That’s sooooo cool!” she exclaimed.

“I know, right?”

Be strong, innovative and reliable—these are some of the main messages men are now sending to men. And many women seem to agree. Where teen heart-throbs such as the unshaven young Leonardo DiCaprio used to be the choice for sexiest man alive, the top three right now are 47-year-old Johnny Depp, 42-year-old Hugh Jackman, and 36-year-old Christian Bale.

C.S. Lewis once wrote an article titled Men Without Chests to argue that we need more leaders who stand up for the good and against the bad, even when it is unpopular or difficult.

Decades later, The Weekly Standard published an article called “Men Without Chest Hair,” noting that then-teenager Leonardo DiCaprio had become the new male icon.

Today the grown-up, and very-non-teenage-looking, 36-year-old DiCaprio is still high on the list of “sexiest man alive.”

Teenage-looking men, like Zac Efron or Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, are rarely listed. Only five of them are in the top fifty, and even most of these look like they’re trying to appear older.

The most popular drama on television, according to Emmy voters, is Mad Men, which features middle-age men as its “handsome” leads. A headline in the woman’s magazine Glamour reads: “From silly boys…to ‘mad men.’”

Manhood 2050

I don’t know if the age of man is over or not, but the world can only benefit if more men work to become better. Not as a government program, mind you, but as a self-led-personal-improvement stimulus.

As corporate keynote speaker Bill Perkins suggested, there are times when real men need to break each of these six rules:

  • Never get in a fight;
  • Never risk it all;
  • Never give up;
  • Never ask for help;
  • Never lose your cool;
  • Never look stupid.

There are things worth fighting for, times to take more risk, habits and behaviors each of us should give up, times we really should ask for help, situations that require our full energy and passion, and experiences where humility and being willing to look stupid are exactly the right thing. Done correctly, all of these are characteristics of strength. There are many others.

I think maybe we’ve reached a point where the concern is a lot less about the differences between men and women than simply this: How can I be a better person?

Conclusion

We can wait for government, society, another institution, the experts, some great artist or something else to help us reconcile the male/female debate and bridge the gap between the various schools of thought on how men and women should be.

Or, finally, we can just get to work on truly improving ourselves. In this particular case, we all need to say “I” a lot more than “we.”

  • I am improving the way I spend my evenings
  • I am reading more things that matter
  • I am spending more truly quality time with my kids
  • I am doing more just because it is fun
  • I am eating better
  • I am taking long walks with my grandchildren
  • I am making my work a real mission to improve the world
  • I am smiling, laughing and relaxing a lot more
  • I am finding so many fun ways of serving my wife
  • I am helping build things that really make a positive difference
  • I am working hard to…
  • I am changing the way I used to…
  • I am serving others in such great ways by…
  • I am improving myself so much by…
  • I am loving my new focus on…
  • I am…

Regardless of the experts, what each of us does in our personal life is the key to the future. (And are there really any true experts on being a real man, husband and father—except, perhaps, great men, husbands and fathers—and, of course, your wife.)

There are so many things we can do, as men, right now to become better and to improve the world. We can do so much that is fun, that requires strength, that makes us feel truly alive. We can add so much meaning to the world.

Whatever the experts say, I believe we are living in the beginning of a renaissance of manhood. If not, it is time to start one.

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

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

He is the co-author of the 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 : Community &Culture &Current Events &Family &Featured &Generations &Mission

The Education Crossroads

November 12th, 2010 // 5:18 am @

Education today is at a crossroads, and the options are fascinating.

Certainly the rise of the Internet has revolutionized most industries, and its impact on education is expected to be significant. But the change in technology isn’t the only major shift which is impacting schooling.

The end of the Cold War ushered in a new era of world politics — and of course, politics always impacts education.

Also, economic struggles have caused nations to put a premium on expenses, with the result that education is being asked to meet higher standards in order to justify its cost.

All of this would seem to indicate the need for broader, more inclusive and expansive education, with a focus on quality teaching and increased excellence.

Instead, these three trends have combined to create a surprising result.

Where increased Internet connections at first promised to bring more understanding, tolerance and cooperation between groups, the opposite has too often occurred.

Though we have the world at our online fingertips and the ability to interact directly with those of differing views, ideas and values, too many people are joining cliques that promote a narrow mindset and exclude and mistrust all others. The defensive posture occasioned by economic challenges and world events seems to increase this tendency.

Where is the Melting Pot?

The 18th and 19th century ideal of a melting pot doesn’t seem to be spreading enough online. In the 1970s it sort of evolved into the salad bowl idea, where differences were welcome as we all mixed together in a single serving.

Now we’re lucky if the clans in society agree to occupy a separate station at the same smorgasbord.

The danger to freedom is significant, maybe even extreme. James Madison taught in Federalist 10 that numerous factions would benefit freedom by keeping any one or two groups from becoming too powerful.

All decent groups would have a say in the world in this model, Madison argued. This benefit still remains in the Internet era.

But Madison also argued that people would come together when great cooperation was needed, that people and groups would put aside differences and collaborate on the important things.

Unfortunately, this powerful cultural model is unraveling in our time.

The reason is simple: As people increase their connections with those who agree with them on most things, they begin to fall into groupthink, a malady where most of those you communicate with agree with you on most things and disagree with you on little. Each member of the group learns how to more effectively argue the clique’s talking points, and nearly everyone stops listening to other points of view.

From Madison’s day until the Internet age, such natural bonding with groups was always tempered by geography. No matter how hard people tried to interact only with like thinkers, no matter how hard they worked to keep their children free from diverse views, neighbors nearly always ruined this utopian scheme.

The debate, the discussion, the conversations amongst diverse peoples all living in a free society — these helped individual citizens become deep thinkers and wise voters, and it helped ensure that negative traditions slowly were replaced with better ones. Without such progress, no free society can retain its freedoms.

But in the virtual age, no such checks or balances are in place. Youth and adults in all educational models and work environments are able to avoid deep conversations about important topics like politics, beliefs and principles with all who disagree with them.

This is facilitating a clique mentality. Social networks, email, cell phones and the other emerging technologies all strengthen this trend away from diverse and connected communities and toward homogenous and exclusive cliques.

The problem is that such cliques are by their very nature arrogant, overly sure of their own correctness on nearly everything, and vocally and even angrily opposed to pretty much everyone outside of their own clique.

Unfortunately, they too often spend a great deal of energy and effort demeaning other people, groups and ideas. Such cliques typically refuse to admit their own weaknesses while they label and vilify “outsiders.”

On the positive side, this is one reason there are now more independents than either Democrats or Republicans: a lot of people just got tired of too much hyper-partisan rhetoric.

But this problem goes far beyond politics, and impacts nearly every segment of our society. It is like adopting Elementary or High School culture among the adults in our world.

Dangerous Cliques

Since education is always an outgrowth of society, this trend is a major concern. The rebirth of tribes in our time, many of them online tribes made up of people who find common ground and like to work together, is the positive side of this same trend.

Indeed, using technology to interact and connect with people you like and learn with is certainly constructive. Leaders are needed to help increase the positive melting pot on line and in social networks.

Hopefully this will continue to grow. But its negative counterfeit is an increasing problem.

A first step in dealing with the growing “High School-ization” of our adult society is to simply identify the difference between the positive New Tribes and the opposing trend of growing cliques:

New Tribes Cliques
Tolerant, Inclusive, Friendly Intolerant, Arrogant, Exclusive
Respectful of Other Views Angry and Overly Critical of Other Views
Market by Helping You Find the Best Fit for You, From Them or Their Competitors Market by Tearing Down Competitors to Build Themselves
Respect Your Ability to Make the Best Choices for You Act As If You Need Their Expertise to Succeed and Will Fail Without Them
Offer to Help You Meet Your Needs Try to Convince or Sell You to Act “Now” in the Way They Want, or You’ll Fail

In short, the positive New Tribes offer you more freedom, empower you, and give you opportunities and options in a respectful and abundant way, while the clique mentality thinks it must “sell” you, convince you, and tear down the competition.

The New Tribes are relaxed, supportive and open, while cliques are closed, scarcity-minded and disrespectful of the competition and all “others.”

Ruining the Game

When my son was young he wanted to join a sports team, so I took him to watch a number of sports in progress. He ended up engaging karate, which became a long-term interest in his life.

During the visits to various sports venues, he witnessed an angry father at a little league baseball game. While most of the parents in attendance probably hoped their child would win, they seemed to find value in the game regardless of wins and losses; they apparently felt that the game was a positive experience for all the kids — for other children as well as their own.

One man took a different approach. He yelled and swore at each umpires’ calls that went against his child. He quite vocally demonized the other team and the other team’s coach. He stood behind the backstop when the other team was pitching and tried in many ways to distract the opposing pitcher.

He went after this 10-year-old pitcher from the other team like he actually wanted to hurt him. The boy’s coach had to go reassure the pitcher several times. I don’t know if the boy was afraid of the angry man, but he looked like it.

Most of the parents in the crowd were upset with this man, but they remained polite. After about 30 minutes of this, my eight-year-old son asked if we could leave. He was uncomfortable with the situation even as a mere spectator.

He never asked to go back to a baseball game, and we didn’t stay long enough to see if anything was done to help this man calm down. From the conversations in the crowd, it was clear that the man did this at every game.

I do believe that this man cared for his son and wanted to help him. He may have had many good intentions, and he certainly had some positive intentions. But he acted in the clique mentality. He did it without respect or proper boundaries.

(A new thought: I’m pretty sure he soured my son to playing baseball, but only now as I write this does it occur to me that maybe he also helped interest my son in karate for his own defense!)

A High-School-ization of Society

If you are this kind of a sports parent (or sports fan in high school, college or professional sports), you know who you are.

But do we not also see these clique behaviors too often in business, work, politics and even education?

Clearly the impact on education is significant. More to the point, the future of education can’t avoid being impacted by the High School-ization of culture.

Cliques are negative in many ways. And: they are just plain mean. They can do lasting damage even among youth; so imagine their potential impact when adopted by a significant and increasing number of adults of our society.

In short: the Cold War is over and we tend to look for enemies within rather than outside of our own nation; economic struggles of the past years have made most people less tolerant and more self-centered and even scared; and the technology of the day has made it easier than ever to connect with and only listen to a few people who tend to agree with us on almost everything.

The result is more frustration, anxiety, and anger with others. More people are thinking in terms of “us versus them,” and most of our society has stopped really listening to others.

Unless these tendencies change, things will only get worse. The future of education is closely connected with these trends, tendencies and perspectives.

In politics, the response to these challenges has been the rise of the independents. In business, it has been a growing rebirth of entrepreneurship.

And in marketing, it has been a focus on Tribes as the new key to sales. But in education, no clear solutions have yet arisen. I propose the principles of Leadership Education as part of the answer.

Modern versus Shakespearean Mindsets

The great classical writer Virgil provides some insight into the challenge ahead for education. In our day we tend to see the world as prose versus poetry. Some might call this same split the left brain versus the right brain, science versus art, or logic versus creativity.

Using this modern view of things, some educational thinkers see the future of education as the continuing split between the test-oriented public and traditional private schools versus the eclectic personalization of charter, the new private and home schooling movements.

Or we may see the intermixing of these two models as traditional schools become more creative and new-fangled education becomes more test-focused.

In an earlier age, the Shakespearean world tended to divide learning into three categories: comedies, tragedies and satires.

Comedies show regular people working in regular circumstances and finding love or happiness in regular life.

Tragedies pit people against drastic challenges that test them beyond their limits and bring major changes to their lives and even the world.

Satires emphasize the futility of our actions and show us the power of fate, destiny and other things we supposedly cannot control.

Applying this mindset, one would expect to see a future of education with all three outcomes. Comedic approaches to education try to make sure everyone gets basic literacy and that all schools meet minimum standards. No child can be left behind in this education for the regular people — and we’re all regular people.

In contrast, some will seek for a truly great education and to make a great difference in the world. If they fail, the tragedy is the loss of their potential greatness to the world. If they succeed, the world will greatly benefit from their leadership, contributions and examples.

All education should be great, this view maintains, and all people have potential greatness within. If I thought the Shakespearean worldview was driving our future, I would be of this view.

A satirical stance would argue that some people will get a poor education and yet do great things in their careers and family. Others, according to this view, will get a superb education and then either fail to accomplish much of anything or do many bad things with their knowledge.

Education has little correlation with life, the satirist maintains. Fund education better, or don’t; increase standards, or not; emphasize learning or just ignore it—none of this matters much in the satirical view. A few will rise, a few will fall, most will stay in the middle, and education will have little to do with any of this.

I disagree with this perspective, and I believe that history is proof of its inaccuracy. There are, of course, a few exceptions to any system, model or rule; but for the most part a quality educational model has a huge impact on the freedom and prosperity of society.

But I do not believe that either the modern or the Shakespearean mindsets will influence our future as much as that from and even earlier age — the era of Virgil.

I am convinced that Virgil’s understanding of freedom eclipses both of these others. Virgil witnessed Rome losing many of its freedoms, and he saw how the educational system had a direct impact on this loss.

In the Virgilian model, education is not modeled on the conflict between left and right brains nor on the battles and interplay between comedy, tragedy and satire.

Instead, he saw learning as the interactions of the epic, the dialectic, the dramatic, and the lyric.

In our post-Cold-War, Internet-Age, financially challenging world, our learning is deeply connected with all four of these.

Epic education means learning from the great(est) stories of humanity in all fields of human history and endeavor, from the arts and sciences to government and history to leadership and entrepreneurship to family and relationships, and on and on.

By seeing how the great men and women of humanity chose, struggled, succeeded and failed, we gain a superb epic education. We learn what really matters.

The epics include all the greats — from the great scriptures of world religions to the great classics of philosophy, history, mathematics, art, music, etc.

Epic education focuses on the great classic works of mankind from all cultures and in all fields of learning.

Dialectic education uses the dialogues of mankind, the greatest and most important conversations of history and modern times. This includes biographies, original writings and documents that have made the most difference in the world. It is also very practical and includes on-the-job style learning.

Again, this tradition of learning pulls from all cultures and all fields of knowledge.

It especially focuses on areas (from wars and negotiations to courts of law and disputing scientists, to arguing preachers and the work of artists, etc.) where debating sides and conflicting opponents gave rise to a newly synthesized outcome and taught humanity more than any one side could have without opposition. Most of the professions use the Dialectic learning method.

Dramatic learning is that which we watch. This includes anything we experience in dramatic form, from cinema and movies to television and YouTube to plays, reality TV programs, etc.

In our day this has many venues—unlike the one or two dramatic forms of learning available in Virgil’s time. There is a great deal to learn from drama in its many classic, modern and post-modern modalities.

Lyric education is that which is accompanied by music, which has a significant impact on the depth and quality of how we learn. It was originally named for the Lyre, a musical instrument that was used for musical accompaniment during a play, or with poetic or prose reading.

Some educational systems still use “classical” (especially Baroque) and other types of music to increase student learning of languages, memorized facts and even science and math.

And, of course, most Dramatic (media) learning is presented with music.

Epic Freedom

With all this as background, I think the future of education is very much in debate. My reasons for addressing this are:

  1. It appears that far too few people are engaged in the current discussion that will determine the future of education.
  2. Even most who are part of the discussion are hung up on things like public versus private schools, funding, testing, left versus right brain, minimum standards for all (comedic) versus the offer of great education for most (to avoid tragedy), teacher training, regulations, policy, elections, etc.
  3. I know of very few people considering the future of education from its deepest (what I’m calling Virgil’s) level.

Specifically, our current technology has changed nearly everything regarding education, meaning that in the Internet Age the cultural impact of the Dramatic and Lyric styles of learning over the other types threaten to undo American freedom.

In short, freedom in any society depends on the education of the citizens, and when the Epic and Dialectic disappear, freedom soon follows.

And make no mistake: The Epic and Dialectic models of learning are everywhere under attack. They are attacked by the political Left as elitist and contrary to social justice; they are attacked by the political Right as useless for one’s career advancement.

They are attacked by the techies as old, outdated and at best quaint. They are attacked by the professions as “worthless general ed. courses,” and by too many educational institutions as “irrelevant to getting a job.”

But most of all (and this is far and away their most lethal enemy) they are supplanted by the simple popularity and glitz of the Dramatic and Lyric.

I do not believe that the Dramatic, Lyric and other parts of the entertainment industry have an explicit agenda to hurt education or freedom—far from it. They bask in a free economy that buys their products and glorifies their presenters.

Nor are Dramatic and Lyric products void of educational content or even excellence. Many movies, television programs, musical offerings and online sites deliver fabulous educational value.

Songs and movies, in fact, teach some of the most important lessons in our society and many teach them with elegance, quality and integrity.

But with all the good the Dramatic and Lyric styles of learning bring to society, the reality is that both free and enslaved societies in history have had Dramatic and Lyric learning.

In contrast, no society where the populace is sparsely educated in the Epics has ever remained free. Period. No exceptions.

And in the freest nations of history (e.g. Golden Age Greece, the Golden Age of the Roman Republic, the height of Ancient Israel, the Saracens, the Swiss vales, the Anglo-Saxon and Frank golden ages, and the first two centuries of the United States, among others), both the Epic and Dialectic styles of learning have been deep and widespread among the citizenship of the nation.

If we want to remain a free society, we must resurrect the use of Epic education in our nation.

Six Futures

Using Virgil’s models of learning as a standard, I am convinced that we are now choosing between six possible futures for our societal education—and freedom. Our choice, at the deepest level of education, is to select one of the six following options (or something very much like them):

I. Epic Only.
Since all societies adopt Dramatic and Lyric methods of learning, this model would make Epic education official in academic institutions and leave the Dramatic and Lyric teaching to the artists. Such a model is highly unlikely in a world where career seriously matters and has only been applied historically in slave cultures with strong upper classes.

(Theoretically, this model might be offered to all citizens in society instead of the more elitist model of history. But without career preparation, some in the lower and middle classes would be lacking in opportunity regardless of the quality of their Epic education.) This model is very bad for prosperity and freedom.

II. Dialectic Only.
Again, such a society would have non-school Dramatic and Lyric offerings and schools would emphasize career training, job preparation, and basic skills for one’s professional path.

Business, leadership and politics would be run by trained experts and citizens would have little say in governance. Like the aristocracies of history, this model is not friendly to freedom — though it can support prosperity for a short time.

III. Dramatic and Lyric Only.
Only tribal societies have adopted such a model, and they were easily conquered by enemies and marauders. This model is not good for prosperity or freedom.

IV. Epic and Dialectic Together.
Again, the Dramatic and Lyric would still be part of the society but not a great part of the schools. Unfortunately, without the Dramatic and Lyric taught together with the Epic and Dialectic, the Epic is greatly weakened.

Societies which have tried this, like modern Europe and North America, have seen the Epic greatly weakened and the Dialectic take over nearly all education. This is bad for freedom and long-term prosperity.

V. All Four Types as Separate Specialties.
In this model, young students would receive only a basic broad education and would focus on a specialty early on. Each type of learning could be very well developed, but each person would only be an expert in one (or, rarely, two).

This was attempted by many nations in Western Europe, and to a lesser extent Canada and the U.S., since World War II. The results were predictable: freedom and prosperity suffered for all but the most wealthy (who got interconnected Epic, Dialectic, Dramatic and Lyric education in private schools).

VI. All Four Types as Interconnected Learning.
This combines great Epic, Dialectic, Dramatic and Lyric learning together—for nearly all students in society.

Moreover, all four options are available to all students in public schools and the laws also allow for numerous private, home and other non-traditional options with parents as the decision makers.

An additional natural effect of this system is that the adult citizens of society are deeply involved in learning throughout their lives — using all four types of learning and applying all knowledge to their roles as citizens and leaders. This model has been the most beneficial to prosperity and freedom throughout history.

The choice between these types of education is being made today. During the Cold War, especially after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, American leaders determined to de-emphasize Epic education and focus on the Dialectic.

Then they further weakened this choice by dumbing down the textbooks and workbooks when they removed much of the actual dialogues which formed the basis of each field of human knowledge.

Later, facing the increasing popularity of career-focused schooling, states and school boards took much of the Dramatic and Lyric out of the schools. Indeed, the last two generations of students were mostly educated in a shallow version of the Dialectic Only.

The consequence to freedom has been consistently negative for at least four decades. It has also widened the gap between “the rich” and “the rest” and reduced general economic opportunity.

Today, we must make the choice to resurrect truly quality education. If we make the right choice, we will see education and freedom flourish. If not, we will witness the decline of both. Indeed, we simply must make the right choice.

We must also realize that this is not a choice for the experts. If the educational or political experts make this choice alone, it will mean that the people as a whole have not chosen to be educated as free citizens.

We must all do better in studying all four styles of learning, and in engaging the technology of our day to learn from diverse views and spread important ideas far and wide — to all groups and people, not just some narrow clique.

It is time for a new type of citizen to arise and earn our freedoms. As Virgil put it long ago:

Now the last age…
Has come and gone, and the majestic roll
Of circling centuries begins anew;
Justice returns…
With a new breed of men sent down from heaven…
Assume thy greatness, for the time draws nigh

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

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 : Community &Culture &Education &Family &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &History &Leadership &Tribes

Why Societies Decline

November 2nd, 2010 // 2:00 am @

Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is often cited by people trying to see where America is on the long path of her place in history.

Certainly the detail of Gibbon’s work is full of specifics and nuance. But another work may be even more helpful.

Although it is more general in treatment, Arnold Toynbee’s great A Study of History covers many civilizations through history as he tries to understand the overall patterns and principles of societal successes and failures.

Neither Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization nor Paul Kennedy’s research on the rise and fall of great powers gets to the crux of things as well as Toynbee.

Why Societies Grow and Succeed

Toynbee shows that through history, certain things have helped civilizations grow and succeed, while other things haven’t had such an impact.

For example, it is neither a society’s institutions nor an economic division of labor that are responsible for success (as some historians have suggested).

Even societies that don’t grow or succeed have their institutions and divisions of labor. Nor do race or environment cause success or failure, as some have erroneously argued. Neither are religion and beliefs the cause (more on this later).

The one thing all great civilizations in history have in common, the thing which has spurred them to greatness, is adversity.

Indeed, the challenges of the world are necessary, historically, for any people to become advanced.

Sometimes such challenges spring from environment, but in such cases it is the difficulty of the environment rather than its ease which incentivizes progress.

Likewise, religions which teach of a great battle between good and evil and elicit individual involvement in this battle serve as pacers of accomplishment.

Adversity may include the stimuli of hard countries, frontier, outside aggression, external pressures, and of weaknesses or failures. And, according to Toynbee, “the greater the challenge, the greater the stimulus.”

As long as adversity doesn’t actually destroy or cause a society to burn out, it is the major spur to growth, progress and success.

Three other things can cause a civilization to slow and eventually fail.

  1. First, strong slave, caste or class systems ineffectively harvest the leadership/creativity pool and lead to failure.
  2. Second, little success occurs where significant specialization creates a mass of focused workers and the managers of society are political and/or financial experts.
  3. Third, a major challenge or crisis just as a people is becoming powerful can at times be insuperable.

This third eventuality, however, can also be the catalyst of much greater success, wealth, growth and power.

For example, in U.S. history, the Civil War had the potential to end the American experiment or solidify the U.S. as a major world influence.

Clearly the latter occurred, positioning the New World as the greatest global power less than a century later.

Becoming Powerful

In short, societies become powerful when they avoid caste and too much specialization, and overcome the various challenges they face.

Peoples who do these things grow, and growth means that formerly disparate individuals, families and tribes become a self-determining group.

“[S]elf-determination means self-articulation,” for Toynbee, meaning that the people in a society share a common understanding of the past, unity against current challenges, and a vision of the future.

Moreover, they reform or establish their institutions to achieve the shared goals.

During the growth phase, societies go through various periods of “withdrawal and return,” sometimes focusing on themselves (like America’s isolationist periods of after the War of 1812 and World War I), and other times emphasizing major involvement with other nations (such as U.S. expansionary eras in the 1830s-40s and after World War II.)

During this long period of facing and overcoming challenges, sometimes turning inward and other times seeking broader interactions, the people grow, gain in power, and grow weary of the continual challenges.

A desire for utopia arises, and part of the shared societal vision for the future is a yearning
for a time of lasting peace, prosperity, kindness and ease.

Toynbee calls this the Second Coming motif.

Over time, a growing nation attempts to adopt many of the idealistic values of the utopian motif, and the society begins to see itself as a Great Society.

Eventually, it sees itself as the Great Society, and it starts to attempt to impose its views and models on the rest of the world.

The upside of this is that the society increasingly attempts to improve itself, adopting many positive practices and customs and serving more and more elements of society.

The downside is that during this phase people become arrogant.

If the first step of decline is arrogance, the second is “a time of troubles” where the actions of society and its institutions too often fall short of the people’s lofty ideals.

For example, consider the era when Americans saw themselves as the land of the free, the best place in the world — but they were besieged with problems like youth revolution, Vietnam, the struggles of minorities and women, Watergate and other political corruptions, and so on.

A third major step toward decline occurs when the “…creative minority degenerates into a dominant minority which attempts to retain by force a position that it has ceased to merit…”

Nurturing the Creative Minority

Societies achieve all the steps of self-determination, growth and power through a partnership of the masses and the “creative minority” — the group of leaders who envision, articulate and guide the civilization to progress and success.

In American history, for example, the creative minority included the American founders and framers, the educated class through most of the 19th century and the wealthy classes in much of the 20th century.

They are Jefferson’s “natural aristocracy.”

In times of societal growth, the creative class leads, overcomes challenges, builds institutions and
wealth, and helps pass on core values and ideals to the rising generations.

It succeeds because it is fundamentally creative, entrepreneurial, enterprising and innovative. It leads, and the masses partner with its creativity and help the nation grow.

Unfortunately, when arrogance and attachment to institutionalism set in, this leadership minority stops building through creativity and begins trying to maintain its status and dominance.

Solutions are less important than votes, and staying in power trumps overcoming our challenges.

Today this group is what Arthur Brooks has called the 30 percent elite class that rules the 70 percent in our nation.

Diagnosing the Decline

At this point in decline, the masses divide themselves into two groups: 1) those who don’t want anything to change, who want everything to go back to how it was in their youth, and 2) those who loudly and sometimes violently demand change and different leaders.

Toynbee calls this period “…the failure of administration and the ruin of the middle class.”

A next step comes when the people, masses and leaders alike, begin to “…ascribe their own failure to forces that are beyond their control.” This comforting (sort of) thought turns out to be false, but the people usually stick with it and accelerate the decline.

Despite the widespread feeling of despair a society feels at this point, Toynbee goes to great lengths to show, using numerous historical examples, that decline is not caused by Acts of God, environmental or natural disasters, failures of business or technology or even government, nor from foreign attack or dangers.

Stagnation

Decline is not a homicide, but always suicide from within the society itself, and it has two main causes.

First, the creative minority that leads the economy and government builds creative institutions which eventually become too big and unwieldy to achieve their original purposes.

Instead, they focus on bureaucratic survival and budgetary growth instead of their initial mission.

In this environment, leaders become so stifled by attachments to institutional policy, methods and personnel that they stop making effective, efficient, innovative or commonsensical decisions.

Toynbee:

“Indeed, the party that has distinguished itself in dealing with one challenge is apt to fail conspicuously in attempting to deal with the next.”

He says that leaders fail when they start to depend on the successes of past institutions and techniques. They stop being leaders and start just trying to keep their power.

As a result, problems remain unsolved even while new challenges continue to pile on.

Second, as a result of the first problem, the masses lose faith in the leadership minority and refuse to support them. The elites respond by trying even harder to maintain their power, and nearly all the energy is spent on being dominant rather than on leadership.

Of course, in this environment, the problems get worse and worse.

The next step is for the power minority to attempt to justify its own leadership existence by engaging multiple military conflicts abroad.

Since it has much greater power in military force than it does to solve its own internal challenges, the dominant minority (whatever political party it represents) energetically engages (and escalates) its international conflicts.

As the society becomes more militaristic, the government naturally begins to turn a wary eye toward its own citizens.

Internal freedom decreases, and the split increases between the dominant minority, the non-dominant minorities who wish they were in power, the masses who want to quietly leave things to the experts, and the masses who want to vocally and forcefully cause things to change.

If all this sounds familiar, remember that Toynbee outlined this scenario in the mid 1940s. It is not prophecy, scenario planning, or simply a summary of current events.

This outline is based on the patterns of history, and as Santayana famously said, if we don’t know this history we are bound to repeat it.

Six Choices For Citizens

The good news is that Toynbee’s book is widely available. We only need a citizenry that will read it, ponder, consider what does or doesn’t apply to our situation, and take appropriate action.

I don’t agree with everything in Toynbee, but there is much for our generation to learn. Specifically, Toynbee tells us that we must make six major choices if we want to turn our current challenges into a great future rather than a declining society.

Note that these are choices for the citizens—the regular people—not just for those in power.

These choices are brilliant. They really do offer a chance for us to turn our struggles into a solid foundation for a free, prosperous and happy America.

I could outline these six choices, share my views on them, and discuss how I think they apply to our world today.

Unfortunately, such commentary would probably be just one more opinion.

Next Steps

What we really need in our day is a citizenry which reads the originals, thinks about them, and applies them.

We need a new creative minority that engages wise study, deep thinking, innovation, initiative and creativity.

I am anxious to discuss the potential in Toynbee’s commentary with others who have also read the original.

His six choices are found in chapter 19, and in chapter 20 he shares several warnings that are relevant and vital in our day. The title of his great book is A Study of History. I hope you will read it.

Toynbee’s six choices offer real solutions to current challenges, and I hope that more and more regular citizens will read Toynbee and other great classics and apply their ideas to modern concerns.

Successful societies progress from strong foundations to challenging growth, and then they face a period of decline. They can come out of this decline—or not—depending on the choices of the citizens.

Note that the traditional leaders of society always stop really leading at some point during decline, and that it is then up to the citizens to restart the nation toward success.

I firmly believe we are that point.

If we, as regular citizens, choose wisely on all six decisions, or even most of them, we will help build a more free and prosperous future.

Otherwise, we are following all the historical patterns of serious national decline.

But, as Toynbee put it:

“The divine spark of creative power is still alive in us, and, if we have the grace to kindle it into flames, then the stars in their courses cannot defeat our efforts to attain the goal of human endeavor.”

The poet Shelley wrote:

The World’s great age begins anew,
The golden years return,
The Earth doth like a snake renew,

Her winter weeds outworn:
Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam
Like wrecks of a dissolving dream…

To make another great and gleaming age, we need to make six important choices.

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

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 : Culture &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty

Is Government Broken?

October 26th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Is our government broken?

More and more people think so. The current presidential administration makes periodic claims that we are in an economic recovery, but at the same time growth is still slowing and unemployment figures stay around ten percent.

With more American deaths in Afghanistan during the last week of July than any week to date, things seem to be deteriorating at home and abroad.

To make matters worse, few people believe that the opposing Republican Party has much more to offer than the Democrats.

With neither side poised to really fix things, few Americans have a lot of hope for the future of government leadership. Here a few of the issues vexing citizens.

A Missing Recovery

First, even though many politicians have been claiming that we are experiencing an economic recovery, it doesn’t feel like it to most Americans.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem very friendly to small business.

Most of the entrepreneurs and businesses who do hold cash aren’t about to hire or expand in an environment where their taxes and regulatory burden could be increased at any point by an unfriendly Administration.

Ironically, Washington is responding by promising to increase taxes and regulations. Understandably, those who hire are skittish.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner said in July that we’ve reached a point where private hiring—rather than government spending—is the answer to economic growth.

But until the government starts supporting small business, and as long as it refuses to incentivize free enterprise, the economy will struggle.

Author Arthur Brooks argues that the nation is 70% in favor of free enterprise and about 30% opposed, but that the 30% are in charge.

The 30% has gained much influence over citizens by convincing them that it was private business that caused the recession in the first place.

Somehow, this view has successfully convinced much of the public that the Bush Administration, big banks, Wall Street and all small businesses are the same group.

Those who read the fine print, however, are clear that policies from the Clinton and Bush Administrations led to the mortgage crisis.

Moreover, big government and big business together caused the recession. In the meantime, both ignored small business and continue to do so.

As a result, the 70% is confused and unable to keep the 30% in check. So more government policies hurt the economy and make it unwise or unfeasible for small businesses to hire and grow.

In the meantime, much of the Right is busy labeling Democrats as “socialists” rather than helping incentivize growth and prosperity.

Both sides seem to mean well, but one has unbounded faith in government and the other is preoccupied attacking that faith.

While the two sides posture, the plight of small business is sometimes discussed but remains unaided.

What the Citizens Want

Second, this problem is deeper than most people realize.

Since World War II, the United States has promoted a mixture of free enterprise and big government. In history, societies typically emphasized one or the other.

When big government ruled, enterprise was highly regulated and taxed; where free enterprise was the focus, taxes were small, regulations were minimal, and governments were limited in size, scope and budget.

But in modern America, no politician from any party can claim success unless he/she has “done something in office.”

And to nearly all Americans, “doing something” means increasing government action to benefit the pet cause or regional constituency.

If President Obama doesn’t pass much of his agenda, his political friends and competitors alike will label him ineffective.

Americans in general want their politicians to do a lot and are disappointed when officials fail in this.

The irony of the American voter is that “doing a lot” immediately earns most politicians a place on the voters’ list of officials to vote out.

Americans today want the impossible: low taxes and lots of government programs.

The Economist summarized it this way:

In the end, the question of whether a country is governable turns on how much government you think it needs. America’s founders injected suspicion of government not only into the constitution but also into the political DNA of its people. And even in the teeth of today’s economic woes, at least as many Americans seem to think that what ails them is too much government, not too little.

“But there is a catch. However much Americans say they want a small government, they seem wedded to the expensive benefits of the big one they actually have…With deficits running at $1 trillion a year, and in order to stay solvent, they will have at some point to cut spending, pay more taxes, or both….To balance the books, politicians have sometimes to do things the people themselves oppose—even in America. That will be the true test of whether the country is governable.”

Americans must either choose big government and be willing to pay for and submit to it, or they must move toward smaller, less intrusive government and be willing to enjoy fewer government programs.

When voters want the prosperity of freedom along with the bread and circuses of massive government, every election is a referendum on incumbents.

Eventually, though (and the day of reckoning appears to be close on the horizon), something will have to give.

Unfortunately, few societies make such hard choices until they are forced upon them by war, depression, pandemic or other major crises.

Sadly, few nations have the leadership or the fortitude to adopt the simple solution of spurring major growth and prosperity by de-regulating, de-taxing and freeing up the economy.

Freedom works, but few in history have been willing to adopt it.

Lost Leaders

We are unable to overcome these and many of our deepest challenges because of the way we distribute leadership in our society.

The American founders envisioned a truly great educational system, built around schools in every locale, to train their youth in the great ideas of mankind’s history, as well as the latest practical arts and sciences.

They built the early American schools to train empowered citizens who would protect freedom, foster prosperity, leadership, and character in all walks of American life.

They wanted an educational system that prepared their youth to become effective in their families, communities, and careers.

This vision helped create a nation that by 1946 produced over half of the world’s goods and services with only 6% of the globe’s population.

Freedom works, and the success of the American constitutional-free-enterprise model was spectacular. In the process, this system over time addressed, and — in some cases, even began to resolve its biggest negatives, including slavery and other inequities.

Unfortunately, by the late 1930s, the citizens and leaders who built this great model of success, freedom, and prosperity sent their children and grandchildren to schools which rejected this system, and instead adopted a new style of education focused mostly on career training.

Sadly, these American schools established by the our founders were replaced after World War II by the German model which was based on socio-economic class divisions.

In the “new” system, the elites still received leadership education (like all citizens had before 1939) while the middle and lower classes were educated only for jobs.

As this system grew, a Germanic-style grading system reinforced class-society advancements among the youth.

The maladies of credentialism, class divisions, and reliance on experts made their way into mainstream American culture. From 1939 to 1979, these contagions grew and infected the Founders’ classless and “free American” vision.

In such a system, the motto was: “A students work for B students.” The concept of “The Company Man” spread and Americans became addicted to big institutions.

Freedom and entrepreneurial values gave way to competing for executive positions and benefits packages. The goal of employeeship replaced the American dream.

Career became the purpose of schooling in almost everyone’s mind, and ownership and leadership values begin to literally disappear.

Eventually big institutions became truly massive, and anything except employeeship was considered inferior and backward.

In this environment, young people with a sense of leadership, idealism and ambitions to make a great impact on society split between the Left and the Right.

Those coming from traditionally conservative families tended toward majors and careers in business, while youth from more liberal backgrounds leaned towards the media and legal professions.

Most of today’s national leaders were part of this split.

The Reagan era ushered in a revolution of support for and promotion of free enterprise ideas and values.

Numerous non-traditional business models (like multi-level and network marketing) put individuals at the center of building a personal business rather than working as an employee, and eventually non-traditional educational options (from private and charter to home and online opportunities) grew in popularity.

Employeeship was still the dominant view, but a rising minority embraced the freedoms and prosperity of entrepreneurship. The dot.com boom and Roaring 90’s soon followed, and the entrepreneurial sector slowly grew.

Today a new culture of education and business is evolving out of the Great Recession and all that led up to it. A new maxim seems to be much more complex than in past generations:

  • B students work for C students
  • A students teach or work in government
  • Those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning are building small businesses

Note that “those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning” often come from non-traditional private, charter, home and online learners, as well as from immigrants who are leading in entrepreneurial successes. And more than a few come from the traditional schools.

Since small business accounts for 80% of America’s economic growth, this is a significant development. Unfortunately, the number of people in the entrepreneurial sector is still very small.

Whether purposely or as a side effect, we are still training the overwhelming majority of our youth to believe that being A students means getting a good job and that employeeship is the greatest goal for education and even lifestyle.

Satirist P.J. O’Rourke addressed the problem this way:

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects…

“It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq War….The U.S. tax code was written by A students….Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101…

“A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way the teachers and texts want it done….Such brisk apple-polishing happens to be an all-too-good preparation for politics. This is because a student’s success at education and a politician’s success at politics are measured mostly by input rather than outcome.”

Perhaps even more disturbing is that most of our Idealistic youth with ambitions to improve the world are still going after jobs in big business or big government.

The thing is, working for a big corporation or in a government job are unlikely places to really make a positive difference in the world.

We are distributing leadership in the way aristocratic and socialistic societies always have, and the future will unfold accordingly unless something changes.

We desperately need a rebirth of the entrepreneurial ideal.

The New Religion: Employeeship

Unfortunately, it’s not just the schools and universities that are continuing this outdated focus on jobs as the end-all of education and life.

Movies and television often demonize entrepreneurs while dedicating most of their time to stories about employees.

Full-time sports channels seem to dedicate as much time to the business side of athletes as to the entertainment, making sports role models as valued for their lucrative contracts as for their abilities on the playing field.

Even elected officials more typically refer to their role as a job than as public service.

Recent administrations and the media have referred to the constitutionally-titled commander in chief as the nation’s CEO. There are many other examples.

Because the “job-is-life” view is so prevalent, it has even become normal for successful entrepreneurs to see their work as done as soon as they can live comfortably.

In earlier generations (those that built and maintained American freedom), such successful entrepreneurs considered it their duty to spend the second half of their life helping society greatly improve.

Perhaps only parents and community leaders can effectively counter this trend and help more youth who want to help improve the world seek a true leadership education and seriously consider engaging in entrepreneurial careers.

Repairing the Break

So, to answer our question, yes, government is broken. The break is repairable, but it will take some major work and effort on the part of this generation.

When freedom is decreasing through constantly increasing regulations, government is broken. When the free enterprise system is under attack from our own government, government is broken.

When a tenth of our working society can’t get a job, and when the government responds by increasing taxes and regulations on those who could provide the jobs if they were free to do so, government is broken.

When two parties hold a monopoly on government, and where both increase spending and regulation no matter who is in office, government is broken.

But all of this misses the real point.

When most of society seeks employeeship above all else and every facet of life revolves around employeeship, much more than government is going to be broken.

Employeeship certainly has a place in effective nations, but it should be prioritized behind things like family leadership, citizenship, and private ownership.

Another name for these is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or alternatively, as Jefferson originally wrote, “life, liberty and property”).

A successful society is made up of at least the following things:

  • Effective parents, grandparents and other family leaders who help raise good, wise and industrious adults to take their place
  • Citizens who are well-educated in freedom and leadership and who keep government, business and other officials in check so the society can remain free and prosperous
  • Owners who improve the prosperity of society, in a free enterprise system where all can be owners
  • A constitutionally guaranteed freedom where all are treated equally before the law and all are protected in their inalienable rights

How the President Can Repair the Economy

In the 2008 election President Obama was supported by the Left (who loved his promises of economic liberalism), but he was elected by independents who saw in him a possible end to the corruption of the Bush years and a potentially great leader for the United States.

The “Leadership Thing” swept him into office. Now, the Obama Administration could greatly boost the economy by deeply promoting entrepreneurship—both symbolically and in reduced taxes and regulations.

Such incentives would spur more hiring, investment and expansion, and a recovery would follow that Americans could really believe in.

In fact, the President could probably accomplish this without changing any policy at all, simply by warming to small business and genuinely becoming friendly to entrepreneurs.

As a friend, a member of a minority, told me about President Carter:

“I didn’t agree with his politics or policies, but I just feel that he loved me and my people and cared about us. I never felt that from Reagan or Bush, and so I voted Democratic even though I was more aligned with the politics of the Republicans.”

An old advertising proverb says that people make choices emotionally and then use logic to defend it.

No matter what Washington says, and no matter what the economic numbers show, most entrepreneurs are unlikely to increase jobs and boost the economy through investments as long as they think the man in the White House basically dislikes and mistrusts them.

Even liberal-leaning businessmen are worried that the President isn’t supportive.

The White House could drastically help the recovery simply by changing its bias against small business. If this is just a perceived dislike of business, not a real one, they can simply change their message.

If, on the other hand, the Administration really does mistrust or dislike small business, it should reconsider. After all, unlike Wall Street, big banks and big corporations, small business simply cannot be blamed for America’s economic challenges.

It has been the victim of the mistakes made by both big business and past government. Yet it keeps plugging along, keeping the recession from being much worse.

And small business certainly is the group most likely to overcome high unemployment.

Indeed, when the economy does make a serious comeback, entrepreneurs will be leading the way. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will extend its “Yes, We Can” philosophy to those who have the most potential to drastically grow our economy.

Conclusion

It is time for all Americans—from the White House to our individual living rooms—to pour out a deep, genuine and heartfelt admiration and “thank you” to those who run small businesses.

Whatever the politicians of any party do, the greatest need is for parents, grandparents and all of us to rekindle an excitement for entrepreneurship in the youth.

The future of America’s freedom and prosperity may well depend on it. As long as free enterprise isn’t flourishing, our government will be broken.

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

Oliver DeMille is the founderof 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 : Business &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Generations &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

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