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Free to Learn (book review by Oliver DeMille)

June 14th, 2013 // 10:20 am @

Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn is an excellent addition to the genre of books on restoring freedom in education.

Gray clearly states:

“Children are biologically predisposed to take charge of their own education. When they are provided with the freedom and means to pursue their own interests, in safe settings, they bloom and develop along diverse and unpredictable paths, and they acquire the skills and confidence required to meet life’s challenges. In such an environment, children ask for any help they may need from adults. There is no need for forced lessons, lectures, assignments, tests, grades, segregation by age into classrooms, or any of the other trappings of our standard, compulsory system of schooling. All of these, in fact, interfere with the children’s natural way of learning.”

FreetoLearnGray Free to Learn (book review by Oliver DeMille)So why did we create schools that so directly “interfere with the children’s natural way of learning”? Gray shows that in tribal cultures the focus of childhood was playing and learning knowledge, skills, and how to live self-sufficiently and honorably.

When the agrarian revolution increased the need for child labor on farms, the values of school turned to toil, competition and status. While Gray’s view of this is perhaps a bit idyllic, the reality is that modern schools are less concerned with student knowledge, skills, honor or abilities than with the universal goal of job training.

Certainly job training has an important place in advanced society, but Gray is focused on the education of children, and in fact the toll on children in our modern job-obsessed schools is very high. They are way more stressed than earlier generations of children and youth.

Why are we raising a generation of children and youth who are stressed, not secure? Gray’s answer, based on a great deal of research which he outlines in the book, is that we have turned learning into a chore, a task, a labor, rather than the natural result of curiosity, interest, passion to learn, and self-driven seeking of knowledge and skills. In short, we’ve taken too much play out of childhood and too much freedom out of learning.

The results are a major decline of American education in the last four decades. The solution is to put freedom back into education.

Interestingly, Gray suggests that in many of the educational studies of classrooms, schools, homes and teachers that have found a way to successfully overcome these problems and achieve much better educational results, one of the key ingredients is “free age-mixing.” Where students are allowed to freely mix with other students of various ages, without grade levels, the capacity of individuals to effectively self-educate is much higher. As for the impact on college and career success, students from free educational models excel.

This is a good book, and a must read for those who really care about education. I don’t agree with everything the author teaches, but I learned something important on almost every page.

Whether or not you read Free to Learn, all of us who have children or work in education need to do more to promote the importance of increased freedom in education. Gray is a particular fan of “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling and private schooling where parents and teachers set an example of great education, create an environment of excellent learning, and let the kids become self-learners. While this may not be the ideal learning style for every student, it is the best model for a lot of them–and for nearly every young person under age 12.

If you disagree with this conclusion, you simply must read the book. The research is impeccable. If you do agree, the book can help you get to work setting a better example for any students in your life.

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Why We Need a Third Party

November 17th, 2012 // 10:36 am @

by Oliver DeMillesigned 3 217x300 Why We Need a Third Party

In the aftermath of the 2012 election, there have been numerous emails, posts, articles and blogs by business owners who say they are planning to sell or close their businesses, or just lay off enough workers that they can afford Obamacare for the employees who remain.

One summary listed the following announced layoffs—all attempts to deal with the new costs of Obamacare:

  • Welch Allyn, 275 layoffs
  • Stryker, 1170 layoffs
  • Boston Scientific, between 1200 and 1400 layoffs
  • Medtronic, 1000 layoffs
  • Smith and Nephew, 770 layoffs
  • Hill Rom, 200 layoffs
  • Kinetic Concepts, 427 layoffs
  • Coviden, 595 layoffs
  • Abbot Labs, 427 layoffs
  • St. June Medical, 300 layoffs

There are many, many others.

One email dated November 7, the day after the election, read:

“Time to sell our business. We can no longer afford to provide a living for 14 employees as soon we’re forced to pay for their healthcare. So sad, too bad. On to new ventures.”

After responses about how sad this is and others pointedly blaming the Obama Administration, the same person continued:

“We are all Americans and need to find common ground and make this country great together. I’m not mad at anyone for voting different than me. They love their president, don’t lose friends over calling him a dictator. I’m excited to sell our business. We are adventurous!”

That’s the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great.

Not: “Oh no, we’re losing our job. Will the government help us?”

But rather: “Hey, change happens. We’re excited. This is going to be an adventure!”

That’s the American spirit.

And while rumors abound about how much Obamacare will cost each small business and which won’t have to make any changes at all, there are a lot of employers right now who are very concerned.

Those with under 50 employees aren’t supposed to be hurt, but smaller employers are still worried about exactly how the new laws will be enforced.

Sadly, we will likely see a lot of change in small business in the months and years just ahead.

More regulation, higher taxes and drastically increased costs of employing people will make things more difficult.

An exception may be in network marketing companies or compensated communities.

I’ve long considered them among the top entrepreneurial opportunities in free nations, and with the current changes and policies this is even more true.

“My son is a doctor,” Marge said proudly.

“Wow,” Betty said with a concerned voice. “How is your son dealing with the new regulations coming into effect under Obamacare?” she asked.

Marge nodded and her face grew serious. “He’s very concerned, to tell the truth.”

“Fortunately, my son is building a huge network marketing company, and the regulations aren’t hurting him much,” Betty said. “Maybe your son would like to meet with mine about an opportunity?”

This kind of conversation is taking place a lot right now, and all indications are that it will increase.

Some parents are recommending that their college children put school on hold and start a network business, and I know two medical doctors who have gotten out of the profession in order to build networking businesses.

One of them talked two of his sons into quitting college and doing the same, though the three of them all ended up building networking organizations with entirely different companies.


II. The Party of Small Business

All of this got me thinking today, and as I pondered I realized something. Something big.

Something we really need right now in America.

We need a third party.

Actually, we need a new party that becomes more popular than the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

There are more independents than members of either big party, so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Here’s the problem: The Democratic Party is now the unabashed party of big government, the welfare state, rule from Washington D.C., and everything that goes with these values.

The Republican Party touts itself as the party of freedom, limited government, free markets and business, but in fact it is the party of big business and a big-spending government at the same or just slightly lower levels than Democrats.

We have a party of Big Government (with big business as its co-pilot), and another party that emphasizes Big Business (with big government as its co-pilot).

The first is the Democratic Party, the second the GOP.

Neither is now effectively serving the needs of our nation.

As a result, we get bigger government regardless of who gets elected, and big business grows (to the frequent detriment of small businesses) regardless of who is in power in Washington.

In all of this, small businesses, families, communities and the middle class are the losers.

The solution? We need a party of small business.

We need a party whose top priority is the needs of families and small businesses.

This new party needs to reject the big-government and anti-free enterprise values of the Democrats and simultaneously the big-business and anti-immigrant attitudes of Republicans.

It needs to embrace toleration, diversity, reduced government regulations, lower taxes, decreased government spending, incentives for entrepreneurship, a charitable safety net, and incentives for more immigrants to bring their capital, businesses, labor and families to America.

It needs to get rid of the barriers to hiring (such as the increasing required health care costs) and drastically reduce government red tape for small businesses.

It needs to allow more innovation, shrink requirements on licenses and permits and other unnecessary costs that decrease entrepreneurship and growth, and create an environment of seamless partnerships between schools and businesses.

It needs to promote, encourage and incentive a lot more initiative, innovation and entrepreneurialism.

It also needs to push for more creative and independent thinking in the schools and less that is rote, conveyor-belt, and pre-scripted.

It should change the way schools are run, replacing an environment where administrators and bureaucrats feel comfortable to one led by proven innovators and others who have been successful in the real economy, the FOR-profit economy.

Forget teacher certification and unions—if we want to compete in the global economy we need innovators leading our classrooms.

As an example, principals and teachers should be hired who have excelled at implementing successful business plans rather than writing resumes.

And funding should flow to schools that excel in a true free market.

To ensure to that no child is left behind (for example in less-advantaged neighborhoods), even larger premiums should go to innovators who successfully turn dumpy schools into flourishing institutions whose graduates thrive.

The new party should apply similar principles to other kinds of organizations, from health care and community governments to every other sector of the economy.

Small businesses bring the large majority of growth in the economy, and the new party needs to begin with the specific needs of small businesses in mind.

It needs to identify things that hurt small business and repeal them, and find out what helps small businesses succeed and introduce more policies that encourage these things.

It needs to rewrite the commercial and legal code to create an environment where innovation is the norm, along with the values of growth, calculated risk, leadership, creativity, and entrepreneurialism.

It needs to be not the party of jobs, but the party of successful business ownership—and the jobs they naturally create.


III. A Bright Future?

We need a third party. The party of Big Government (with big business as co-pilot) and the party of Big Business (with big government as co-pilot) simply aren’t doing what our nation needs anymore.

It’s time for new thinking and new leadership.

There is an old saying that you can’t pour new wine into old bottles, because the residue of past wine always taints the new.

This is where we are in America.

The current parties, as much good as both have done at times, have peaked and are in decline.

New leadership is needed, along new values untainted by the baggage of two parties whose time has come and gone.

It is perhaps possible to reform one of the parties to get better results, but it is likely that only a new party with an entirely new focus and fresh thinking is going to take America where it needs to go.

Democratic nations are notorious for refusing to change until crisis forces their hand, and I suspect this is what we’ll witness in the 21st Century.

At some point, probably after major crisis and a superhuman American response, we’re going to need a new party.

Those who love freedom should start thinking about what it should look like.

One thing is clear: When it does come, it needs to be a party of small business.

Free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit made America great, and it will do so again if we let it.

Whatever comes in the economy, we want to be led by those whose attitude is, “It might sound bad, but this is an exciting adventure! Let’s get started…”



odemille 133x195 custom Why We Need a Third PartyOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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AFTER THE ELECTION: The Year of Danger

November 8th, 2012 // 5:51 pm @

The year ahead is a time of danger.danger sign 300x265 AFTER THE ELECTION: The Year of Danger

The election of 2012 is over, and you are either happy or upset with the outcome—or, like many independents, you are predictably frustrated with the whole system.

Whatever the case, the next few months is a time of real danger in our nation.

During elections, energy and citizen participation is high.

After elections, it reaches all-time lows. People of all political views tend to focus on other things and leave governance to the politicians.

America has serious challenges ahead, and many of them kick in right at the beginning of 2013.

Moreover, during the next year we will almost certainly determine whether or not the United States is going to fall off the looming financial cliff.

Concerns include:

  • The rapidly growing debt
  • The overwhelming reality of entitlements
  • The growing deficit
  • The weakening national credit rating
  • The struggling role of the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency
  • Various looming bubbles in the market
  • A coming inflation crunch
  • A further middle-class squeeze on jobs and discretionary income
  • A tax rate that is driving more businesses abroad (or out of business)
  • A very nervous small business community that is uncertain about growth or hiring
  • Weak consumer demand that is causing businesses to produce less (and cut jobs)
  • A rapidly expanding government sector that is threatening free enterprise

Washington needs to address these concerns quickly to relieve business anxiety that we’ll just see more of the same (or worse) from the government for the next four years.

After all, without the necessity of reelection the Obama Administration could be truly anti-business.

Hopefully, in contrast, President Obama will see this as an opportunity to really work with Republicans to fix these major national challenges.

The larger problem is that democratic societies seldom take action until they feel direct pain.

Indeed, democratic nations are notoriously bad at anticipating pain and taking action ahead of time, so they seldom stop crises but rather wait until it is too late to get serious about solutions.

We need real solutions in the months and year just ahead, and we can’t afford to wait for more crises.

We must immediately address the economic realities above (and others like them), at the very time the citizenry is the least likely to stay actively involved.

Whatever your political views, America needs you to stay enthusiastically engaged in watching and influencing government. Now more than ever.

Right now begins the year of danger in government and the future of the economy, and only the first branch of government—the people—can truly ensure that things go well.

The alternative is further major economic downturn.


odemille 133x195 custom AFTER THE ELECTION: The Year of DangerOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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We Have a Problem; We Have a Huge Problem!

September 4th, 2012 // 12:53 pm @

The recent energy and posts about my article on why it is important to vote once again reinforced that we have a seriously, lasting, structural problem in America. Almost everything about the election is promoting this same message, though few have recognized it.

We get all up in arms about this candidate or that, we emotionally buy in to one candidate and then label everyone else by which candidate they support, and we spend a lot of time actively engaged in politics. We blog, we argue, we discuss, we read, we talk politics to friends, family, co-workers and anyone else who will engage.

All of that is great. None of that is the problem. The more energy we give to politics in election years, the better (within the bounds of decency, of course).

No, the problem is that on November 7 most of this passion and behavior will stop. Oh, the most zealous participants in the 2012 election will still be griping or celebrating well into January, but within a about 100 days after the 2013 inauguration, no matter who wins, nearly all Americans will give little thought to politics for the next four years. A few will get involved again during the 2014 midterm election, but the large majority won’t. It won’t be polite anymore to discuss politics at dinner, and most people won’t.apollo 13 300x225 We Have a Problem; We Have a Huge Problem!

So yes, Houston, we have a problem. As a nation of citizens we mostly ignore our government, a respectable few get excited during elections, and a lot get involved briefly in presidential elections. But we turn off our citizen-passion when elections are over and its time to govern.

And that is precisely the worst time to do it. During elections, candidates are much more likely to listen to the people, to care what the citizenry thinks. So if you’re going to take a break from politics, do it right now. Stay with me and let me tell you why.

The election will come and go, and the leaders of both parties and at all levels (national, state, county, and local) will listen to the people. Here’s the kicker: Then, when the people get back to ignoring politics, the dangerous time will begin. Politicians will focus on governing, and terrible policies that reduce our freedoms will be passed–month after month.

This is how freedom is lost.

The best-case scenario is for the citizens, at the least the vocal ones who care (and you can tell who they are right now during the election season), to be passionate, vocal and deeply involved during elections and also every day between elections.

That’s called citizenship. And it is the basis of all lasting freedom.

No elite group (politicians or a wealthy class or any other) is going to protect the freedom of the people as well as the people. And it doesn’t take 90-100% of the regular people, just about 10-20% who are passionate and vocal. Again, if you are one of those people right now in this election season, you are one of those we need between elections.

In fact, we need you even more between elections, and we need you to be even more vocal, passionate and daily involved than we do now.

“But right now, the politicians will listen, so isn’t this the most important time?” someone will ask.

Answer: Yes, this is a vital, an essential time to use influence while the leaders listen. But when the elections are over and the leaders stop listening, your influence and voice and focused participation will be even more, way more, necessary–because most people like you won’t be doing anything.

WE HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM, and it will begin in earnest on November 7, 2012. We need you to be part of the solution.

I’m not suggesting you do less during the election. I’m suggesting, in fact, that you give it your very best.

Then, starting November 7 and running for the next four years, America needs you to do even more–a lot more.



odemille 133x195 custom We Have a Problem; We Have a Huge Problem!Oliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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.

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A Third Power

June 25th, 2012 // 9:33 pm @

Michael Strong wrote, in his excellent book Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems:

“A short history of twentieth-century economic and political thought might be summarized as:

“Market Failure! Markets don’t work as well as the classical economists thought and therefore we must control them (1900-1960).

“Government Failure! Governments don’t work as well as democratic theorists thought, and therefore we can’t depend on them to do the right thing either (1960-2000).”

magic three A Third PowerMarkets are excellent for what they are for! Free markets create more wealth and distribute it more widely than any other economic model.

Under free markets we always witness a large middle class.

But the market doesn’t solve all problems in society.

Nor does government.

Neither markets nor governments solve everything.

Markets create more affluence and involve more people in prosperity than any other system, and governments are the most effective entity in protecting inalienable rights and maintaining laws that allow markets to flourish.

But there are a number of things governments should not do and markets will not naturally do, and these tend to be precisely the major challenges our society faces (and seldom solves).

If we are to effectively address society’s main ills (beyond a quality standard of living for most people and the protection of our rights and freedoms), people need to voluntarily take on the world’s ills and find ways to address them.

Charity, philanthropy, volunteer service, service project and social entrepreneurship (the creation of companies or projects with the specific goal of addressing societal problems) is vital.

Government is great for what it is for, but it becomes dangerous to all when it goes beyond its proper role.

Markets are fabulous for creating affluence and helping spread it to a large middle class, but they are not focused on fixing the various societal ills.

It is up to people to improve our world beyond the natural roles of government and markets.

The discussion nearly always centers around how government should do everything versus how government should do less and leave more to markets.

But those arguing for markets too seldom go out and really implement needed solutions in our communities and nation.

It’s time to get past the old Cold War argument.

Of course government should be limited, of course markets can do many things better than government, and of course markets depend on good government policy for safety and the rule of law.

But there is another piece to fixing the world: the non-governmental, non-market driven action of individuals who see a need and set out to make a difference.


odemille 133x195 custom A Third PowerOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

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

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

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