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Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer

July 1st, 2014 // 12:47 am @

A Difference Changes Everything

lawyers 1 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer“You frequently mention that free nations have a lot of entrepreneurs,” my friend said, “but I’ve been studying the American Founding era and it turns out that many of the framers were lawyers. Why don’t you tell people that a lot more of us should go into law?”

It was a good question, so I nodded my head. “You’re right, but there is one big difference between law at the time of the founding and law today. The difference is so big, in fact, that it changes everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it changes the whole way law and freedom interact.”

I cocked my head to one side. “Actually, another friend of mine recently sent me a note about the same thing. He had always thought that most of the framers were merchants or farmers, but he was surprised to find out how many of them were lawyers. As much as I’ve said about the value of entrepreneurs to freedom, I guess I better mention how the legal profession fits.”

“I agree,” he responded. “If the founders are a good example of a generation that increased freedom, why wouldn’t we just emulate them on this?”

“I wish we could,” I told him. “But it’s illegal.”

Lawyers and Laws

He laughed…but when he noticed that I wasn’t laughing he stopped. “You’re not joking?”

“No, I’m not. It’s illegal be the kind of lawyer that many of the framers were. That’s the big difference I was telling you about.”

He looked really interested, so I continued.

“Let me ask you a question,” I began. “What would happen if you read a bunch of history, legal books, judicial decisions in court cases, and important government documents, and then decided to put a sign on the front of your house with your name, followed by “Attorney at Law”? You do this without attending law school, just lots of hard study and a good understanding of law and freedom, and you start marketing for clients?”

“Uh, I’d be in trouble,” he retorted. “You have to have a license to practice law. Go before the Bar, get state approval, and all that. And you have to graduate from law school in order to do this. I looked into it years ago when I was making career decisions.”

“So you have to graduate from a state-approved law school, right?”

“Of course.”

“Is that what the framers did to become lawyers?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Some did, I think. Like Jefferson. Though I remember reading that Patrick Henry took the Bar without law school. Come to think of it, so did Jefferson. He studied law with mentors, but not at an official law school. Same with…well, a lot of the framers. Law schools didn’t come until later.”

“That’s the difference,” I told him. “In the founding era, depending on the colony, you could read and take the bar, or work as an apprentice, or read under the tutelage of a mentor, or in most of early American history and our Westward expansion a person could just practice law by hanging out a shingle and taking on clients. In our day, you have to graduate from a state approved law school and then get personal state approval in the form of a license. It’s a totally different process.”

Goal and Outcome

“Are you saying the way we do it now is worse?” he asked.

“That depends on how you are measuring it. A lot of people will say that the type of training students get in modern law schools is much better than when early lawyers just read a lot of books and cases. They’ll say that the modern methods turn out much better professionals than the old way ever could.

“And, honestly,” I continued, “this argument has merit. But only if the goal is professionalism and maintenance of the legal profession. In the founding era, the goal was different.”

“What was it?”

“It was to check the government. Think about it: When law schools have to be approved by the government, and the accreditation agencies for law schools have to be approved by the government, and all licensing for attorneys is overseen by the government, the attorneys are bound—at some level—by the government. The government can take away their licensing and their livelihood at any time, so lawyers are bound to do things in the approved and accepted ways. They can check the government only in ways the government allows.

“You can argue that this is a good system, or not. But it is very different from how the founders saw it. They viewed lawyers as powerful checks on government, as self-made experts who read the law, studied history, pored over court cases and government documents and the writings of the freedom philosophers—and used all this wisdom to keep the government honest. To keep it in its proper role. To keep it in place. Not to impress it or bow to its regulations and authority, but to stop it when needed.

A Broken Check

“But if the government licenses lawyers and every step of becoming lawyers, they can’t really go around checking the government at every turn. At least not at the same level as if they are truly independent. For example, when Edmund Burke wanted to warn the British Parliament against going to war against the American colonies on March 22, 1775, he told them they should avoid such a war because so many Americans were students of the law.”

I then shared Burke’s words when he said:

Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our colonies, which contributes no [small] part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study…. [A]ll who read, and most do read, endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by many an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported…. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England…. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources…. They [foresee] misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.

I sighed. “The founding era had truly independent lawyers who owed nothing to government. And many American citizens read and became lawyers, not through official law schools like today, but as checks on government. That’s a whole different system. Citizens were the best checks, if they truly knew the law, because that’s where the lawyers of the era came from.”

My friend was nodding, so I added, “In fact, the same is true of teachers. In the founding era, teachers were hardly ever required to be certified or licensed like they are today. They just studied, read, and started tutoring and teaching. Those who were really good naturally attracted more students—same with lawyers attracting clients.

Freedom and Licensing

Lawyers 2 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising AnswerAgain, today, certified teachers really work for and answer to the state—the entity that certifies them – and in most cases, pays their salaries. Independent teachers who just read and start teaching are more suited to be good checks on government, not its outreach program.

“The same can be true of any government licensing, such as psychiatric experts. Those who are licensed go to court and give their expert opinions, but people usually don’t take note that these experts can only make a living if they stay licensed. They must comply with state needs, trends and whims. They aren’t independent experts, they are naturally prone to support the government—at least more than they need to be real checks on it. If they don’t, they risk their licensure.

“Of course, if you ask many attorneys, certified teachers, psychiatric experts or others in this position, they’ll often assure you that this isn’t the case. But how can it not be? In any other setting this would be a clear conflict of interest. They’re dependent on the government, given their standing by government, and trained according to government-approved curriculum; this potentially weighs in every situation.

“They may feel that this isn’t full government control, because they can work within the system to fight for various views, and this is true. But it still amounts to a de facto conflict of interest, and it certainly doesn’t promote checks on government abuse the way a non-licensed system used to do.

“So to say that the American Founders had a lot of lawyers is to say that there were a lot of regular people checking the government, while to say that we have a lot of lawyers today is to say we have lots of professionals at least somewhat beholden to the government. The same applies to certified teachers and any others licensed by government.

Following the Old Route

“If society wants lots of licensing, then that’s what we’ll get. But let’s not believe that it creates checks on government abuse. If anything, it does the opposite. When Tocqueville said in Democracy in America that as the lawyers go, so goes America, it was too true! When lawyers were a clear, independent, unregulated check on government, the government was much smaller and more frequently checked. Today, when lawyers and credentialed teachers and many others are beholden to government for their continued licensing, there are fewer checks. Still some, but fewer.

“Of course, some of the lawyers, teachers and others still follow the old route—they are licensed, yes, but they read deeply, think about freedom and are a credit to their professions in the way they stand up for what is right. But the system is still very different, and anyone who cares about freedom should clearly understand the differences.”

“This all makes me want to be a lawyer,” my friend said. “To get licensed and use my law school education to really fight even more for freedom.”

“Bravo,” I replied. “I know a number of lawyers and teachers and others who do the same. I think they are courageous and vital freedom fighters. I also believe that we need a lot of similar leaders in the non-licensed areas, like entrepreneurship, the arts, private school teaching, and so on. If everyone does his or her best in his/her chosen life purpose, that’s where we’ll get the best results as a society.

A Little Bit of Lawyer

“But,” I paused, “this assumes that nobody’s best life purpose is to work daily to reduce freedom. That would be a tragedy, and I don’t believe this is where anyone should dedicate his or her life. Sadly, sometimes people don’t realize this is what they’re doing. We should all take stock of how our daily work is impacting freedom—no matter our profession, career field, job, or work.”

“If we’re hurting freedom, even just because that’s what our career tends to do, we have to change something,” he concluded. Then he paused, pondered, and added, “To sum up, I guess the founders were all a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, and a little bit leader.”

“They even had a word for this,” I agreed. “Several words, in fact. Citizen. Voter. Elector. Constituent. American. All of these used to mean you were a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, a little bit leader. You’re right.”

He smiled as he nodded. Then he said slowly, “That’s what we need today.”

(Learn about the 3 major ways to deal with these trends in FreedomShift, by Oliver DeMille)

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odemille Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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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Friends of Foes? (Obama’s Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille

June 30th, 2014 // 6:57 am @

President Versus

Modern citizens tend to see what happens in Washington as mainly partisan, timesup 746x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMilleand certainly party disputes are a major part of our governance. But they aren’t the only conflict in play.

In fact, James Madison pointed out in Federalist 10 that freedom is protected when factions, parties, government branches, and even levels of government are pitted against each other.

When Democrats in the White House find themselves arguing with Democrats in the Congress, for example, or when House Republicans face off against conservative governors and other state- and local-level Republican officials, the normal power of partisan politics can be reduced.

Everyone tends to benefit when this happens, because it creates an additional check on any part of government seeking too much power.

If anything, it is unfortunate that this doesn’t occur more often.

Right now the Democratic Party is dealing with just such an internal battle. It takes the form of the President versus Congressional candidates who are running for office this year and need to break from the White House in order to get enough votes. Also the President versus Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic presidential candidates who are trying to build their own following.

It also includes the President versus various Democratic Washington insiders who feel that his more controversial policies are hurting the Party. And the President versus past members of his administration, current members who keep “leaking” inside scoops to the media, and the usually liberal media that is now pressing the President more aggressively than at any point since his election in 2008.

Freedom is protected 2 945x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille

Fighting Allies

In short, it seems to be the President versus a lot, if not most, of his own Party—not just in Washington but in many states and locales as well.

George Will noted that the President has faced strong opposition among his own party in a number of major crises during the past year. Such conflicts include sharp criticism about the failures of the Obamacare website, the Snowden revelations about government spying on its own people, the IRS scandal, the White House “negotiating with terrorists” and swapping prisoners with the Taliban, the President’s seeming weakness in dealing with Putin and the Ukraine, the controversial EPA rules, Democratic opposition to Presidential appointments (e.g. Larry Summers), Democratic resistance to the President’s attempts to use force in Syria, etc.

All in all, the President’s own party is rendering his policy agenda and even his responses to national crises very difficult. Oh, and no surprise, the Republicans are doing their part to oppose him as well. But it is the division in his own party that is really creating a problem for him—the word popping up now in the press is “incompetence” or “a lack of presidential competence.”

Most national Democratic leaders are quick to verbally support the President in conversations with Republicans, but among their constituents and on Capitol Hill they are increasingly going their own way. Even when it directly conflicts with the Administration.

As the elections heat up for 2014 and in preparation for the big one in 2016, many Democrats are finding that Obamacare and perceived problems with the Obama Administration are hurting them among voters. They are naturally distancing themselves from the Oval Office, and this trend is spreading.

Lasting Wisdom

amazing constitution 773x1024 Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMilleMadison wanted a divided government (3 branches competing against each other, as well as the state and federal levels closely watching the excesses of the other), and the constitutional system is at least partially still working in this way. To have Democrats checking Democrats and Republicans checking each other brings an extra smile to many independents. If a Republican were in the White House, a major international crisis could bring the GOP together in support of the President, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything similar will help President Obama. In fact, international affairs seem to be the focal point of the Democratic divisions.

The most powerful “Tea Party” work seems to be occurring among a growing number of Democrats who are committed to checking what they consider to be excesses of the current Administration.

The Constitution never ceases to amaze! Even as Washington grows to massive levels and most Americans agree that the government is deeply broken, the framers’ wisdom still manages to keep even the most powerful office in the world from exerting truly unchecked influence. This must be frustrating to those in power. Bravo Madison, Dickinson, Franklin and all your colleagues. Bravo!

Of course, if the framers were here today, they’d no doubt point out that this will only last so long. If we don’t become the kind of citizen-leaders they were, we will lose the rest of our freedoms—sooner rather than later.

(If you haven’t read Oliver DeMille’s new book, We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident, this is a great place to start! This may be one of the most important books so far in the 21st Century. It is truly a Must Read!)

 

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odemille Friends of Foes? (Obamas Liberal Detractors Grow) by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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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The Hillary Machine: A Surprise is Coming, by Oliver DeMille

June 14th, 2014 // 5:31 am @

Setting the Field

The Hillary machine is gearing up. A new book by Hillary Clinton is coming out. The liberal media is gushing about Hillary—will she run, or won’t she?

Every discussion on this question is used as an opportunity to encourage voters to support “the first woman president.”

A prime time national TV special is dedicated to her, in a fashion usually only reserved for State of the Union coverage.

Hillary Clinton 1 1024x730 The Hillary Machine: A Surprise is Coming, by Oliver DeMille

Just watch the ads. Her face fills the screen in a larger-than-life campaign style poster. Talk shows gush about how deftly she’s handling her skeletons—from Lewinsky to Benghazi. Monica Lewinsky herself does a once-in-twenty years article putting the whole thing to rest.

Commentators and anchors mention and re-mention how brave Hillary is the face of these difficulties.

If you are a fan of Mrs. Clinton, this all makes perfect sense. If not, you are likely frustrated as the media coverage amps up.

Not Quite the Norm

Of course, this is presidential politics as usual. Except that it isn’t. The election is well over two years away. Most presidential elections don’t get started until after the midterm elections. So why now?

That’s the surprise. The Hillary machine is gearing up to do something the Obama team never could. Despite President Obama’s personal popularity, he never had coattails. He got elected twice, but he lost the first midterm in a huge, historic way, and even when he got re-elected he carried very few Democrats with him.

Unlike Ronald Reagan, or even Bill Clinton, Obama didn’t have much of a coattail effect.

Hillary might. It seems like she will. Thus the interesting timing. For months Republicans have been anticipating a big sweep in the 2014 midterms. Strengthening their power in the House. Winning back the Senate. Maybe overturning Obamacare.

Of course, the President would veto such a vote, but at least the Congress would have its say. And it could certainly defund parts of the Affordable Health Care Act. This would set up the GOP for a powerful run in 2016 where it might gain enough Senators to override a veto.

Republicans have been licking their chops for months. After all, just look at how many seats they gained in the last midterm.

The Odds

But now Hillary has stepped into the fray. Not officially. Just powerfully. Will she have coattails? All indications are “yes, absolutely.” Obama won with small margins over Romney in three key voting groups: women, Latinos, and independent voters in the swing states. These carried him to two victories.

By all accounts, Hillary will have significantly bigger majorities in all three of these electorates.

The more noise she makes before the 2014 midterm, the more likely these groups are to vote and encourage their friends to go to the polls this year. If she has coattails on election day, like she does in the surveys, she’s going to rain on the Republican’s parade. Not just in 2016, but this year in the midterms.

And as for 2016, she is the presumptive winner. No Republican is even close. No Republican is even mentioned in the same sentence as her potential opponent. It’s the most fait-accompli presidential election since Reagan ran for re-election. It’s almost uncontested at this point.

Of course, a lot of time still has to pass, and a lot could happen. But where is a possible contender who can ignite political passion and excitement at Hillary’s level? Or even close to it? Nobody is on the horizon. Will such a person eventually rise? Maybe. Maybe not.

An Early Start

Why is Hillary doing this now?

Because she can.

Because it leaves the Republicans ineptly twiddling their thumbs, hoping someone, anyone, can gain a national following and hopefully slow her down a little.

Because the sooner she starts, the sooner the electorate will get tired of hearing about Benghazi and stop caring about her skeletons.

Because it just might swing the 2014 midterms away from a sure thing for the Republicans—making the 2016 run a referendum against conservatism on every level, a true mandate for one party that would be unequalled since the sweeping Reagan election of 1984.

Creating the Legacy

But most of all she is doing this because Hillary is, for good or worse—depending on your viewpoint—not just another politician. She is a reformer, pure and simple. Her history proves that she isn’t a “let’s win, and then enjoy the fruits of office” politician at all. Nor is she a “let’s set a legacy for history” seeker as much as the last four presidents. She wants action. She wants change. Even as a first lady she promoted Hillarycare.

Imagine what her plans are as president. She’ll take action, not play politics. More than Bush, Clinton, Bush or Obama. She’ll push, cajole, shame, and relentlessly exert the power of the White House to get Congress in line behind her Rooseveltian agenda. If she has coattails now, in 2014, even before she officially runs, she’ll be unstoppable in 2016-2024.

Whether she is a Hawk or a Social Crusader remains to be seen, and will probably depend on world events.

Either way, she won’t sit still, content with a few wins. If she ends up being a Social Activist, she will likely make Obamacare look like the first small step of a national progressive revolution. She may well eclipse FDR as the modern reformer and usher in a whole new level of government size, participation in everyday life, and influence. This won’t be anything new.

If we vote for it, we’ll get what we asked for.

If you like this direction, sit back, get some popcorn and smile while you watch the show unfolding over a year earlier than expected. If not, you’ve got less than six months to do something about it.

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odemille The Hillary Machine: A Surprise is Coming, by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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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Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

June 3rd, 2014 // 11:18 am @

An Invitation to Join the Current Debate

Please participate in a conversation with us. Here goes:

Background

I received the two emails within a week of each other, and they really made me think.

First of all, they made me happy. I’m so glad there are two people out there so passionate and studious about a topic that most Americans don’t ever think about.

That’s great.

bilde Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

Image Credit: IndyStar.com

The fact that there are two such people actually making contact means there are certainly a lot more engaged with the issue, and actually these were only 2 of dozens of notes I’ve received on the same topic. Wonderful.

We need this kind of citizen participation in order for our freedom to work and last.

The Debate

Second, well…just consider these two notes:

“Oliver, why do you support a Constitutional Convention that will send delegates from each state to rewrite our Constitution? Don’t you know that the participants will be almost entirely today’s politicians and attorneys, and possibly a few famous Establishment Academicians from the Ivy League or Berkeley thrown in, and that they’ll reject everything in the Constitution, get rid of the three branches and the checks and balances and who knows what else? Anyone who supports this just doesn’t understand freedom.”

I had to respond that I have never supported a Constitutional Convention, in fact I have written against it on various occasions. Some readers got confused when I quoted a couple of well-known supporters of a Convention, thinking I agreed with them.

Actually, those who read my full article could see that I quoted them to show that they were up to no good—because these particular supporters of a Convention want to use it to reject the Constitution and go to a Parliamentary system. Bad idea for freedom.

I have to point out, however, that some people who support a Convention do so for all the right reasons. Still, if a Convention happens, its actions will all depend on who gets sent as delegates.

The second note was very different, though similar in tone:

“Oliver, how can you not support a Constitutional Convention? I know you think it will be hijacked by today’s lawyers and politicians and used to throw away the Constitution and replace it with something much worse, but how is that any different from what’s happening anyway? If we don’t hold a Convention, we’ll continue to see the politicians and special interest groups just circumvent the Constitution, and the President, Congress and Court just ignore it when it’s inconvenient.

“This problem is getting worse, and most people really think that we’re under the Constitution. But we’re not. It’s ignored or circumvented every day, and this trend is only growing. At least with a Convention the loss of our freedoms will be out in the open. People will know what’s happening. And there is a chance, a slim one I grant you, but a chance, that the people and states will send good delegates who really do something to refocus on the principles of the original Constitution and help restore our freedoms.

“Without a Convention, there is absolutely no chance of this at all. Why don’t you support at least a chance for freedom? Without a Convention, Washington will just continue to destroy the Constitution piece by piece until our freedoms are entirely gone. A Convention gives us a slim chance for freedom, while no Convention gives us no chance.”

I’ve heard this argument before. In fact, I heard it from one of my mentors, W. Cleon Skousen, who said almost exactly the same words. When he said this back in the 1990s, I argued that the Constitution was still mostly intact, and we should give the natural tension between branches of government the time it needed to correct the problems.

He countered that it was headed in the wrong direction and would soon become unsalvagable without either a Convention or some major world crisis that forced a Convention—or something like it. Most of his predictions have certainly come true, the Constitution is much less followed or valued than it was just twenty years ago when he and I enjoyed in a number of deep discussions on this topic.

For example, the Spring 2014 edition of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy has no less than 8 full articles on how the federal government is right now further ignoring or circumventing the Constitution and drastically encroaching on state’s rights!

Would such states now feel the need to send good, freedom-supporting delegates to a Constitutional Convention just to get their rights back?

Should those of us who have opposed a Convention change our minds before all of Cleon’s predictions happen?

Or will a Convention just speed up the loss of our freedoms and give us less time to do something else—outside a Convention—that really could work? After our long and deep discussions, Cleon and I agreed on how we thought this point would go.

More later on what we decided…

What Do You Think?

So, what do you think of these two arguments? More importantly, where do you stand?

Will a Constitutional Convention help us?

Do you think it gives us a slim chance for a restoration of freedom?

Do you think anything else realistically gives us a better chance?

I have a strong opinion on this, but before I share more about it I want to see what you think. Seriously, what do you think can turn our nation in the direction of freedom (and end our current direction of decreasing freedom and inevitable decline)?

Is a Convention the answer?

What, if any, other truly realistic policy answers are there? Specifically?

I’m excited to see how many people care enough to answer, and what great ideas you have.

How to Share Your Vote

Please don’t just rehash the two views above. If you think a Convention is a bad idea, for the reasons above, just write: “My vote is against a Convention.” If you think a Convention is needed for the reasons above, just write, “I’m for a Convention.”

But if you have any third ideas beyond a Convention that can really fix America, or different reasons for or against a Convention, please share them.

[Be civil and polite in this; I’ll just delete any name-calling or uncivil responses or words toward anyone or any view joining this discussion. Every view deserves to be heard.]

This topic is too important to turn impolite.

This is a very important discussion, and I’ll tally the responses and share some that really add to the topic, along with my own ideas on what needs to happen—in a future article.

I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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

odemille Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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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What’s Up With College?

May 30th, 2014 // 1:13 pm @

The Big Picture

Every once in a while it’s important for parents and mentors to step back fromcollege Whats Up With College? the day-to-day work of teaching children and youth and look at the big picture of education in America—from elementary learning to high school and college, and beyond.

In that vein, Marie Clarie magazine recently ran an interesting article about the declining value of attending college. The name of the article was, bluntly, “Generation Debt.”

Here are a few of the highlights from this important article:

  • “It used to be that college was the ticket to the top. Now graduates are starting from the bottom—buried by student-loan debt that has skyrocketed to a collective $1.2 trillion. Welcome to the student-debt crisis.” Because college graduates now start out with high debt, and with a smaller likelihood of jobs in the current economy, they are well behind their peers who spend the four years getting settled in jobs or starting businesses—without huge student debts hanging around their necks.
  • The $1.2 trillion dollars of student debt held by Americans is “more than all credit card debt.”
  • “Tuition prices are increasing at about twice the rate of inflation, while state governments are slashing billions from their higher-education budgets, leaving students to foot more of the bill.”
  • In the new economy, ever since the recession of 2008, student loan debtees “are less likely to own a home, take out a car loan, or even make rent payments.” And they are paying almost nothing in taxes, thus increasing the tax burden on the older generation. They also aren’t spending money in the economy, and according to Harper’s, around half of them are moving back home with their parents instead of getting jobs and moving on with their lives.
  • Many graduates are amassing $600 or more of additional debt each month just in interest on their student loans. Without jobs, they are getting buried deeper and deeper in economic problems.
  • As one person Marie Claire interviewed, who was lucky enough to hold a job, told them: “I work with brilliant people who don’t have college degrees. My degree has never come up—not even in my job interview—so I don’t think I needed it. My brother, who has no degree but is more entrepreneurial, makes twice what I do and doesn’t carry the burden of being in debt.” While some graduates do believe that their college degree helped them get a job, many simply can’t find a job in this economy.
  • Another graduate wrote: “’I made it!’ read my Instagram caption under my law-school graduation photos. A year later, I’m 32, nearly $200,000 in debt, sitting on a couch in a 900-square-foot apartment…dreaming of the house I thought I would own by now. My situation is not unique.”

Losing Later for Now

This is the reality now for many graduates, and as the report stated, “It’s time to adjust expectations.” It also noted that while a $29,400 student loan ends up costing $53,862 on a 20-year repayment plan, a person investing the same $29,400 at 7% annual return for forty years would end with $440,249.06.

Or as one interviewee, a newly practicing deputy district attorney, put it: “I love my job, but I still feel like I’m an indentured servant. You practically have to rob a bank to pay back these things.”

An article in The Atlantic summarized the problem:

“The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults….It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities….Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture and the character of our society for years come…The economy now sits in a hole 10 million jobs deep…[and] we need to produce roughly 1.5 million jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper. Even if the economy were to immediately begin producing 600,000 jobs a month—more than double the pace of the mid-to-late 1990s, when job growth was strong—it would take roughly two years to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in….But the U.S. hasn’t seen that pace of sustained employment growth in more than 30 years…”

Outdated Promises

College can still be a great place to get a great education, but only if students stop thinking in terms of “hire education” and find great mentors, read the greatest books, and really seek quality learning rather than mere career prep. Career prep still may help them if they avoid any student debt. But spending four years increasing one’s debt at college is no longer a good path for most people in the current economy.

Grads just aren’t getting jobs like they were promised—the “college will get you a job” promise mostly worked from 1950 to 2008, but it’s not working now.

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odemille Whats Up With College? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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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Category : Blog &Current Events &Economics &Education &Generations

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