Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Teach Black and Hispanic Students Better

August 16, 2016


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

  Wherein we see that in the new media as in the old: Good news is no news.

Does Black Success Matter?
By Thomas Sowell

We keep hearing that "black lives matter," but they seem to matter only when that helps politicians to get votes, or when that slogan helps demagogues demonize the police. The other 99 percent of black lives destroyed by people who are not police do not seem to attract nearly as much attention in the media.

What about black success? Does that matter? Apparently not so much.

We have heard a lot about black students failing to meet academic standards. So you might think that it would be front-page news when some whole ghetto schools not only meet, but exceed, the academic standards of schools in more upscale communities.

There are in fact whole chains of charter schools where black and Hispanic youngsters score well above the national average on tests. There are the KIPP (Knowledge IS Power Program) schools and the Success Academy schools, for example.

Only 39 percent of all students in New York state schools who were tested recently scored at the "proficient" level in math, but 100 percent of the students at the Crown Heights Success Academy school scored at that level in math. Blacks and Hispanics are 90 percent of the students in the Crown Heights Success Academy.

The Success Academy schools in general ranked in the top 2 percent in English and in the top 1 percent in math. Hispanic students in these schools reached the "proficient" level in math nearly twice as often as Hispanic students in the regular public schools. Black students in these Success Academy schools reached the "proficient" level more than twice as often as black students in the regular public schools.

What makes this all the more amazing is that these charter schools are typically located in the same ghettos or barrios where other blacks or Hispanics are failing miserably on the same tests. More than that, successful charter schools are often physically housed in the very same buildings as the unsuccessful public schools.

In other words, minority kids from the same neighborhood, going to school in classes across the hall from each other, or on different floors, are scoring far above average and far below average on the same tests.

If black success was considered half as newsworthy as black failures, such facts would be headline news — and people who have the real interests of black and other minority students at heart would be asking, "Wow! How can we get more kids into these charter schools?"

Many minority parents have already taken notice. More than 43,000 families are on waiting lists to get their children into charter schools. But admission is by lottery, and far more have to be turned away than can be admitted.

Why? Because the teachers’ unions are opposed to charter schools — and they give big bucks to politicians, who in turn put obstacles and restrictions on the expansion of charter schools. These include politicians like New York’s "progressive" mayor Bill de Blasio, who poses as a friend of blacks by denigrating the police, standing alongside Al Sharpton.


     The logic of public employee unions is “Public schools are better even when they’re far worse.”

The net result is that 90 percent of New York City’s students are taught in the regular public schools that have nothing like the success of charter schools run by KIPP and Success Academy.

That makes sense only politically, because it gains the money and the votes of the teachers’ unions, for whom schools exist to provide jobs for their members, rather than to provide education for children.

If you want to understand this crazy and unconscionable situation, just follow the money and follow the votes.

Black success is a threat to political empires and to a whole social vision behind those empires. That social vision has politicians like Bill de Blasio and Hillary Clinton cast in the role of rescuers and protectors of blacks from enemies threatening on all sides. If politicians can promote paranoia, that means bigger voter turnout, which is what really matters to them.

That same social vision allows the intelligentsia, whether in the media or in academia, to be on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. That’s heady stuff. And a bunch of kids taking tests doesn’t look nearly as exciting on TV as a mob marching through the streets, chanting that they want "dead cops." Black success has very little to offer politicians or the intelligentsia. But black children’s lives and futures ought to matter — and would, if politicians and the intelligentsia were for real.


   Teaching better than public education is easy. Setting up the situation in which it can occur is very difficult.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


Government Union—High Absenteeism

August 15, 2016

Fyvush Finkel, who played an immortal, irascible teacher on Boston Public has passed at 93. R.I.P.

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    Wherein we see the inevitable result of government unions. The data say high absenteeism. The union says the data are wrong.

 Lavishly Paid Cleveland Teachers Lead America In Days Off

Aug 15, 2016 by Daily Caller

‘If the teachers don’t come to school, how do you expect the students to come?’

The public school system in Cleveland, Ohio leads the nation in teacher absences.

A report from the National Council on Teacher Quality shows that public school teachers in Cleveland manage to miss an average of 15.6 school days each year, reports local NBC affiliate WKYC.

Just over a third of Cleveland teachers fail to show up for their taxpayer-funded jobs 18 days — or more — each school year.

A typical student who attends public school in the city from kindergarten through 12th grade will suffer the second-rate instruction of a substitute teacher for a number of days that adds up to a full year.

Despite their chronic failure to work, teachers in the Cleveland Municipal School District receive a handsome median salary of $76,652 annually, according to The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s main newspaper.


   Yet the union propaganda says teachers are underpaid.

“If the teachers don’t come to school, how do you expect the students to come?” parent Twyonia Cooper told WKYC. “They see that you’re not there so why should I be coming to school.”

Cleveland public schools say they aren’t happy about the highly dubious honor of leading the nation in teacher absences.

“We don’t want to be No. 1 in that area,” chief academic officer Michelle Pierre-Farid told WKYC. “We want to be No. 1 for student achievement.”

Pierre-Farid added that administrators have “looked at different ways” to try to drag the city’s teachers to school on something approaching a daily basis. Among those ways is an incentive program.

“You’re not going to be a great teacher if you don’t come to work,” she observed.

Nevertheless, the school district coughs up over $9 million each year to pay substitute teachers — in addition to the generous salaries and benefits packages full-time teachers receive.

David Quolke, the president of the Cleveland Teachers Union (and the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers), responded to the National Council on Teacher Quality study by arguing that it isn’t true.

“It was a pretty poor and blatant attempt to continue the anti-teacher rhetoric,” Quolke told the NBC affiliate. He suggested that Cleveland would be totally average for teachers failing to teach students if the study added professional development days.


      Ah yes, professional development days. The only profession which gets days off to learn its craft. In my jurisdiction, these days are held on Fridays. Coincidence?

Pierre-Farid, the school district executive, suggested that the study’s numbers for teacher absences are accurate.

“That is a part of our data and, once again, we are not happy about that data point,” she told WKYC.

Cleveland’s teachers union has been threatening to strike — and miss even more school days at the expense of students — since the end of the most recent school year.

The teachers are mainly upset because they object to teacher evaluations — and having their lavish median salaries of $76,652 subjected to teacher evaluations. They also object to various incentives designed to improve classroom instruction and a policy which would allow the school district to fire taxpayer-funded teachers regardless of their seniority.

The union has rejected a contract endorsed by a federal fact-finder which endorses the pay-related evaluations.

The federally-recommended contract “is not acceptable to me,” Quolke told The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s biggest newspaper, in May.

A study separate from the one conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows that 27 percent of Ohio’s public school teachers fail to show up 10 or more days each year for work.

Ohio public schools typically have 180 school days each year. That’s 36 weeks. Thus, 27 percent of the state’s teachers take a day off just over once every 18 school days.

The average teachers in Cleveland fails to show up for work an average of once every 11.5 school days. Obviously, that’s roughly once every two weeks.

The National Council on Teacher Quality Washington, D.C supports better evaluation systems for public advocates teachers.


    Guaranteed job, union contract, lots of absences. One more reason the government should nver run anything.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Raise Student Loans—Raise Tuition—Increase Administrative Costs

August 7, 2016


    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    Effective economics is counterintuitive–almost all of what we believe is wrong. This is an example. One would think that giving students a hand to achieve higher education would be noble and useful. One would be wrong.

The Student Debt Crisis Is the Predictable Consequence of Subsidies
Daniel J. Mitchell

Normally, leftists get upset if there’s a big industry that charges high prices, engages in lots of featherbedding, and manipulates the political system for handouts.


    They only get upset if it’s a non-favored industry. If the “renewable green energy” industry would do it, more subsidies would flow.

But for some reason, when the industry is higher education, folks like Hillary Clinton think the answer is to shower colleges and universities with ever-greater subsidies.

She says the subsidies are for students, but I point out in this interview that the real beneficiaries are the schools that simply boost tuition and fees to capture any increase in student loans.

And I also pointed out that the colleges and universities don’t even use the money wisely.

Instead, they build bureaucratic empires with ever-larger numbers of administrators while money devoted to the classroom shrinks.


     The same thing that happened in k-12 education.

Sort of a pay-more-get-less business model.

Though that only works when there are government subsidies to enable the inefficiency and bloat.

But don’t take my word for it. According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (h/t: James Pethokoukis), tuition subsidies get captured by colleges and universities.

    With all factors present, net tuition increases from $6,100 to $12,559 [and] the demand shocks — which consist mostly of changes in financial aid — account for the lion’s share of the higher tuition. …These results accord strongly with the Bennett hypothesis, which asserts that colleges respond to expansions of financial aid by increasing tuition. In fact, the tuition response completely crowds out any additional enrollment that the financial aid expansion would otherwise induce, resulting instead in an enrollment decline… Furthermore, the students who do enroll take out $6,876 in loans compared to $4,663 in the initial steady state. The college, in turn, uses these funds to finance an increase of investment expenditures from $21,550 to $27,338… Lastly, the model predicts that demand shocks in isolation generate a surge in the default rate from 17% to 32%. Essentially, demand shocks lead to higher college costs and more debt, and in the absence of higher labor market returns, more loan default inevitably occurs. …Our model also suggests that financial aid increases tuition at the bottom of the tuition distribution more so than it does at the top.

By the way, I closed the above interview by stating that I want to make colleges and universities at least partially liable if students don’t pay back their loans because that will create a better incentive structure.

Pay More, Get Less

Two scholars from the American Enterprise Institute addressed this issue in an article for National Review.

    Just as government-subsidized easy money fueled a real-estate bubble in the 1990s and 2000s, boosting house prices while promoting unwise borrowing and lending, today government-subsidized easy money is fueling an education bubble — boosting tuition rates and reducing students’ incentives to choose education options smartly. …Like the brokers who caused the subprime-mortgage crisis, colleges push naïve students to take on debt regardless of their ability to repay, because colleges bear no cost when graduates default. A true solution requires a new financing system where colleges retain “skin in the game.”

The authors point out that default and delinquency are very common, but they point out that this is merely a symptom of a system with screwed-up incentives.

    The high delinquency rate is a symptom of a wider problem — a broken higher-education system. Colleges are paid tuition regardless of whether their alumni succeed. They face little incentive to control costs when those costs can be passed on to students who fund them with government-guaranteed loans that are available regardless of the students’ ability to repay.

It’s not just whether they have an incentive to control costs. The current approach gives them carte blanche to waste money and jack up tuition and fees.

    Between 1975 and 2015, the real cost of attending a private college increased by 171 percent while the real cost of public universities rose by 150 percent. If the tuition, room and board, and other fees at a four-year private college in 1975 were projected forward to 2015, adjusting for the average inflation rate, the cost of college in 2015 would have been $16,213. Instead, the actual cost in 2015 was $43,921. A large share of rising college costs can be attributed to expanded administration, new non-educational services, athletic programs, and government regulation. Colleges have economized by switching to part-time adjunct faculty. The American Association of University Professors estimates that roughly 3 out of 4 college courses are taught by adjuncts.

Amen. This is what I mean by the pay-more-get-less business model.

A Simple Solution

The solution, of course, it to make fat and lazy college administrators have to worry that their budgets will shrink if they continue to jack up tuition while providing sub-par education.

    The key to controlling costs and student-debt burdens is to require colleges themselves to have “skin in the game” so they have strong incentives not only to provide a good education, but also to safeguard the financial solvency of their graduates. …With “skin in the game,” colleges will face pressure to control unnecessary costs and limit student indebtedness. Colleges will redouble their efforts to ensure that students graduate with the skills necessary to succeed in the job market. Resources will no longer be freely available for unnecessary non-educational university spending.

The bottom line is that bad things happen when the visible foot of the government supplants the invisible hand of the market.

That’s what I basically was trying to say in the interview when I made the crack about a reverse Midas touch whenever there is government intervention.

The solution, of course, is to phase out the subsidies that have created the problem.

But (just as is the case with healthcare) that’s a challenge because of the inefficiency that is now built into the system. Consumers will be worried that tuition and fees will remain high, which will mean higher out-of-pockets costs for college.

So while I understand why politicians will be reluctant to address the issue, the longer they wait, the worse the problem will become.

P.S. This video from Learn Liberty, featuring Professor Daniel Lin, is a great (albeit depressing) introduction to the issue of how government handouts lead to higher tuition.

P.P.S. Is there a “bubble” in higher education? While government intervention and handouts definitely have enabled needlessly high tuition, I’ve explained that those high prices will probably be permanent so long as the subsidies continue.

P.P.P.S. Unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman doesn’t understand the issue.


      Irrational reverence for education regardless of usefulness plus lots of government subsidy results in ridiculously high tuition and paying for education which does not result in a better job upon graduation.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


Political Correctness—Free Speech Punished

August 2, 2016


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    Wherein we see that liberals are less than liberal when it comes to transgressions against their code of tolerance.

Fascists at Texas university suspend student, order diversity training for saying all lives matter

Fascists at Texas university suspend student, order diversity training for saying all lives matter
By Joe Newby –

Student at University of Houston suspended, ordered to diversity training for saying all lives matterIf colleges are indeed training the nation’s future leaders, America is doomed.  On Sunday, the Daily Caller reported that Rohini Sethi, a student government leader at the University of Houston, was suspended and ordered to diversity training for engaging in the heinous act of free speech.  In this case, the offensive speech was a Facebook post that read, “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like AllLivesMatter.”

The post, according to the report, was made shortly after the July 7 Dallas police shootings.

According to the Daily Caller:

“Just for her to say, ‘forget Black Lives Matter,’ is a punch in the stomach,” student Nala Hughes told a local press outlet at the time.

Sethi serves as the vice president of UH’s student government association (SGA), and several UH students demanded her immediate removal.

As it turns out, it’s not that easy to remove a member of the student government, so the good fascists at the University of Houston found a way to extract their pound of flesh.

The Daily Caller added:

Instead of going through that arduous process, the student senate approved a measure giving SGA president Shane Smith exceptional one-time powers to punish Sethi as he saw fit. In response, Smith released a letter Friday outlining a set of five punishments for Sethi. The punishments include:

    A 50-day suspension from SGA starting August 1. This suspension will be unpaid (she currently receives a stipend of about $700 a month).
    A requirement to attend a three-day diversity workshop in mid-August.
    A requirement to attend three “UH cultural events” each month from September through March, excluding December.
    An order to write a “letter of reflection” about how her harmful actions have impacted SGA and the UH student body
    An order to put on a public presentation Sept. 28 detailing “the knowledge she has gained about cultural issues facing our society.”


   The worst punishment of all would be to be subjected to the “workshop.” I was made to attend a few of these while a civil servant. They’re indescribable in terms of the amount of nonsense.

Naturally, if Sethi fails to abide by any of these requirements, she will be kicked out of SGA altogether.

In my day, we’d tell fascists like Smith what he could do with his unconstitutional order.

According to Smith, the punishment was harsh because Sethi failed to understand how heinous it is to say that all lives matter.

“Since her original post, I have not felt that she has understood or respected how her actions have affected the people around her, as well as the reputation of SGA and the university,” he said.

He wasn’t finished, however.

“The first amendment [sic] prevents a person from being jailed by the government for what they say. But [it] does not prevent people from receiving other consequences for what they say,” he added.

What’s next? Jail time and firing squads for saying all lives matter?

Maybe the school should change its motto to something more appropriate, like, “training tomorrow’s fascists today.”  They can even have a choice of either wearing black or brown shirts…


   Universities truly are breeding grounds for people so sensitive they will lay on ridiculous punishments for those who bruise feelings. If one made this up, one would not be believed.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Will Teacher Tenure End in California?

July 14, 2016


    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

     Wherein we see that one of the bulwarks of government employees, the job for life, is under attack in one of the jurisdictions where it enjoyed its strongest representation.

The travesty of teacher tenure may soon be outlawed

The travesty of teacher tenure may soon be outlawed
By George Will

LOS ANGELES — The mills of justice grind slowly, but life plunges on, leaving lives blighted when justice, by being delayed, is irremediably denied. Fortunately, California’s Supreme Court might soon decide to hear – four years after litigation began – the 21st century’s most portentous civil rights case, which concerns an ongoing denial of equal protection of the law.

Every year, measurable injuries are inflicted on tens of thousands of already at-risk children by this state’s teacher tenure system, which is so politically entrenched that only the courts can protect the discrete and insular minority it victimizes. In 2012, nine Los Angeles students recognizing the futility of expecting the Legislature to rectify a wrong it has perpetrated asked California’s judiciary to continue its record of vindicating the rights of vulnerable minorities by requiring the state’s education system to conform to the state’s Constitution.

After 10 weeks of testimony, the trial court found the tenure system incompatible with the California Supreme Court’s decision, now almost half a century old, that the state Constitution, which declares education a "fundamental" state concern, guarantees "equality of treatment" to all K-12 pupils. It "shocks the conscience," the trial court said, that there is "no dispute" that "a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers" – perhaps more than 8,000, each with 28 students – are doing quantifiable damage to children’s life prospects.

Technically, California teachers are granted lifetime tenure after just two years. Actually, they must be notified of tenured status after just 16 months. (Thirty-two states grant tenure after three years, nine states after four or five. Four states never grant tenure.) When incompetent or negligent teachers gain tenure, dismissal procedures are so complex and costly that the process can take up to 10 years and cost up to $450,000. The trial court called the power to dismiss "illusory." Each year approximately two teachers are dismissed for unsatisfactory performance – 0.0007 percent of California’s 277,000 teachers.


   One occasionally hears that “teachers can be fired and are fired,” but no mention is made that they are fired so infrequently.

Instead, school districts are forced to adopt what is called the "dance of the lemons," whereby grossly ineffective teachers are shuffled from school to school. Another facet of the tenure system – the teachers last hired are the first fired when layoffs are required – reinforces the powerful tendency for incompetent teachers, who must teach somewhere, to accumulate in schools with the most teacher vacancies. These are disproportionately schools attended by low-income minority children.

Abundant research demonstrates that teacher quality is the most important school variable determining academic performance. This is why there is more variation in student achievement within than between schools. This variation is especially dramatic among students from educationally disadvantaged families. A single grossly ineffective teacher can deprive students of a full year of learning, with consequences that include lower graduation and college attendance rates, and lifetime earnings more than $250,000 lower than for pupils without a single incompetent teacher. Because teachers’ unions insist that financial appropriations are the all-important determinants of schools’ successes, they are perversely reluctant to acknowledge the importance of quality teachers.

The appeals court responded with a judicial shrug to the trial court’s factual findings. It said California’s tenure system does not constitute a denial of equal protection because the identifiable class of people being injured have no "shared trait." Oh? What about their shared injury? The injured pupils share a susceptibility to injury because of their shared trait of being economically disadvantaged. This trait concentrated them in schools that themselves have a shared trait – disproportionately high numbers of bad teachers.

The appeals court breezily said the injured were merely an "unlucky subset" of pupils, a "random assortment" produced not by the tenure laws but by the administration of them. This, however, is a distinction without a difference: The tenure laws’ purpose is to dictate outcomes by depriving administrators of discretion. Systemic results cannot be dismissed as "random." Even if the tenure laws were neither written with a discriminatory motive nor administered with a discriminatory intent, the system is now known to produce – not invariably but with a high probability – predictable patterns of disparities.

Liberal and conservative legal luminaries, from Harvard’s Laurence Tribe to Stanford’s Michael McConnell, have urged California’s Supreme Court to do what the appeals court neglected to do – apply heightened scrutiny to the tenure laws that prioritize teachers’ job security over pupils’ constitutional right regarding education. California’s Supreme Court will have national resonance if it affirms that public schools are established to enable children to flourish, not to make even dreadful teachers secure.


     Unions try to ensure that schools are where union members get paid, not places where children are taught.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Homeschooled Students do much better on SAT

July 10, 2016


    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a proxy IQ test just like school tests in general. When SAT scores correlate with grades, the correlation is between two IQ measures  I don’t know is “creaming” is a word I would use, but homeschoolers do score higher.

Homeschoolers Creaming Other Students on the SAT
Annie Holmquist

Last summer, George Washington University announced that it would no longer require students to submit their SAT or ACT scores as incoming freshmen. This move was made because the university “had concerns that students who could be successful at GW felt discouraged from applying if their scores were not as strong as their high school performance.”

Some students, however, did not get off so easy. Homeschoolers, the college noted, would still have to submit their SAT scores before they could be admitted.

While such a caveat seems rather unfair, a new survey of 2014 SAT scores shows that the requirement shouldn’t be much of a hindrance to homeschool graduates.

In early June, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute released findings on how homeschool students match up against other students on the SAT exam. The results in the table below show that homeschool students are far outpacing their traditional school counterparts, particularly in the areas of reading and writing.

Homeschool SAT scores

Last year, a number of news organizations reported that students in traditional schools were bombing the SAT left and right. Bloomberg created several historical charts showing SAT trends all the way back to 1972. As the reading graph below shows, the scores of today’s homeschoolers far exceed those of students in traditional school even before these scores began to tank.

SAT Reading Score Trend

Because of plummeting trends like these, testing industries like the SAT have sought to make their exams easier because so many students are struggling to get decent scores.

But if young homeschool students don’t seem to be having any trouble with the exams – and even seem to be achieving historically high scores – is it really a good idea lower the SAT bar?

Is it possible that traditional schools are failing to impart the well-rounded course of knowledge which their students need in order to keep up with the homeschooled ones?

Homeschool SAT scores


Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Unpaid Internships–Another Reason why Governments Should not Interfere

July 9, 2016


    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

   The government way to unemployment.

The Attack on Internships Is Wrongheaded
Jeffrey A. Tucker

Google “unfair internships” and you get a blizzard of complaint. Interns are underpaid. Internships favor the rich. They are exploitative. They are a strategic way of getting around federal labor law. Some want mandates on pay. Others want them forbidden.

Here we have a narrow means of escape for young workers, a slight glimmer of hope in a job market that is growing increasingly dark for them. Following college, they can work for free or at a very low rate, for a time, and then perhaps have a greater chance of building a career, or at least avoiding the label “loser.”

And then what happens? The opinion elite conspire to wreck that opportunity too. Our laws and institutions set them up to fail, and then smother one of the few chances they have discovered to avoid that fate.

Why Internships?

Kids spend as much as 16 years sitting in desks, listening to experts, and taking tests to demonstrate that they can recite information. Then after undergoing all this, and paying ghastly amounts for the privilege, they are stunned to discover that they lack skills for the workplace.


     First, you go to school, then, you learn something useful.

Why is the marketplace not dumping barrels of cash on their heads as a reward for their good behavior? As it turns out, that’s not what a job is about. A job is a contract that pays money in return for the value that the employee creates. If you can’t create value in excess of your financial aspirations, there is a problem. You won’t get hired at a desirable wage or you won’t get hired at all.

More importantly, young people lack a network to even get in the door. At every stage of life, they march through school with their peers, step by step, and the adults around them celebrate each hoop they jump. Then the real world hits hard, and no one much cares about the only thing they have been told to do their entire lives.

Bombarding institutions with education-laden resumes is not doing the trick.

Escape the Trap

Internships are a means by which a young person can build a network, gain valuable skills, gain a sense of what it means to do work, and then add something impressive to a resume. The existence of a degree alone does none of this. It’s just a piece of paper. It creates no value of its own.

An internship demonstrates initiative. It helps young people rise above the pack. It can provide a competitive edge. The complaints that they are unfair miss the point entirely. The whole point is to stand out and get some attention for yourself. Not everyone gets them, which is why they are valuable.

It is certainly true that richer families have greater access to internship opportunities than poorer ones, in the same sense that more money generally provides more opportunities. What is to be gained by harming some because not everyone gets an equal share? How is the world made better off by diminishing opportunities for anyone?

The thing to do is to expand, not shrink, opportunities for gaining valuable experience without high onboarding costs. Eliminating the minimum wage, for example, would open up the job marketplace to a broader range of young people beyond just the few. Allowing people to work for any wage, any terms, without restrictions, is the way forward.

Reviving the Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship has been part of entryway training in most countries since the Middle Ages. You study under a master. You gain skills. You work without wages, possibly in exchange for food and housing. This goes on for a number of years until you can start to earn real money. Apprenticeships were a mainstream part of work life for hundreds of years.

But starting in the Progressive Era (with the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917), internships came to be regulated by governments at all levels. This is inevitable in a planning state that aspires to regulate work hours, wages, and terms of contract. In those days, school became compulsory, and it came to be considered a legal privilege to be employed at all. It was part of the effort by governments to sort people into categories based on eugenic notions of fit and unfit. To gain an apprenticeship at all required government approval.


     Two words that mean distortion and constriction–progressive and regulation. The perfect example of what governments believe they are doing, but end up with the opposite. The progressive rhetoric makes up for all the failure.

Gradually, over the course of the 20th century, apprenticeships declined and eventually were replaced by internships. What’s the difference? An apprenticeship provides housing, food, and trains for the purpose of later employment. In fact, the costs associated with the apprenticeship were paid back in work at a later time.

That whole system was smashed by government, especially with the national minimum wage and labor regulations of the New Deal. “Child labor” was banned so that, for many, getting a job actually became illegal.


   Getting a job becomes illegal. If they really wanted to help us, they’d stop trying to help us.

Now every laborer was subject to a homogenized experience. No longer could employers and employees work out their own deals without being threatened by fines.

But the need for an entry into the workforce grew more intense. Internships do not provide housing or food, but are either unpaid or paid in a lump sum in the form of a scholarship, as if it is a mere extension of education rather than vocational training. They are subject to extreme restrictions by the government too.

Deregulate the Interns

People today complain that interns are paid too little and don’t experience a direct benefit in the form of employment after the internship ends.

But guess what? This isn’t the fault of the business. This is the fault of government. Incredibly, federal law stipulates conditions that are designed to devalue the internship in general; these are the six main ones:

    It must be more like school than work. Ridiculous and counterproductive.
    The intern, not the employer, should benefit. Why not both?
    The intern cannot displace a regular employee. This is a mandate for uselessness.
    The employer cannot benefit from the activities of the intern, which, again, is a devaluing mandate.
    The intern is not working toward a job with the company, and this is well understood.
    Both the employer and the intern know that no wages are paid to the intern.

If you look at those conditions, you can see that the practices that so deeply irk the critics of internships are specifically mandated by federal labor law.

For example, the head of the Ford Foundation complains that “America’s current internship system, in which contacts and money matter more than talent, contributes to an economy in which access and opportunity go to the people who already have the most of both.”

Again, a piece on Buzzfeed worries about millennials who are “perma-interns who, long after they graduated from college, have little hope in ever finding full-time employment in their chosen fields.”

Yeah, okay, but maybe the reason is that federal law imposes this very result!

The answer is to permit the internship to be more like work than school. Let interns be valuable to the employer. Allow them to be aspirational to the point of actually challenging the positions of the already employed. Let them work toward a job with the company. Above all else, permit the employer to pay interns in wages – not as a mandate, but only as an opportunity.

(A more far-reaching reform would abolish child-labor laws so that kids could start building professional capital much earlier.)

In other words, get the Department of Labor out of the business of regulating internships. By the time a kid is 22, he or she has been bludgeoned by government at every step of life. Having wrecked so much of their lives, by the time a person leaves college, the government needs to let it go.

P.S. Even with existing restrictions, some institutions are finding work-arounds.


   The answer of every government to a situation they’ve created by regulation is more regulation.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Public Education–With a Bar so Low–We Can Do It!

July 6, 2016


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

     Wherein we see what happens in government so often. A little progress now, maybe, with much more promised.

DC Administrator Expects Good Schools "Sometime in the Next 10 or 20 Years"
David Boaz

Kaya Henderson has gotten great reviews for her work as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. Test scores are up during her tenure, though not as much as the hype. But take a look at this vision in an article on her departure:

    Henderson cautions that improving schools that had long struggled does not happen quickly. And even with the school reform efforts over the the past decade, it may still be another decade — or more — before anyone can declare something approaching victory.

    “There will be a day when every school in the city is doing amazing work and you won’t have to enter a lottery, you literally could drop your kid off at any school and have them an amazing experience. I believe we’re within reach of that, probably sometime in the next 10 or 20 years,” she says.


   Set low goals and declare success when they’re reached. That’s an unusual socialist technique where usually they set high goals and lie about achieving them.

Every form of communication and information technology is changing before our eyes, except the schools and the post office.

Good schools “sometime in the next 10 or 20 years” – “probably”? Can you imagine a private-company CEO promising that his company would be good at its core business “probably sometime in the next 10 or 20 years,” after his retirement?

The Central Planning of Children

No wonder Albert Shanker, the first head of the American Federation of Teachers, said back in 1989:

    It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: it more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.


      The lack of proper incentives in all government bureaucracies is the key to their constant failure. This will also do in any attempt to “reform” DC schools. There’ll be a lot of pretend, spin and cheering for nothing.

Indeed, we have in each city in the United States an essentially centralized, monopoly, uncompetitive, one-size-fits-all school system that has been stagnating for more than a century. As I wrote in the book Liberating Schools,

    The problem of the government schools is the problem inherent in all government institutions. In the private sector, firms must attract voluntary customers or they fail; and if they fail, investors lose their money, and managers and employees lose their jobs. The possibility of failure, therefore, is a powerful incentive to find out what customers want and to deliver it efficiently. But in the government sector, failures are not punished, they are rewarded. If a government agency is set up to deal with a problem and the problem gets worse, the agency is rewarded with more money and more staff — because, after all, its task is now bigger.  An agency that fails year after year, that does not simply fail to solve the problem but actually makes it worse, will be rewarded with an ever-increasing budget.  What kind of incentive system is this? 

This is ridiculous. Every form of communication and information technology is changing before our eyes, except the schools and the post office. It’s time to give families a choice. Free them from the monopoly school system. Give families education tax credits or education savings accounts. Make homeschooling easier. Let them opt out of the big-box school – and get their money back – and watch Khan Academy videos.
Children spend 12 years in government monopoly schools. If they don’t get started right in the first couple of years, they’re running behind for life. It’s just not right to tell parents to wait 10 to 20 years for the tax-supported monopoly schools to start educating decently.


     Change the incentives or the outcomes will not change.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


The Hypothetical Story of the Necessity of Education

July 4, 2016


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    Wherein we see an alternative to the irrational irreverence accorded education.

16 Big Myths about College and Success in Your Early 20’s
Isaac M. Morehouse

If you’re exiting high school you’re probably being given a lot of advice.  You’re bombarded with stats about average earnings, degrees, majors, resumes, seizing this time in your life, etc.  It’s all pretty standard, conventional fare: Go to the best college you can get into, get good grades, major in something with lots of job opportunities, have a nice resume, apply for jobs, get a decent starting salary and a business card.

So long as you’re at your station, no one much cares if you’re productive, happy, successful, fulfilled, or free.

But what seems like common sense is actually quite a bit of nonsense.  It’s all built around a narrative, and that narrative is the story of a bunch of averages and aggregates, not you.  You have unique goals, interests, abilities, and opportunities.  Making decisions about your life based on some 45-year-old’s view of macroeconomic trends isn’t sensible at all.


    Narrative should be replaced by “hypothetical story.” Harder to say, but much more descriptive.

All the common advice is stuck in what I call the conveyor belt mindset. 

It goes something like this:

You are plopped onto a production line at whatever stage you’re supposed to be based on arbitrary things like your age, class, and gender. Then you let the belt do the work. By essentially doing nothing but what you’re told, you get handed certificates at each next stage. 18? Unless you did something truly outrageous, here’s your diploma. 22? Here’s your degree. Degree?

Most people believe this and live it. It’s revealed in the kinds of questions we ask strangers. “What grade are you in?” “What’s your major?” “What kind of job do you have?” If your answer is not the appropriate one for your age and assumed station in life, people worry. “I dropped out of school to do X” is cause for concern to almost everybody, no matter what X is. “I’m a sophomore at university Y” is cause for comfort to almost everybody, no matter what you’re actually doing with your time at Y. So long as you’re at your station, no one much cares if you’re productive, happy, successful, fulfilled, or free.

Parents obsessively check their child against a list of averages on everything from height to reading ability to earnings and stress if junior is not “on track.” No one really ever asks who built the track, where it’s going, or whether junior has any interest in arriving there.

Before you do anything else, you’ve got to get off the conveyor belt.

Once you do, you can begin to ask the right questions.  Questions about your unique situation, and how you can build a fulfilling life.  It might look nothing like anyone else’s.  It might not even exist yet.  You might have to create it.  It might not fit into their prefabricated definitions of success.  Who cares.  They don’t have to live your life, you do.

So here you are, freestanding and not moved along by the inertia of tradition and the good opinion of others.  What to do next?  Don’t yet try to answer what you should do.  Instead, figure out what you shouldn’t do.  Let’s examine some of the recommendations you’ll be getting and see how they hold up.

Here are a bunch of things you’ve probably heard, and why they might be wrong…

“It’s worth it”

Three really important words: Compared to what?

“Yeah it’s boring and expensive and totally unrelated to the value I want to create in the world, but it’s worth it.”  This is one of the most common yet unexamined proclamations about the education-career conveyor belt.

Your freedom and your definition of what’s valuable is too important to subjugate to the perceived value of others.

What is it supposed to be worth if it’s not clearly creating value for you?  So some chart somewhere shows degree holders earning more money.  Compared to what?  Compared to non degree holders.  That’s irrelevant.  The relevant comparison is the money, time, freedom, and fulfillment of a degree holder compared to that same person doing something else instead of getting the degree.

A degree is only worth it for you if all the time, money, and monotony is more valuable than your next best use of those same resources.

Wow.  When you realize 4+ years and 5+ figures go in to the average degree, it starts to really seem suspect.  What else could you do in that time?

Spend a year traveling the world, a year working for an amazing startup (for free even!), a year reading 100 books and podcasting.  That’s just three years and probably $10k.  You’d have a wealth of knowledge, a global network, a great job under your belt, and a story unlike anyone else.  All for 2/3 the time and ¼ the cost of sitting in classrooms trying not to fall asleep.

The bar is pretty low.  “Worth it” doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  It’s got to be compared to the possible alternatives.  If you’ve never sat down and made an exhaustive list of all the things you could do with that time, money, and boundless flexibility of that phase of life, then you’re in no position to declare college “worth it.”

“It’s free so you can’t turn it down!”

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  If you have a lot of grants or scholarships, or if your parents put aside a college savings fund and will cover tuition it doesn’t mean college is free.  The idea that it doesn’t make sense to turn down anything “free” is a good way to end up miserable and shackled to “good deals”.

If something you don’t want or need is on sale buying it doesn’t mean you saved money.  Not only that, you spent a lot of time – time that could have been spent doing any number of lucrative, fulfilling, valuable activities.  Doing things you don’t value just because others say they’re too good to turn down is a way to put yourself in shackles.

Your freedom and your definition of what’s valuable is too important to subjugate to the perceived value of others.

Turning down “can’t pass!” opportunities to do what resonates with you is the first step to self-directed living.

“Only drop out if you have a billion dollar idea”

I call this the Steve Jobs fallacy.  It’s a weird double standard.  Stick to the conveyor belt and no one demands wild success from you.  They’re proud when you get into college.  They’re proud when you get a degree.  They’re kind of proud, if they’re still paying attention, when you get a job.  They don’t think you’re a failure if you aren’t changing the world with a billion dollar startup.  They think you’re awesome for nabbing a $40k job as a bank teller.  Rarely do they ask whether you’re happy or fulfilled or really living a life you want.

Contrast that to the demands placed on a college drop-out.  If you drop out and don’t become the next Steve Jobs, everyone will say, “See I told you to stay in school!”  Even if you’re doing something you love and making a good living, a lot of your family and friends will have this nagging sense that you never really reached your potential.

This is baloney.  You can build whatever kind of life pleases you.  If college doesn’t help you become the person you want to be, don’t do it.  Your choices aren’t limited to loser or billionaire status just because you drop or opt out.

“You’re already this far, so it only makes sense to finish.”

This is the sunk cost fallacy. It’s the same thing that keeps casinos in business. “I’m already in for $20, so even though I have a terrible hand I might as well pay another $10 to stay in.”

It’s gone.  It can never be recovered.  You will never get back the money or time you’ve put in.

This fallacy isn’t just for gamblers. It plagues everyone from investors to your friend who makes you wait in an hour long line to see a mediocre movie because, “We’ve already waited half an hour and I don’t want that to be for nothing!”

I hate to break it to your friend, but it was for nothing.  Past expenditures that can’t be recovered shouldn’t factor in to decisions about the present and future.  It doesn’t matter that you sunk three and a half years and 50 grand into college. What matters is whether the next six months and ten grand is better spent on college than all other alternatives.  Remove yourself from your prior experience.  If you had never spent any time or money on college and someone offered to put you through lectures for a year if you paid upwards of five figures, would that be your ideal way to spend those resources?  If not, don’t.

Quitting doesn’t make it all for nothing, it makes it all for whatever it is you’ve gained up to this point. If that wasn’t worth it, why would the next semester or year be?  Looking only ahead and not behind, what gets you closer to the kind of experiences and life you will enjoy?

“Don’t burn any bridges.  Keep your options open.”

If you drop out or don’t go to school, you may not ever be able to go back! If you turn down the job you hate, you may never be able to get it later!  If you choose to take that exciting opportunity you’ll close off all those options!


One of the first steps in your personal emancipation is to realize that the world is full of options and things currently in front of you are not the only from which to choose. But there is a difference between options and opportunities.

Options are theoretical. Opportunities are actual. Options are statistical probabilities. Opportunities are singular, concrete instances. Options can always be added on, and the option set can always grow as an aggregate bundle, so there is no urgency or scarcity in options. Opportunities are temporary and cannot be aggregated. Each is too unique and cannot be replicated.

It’s easy to say no to awesome opportunities because they might reduce all the theoretical options.  You’ll end up, to paraphrase Peter Thiel, totally prepared for nothing in particular.

Keeping doors open is not inherently good.  Doing things you love means reducing other abstract possibilities.  Likewise, saying no to things you don’t love might mean burned bridges.  Again, good.

Stop leaving doors open.  Start burning bridges.

Not only do you need to stop looking for so many options, you should begin actively slamming doors to ensure you can never again walk through them.

If you know a door leads you to a life that would make you unhappy shut it.

If you’ve peeked through a particular portal and seen something that makes you a little dead inside slam the door and burn it behind you.  Otherwise you might be tempted to go through it later if someone dangles the right price in front of you.  You might be tempted to say yes to something you hate, which might be the saddest of all fates.

Boldly, definitely choose to do things that make you come alive.

I’ve met a number of young people who spent a summer interning in Washington, DC and told me after the experience that they hate the entire political scene and would never want to become one of those people.  Many of these same young people, when the fantasyland of subsidized education comes to a close and the need for a steady job begins to weigh on them, confide things like, “I can’t publish that blog post or I would never get hired by policy group X in DC!”  They are careful not to burn bridges, “just in case”.

But if the bridge takes you someplace you know you don’t want to go burning it should be a top priority! There’s a reason Odysseus had himself tied to the mast.

How many people live lives they hate because they couldn’t say no to the salary?  How many wallow in misery because they left the door open too long?  How many knew a particular path wouldn’t make them happy but they failed to cut off the option and when push came to shove they couldn’t say no to the status or short-term gains in the moment of weakness?

Boldly, definitely choose to do things that make you come alive. If you don’t know what they are, simply start by boldly, definitively not doing things that don’t.  Don’t look back, look ahead.

“Build your resume”

GPA, honor rolls, clubs and memberships, etc. etc.  There is no end to the list of things you’re told to do to pad your resume. Guess what? Your resume hardly matters, and less every day.

What matters is your ability to create value and your ability to prove it to others.  Everyone has a resume with general “skills” like Leadership listed.  Everyone has a diploma or degree. What does that prove? That you followed the rules long enough to not get kicked out.  I guess that’s something in the eyes of some people, but it’s a pretty thin calling card these days.

Forget about building your resume.  Build yourself.  Focus on doing things that help you become who you want to be, not just add bullets to a static list of what you’ve done.  Do things that make you better.  Do things that create value.  Build a brand and narrative to signal it.

An interesting and deep network and a set of experiences and real skills with tangible outcomes will top a piece of parchment.  Build product not paper.

“Follow the rules”

There’s this idea that if you just hunker down and follow the rules, you’ll be rewarded.  That’s true while in school, but the real world doesn’t care much for rules.

Fundamentally, all school rewards following rules above all else.  Entrepreneurs – those who find new, better, faster, easier ways of getting results – are called cheaters or troublemakers in the school setting.

But outside of the classroom value creation is rewarded, and the most valuable innovations are often the ones that break all the rules.

Forget the rules.  Solve problems in new ways.  Don’t wait your turn, seize opportunities and test ideas now.

“Pick a good major. Pick a growing industry”

Sure, if you’re going to major in something I guess “good” is better than not-good.  But what does that really mean?

Stop thinking about majors.  Real world opportunities are not so generically and conveniently labelled.

This advice is usually given as a way to encourage you to go for the guarantee.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but there are no guarantees.  No major is going to start spitting jobs and money at you automatically.  Furthermore, you need to know if starting salary is even something that matters a lot to you, or if other things matter more.

Anyway, your major doesn’t really matter.  Outside of fields where it’s legally required, what you major in goes from the most important thing in the world to one of the least the minute you step outside the walls of the academy.  Your double major doubly so.

Who you are and what you can do matter.  And if you’re trying to pick based on industry aggregates about job placement, you might have the wrong mindset.  The jobs in demand in five or ten or twenty years probably haven’t even been invented yet.  Entrepreneurship – increasingly valued whether working in a company, starting a venture, or freelancing – cares not about majors.

Instead of worrying about a major, focus on the skills, knowledge, network, experience, and confidence that are transferable across all careers and categories.  As you discover what you love and are good at you’ll narrow down to more specialization.  Until then, stop thinking about majors.  Real world opportunities are not so generically and conveniently labelled.

“It will be good to have just in case”

A lot of people readily admit that their schooling is boring, dull, expensive, and not helpful for what they really want to do in life.

But they say, “I’m going to stick with it because it will be good to have, just in case.”

I find this a very odd course of action.  If you know your top plan is A, why would you completely neglect it and instead spend all your resources on your plan B or C?

Getting a degree “just in case” comes at the expense of focusing on what you really want to do.  Furthermore, your degree won’t magically cover your backside should you fail at plan A anyway.  If you know you don’t enjoy it and you don’t even really want whatever opportunities it’s supposed to open up, why do it?

Building a vague, nebulous backup plan with four years and six figures is getting in the way of building the actual life you want to live.

“Find companies with job openings and apply”

Blasting resumes to generic job postings isn’t likely to result in the career of your dreams.  The beauty is, every company is hiring all the time.   They just need to see the value.

Focus on companies or projects or industries or people you want to work with, not official job titles or descriptions on a jobs board.  When you’ve ID’d things that look really fascinating to you, do something valuable for them.  Build a website, do a study of their competitors, create a prototype.  Go to them and show them how much you love what they do, what you’ve done to help them, and tell them you want to do more.

All the best jobs are not being advertised.  They are being created by ambitious, tenacious people who are committed to providing value.

“Get qualified and certified so you can do X”

Just start doing it now.

“Get a good starting salary”

Get a good starting experience.  A few thousand dollars may seem like a lot in the prestige or daily expenses column when you’re young, but in the grand scheme it’s peanuts compared to the value of what you spend your time on and who you become.

Go for the best, most amazing opportunities you can, whether they pay a dime upfront or not.  It won’t take long to discover that, when you’re doing things that resonate with you, you’re valuable and able to make money at it.

Otherwise one day you might end up with a high paying job you hate and no skills you can take elsewhere.

“Get something with your degree”

After you get a degree there’s a feeling of desperation that, now that you’ve sunk all that money and time, you’d better use that degree for something that requires it.

This is a load of nonsense and likely to hem you in to a life you’re unhappy with.

By all means, if you have an engineering degree and you love engineering, you should start doing it!  But if you’ve got a fancy degree that applies to nothing in particular, or applies to something you don’t really enjoy, stop feeling pressure to “use” your degree.

I know young people who have turned down opportunities they really wanted to take for no other reason than that, “I could have gotten that without this expensive degree”.  Well that’s a bummer, but don’t let the mistakes of your past shackle you to more mistakes in the future.

Don’t be a slave to what you once thought you wanted.  Do what you want to do now, regardless of what your degree says.

“Make your parents proud”

This one will drive you mad.  Don’t worry about your parents.  Make yourself proud.

The thing is, nearly all parents really just want you to be happy.  They simply lack the imagination to conceive of paths to happiness other than the few they know about like doctor, lawyer, or Fortune 500 middle manager.

If you fully and genuinely – without bitterness – go after what you want and they see you happy, they will come around more often than not.  If not, too bad.  It’s your life and you’ve got to wake up with yourself every day.  Be who you want to be.

“Earn and invest your money”

Maybe.  But when you’re young what little cash you have isn’t all that valuable compared to the energy, creativity, and potential you have.

Your future is in your hands and can’t be outsourced to any institution, educational or professional.

Focus less on investing money into a retirement plan answerable to forces totally out of your control and hoping it will magically make you rich when you’re old.  Focus more on investing yourself into people, experiences, and skills that you have the ability to change and that can compound quickly.

Invest in yourself.  Invest in things that make you more valuable.  You are a better investment than the stock market.  But don’t mistake spending money on yourself for investing in yourself.  Don’t let the common narrative or sticker price be confused with value.  It’s entirely possible that a $20 book on marketing will yield more return on investment than a $60,000 degree.

“Get a job with a good future”

Just get in the door with that first job and ride the company into the sunset with annual cost of living increases, right?  Wrong.

This is an extension of the education conveyor belt mindset into the world of careers, and it’s not really even possible anymore, if it ever was desirable.

YOU are your future.  Not your job or the company you happen to get paid by.  They won’t do the heavy lifting in providing you money, opportunity, and fulfillment.  You have to.  You may get paid by one or many companies at any time, you may freelance, you may start a business.  In all of these, YOU are the company, “Me, Inc.”.

Your future is in your hands and can’t be outsourced to any institution, educational or professional.


     The only valuable thing an individual has is time. Ninety-nine percent of what I learned, I learned after graduation.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Alternatives to University

May 26, 2016


  Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

   Wherein we see alternatives to university.

Three Alternatives to the Academic Paper Chase
Pursue Success on Your Own Terms
Brian Ogstad

   I often ask myself, “If I could do it all over again, would I go to college?”

Most of the time my answer is a resounding no. The only reason I ever respond with a yes is that I love to teach economics at the college level and to speak and write about markets and liberty; but the gatekeepers would never let me “in” without a degree: a piece a paper draping me with legitimacy.

If it’s the education alone you value, you don’t have to go to college to get it. Learning can be had for free. If it is the shroud of legitimacy you seek, then who am I to tell you not to go? If your heart is set on a certain profession, and the gatekeepers of that profession demand certification, then go ahead and chase that paper.

For example, you can’t practice as a medical doctor without a college degree and state licensing approval. Otherwise, you shouldn’t just mindlessly ride the conveyor belt to ever more schooling. Here are three alternatives to the academic paperchase.


Insider tip: there’s this wonderful new technology that gives you free, instantaneous, anywhere access to the world’s wealth of information and knowledge. It’s called the internet. I am being a tad facetious; however few fully appreciate the internet as the college-killer that it is. Everything a professor could teach you in class is already available for free online. You can learn it all without paying for buildings, salaries of professors, books you won’t read or use, and excessive administrators. You get to study whatever, whenever, and wherever you want. The possibilities are limited only by your passion and imagination.

Find your guru

You will shine in comparison to most of the students they have to deal with.

At most colleges you can walk directly onto their campus and into any classroom with little or no resistance and attend for free. Who is the master in the field in which you have a passion? Find this guru, go to where he or she is teaching, and attend every single lecture by this person. Introduce yourself, and explain that you will be attending and informally auditing the course and would like to do the same with their other courses. Explain that you are taking this path to keep your costs down and learn from the best.

Many professors are looking to mentor ambitious individuals who have a passion for their subject matter and will be flattered that you have chosen them. You will shine in comparison to most of the students they have to deal with. Build a relationship with them and request from them a letter of completion which you can then put in your education portfolio.

Gurus are often to be found at exclusive and expensive universities. Applying could mean a demoralizing rejection and an official “not welcome” message. Or if accepted, the cost of your education would go from essentially zero to tens of thousands of dollars.

Instead, you could be attending where many walked away after rejection. You could be saving an enormous sum of money which your peers sitting next to you would be stuck paying. Sure, this is still “attending college” but on completely different terms. This is the path Steve Jobs took. He did alright for himself.

Pursue your passion

My nephew, Brad Adams, entrepreneur and owner of Roadrunner Bags, did just this. Initially he succumbed to the ceaseless nagging of state and society and headed off to college. After a brief stint, he packed his bags, took off, and never looked back. From Alabama to New York City, to Canada, then to Los Angeles, he pursued his love of biking and sewing.

They have been provided a roadmap of how to start a business, and they won’t move unless everything aligns with that map.

He started making bike bags for his fellow cycling buddies and, with their encouragement, began selling them. This grew into a full-fledged business, and Brad is now manufacturing and selling his bags all over the world, without having taken a single business course. He has been in business now for five years, has his own manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles, and provides jobs to four full-time employees.

Brad recently told to me that he wished he would have gotten a business education. To which I replied with an astonished, “Why?” This shows how deeply “go to college” propaganda has affected us. No amount of success and fulfillment without school can abate it.
Why pay for business school when you can be paid to receive a practical business education, tailored for your interests? Many, perhaps most business students are doing exactly what they are taught, taking action only when the world aligns with their business school education. They have been provided a roadmap of how to start a business, and they won’t move unless everything aligns with that map.

If my nephew had been “trained” in business, he might have never started Roadrunner Bags. The business school roadmap might have said, “Don’t do it. You don’t have the capital. The market is saturated. You can’t manufacture and sell bags out of your apartment. You don’t have enough knowledge of the business or the market. Stop right there. Go get a job working for a bag manufacturer and learn the business.” Without such training, Brad was free to pursue the opportunity his circumstances and talents provided him.

College is not the only source of education and success. There are abundant alternatives that can get you where you want to go more directly. The academic paper chase is not the only way.


   Three ways. There are others. Although I have a Ph.D. in psychology,99% of what I learned that was useful was not learned in university.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “
Power Teaching: How to Find Someone to Teach Your Child when the Education System has Failed.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies