A Summer Program for Students 16 and older

The Great Connections Seminar

A Summer Program for Students 16 and older

Saturday, July 22-Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chicago

If you’re not a student…

Could your favorite student benefit from this program? Please forward this information.

Free yourself: Students success

Unleash your mind.

Strengthen your autonomy.

Expand your knowledge.

Experience your power to affect others.

“The seminar gave me confidence that I could achieve great things. It was like something was lit inside. I acquired the intellectual tools to help me come to my own conclusions. And I realized how lacking my formal education was. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.” Brendan Moore, Coe College

Registration is now open for
The Great Connections Seminar

Our theme this year is “Reason and Evolution”

To students…

  • Are you tired of classes where you’re told what to think?
  • Are you looking for more than memorizing information and reciting it on tests?
  • Do you want to be challenged to think for yourself?
  • Can you confidently argue for – and act on – your point of view?
  • Do you want to be prepared for today’s ever-changing markets?
  • Do you want to connect with passionate and principled students from the U.S. and abroad to discuss life’s most challenging questions…while enjoying music, dancing, architecture, and art to the fullest?

Students practicing improv techniques. If your answer is “yes,” then join us this  coming July for a unique “total immersion”  learning experience in one exciting and  challenging week of intensive classes,  interactive sessions, off-campus expeditions,  and rewarding camaraderie. It just might  change your life, as it has for previous  students.

(Students practice improvisation techniques above.]

No matter where you go to school, this unusual experience will serve you well. The knowledge and skills acquired here could prove to be your most valuable asset in college, graduate school – and life. For details, please read on…

Janessa Colomer

“I love this program! I learned how to approach [philosophical] topics, learn mathematics and found people who are motivated, determined, and proactive to further their education.” Janessa Colomer, University of California San Diego

Chicago by the river

 Preview what you’ll experience…

Through this program, you will:

 

  • Discover why philosophy is crucial to your survival and flourishing, and find the important meaning and implications for yourself in seemingly simple issues.
  • Increase your ability to ask questions that will change what you get from – and how you perform in – your classes, your job, your life.
  • Become a versatile thinker with our evidence-based discussion method applied to an extraordinary range of subjects, from philosophy to mathematics, poetry to politics.
  • Discuss the links between between theory and practice, choice and action.
  • Learn how to creatively collaborate with enthusiastic peersIvy Hood

“I learned ‘Question your teachers–if you simply soak up what they tell you, you don’t have a true understanding.” Ivy Hood, B.A. International Studies, B.S. Economics, Rockford University, 2016 Student Laureate, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois

Learn How to Write Well

Do you know how to write well and express your thoughts effectively?

Writing with skill is crucial to achieving many goals: course-work, cover letters for jobs, emails inquiring about post-doc positions, persuading others to invest in your business idea – you name it.

This year at The Great Connections, you’ll benefit from the instruction of a professional writing expert, Malachy Walsh. See all about him below.

Connect timeless principles to today’s hottest issues…

At the seminar next summer, we’ll show you how to understand and enjoy challenging works that have changed the world.

Discussions of Pythagoras, Charles Darwin, Joseph Schumpeter, and other great thinkers, will help you discover the often-hidden connections between classic principles and contemporary controversies.

Sable Levy talking with other students. “It’s four months later and  I  haven’t stopped thinking about the  seminar. At  the risk of sounding trite or  hyperbolic, I  know it has changed my life    forever.” Sable  Levy, Drew University (second  from right)

On architecture tour of Chicago.

For example:

  • Examine the nature of life and its relation to the mind in Aristotle’s DeAnima–and relate it to Darwin’s discoveries,
  • Explore a poem that was a right-turn in human intellectual evolution–and revived the Western world, Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things.
  • See how Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws influenced social evolution.

We’ll delve into works from science to economics and literature – all about evolution.

Derick Ansah

“When I met him again at the beginning of this fall    semester, it was like meeting a completely new    person. Derick had changed mentally and spiritually    so much. It’s as if he grew 2 years’ worth of  college prowess in your short one-week  course.” – Nawaphon Sittisawasakul, SUNY-  Purchase (Derick Ansah pictured at left)

See how to use The Great Connections in your life in our latest videos here.

Benefit from individual attention…

In our discussion groups (maximum of 15 students) instructors won’t force-feed you prefabricated notions. Rather, our talented faculty will teach you one of Great Connections 2013 students studying together at breakfast.the  most important lessons of all: how to grasp the  meaning of events and ideas for yourself. Why? One  of our priorities is constant interaction between  instructors and students.  Participants will work  individually  and “hands-on” with superb teachers  and mentors who will coach them one-on-one in achieving their goals.Guest speakers won’t simply deliver a lecture and depart but will be available for face-to-face discussions both in and out of class.Eric Rhodes, The Great Connections 2009“Eric spent several hours telling us about his experience in Chicago and how much it meant to him. His father and I are delighted!” Lucy Hair, mother of Eric Rhodes, University of California Riverside 

Free Yourself…

All this adds up to a culture in our seminar like no other; one which encourages and respects your individuality, ideas, and independence, and which will energize you while you free yourself to take charge of your own education and your life.

Ian Mihura and Sable Levy “We made our own society, where my ideas, my  presence and effectiveness counted. Now I know I can  make a difference.” Ian Mihura, senior, Clarin High School,  Buenos Aires (at left)

 For one transformative week, experience a superior  way of learning … and discover the culture of a rational  and free society.

Meet your instructors…

Marsha Familaro Enright Marsha Familaro Enright, Seminar Leader
 B.A. Biology, M.A., Psychology, President, The Reason,  Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the  College of the United States

Ms. Enright brings a remarkable range of knowledge and analytical ability in both the sciences and the humanities to her role as the seminar’s lead instructor. She will guide students in class discussions throughout the week, as well as lead informative tours. Ms. Enright has extensive teaching experience with adults and adolescents in schools, conferences, and summer camps. She also writes on topics ranging from economics to esthetics, neuropsychology to politics.

In 1990, Ms. Enright founded Council Oak Montessori School for children ages 3-15. Chicago Magazine named it one of the top private schools in the city in 2006 and 2011.

Liz Parker

Liz Parker, B.S. Economics and B.A. Global Affairs,
 George Mason University
 The Great Connections Teacher Training Course

Ms. Parker has participated in more than ten Great Connections  Seminars, and co-instructed for the past three years. She brings a wide range of talents to the program from her background in art and television production, as well as economics and international relations.

Andrew Humphries, Co-Instructor, The Great Connections Andrew Humphries, Co-Instructor
 B.A. Liberal Arts, M.Ed. Montessori Integrative Learning,  Graduate student, Economics, George Mason University,  Master leader of Socratic Seminars.

A graduate of the rigorous Great Books classics program at St. John’s College, Sante Fe, Mr. Humphries is a Koch Fellow, Grover Herman Fellow, and Young Communicators Fellow of the Institute for Humane Studies. He also worked at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the high school program at The School of the Woods Montessori School, Houston, the Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi, and Michael Polanyi College at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala City.

 MalachMalachy Walshy Walsh, Leader, The Writing Connection

 B.A. Georgetown University, M.A.  Depaul University, and  perennial  Ph.D. candidate in literature,  University of  Chicago.

In his 5-day course, The Writing Connection. Mr. Walsh will teach you how to write for any purpose, based on his 25 years of experience as a Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, and Aristotle’s Rhetoric. His passion is helping people learn how to write better, because knowing how to write well creates a lifetime of opportunities.  As a manager at Kraft put it, “Malachy shows you how to pick your own brain.” He will also be available as a professional mentor to the students. See more about him below.

Enjoy special presentations and meet exciting professionals…

Meet accomplished professionals in a variety of careers of potential interest to you. You’ll learn first-hand how they do their jobs and get personal answers to your questions. You will meet people such as Ruth Baker, J.D., Baker and Enright, Chicago and Ralph Yuan, Quantitative Trader, ART Advisors.

Think hard, work hard, play hard…

Students Jake Ilson and Eric Rhodes swimming in Lake Michigan

Our program includes informative seminars and mind-  expanding presentations, plus adventurous off-campus  expeditions that connect classroom theory to the real world.  We will draw upon Chicago’s rich intellectual, architectuChicago lakefrontral,  cultural, and commercial  resources, capitalize upon classic films,  music, and works of art.

We’ll journey to famous museums, research facilities, business clubs, restaurants, retail stores and beyond, such as:

  • Gorgeous Grant Park
  • Lake Michigan’s Oak Street Beach,
  • The Oriental Museum on the University of Chicago campus,
  • The Second City Comedy Club, birthplace of improv and midwife to Saturday Night Live

Experience the excitement of one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in North America, Chicago. You’ll attend classes in conference rooms and live in its fully equipped apartments of Marie Robinson Hall, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. You’ll be just steps from their great recreational complex, and a short bus ride to Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan.

Due to the individual attention each student will receive, enrollment is limited to  15 per seminar discussion group. DMarina Coll and Carolina Ciblis, Great Connections 2011on’t risk being left out –  enroll today and benefit from the steep Early Bird  Discount! See complete seminar details below.

 

“It was good when people said ‘I don’t understand.’” Marina Coll, English and philosophy teacher, Our Lady of the Shelter School, Buenos Aires, Argentina (on the left in the picture)

Seminar Details
The basics: The Great Connections Seminar will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, July 22nd and end at midnight on Saturday July 29th. You will check out of your dorm on Sunday morning, July 30th and have the rest of the day to enjoy the city.

Location:
Marie Robinson Hall at The University of Illinois at Chicago811 W. Maxwell, Chicago, IL

Capsule schedule:
 Participants will attend seminars in the mornings, go on excursions in the afternoons, and engage in extended discussions in the evenings. Saturday afternoon/evening: An orientation and initial Socratic Seminar. Sunday to Saturday: Socratic Seminars, special presentations, excursions, meetings with professionals, extended breaks to eat and explore on your own; Saturday evening: A closing dinner and party; Sunday morning: The day is free to explore the city or return home, at your option.

Readings:
In the spring/summer, we will email links for most of the texts so that you can read them in preparation for the seminar. On the opening Saturday afternoon, you will receive a specially printed book with all the readings to use during the seminar. We highly recommend you read all selections before you arrive.

Accommodations and Meals:
 You will reside in the contemporary, air-conditioned apartments of our conference building, Marie Robinson Hall. You will have one bedroom in a 4-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. We will provide the opening and closing dinners. A Whole Foods and a Jewel Supermarket are 5 minutes walking from the Hall and there are many food stores, eateries and cafes nearby offering everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to Thai food and sushi for your other meals. There’s also have a cafeteria within walking distance. Students often eat together and are encouraged to make meals together in their apartments. You can sign up to use the University of Illinois at Chicago recreational facility.Transportation: Downtown Chicago is reached easily from O’Hare and Midway airports via CTA train or airport shuttle, as well as by bus and car. Links to maps, information about what to bring, and details about Chicago will be sent to you after you register.Fees: Full tuition to the program is $1,200, which includes the opening and closing dinners, and books. Room in an equipped apartment, with use of conference and entertainment facilities, is an additional $800.Fee Schedule:Before March 1st, tuition is $300, Room and Board $300Before May 1st, tuition is $500; Room and Board $500,

After May 1st, tuition is $1,200 and Room and Board $800.

Some scholarships are available covering tuition, room and some board (see details on the Application Form here and contact Marsha Familaro Enright at menright@rifinst.org or 773-677-6418 with any questions).

How to register for the seminar:

1. To apply online click here to go to the Application Form. After your interview and acceptance, you will be directed to a totally secure web page, where you may use your credit card to pay for the program. For your information, the payment page is here.

2. To apply by postal mail, fax, or email, click here to print out an application form. Complete and mail to 9400 S. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60643.  After your interview and acceptance, you can mail your check to the same address, call us at 773-677-6418 to pay by phone, or pay online at our website.

Middlebury Students Use the Brownshirts’ Playbook

Make no mistake about it: the New Left has unleashed their minions on free speech via Nazi Brownshirt tactics and Middlebury College is a recent arena for them. They failed to take control of U.S. culture directly via the government, so instead they taught thousands of college students at the “best” colleges that force is justified to stop the spread of opposing ideas, and now we have these violent attacks of speakers on campus.

Read about Charles Murray’s frightening experience at Middlebury College at which his host, Professor Allison Stranger, was seriously injured in the neck. Why the heck the administration didn’t have police remove the disruptive and violent protesters, I don’t know.  That’s what’s needed to stop these attack: the protection of the speaker’s rights.

You can read about the appalling events at this link:

http://fxn.ws/2lxnmRd

And the Daily Mail reports with video here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4280516/Professor-injured-mob-protesting-conservative-speaker.html

What happened at The Great Connections 2016


The Outcome of The Great Connections Seminar 
2016

This July, our high school-to-graduate school students hailed from places such as Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Nepal and all directions of the U.S. Over half were returnees who paid their own way—one from Buenos Aires!

Six came to study how to be a teacher in our style, so they could take that skill back to their classrooms and organizations where they live.

For this purpose, I created a two-day Great Connections Training Program for Teachers and conducted it before the week started. I’m now being asked to conduct a class for teachers at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.

We added a new component to the instruction this year, a 5-day writing class. Malachy Walsh, former creative director for J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, was our instructor and he brought all of his knowledge and world-tested skill in excellent communication to the program.

Before he worked in advertising, Malachy studied literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago under the Aristotle scholar and member of the committee that created The Great Books, Richard McKeon. His love of these books was nothing but strengthened over the years by the advantages they gave him in advertising and marketing—his co-workers would marvel at how he solved certain problems. He knew it was from incorporating the principles of Aristotle’s Rhetoric into his thinking!

Malachy used the Rhetoric for our class this summer—and he was deeply impressed with how quickly our students were able to work together to produce excellent solutions to the writing problems he posed to them.

He went out of his way to comment to me about something else that impressed him: arriving early every morning, he would listen to our daily faculty meetings. At these, my instructors and trainees would review the performance of the students from the previous day and analyze what went well, what needed improvement, and what each student needed to optimize his or her experience. Then we would figure out what changes we needed to make that day to help students have the best experience possible.

He remarked that he saw how this review and revision resulted in better classes every day. Bottom line: this careful work is part of the reason we have consistent, remarkable outcomes after one week of classes.

For example, Saulo Maciel, a junior in Journalism from Campo Grande Brasil, declared “I learned more in one week than in ten years at school.”

Our students are ambitious to live well and spread reason, individualism, and freedom through their projects and careers. That includes their personal choices, the way they run the companies they plan to create, their work as journalists, musicians, computer programmers, or their academic teaching careers. We’re preparing a kind of professor different from the indoctrinating collectivists that rule most of the Academy today.

You can see these ambitions in some of the comments which are below. Unlike their experience at traditional school, they relished spending an entire week studying and discussing very difficult readings at least six hours a day, more than double the usual college class-day hours.

I hope you’ve had a chance to see the short videos we had made last year, now on www.rifinst.org homepage. You can hear the students, assistant instructors, and interested professionals recount the immense intellectual and practical value in our program.

Student by student, we transform lives, and these students go back to the world, empowered to turn the tide away from collectivism and towards reason, individualism, and freedom.

You are making all this happen. Our enduring thanks for your generous and important support through your contribution this year. Your gift and others enabled us to offer some travel aid this year, allowing Saurav Ghimire and Saulo Maciel to attend the program from Nepal and Brazil respectively. Each is taking back what they learned to teach others in their countries.

I hope you feel free to contact me any time about the program – or anything else for that matter!

Warmest regards,

Marsha Familaro Enright
President

P.S. Why do we get so many returnees? Because the program powerfully prepares students to find, choose and succeed in their life path. They don’t get this help at school, so they return to refresh and expand their knowledge.Imagine how helpful this is to students (and their parents) who attend before investing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars at colleges?

 

What Students Said About The Great Connections, 2016

Rene Miguel

“It allows you to think outside the box. This is something that  school does not teach and if I want to get ahead of the game, it is a  must.”—Rene Miguel, Junior, Business, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois

Ian Mihura

 

“The Great Connections is an intense experience that helps people to learn how to learn rather than what to learn. I plan to implement the group discussion methodology in the office with my co-workers.”
—Ian Mihura (center), Junior, Computer Science, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Great Connections Students “It changed my perspective about several essential topics  about life. –Maria Jose Bernal, Senior, ColegioGimnasio  Los Pinares,  Medillin, Colombia

 

I have never been in a classroom where students wanted to stay after the session had ended. I have never learned so much or so well in my life, andScott McGinley that is saying something, given my love for my university experience at George Mason. But you have shown a way for me to tap into a completely different aspect of learning—about the liberal arts and about myself—that likely would have escaped me had I not committed to attending this seminar. My only regret is that I haven’t gone since the first time you invited me in 2014!”—Scott McGinley, Junior, Economics, George Mason University, Washington, DC

Madison Ross“The Great Connections seminar gave me tools for communicating I’ve never encountered before. It encouraged me to be aware of ideas in a new way. Before I went, I liked ideas but now I am more confident I can understand and talk about them. I was taught to speak so my ideas can be understood.”– Madison Ross, Junior, Mathematics, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York

Nora Gibes “Before coming, I was frustrated because I was not learning  enough in my studies; I was only working just enough to get  decent grades. As a result, I was not enjoying school. The  Seminar renewed my determination to put my all into my  studies. I know now that it is within my power to achieve  my dreams, to help advance the health of humanity through science and innovation.” –Nora Gibes, Freshman, Biochemistry, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan

“Life-altering is used much too lightly, much too often. However, when I Sarrah Alisaytheseminar was life-altering, I mean it with the heaviness of a woman who is in awe of her experience. My entire life I have been searching for a way to TRULY understand life––why I’m here and how I can make the most of the time I’m given. My previous reality was that I had neither the resources—such as the inspiring pieces in this seminar—nor the ability to dissect the pieces with people who have a passion to learn and UTILIZE knowledge.”– Sarrah Ali, Senior, Cypress Creek High School, Houston, Texas

Kayla Torquemada  “I truly can say that I have grown intellectually and           spiritually as a person. It has made me see  reason, love,  and individuality from a new  perspective. This experience  is one I will not forget.”–  Kayla Torquemada, junior, physical  therapy, San Jose  State University, Pleasanton, CA

Saurav Ghimire

Now I will be more confident to speak in international platforms, analyzedecisions by the pay off they give, use writing skills learnt and much more.” –Saurav Ghimire, J.D., Katmandu School of Law, Nepal

 

Sable Levy “I feel more aware of the need to stop and listen to my  body, to  reflect, to ground my choices and actions in self-  love and self-  interest; and to reflect on whether I’m  acting congruently with  my values and goals. I feel  more determined to make the  most of my hours  and days. There’s so much I want to do, and every moment counts.”—Sable Levy, Junior, Actuarial Studies, University of Texas at Austin,

 

Employers Find “Soft” Skills, Like Reasoning, In Short Supply!

“Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co- workers.

“Those traits, often called soft skills, can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.” – claims a recent Wall Street Journal article, Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply – WSJ.

Students who come to The Great Connections Seminars develop those pronto. Their increase in these skills in one-week is astonishing. Great Connections 2016 student Saulo Maciel, junior in Communications from Campo Grande, Brazil said “I learned more here in one week than in ten years at school.”

 

Learn about the collectivist control of education

Bending children to the needs of the state go back much farther than Common Core. Hear about the failure of public education to teach most of its students — since its inception in Massachusetts in the early 19th century.

What kind of education fosters the habits and virtues needed for in a free society, where independent, active, versatile, and self-responsible citizens are crucial? What would the education market look like in a fully free society, with entirely private education? Hear my answers and the way in which everyone would be served by private interests.

My talk at The Heartland Institute, Wednesday, August 10, 2016. Read Common Ground on Common Core, edited by Kirsten Lombard, for the complete, referenced account.

Want to argue politics more effectively? Come to The Great Connections!

One of our students, Jake Ilson from Charlotte, NC, who attended the first Great Connections Seminar in 2009, and also returned in 2010, has applied again this year, and his comments are eye-opening and gratifying:

“My mom sent me the first year and the year after. I loved every minute, and I was lucky to experience this amazing and unique form of learning. Every summer I see my friends sharing posts about The Great Connections and I think ‘If only I could go again.’

“I dislike my primary school’s classes, I find them tedious and monotonous. I hope that this seminar could open my mind more to my potential and help push me to pursue my personal goals.

“It’s been 6 years since I attended the Great Connections. I still think about it constantly. Every time I find myself in a debate, argument, discussion, or otherwise, I think back to the lessons and struggles we had in the first two seminars.

“Great conversation can only happen with efficient communication. Everyone has a voice, and many times, more often than not, people are silenced because others talk louder. I learned to listen, and then to listen some more. Now, I make sure that everyone has a chance to speak, and, like the moderators of the seminars I attended, I try to keep the conversation civil and on topic.

In this election season, this knowledge has become more useful than ever. I have never had such powerful discussions as the one’s I have over this year’s political snafu. Having learned how to listen and delicately respond, I can get my point across in an otherwise heated argument, and even sway people to see the shortcomings of our current system. I attribute these skills to what I learned from the Great Connections seminars.”

 

 

Why we need state coercion – from a Harvard Professor

A frightening example of the path our “top” colleges are leading the young and of the ideas coming out of Academia: Adams Professor of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard speaking on “Why We Need More and More State Coercion – And What To Do About It.”

“Without such coercion, our citizens cannot produce the extraordinarily large number of free-access goods that we want and need…”

She gives the typical collectivist rationalization “The more interdependent we become, globally and within our nations, the more state coercion we need.”

I shudder to think what else the young are learning from her. And her influence is wide: just take a look at her credentials.

Do We Need the Department of Education?

In the latest edition of Hillsdale College’s ImprimisCharles Murray recently wrote an excellent piece entitled “Do We Need the Department of Education?” adapted from a 2011 speech of his.

He notes that the Department of Education didn’t come into being until 1980, but large-scale involvement of the federal government in education dates from 1965. In this piece he delves into the historical justifications and evolution of how education came under federal guidance, and based on its track record whether it should remain so. In the age of Common Core, of public education disappointing parents and failing children, it is an enlightening piece that’s worth a read in its entirety. Here are some important highlights:

On whether the Department of Education is constitutional:

Constitution Article 1 Section 8

“At the time the Constitution was written, education was not even considered a function of local government, let alone the federal government. But the shakiness of the Department of Education’s constitutionality goes beyond that. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates the things over which Congress has the power to legislate. Not only does the list not include education, there is no plausible rationale for squeezing education in under the commerce clause. I’m sure the Supreme Court found a rationale, but it cannot have been plausible.

On a more philosophical level, the framers of America’s limited government had a broad allegiance to what Catholics call the principle of subsidiarity. In the secular world, the principle of subsidiarity means that local government should do only those things that individuals cannot do for themselves, state government should do only those things that local governments cannot do, and the federal government should do only those things that the individual states cannot do. Education is something that individuals acting alone and cooperatively can do, let alone something local or state governments can do.

On whether there are serious problems in education that can be solved only at the federal level:

“The first major federal spending on education was triggered by the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik, in the fall of 1957, which created a perception that the United States had fallen behind the Soviet Union in science and technology. The legislation was specifically designed to encourage more students to go into math and science, and its motivation is indicated by its title: The National Defense Education Act of 1958. But what really ensnared the federal government in education in the 1960s had its origins elsewhere—in civil rights. The Supreme Court declared segregation of the schools unconstitutional in 1954, but—notwithstanding a few highly publicized episodes such as the integration of Central High School in Little Rock and James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi—the pace of change in the next decade was glacial.

Supreme Court Bans Segregation

Was it necessary for the federal government to act? There is a strong argument for “yes,” especially in the case of K-12 education. Southern resistance to desegregation proved to be both stubborn and effective in the years following Brown v. Board of Education. Segregation of the schools had been declared unconstitutional, and constitutional rights were being violated on a massive scale. But the question at hand is whether we need a Department of Education now, and we have seen a typical evolution of policy. What could have been justified as a one-time, forceful effort to end violations of constitutional rights, lasting until the constitutional wrongs had been righted, was transmuted into a permanent government establishment. Subsequently, this establishment became more and more deeply involved in American education for purposes that have nothing to do with constitutional rights, but instead with a broader goal of improving education.”

On the federal government’s track record in education:

“As I documented in my book, Real Education, collateral data from other sources are not as detailed, nor do they go back to the 1940s, but they tell a consistent story. American education had been improving since World War II. Then, when the federal government began to get involved, it got worse.

I will not try to make the case that federal involvement caused the downturn. The effort that went into programs associated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the early years was not enough to have changed American education, and the more likely causes for the downturn are the spirit of the 1960s—do your own thing—and the rise of progressive education to dominance over American public education. But this much can certainly be said: The overall data on the performance of American K-12 students give no reason to think that federal involvement, which took the form of the Department of Education after 1979, has been an engine of improvement.

On the education of the disadvantaged, especially minorities:

“What about the education of the disadvantaged, especially minorities? After all, this was arguably the main reason that the federal government began to get involved in education—to reduce the achievement gap separating poor children and rich children, and especially the gap separating poor black children and the rest of the country.

The most famous part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was Title I, initially authorizing more than a billion dollars annually (equivalent to more than $7 billion today) to upgrade the schools attended by children from low-income families. The program has continued to grow ever since, disposing of about $19 billion in 2010 (No Child Left Behind has also been part of Title I).

NAEP Data on Achievement Gap

Supporters of Title I confidently expected to see progress, and so formal evaluation of Title I was built into the legislation from the beginning. Over the years, the evaluations became progressively more ambitious and more methodologically sophisticated. But while the evaluations have improved, the story they tell has not changed. Despite being conducted by people who wished the program well, no evaluation of Title I from the 1970s onward has found credible evidence of a significant positive impact on student achievement. If one steps back from the formal evaluations and looks at the NAEP test score gap between high-poverty schools (the ones that qualify for Title I support) and low-poverty schools, the implications are worse. A study by the Department of Education published in 2001 revealed that the gap grew rather than diminished from 1986—the earliest year such comparisons have been made—through 1999.

That brings us to No Child Left Behind. Have you noticed that no one talks about No Child Left Behind any more? The explanation is that its one-time advocates are no longer willing to defend it. The nearly-flat NAEP trendlines since 2002 make that much-ballyhooed legislative mandate—a mandate to bring all children to proficiency in math and reading by 2014—too embarrassing to mention.

In summary: the long, intrusive, expensive role of the federal government in K-12 education does not have any credible evidence for a positive effect on American education.

Read Charles Murray’s entire piece here.

Great Quote by Arthur Koestler on Education and the Sciences

An excellent quote on education and the sciences from Arthur Koestler’s fascinating book Arrow in the Blue:

“For people who regard mathematics as dry and the sciences as boring, this kind of mentality is difficult to understand. It is a peculiarity of our present civilisation that the average educated person will be ashamed to admit that a work of art is beyond his comprehension although, in the same breath, he will proclaim not without pride his complete ignorance of the laws which make his electric switch work, or govern the heredity of his offspring. He uses his radio set and the countless gadgets surrounding him with no more comprehension of what makes them function than a savage. He lives in an artificial world of cheap, mass-produced mysteries which he is too lazy to penetrate, without any understanding of the objects which he manipulates and is, in consequence, mentally isolated from his immediate environment. Our whole higher educational system is designed to foster this lopsided mentality, to create indifference towards the laws of nature, a deficiency comparable to myopia or colourblindness.

Arthur Koestler

Given these circumstances, and the ways in which science is taught in our schools, it is difficult to convey a child’s delight and excitement in penetrating the mysteries of the Pythagorean triangle, or of Kepler’s laws of planetary movement, or of Planck’s theory of quanta. It is the excitement of the explorer who, even though his goal is limited and specialised, is always driven by an unconscious, childlike hope of stumbling upon the ultimate mystery. The Phoenician galleys journeyed over uncharted seas to find the Pillars of Hercules, and even Captain Scott may have been unknowingly tempted by the hope that perhaps there really was a hole at the South Pole in which the earth’s axis turned on bearings of ice. From the star-gazers of Babylon down to the great artist-scientists of the Renaissance, the urge to explore was one of man’s vital drives, and even in Goethe’s day it would have been as shocking for an educated person to say that he took no interest in science as to declare that he was bored with art. The increasing volume of facts and the specialisation of research have made this interest gradually dry up and become a monopoly of technicians and specialists. From the middle of the nineteenth century onward, physics, chemistry, biology, and astrophysics began to fade out as ingredients of a rounded education. However, in pre-Relativistic days it was still just possible for the non-specialist to keep abreast of general developments in science. I grew up during the closing years of that era, before science became so formalised  and abstract that it was removed from the layman’s grasp. Atoms still moved in three-dimensional space and should be represented to the senses by models—little glass spheres revolving around a nucleus like planets around the sun. Space was still non-curved, the world infinite, the mind a rational clockwork. There was no fourth dimension, and there was no subconscious id—that fourth dimension of the mind which transforms straight lines into crooked lines, and the deductions of reason into a web of self-delusions.”

Renewed and Enlightened: A Parent’s Account of Her Daughter’s Transformation

We were delighted to read this 5-star review on greatnonprofits.org of RIFI’s The Great Connections Seminar from a TGC parent. The student, Jessica, was a shy, quiet girl with a lot of inner ambition and hidden creativity. Watching her blossom throughout the week was a joy, and hearing about her continued transformation from her mother is deeply gratifying. Jessica’s growth is characteristic of what we continue to hear about the transformational experience The Great Connections Seminar has in the lives of young people.

Five Stars

 

“My daughter attended the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute’s Great Connections Seminar in July, 2013. Her experience was life-altering. Our daughter was a shy, intelligent bookworm who couldn’t care less about politics, civilized debate, logic, or philosophy. Instead, she preferred “practical” knowledge that she could process by herself and put into action. The foundations of this “practical knowledge” was uninteresting to her—before the seminar. I knew she would benefit from reading Alexis de Tocqueville, Francis Bacon, Aristotle. I knew she would benefit from visiting art museums, businesses, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home. I knew she would benefit from the philosophical nature of the seminars and the Socratic-style classroom discussions. What I didn’t anticipate was a completely transformed child coming home—one who spoke with confidence in her opinions and an interest in the “big” questions and their connections to the practical world. In addition to my beautiful daughter emerging from her shell, she now has a firm appreciation for her personal liberties and accepts that her participation is necessary for her to retain her autonomy in society.

And my normally shy daughter made a group of friends in this one week (just seven days!) that she’ll have for a lifetime. As her mom, I couldn’t be more pleased. These kids were all high-achieving, responsible, and intellectually curious… just the kind of kids I love for my children to be around.

I should also note that we were given a scholarship to help my daughter attend. Initially, the cost for the seminar was a bit daunting, but the President (Marsha Enright) was eager to work with us to enable my daughter to attend. We are both still very appreciative that the scholarships were available.”

Jessica on her transformation from The Great Connections Seminar

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would…
The only change I would like to see is for the Great Connections Seminar to happen more than once per year. My daughter is already excited to return—but she has to wait a full year.”

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?
“Life-changing.”

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?
“Definitely.”

How well do you feel you were treated by this organization?
“Very well.”

Jessica on her transformation from The Great Connections Seminar

 

If you or  a student you know could benefit from a transformational experience like Jessica’s, please take a look and share The Great Connections Seminar! Scholarships and early registration rates are now available. It’s the opportunity to unleash the inner potential that traditional education leaves dormant. Take control of your education and your future now!