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Progressive Liberty Education Introduction

The purpose of education should be happiness and well-being for all. That is, an education should support the lifelong happiness and well-being of the person being educated. It should also provide an education that is supportive, in principle, of the happiness and well-being of others.

There are a few implications of these very simple founding principles:

1. In most situations, parents and students will know much more about what will lead them to happiness and well-being than will third parties.

2. Because humans are so extraordinarily diverse, we should expect and welcome extraordinary diversity with respect to the varieties of education that people will choose for themselves.

3. The only relevant metric for success is the happiness and well-being of the resulting adults. Strictly speaking, test scores, graduation rates, tertiary education percentages, etc. are irrelevant as long as happiness and well-being are increasingly frequent outcomes.

These implications require a radical rethinking of contemporary American education.

For many decades, we have had an increasingly centralized focus on a college prep education for all with the aspiration of college for all. While well-intentioned, this focus has left many behind. Moreover, there is abundant evidence that a traditional college degree is no longer a sound investment unless one is in STEM or one intends to go on to get a professional degree (law, business, or medicine).

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At the same time, there has been an ongoing concern about the need for better pipelines of talent into the skilled trades as well as “new collar” careers in coding, UX/UI design, video production, etc.

Finally, schooling has created immense misery, especially among teens:

  • 56% of high school students are disengaged from schooling (Gallup).
  • 75% have negative feelings about schooling (Yale)
  • 33% of American teens are on prescription medications
  • 3x increase in teen suicides since high school became the norm in the U.S. in the 1950s.
  • We see 20% increase in teen suicides every school year during the academic year, declining again over the summers.

This is not acceptable. We are forcing teens through an experience that many of them find meaningless and boring which is also not preparing them effectively for a wide range of careers (including blue collar and new collar careers).

We need a great deal more diversity with respect to educational options. Parents and students should be allowed to choose from among the widest possible array of educational options. As we increasingly allow governing funding to follow the child, some parents and students will make poor educational choices.

But they will not choose to remain in schools where they feel unsafe; where they feel hopeless and suicidal; where they are disengaged; where they are unhappy. The best foundation for a life of purpose and meaning, key foundations of happiness and well-being, is a childhood and adolescent filled with purpose and meaning.

Young people should also enter adulthood with the ability to add value, the ability to contribute to society in some way. Because parents want their children to become independent adults, and because young people want to contribute to society, allowing them to explore diverse pathways for doing so is better than imposing a limited number of pathways.

In order to have the most fruitful possible dialogue with respect to new educational opportunities, we should start from a blank slate. While some existing educational institutions, K-12 and post-secondary, are likely to survive, many will not. Existing models may well become obsolete as we allow for new entrants.

As a parent, as a learner, as an educator, if you had the freedom to educate your and other children as you pleased, what new directions would you explore? What would you keep from what we have, and what would you leave behind? What is most exciting and most frightening to you about letting people choose their own forms of education?