The Academy, A Modest Proposal

I often attend the meetings of a group we call “Three Seventeen.” It’s a group that meets at a friend’s restaurant at 3:17pm each Sunday. We talk about everything. What follows is an essay I wrote in 2018 for discussion in that group.

We believe that rational education is the underpinning of human well-being.  Humans, not possessing fur, fang or claw, rely on their intellect and rationality for warmth, food, and shelter.  Unlike other animals which are endowed with instinct, humans require a certain amount of education and training to merely survive in the wild.  In the modern world, humans require extensive education and training in order to navigate the technological, political and economic “wilds.”  Without rational education and training humans are condemned to struggle to obtain resources by peacefully providing value to their fellows and so must resort to criminal activity.  In the West, the government acts as their proxy in obtaining resources through force.

On a macro level, the flow of capital and other resources around the globe is to the societies with the most productive people.  This productivity is directly related to their level of objective and rational education and training.  A society whose most advanced level of training reflects the mastery of cooking with fire is not nearly as productive as the society with millions of engineers that can harness the electron for cooking and a myriad other uses.

Rational education and training are necessary to navigate the geopolitical and existential (often one and the same!) threats humans face.  A large cadre of deeply theoretical thinkers is necessary to save Homo sapiens from threats like small pox AND Islamo-fascism.  An even larger cadre of highly trained technicians is needed to carry out the plans to build the pharmaceuticals plants necessary to create vaccines, or build the drones destroying ISIS enclaves remotely.

Western society, including the United States, is losing its foundation in scientific and critical thought. We are failing in virtually all respects.  This puts our people at existential and geopolitical risk.  Capital, both human and financial, will eventually leave North America for more intellectually fertile societies.  If we maintain the current course, we will be unable to intellectually meet the challenges pandemics, meteor strikes, petrochemical depletion and other threats represent to our race.  We are in danger of entering a second dark age.

The Current Situation:

  1. In 2012, the cost to “educate” an American child k-12 is $143,1431. In 2014, an average 4-year degree cost an additional $106,2482. The total cost is $249,391. This is now the highest in the world.
  2. The cost in time is extraordinarily high.  A typical college graduate is spending up to 18 of their most energetic years in educational conscription, forced to consume an inferior product.
  3. The United States is ranked number 17 in overall educational effectiveness.2
  4. As of 2015, labor force participation of prime-age men aged 24-54 has fallen to 88% from 98% in 1954.3
  5. Over the same period 1954-2016 average REAL wages have increased 64% while costs of living have increased 895%4

We believe that falling labor participation rates and stagnant real wages are directly related to the objective value of the US work force.  The market is telling us that since 1954 our employees have barely increased in value.  The United States and the West are losing any lead in human capital those regions may have had.

Currently, the costs of education in time and money are enormous hardships on the American people and are tantamount to pro-rata slavery.  There is a human rights issue at stake.  Compulsory (forced) education is akin to incarceration and is highly coercive, especially in light of the poor results in our current system.  Additionally there is a very unethical conflict of interest that lies in the government schooling the governed.  This is the genesis of overreach by educators attempting to “instruct” in sexual mores and behavior, biased historiography, ubiquitous military recruiters in high schools and more.  These human, financial and political costs undermine the agency and sovereignty of parents and the family.

As a result, our adult children are living in their parent’s home to older and older ages.  Many fail to thrive and seize what was once called the American Dream.  Self-actualization and an independent adulthood is not possible for large numbers of Americans.

The U.S. educational system is nearly universally panned.  Virtually no one involved; teachers, students, bureaucrats, parents, or employers are pleased in the least with the product of our schooling, yet they continue to be forced to pay for this ineffective system.

Every nation with measurably better educational outcomes is investing less time and money on education.  This proves we can do better at, or below this price.  But we must be careful of competing directly against other nations in terms of EDUCATING, not educational outcomes.  While 16 countries outperform the U.S. at a lower cost, they too are missing the mark.  The Asian and Scandinavian schools that comprise most of our betters spend far too much time schooling students in compliance, collectivism, intellectual consensus taking and other “modern” pedagogical rubbish. 

The decrease in the number and frequency of revolutionary advances in thought is evidence of the failing of ALL modern schooling. We’ve had no Einsteins in the 100 years since Einstein. Since learning to harness the atom almost 80 years ago, we still are not using the nearly limitless power of that science to improve, rather than imperil human flourishing. We’ve had no new revolutionary antibiotics in decades and have not been back to the Moon since 1972. What many call our greatest achievement, the internet, is only a technological refinement of mathematics, computing and telephony developed in the 1940’s.  Perhaps worst, humans continue to struggle with simply getting along.  Something is wrong with modern schooling. We condemn it roundly.


In this essay we use a few traditional words in non-traditional usages.  For the purpose of this essay, we define them thusly :

Educable:  The educable can be taught in terms of theory and abstraction.  At the end of a rational education, the educable can draw on one or more disparate abstractions and arrive at a new, original (at least for that person) abstraction.   This is 5% of the population at best, 1% is more likely.

Trainable:  One who is trainable is capable of being taught how to do something.  Their knowledge of the subject is procedural and/or practical.  The trainable may have no theoretical understanding of the concepts underlying the task at hand.  For example, the trainable can be taught to ride a bicycle, but likely cannot be taught enough theory to enable them to create a mathematical model that describes why a bicycle doesn’t fall over at high speeds.  Training is not strictly reserved for the manual arts.  Business skills, accounting, management and many other clerical and overhead functions can be mastered faster than welding or machinists work, for example. The trainable are likely 80% of the population.

Schooling: Indoctrination in a view, bias or societal paradigm, rather than education or training in objectively verifiable skills or theory.

Approximately 80% of the population have average or below average IQ’s.  Average is the standard deviation around 100.
Chart, Reynolds, C.R., Chastain, R.L., Kaufman, A.S., & McLean, J.E 5

The Academy:

To address the problems already outlined, we propose the founding of an Academy to replace current “schools.”  The purpose of our Academy is to provide a basic level of literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills.  We say basic, because most people are trainable, not educable.  Additionally most are not interested in, nor are they capable of obtaining advanced critical thinking or math skills.   Even if all individuals are educable to a high degree, the chosen role of our academy is to instill the basics.  Advanced education is better had from more specialized sources.  As a result, we will teach only through approximately age 14, and then we only teach objectively provable material.  To teach basic material beyond age 14 would make for the creation of busy work, as any average 14 year old can master the basics of human existence in as many years.  The subjective; history, civics, literature, etc. are by definition not objective and are opportunities for special interests to exert their influence on young minds. Views on the humanities change over time and are never the source of scientific and measurable consensus. Thus, to protect against children being taught “opinion” we will only teach objective material. Modern schooling, in the main, consists of “instruction” in non-objective subjects.   This is perhaps the single biggest source of inefficiency in our education system.

Our subjects are:

  1. English Grammar/Latin
  2. Maths (Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry, no more.)/Logic 
  3. Rhetoric (Includes directed readings, speaking, writing, often teaching younger students)

All subjects are taught exclusively in the lingua franca of the civilized world, English. Maintaining instructors, curricula, materials and more in multiple languages would necessarily result in increasing our costs by orders of magnitude.  The expense is unacceptable and the outcome is questionable.  Additionally, English literacy is the most valuable of all possible skills in the modern world.  With English literacy, all other education is possible.  English is arguably the most important technological achievement ever.  To indulge a preference for a less widely adopted language is to hinder the student for a lifetime.

In our Academy, we only teach the timeless. Technology more advanced than pencil and paper, the abacus and the slide rule, will not be “taught”, or even used.  The pencil and paper and the abacus, while seemingly outdated, are in fact huge aids to cognition and are very useful in teaching the young mind to think.  All of these technologies allow the learner to take an abstraction such as a concept or a set of numbers and render them concrete.  Writing a concept down by hand forces the student to think in an orderly fashion.  The student is almost able to “get their hands on” the idea in the act of writing.  Once written, the idea is made physical, more tangible. The idea is frozen in time by the student’s own doing. It can now be examined and savored at leisure.  This is a great aid to learning and thought.  Similarly, the abacus and the slide rule make number and operations tangible, visible and spacial.  This increases the avenues whereby the student can grasp the goings on inside the logarithm or the function. Early on, abstraction can be an enemy to understanding; these ancient tools help us render the abstract concrete. 

Computing and lab technologies change so rapidly that any instruction received is outdated immediately.  Additionally, technology is very industry specific and is best taught and trained by the employer.  Looking to the employer for technological instruction is the defacto state of affairs now.

Treating of our three subjects will only require about 4 hours per day. There will be two shifts each day.  Students are assigned to the AM or PM shift by lottery.  Our Academy will only require less than half the square footage, half the desks and half the staff, etc. as traditional schools. Having left behind our agrarian roots, we no longer need children to bring in the crops, so our academic year is 12 months, approximately 220 days.  Why condition young people to less than realistic work expectations?

Since our goal is basic education, our schools will not have sports, arts, or lunch programs.  Since our school day is short, children will have plenty of time to engage in these activities on their own.


Our students and their parents are expected to have a bit of skin in the game.  No buses.  Students must get to the facility on their own.  There will be no truancy laws, if any student is not motivated enough to get to the Academy, or can’t be motivated by his parents, we don’t want him there. We know from human nature he cannot be forced to learn.  Let us not spend our time on him.  He and his family will have defined him as untrainable and uneducable.

Our Academy will not teach remedial concepts.   There will be no kindergarten or its equivalent where children are taught of colors, trained to count to 100 or to identify the English alphabet.  We expect our citizens to pass this knowledge to their offspring on their own.  There is no need for the government to expend funds obtained through taxation to teach Johnny to differentiate between “blue” and “purple.” As soon as a person is able to pass a basic entrance exam that tests for readiness to begin reading and arithmetic instruction, that person is permitted to enter grade one, regardless of age. 

Students will buy their own books.  The books will be inexpensive.  Basic math, grammar and other texts from the 1930’s – 1950’s that are out of copyright are superior to “new” texts and can be reproduced for next to nothing. Remember, we are teaching the basics of objective disciplines.  There are no new advances in grammar to cover, no new multiplication tables. The old, tried and true will do nicely.  Student ownership of these books is crucial.  The students will take care of them better.  The parents will inquire after the books.  Most importantly, the student will be collecting a reference library that will stand them good service through a lifetime.  Anytime they need to brush up on the genitive case, or factoring a polynomial, they’ll have their old text.  Students today can’t even look back at the math text from last year. 

Perhaps most importantly, citizenship is predicated on passing final exams in an Academy.  We want no voter, juror or elected official who cannot read difficult material for understanding, detect a fallacy, make a logic argument or bisect a line. 


Teachers must be able to pass the students final exams for each of the classes without flaw.  The exams will be given in a proctored environment.  Prospective teachers must show all work and define each term of art.  Additionally, they must sit for an oral exam over each subject they will teach.  The oral portion will be given by a five person committee.  The committee members will be selected from among retired teachers, professional engineers, scientists, etc. with demonstrated high-level working knowledge of the subjects taught in our school.

At the end of each academic year, all instructor employment will be terminated.  New employment contracts may, or may not be tendered for the next fiscal year.  The need to “build a case” to terminate an instructor will be moot.  All instructors are terminated just before the winter break.  The excellent will report for work under a new contract on January 2nd.  The substandard can find a new livelihood. 

We will have no class size limit.  There is no set academic year.  A masterful instructor may be able to teach geometry in a lecture hall to 100’s of students.  If so, he’s entitled to higher pay.  On the other hand, if an instructor is proven to obtain superior results with small groups of perhaps 3-4 students, and in fact can get those students to mastery of their grade in weeks rather than the months it takes others, he’s deserving of higher pay as well.  Those students fortunate enough to complete their studies early, can move directly to the next grade as soon as the next session starts. 

Each instructor is free to negotiate his own contract. Employment as an instructor is entirely voluntary.  If the terms of employment are unsuitable, the instructor can attempt to obtain suitable terms, or, failing that, pursue another line of work.  The marketplace for the teacher’s trade obeys the same laws of supply and demand as every other.  We respect our teachers enough to trust they will advocate for themselves as any other skilled individual would.

Our school owns no real property.  All existing government owned school properties will be sold at an open auction and the proceeds used to endow teaching positions.  State funding will necessarily be cut as our schools will be far less expensive and far more efficient than current systems.  Classes will be held in class b and class c commercial office spaces rented on the open market for that purpose.  As enrollments grow or shrink, rented space can be adjusted accordingly.  There will be no need for janitorial staff, physical plant, grounds keepers, etc.  Those are needs addressed in every standard commercial real estate lease. 

There will be no football stadiums, cafeterias, band uniforms, libraries, chemistry or computer labs, arenas, weight rooms, textbooks, or other miscellany to buy or maintain.  The savings in these areas plus those gotten from divestiture of real estate makes funding the Academy an afterthought.

Life after Academy

After 8 full years of instruction, at roughly age 14, our students will be able to conjugate Latin and English verbs, speak extemporaneously, read expository material, factor low order polynomials, etc.  They are now ready for the next stage of their lives.  For many, the trainable, this means they must receive training, others may try to obtain further education.

Unlike in much of Europe or the UK where the government gives exams to young people to determine if they are bound for “Uni” or the trades, in our system we leave this to the marketplace.  We fear a bureaucracy selecting those bound for training or education would mark young people permanently as trainable, untrainable or educable too early and provide little room for mobility. To remedy this, we leave it to the young person, their family, the universities and potential employers to each compete for the best.  The young person and their family will compete for the best situation available to the Academy graduate.  The university will compete for the best among possible applicants.  After all, better quality university students make for bigger donors and more accolades for the school.  Better students are easier to educate as well.  Employers clearly want the best possible employees as well; they are more productive, easier to train and better sources of innovation than the lesser employee.  

The educable may opt for more traditional trades, rather than additional education.  A preference for more tangible work, or the high fees a plumber demands, may steer him there.   The educable may find that he is unable to compete with the trainable in this area, as their propensities may suit them better for the work.

We currently accept allowing older people to assess their own options and the marketplace compete for the best employees.  We believe it is fair to allow young people and their guardians the same options and more.  Under our new system, options will exist for young people that are now prohibited by law.

The Trainable

Today there are many obstacles to young people receiving excellent training.  Those must all be removed.

  1. We remove all truancy laws.  The young people need to be free to pursue the training they desire, not be stuck in a classroom.
  2. We remove all child labor laws.  The workplace is now safe.  OSHA, DOL and other agencies see to that.  Let young people work.
  3. Stop immigration.  Immigrants compete for entry level jobs young citizens need in order to get on the job training.
  4. Remove minimum wage requirements. 

By following the four above recommendations, we free up employers and young people and their parents to create mutually beneficial arrangements. Apprenticeships, working in exchange for training, or working for in-kind tuition are just a few arrangements that have been successful in the past and will be again if we do not regulate pay, school attendance and minimum work ages.  The influx of inexpensive young workers would obviate any perceived need for immigrants and would give our nation an opportunity to strengthen manufacturing and other industries and compete with countries with low labor costs, all the while building a knowledgeable labor force and re-establishing a middle class, which Aristotle teaches us is the foundation of civil society. 

The pressure to get jobs, training or education will be immense.  Currently, society and families rely on schools to manage and warehouse adolescents well into their 20’s.  They are out of sight and out of mind.  In fact they are neglected.  Parents and society will be driven to get these adolescent people into productive roles.  The young people will have a greater sense of agency and value as they work to obtain training and on their own livelihoods.  They will be contributors, rather than consumers.

Let us make it clear now that the trainable are not limited to manual arts and labor.  Accounting, marketing, purchasing, design work and more are eminently trainable.  On the job training is more than adequate to teach a young person the basics of accounting or other “white collar” jobs IF the young person is a strong reader, has numeracy and knows the basics of logic. In fact, most employers must “unteach” that which was “learned” at university before they can help create a skilled employee.

Many of the finest and wealthiest business leaders of all time began work in the most basic of jobs.  For example, training a 15 year old to be a bank teller is an excellent way to create an effective bank president. Who can spot a quick change artist or a teller on the skim better than an old teller?

The Educable

The educable among us have never had difficulty in obtaining education. We needn’t worry about them.  In fact, as graduates of the Academy they possess all of the basics necessary to self-educate. Failing that, law, engineering, financial and other firms will develop scout teams to locate, incentivize, and educate these future physicists, chemists, engineers and leaders.  Traditional venues for higher education will be scrambling for these students as we will no longer subsidize institutions of higher learning with government funding of any kind, direct or indirect.  These institutions must demonstrate to their prospective students and their sponsors (family, employer, or other) that their product is an economic good; that it is worth substantially more than both the time AND the money it took to get. 

The Educable will thrive as they are allowed to pursue their talents and interests just at the time the ennui and discontent of adolescence would be creeping in on the traditional public school student.  These young people, unfettered by student loan debt, with a head start on life, will be engines of economic growth.


A societal change will occur.  As generations become steeped in numeracy, literacy and technical training from a young age, a hatred for sloth and free-riders will grow.  We know this is true from our experiences working with skilled tradesmen in the oil patch, the machine shop and the factory floor.  There is no room for anything but reality for these men. The lay-about and the poor craftsman are hated on the drilling platform and on the job site.  Not only do they not “pull their weight”, these louts are a danger to their fellow man.  That ethic will become widespread.

As our population becomes more vocational, craftsmanship as an outpouring of human capability and reason will be seen as a value.  When buying consumer goods build quality, reparability and longevity are always valued by excellent tradesfolk; our new tradesfolk will be no different.  This will necessarily mean that disposability will be seen as vicious, or at least a necessary evil for some goods like surgical supplies,

Experience will be valued more highly as the emphasis in society is changed from “diplomas” to training.  The experienced craftsman will become more valuable, not only for his productivity, but also for his ability to mentor and train younger folk.  The current worship of youth culture will fade as government subsidy of the youth stops.  Experience and accomplishment will again be seen as something desirable and sought after.

The intellectual classes will no longer be a state funded breeding ground for nihilists, sexual degenerates and cultural Marxists as Universities are today.  The intellectual class will actually be composed of intellectuals who have arrived there through comprehension of reality or realities terms, hard work and meritocracy, not goodthink, politik and tenure.  The intellectual class, comprised of the Educable will be in a position to add to the collective knowledge of the human race, not call for its destruction.

All of these benefits, the increases in educational understanding, freedom, economic growth and human flourishing can be had at a tiny percentage of current costs. 


  1. National Center for Education Statistics.
  2. Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.  Education at a Glance, 2015.
  3. Executive Office of the President of the United States. The Long-Term Decline in  Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation, 2016.
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPI calculation calculator.
  5. Reynolds, C.R., Chastain, R.L., Kaufman, A.S., & McLean, J.E. (1987). Demographic characteristics and IQ among adults: Analysis of the WAIS-R standardization sample as a function of the stratification variables. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 323-342.

12 thoughts on “The Academy, A Modest Proposal”

  1. Scott, I am not sure how you would like typos to be called out. I found a small one in the last paragraph before the section titled Society. I have copied and pasted the sentence below, with the correction in brackets.

    The Educable will thrive as they are allowed to pursue their talents and interests just at the time the ennui and discontent of adolescence would be creeping in on the tradition[al] public school student.

    Thank you for posting this essay. This is one of the most complete, well thought out essays I have read in recent memory.

    After reading it I want to teach my daughter the colors, how to count, and the letters of the alphabet before her “formal” schooling begins as outsourcing those lessons is an incredible affront to my ability as a parent.

  2. This is a very thought provoking read. Let’s get that 1930’s book list together!

    Have you read – “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way”? One of the major changes Finland made was make it hard to be come a teacher, with a stringent entrance exam. By doing so, they were able to justify cutting government oversight and get rid of a nationalized curriculum, and then finally raising the wages of teachers. By making it as hard to be a teacher, it brought prestige to the position, attracted better talent and enabled greater flexibility in how things are taught.

    I don’t know that a one year term is a great idea. I think it dismisses the importance of relationship building when it comes to the teacher and student, that under the current system of a new teacher every year already loses out on. I understand what you’re trying to avoid – burned out and low performing teachers, and rent seeking behavior with cushy retirement programs. Honestly it’s what the majority of my tax money goes to is maintaining retiring teachers and too many administrators.

    One of the major things that would have to change to enable this major shift is to raise real wages. Someone’s going to need to be home for those 4 hours of extra time. School is increasingly day care for two parents who work out of necessity. Mind you lower cost of living would be possible with lower taxes, as everything would (ideally) cost less overall.

    The child labor thing seems to be in contradiction with the college jubilee statement; Children entering potentially life long contracts and commitments they cant escape. I would think getting maimed would fall under that scenario. Obviously we don’t want a turn of the last century sweat shop scenario playing out, but I’m worried that’s what would happen. You would need massive expansion of the mentioned government agencies to make enforcement of fair labor practices a possibility and most would likely slip through the cracks. You can’t really under estimate the power of greed. I’m less than familiar with the current child labor laws, but basically it’s my understanding that you can work at 14 with permission from a guardian, as long as it doesn’t exceed so many hours; at least that’s how it was 20 years ago.

    I don’t know that ending immigration would really do much. Immigrants bring different ideas and prevent stagnation of those ideas, and generally high motivation. As long as they do so legally, they become part of the American system. Einstein, mentioned in the article, was a German immigrant after all.

    All in all, thanks for posting this. It was really thought provoking. I’m trying to get my kids the education they need. I feel the one thing I was never really taught was logic in general which hampers my ability to discern the truth about given scenarios.

    1. I have not read this book.

      Having one year contracts would not prevent the good teachers from sticking around and “building relationships.” Great teachers can get successive one year contracts for decades.

      Raise real wages by cutting the labor supply. Zero immigration. None. No legal route to citizenship or work visas.

      As far as my statements about child labor, i said nothing about life long contracts. We already have tort law and other ways of dealing with fraud. Your concerns here are only that.

      Ideas easily cross borders. Einstein’s ideas got here long before he did. We don’t need a flood of low cost labor to motivate (compete with our children), especially since ideas are fungible and are more easily gotten than ever before.

      Thanks for being a frequent commentor sir!

        1. Scott,

          If you’re willing to share, what kind of schooling approach did you take with your own kids? My wife and I are planning for kids and weighing our own options. We are interested in the opinions of thoughtful people who have been through it themselves.

  3. Hi Scott, I’m having a bit of a conundrum when it comes to your logical, market based solutions in the first part of your essay followed by your protectionist doctrine that seems to just appear out of nowhere further down in terms of immigration.

    If limiting immigration is valuable because it reduces competition for entry level jobs and raises real wages (which is what you claim above), why don’t we extend that thought experiment more fully. Why don’t we limit immigration between the states?

    Within your model, this would limit competition and raise real wages for entry level jobs. We could go further, and limit immigration between counties, limiting competition even further and raising real wages for entry level jobs even more under your model.

    But stopping there doesn’t seem ideologically sound either if this is based on first principles (though I’m not sure what those are or how they jibe with your market based approach you lay out in initially).

    So why not limit immigration between households. Every individuals property will be guarded by armed border patrol agents from the federal government and zero immigration will be allowed between private property lines, thereby, nearly eliminating competition and raising real wages for entry level jobs to their maximum extent.

    You obviously see the issue here in terms of “freedom for me, but not for thee.” So am I missing some philosophic principal here? Are you just saying you don’t want to hire immigrants at your Academy, even if they are more productive? That certainly is your choice, but I don’t know how you could make the case from a moral standpoint that would limit others from working with the most productive people they can find or who they, as rational adults, choose to interact with.

    1. Let’s flip it. Let everyone in! Unlimited workers bring the wages down to the world average. I’m not interested. I have no moral obligation to allow the importation of additional bodies into this country in order to seek lower prices or higher productivity.

  4. Scott,

    I have kept an eye out for the podcast describing your “un-schooling” process with your daughters. I share Dave’s interest in this as I am in a similar position and like to hear other perspectives to check my own thought processes and decisions. Did you put something together that I have just overlooked or did you decide not to do it?


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