Episode 023: Join your host as he discusses how some of the prominent figureheads in the Voluntaryist podcast community seem to have forgotten about first principles. Should they still be considered libertarians?Open This Content
Nobody asked but …
And you learn something new every day. Recently, I learned a new point of view regarding global warming. The source of my learning was a WWW article, Libertarian Principles & Climate Change, from the Niskanen Center, written by Jerry Taylor. I’m not sure that I am less confused, or just confused in a new direction.
When I was younger, the prevailing wisdom was that “everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Now, it seems that everybody talks even more, and demands to know what can be done.
Medieval philosophers wondered how many Angels could dance on the head of a pin. I believe that the pursuit of climate prediction, principled or otherwise, is such a futile practice. Natural law will prevail. The weather, the temperature, and the climate have been managing themselves for eons.
Of course, humans and other species have pushed the needle a few centimetres off of true. But that certainly does not mean that we humans will have either the will or the way to fix anything.
I am not a denier. Natural law will run its natural path. That is the only libertarian principle involved. We will not be able to ratiocinate the outcome, else we would have done so long ago. The same applies to war.
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content
On a recent weekday morning, the first floor of Tiffany Pierce’s home in Queens, New York, was abuzz with activity. Six children, ranging in age from five to 12, were making art, learning about mathematical asymmetry and digging deep into topics ranging from geography to science. Pierce runs an art-inspired, micro-learning homeschool co-op, bringing together local families who want a more personalized approach to education for their children. Together, the families hired a teacher four days a week to craft an inviting and intellectually-engaging learning environment, while Pierce volunteers her space and support.
Challenging the Status Quo
An artist with a master’s degree in teaching and prior classroom experience, Pierce was thoughtful about her son, Liam’s, education. He went to a small, private preschool nearby,Artists have historically played a crucial role in challenging dominant systems and inspiring change. but when Pierce sent Liam to a public school for kindergarten, she realized it wasn’t a good fit for him. “It was a high-performing school,” Pierce recalls, “but when I visited I saw his back turned and him just looking out the window. His affect was so low, his confidence was shot, he didn’t want to play. I knew it wasn’t just kindergarten blues. This wasn’t his fit. Then he said: ‘Mommy, will you teach me at home?’”
The timing was right, as Pierce happened to be between jobs and she and Liam’s dad thought they would give homeschooling a try. “We like the freedom of choices and options,” says Pierce. “We like to have a say in how our child operates. This person is so precious to us.” In the beginning, says Pierce, she simply replicated school at home and it became a power struggle between getting her son to do things and him resisting. She was also busy running art classes and doing graphic design work for various clients.
Pierce knew she needed a different model and began posting to neighborhood Facebook groups about launching a co-op out of her home. The response was positive, with many parents expressing interest in alternative learning options for their children. Today, eight-year-old Liam learns with other children in the co-op, along with his mother and their teacher, Mary-Lynn Galindo, who provide structure while emphasizing self-directed learning and ample outside time. According to Pierce:
Homeschooling, micro-learning and co-teaching as a small neighborhood-based co-op allows for us to be fully involved with our kids’ learning experience and we weave it through our neighborhood, community, borough and city.
Pierce sees hybrid homeschooling models and the larger micro-school movement as a harbinger of education innovation: “I see us moving towards education that is self-directed,” she says. “Education does not have to be seen as coming from four walls in a conventional, traditional way.” To that end, she launched a mobile arts studio and is working on purchasing an art bus, to help others to view art and education differently. Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, and in particular the Harlem Community Arts Center that sprouted from it and nurtured African American artistic talent during the late-1930s and early 1940s, Pierce envisions her mobile studio as a modern off-shoot of the center.
It is my mission for the mobile arts studio to serve as a 21st century version of a neighborhood-based arts studio where art is mobile and meets children and adults where they are to create, express and connect,
she says. In art, education and the intersection of the two, Pierce is looking to challenge longstanding conventional settings and practices and design something new.
An Art Apprenticeship Model
Designing something new is also what drives Gabriel Valles, a professional artist and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas who runs an art apprenticeship studio. Like Pierce, Valles homeschools his children and works closely with other local homeschoolers, while building an innovative art education model. He also began his homeschooling journey by trying to replicate school-at-home and witnessing how coercion had a detrimental effect on his children’s learning and their family relationships. By granting his children more autonomy and opportunity for self-direction, their learning flourished. His older son, now 15, has a passion for stop motion animation and has a successful YouTube channel with over 50,000 subscribers and almost 32 million views.
As Valles observed how his children’s creativity and competence grew when they were allowed to drive their own learning while being supported by adults, he decided to launch an art studio, MentorWings, that would run on a self-directed apprenticeship model for aspiring young artists. “Our program is principle-based and self-directed,” says Valles.
Students come in with their particular interest, such as superheroes, anime, fantasy art or cartooning, and we meet them where they are. There is no curriculum. Instead we focus on building upon foundational art principles, such as shape, form, design and color.
Valles sees how young people quickly build their skills, and become highly competent, doing college or professional-level work as teenagers. “We need to give kids more credit than we’re giving them and acknowledge that they can be doing real-world work before or instead of college,” says Valles. He says that art school is too expensive and often doesn’t lead to the kind of career in-roads that can result in fulfilling work.
This work is increasingly in-demand, says Valles, as digital content development and marketing become ubiquitous and new mediums emerge. “I am trying to make it less expensive to attain professional-level competence and also build bridges into the industry,” says Valles. He has established an endorsement system for young artists based on their portfolios that can provide an alternative signaling mechanism for employers.
That endorsement versus a general degree really means a lot. It doesn’t guarantee a job, but it shows confidence in a particular student and becomes a much more powerful signal to the people who are hiring,
Artists have historically played a crucial role in challenging dominant systems and inspiring change. It’s not surprising that today some of them are building unconventional education models and imagining new possibilities for learning. As Valles says:
My passion is experimenting and inventing things. Art is just the medium that I do that through. Creating educational structures that are a little more just for kids is the problem I am really trying to address.
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Nobody asked but …
In my last blog post, I wrote about how to hide in plain sight from interventionists. Now, we can examine more closely the process of being an interventionist. An interventionist often believes he or she is blessed by being in the procedural wheel house (for example, a supervisor at the IRS is in an ideal spot to mess up personal lives), but we often forget that the interventionist is also enslaved by interventionism. They cannot be happy until everyone else is intervened upon by them. Even though they may devote 24/7/365 to minding other people’s business, they can only maximize their meddling when they occupy another individuals’ time 24/7/365.
You may argue that there are ways by which the state can maximize, multiply its intervention. For instance, a state-employed educator can screw up the lives of many children and their families for years to come. But there is a lot of leakage, much slippage. No interveners are 100% effective, principally because they only have 24/7/365, and on the average can only screw up one intervenee at a time. And then they can only invade another’s space when the other wants to eschew responsibility entirely.
If the schools were 100% effective at something that was externally desirable, we would not need gun control. IMHO.
I often look at the NSA. And I look at 1984, George Orwell’s brilliant novel. I realize that dystopia only comes when there is a juxtaposition, 1-to-1, between one intervened and one interventionist. In real life, many are incapable of devoting themselves to 100% automatonhood, doomed to failure as an android without thought, unfit to reject the inconsistencies of individuality. And there are others who have a high degree of attachment to real principles.
In dystopia, such as that found in 1984 and Atlas Shrugged, we see worlds populated by imperfect, fear-driven, unthinking failures, manipulated by imperfect, fear-driven, unthinking failures.
— Kilgore Forelle
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Nobody asked but …
I spent the whole week-end being depressed after hearing (at Scribd.com) Voltairine de Cleyre‘s essay entitled, Sex Slavery. One might say that VDC views this particular glass as neither half-empty nor half-full. She may have felt that as long as there was one abuse, then that was (and still is) a tragedy. But surely, no empathetic or logical reader doubts that there have been vastly more than one instance.
In any event, Ms. de Cleyre’s essay caused me to re-examine myself, my life, and my principles. I will not change my principles, but I will add new ones. For as a voluntaryist, I bear responsibility for the ills that may befall my associates, and as a learning human being I have been too shallow perhaps in some aspects of my evolution. I have the highest regard for women, but there have been times when my memetic self has been deceived by information that I should have suspected more. I have had racist and sexist thoughts, promoted to me by ignorant and perhaps evil intentions. I bear responsibility for not questioning these inputs more thoroughly.
In fact, I have never known personally an individual I could hate. I have known too many who were terribly damaged beforehand, individuals who did not recover from abuse of a permanently damaging sort. I have tried to apply the non-aggression principle to all.
— Kilgore ForelleOpen This Content
My girls and I recently spent several days in New York City, where I filmed this clip about unschooling and self-directed education. We decided to make it a field trip, enjoying a Broadway show, Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although I have been a city dweller in Boston for over 20 years, it pales in comparison to New York City’s size and scale. Walking through Times Square, the phrase that kept popping into my head was: spontaneous order.
Here were thousands of people in a few square blocks, all peacefully pursuing their own interests in an environment of voluntary association and exchange. Some people might have been in search of Italian food, others Mexican. Some visitors may have been shopping for shoes, or pocketbooks, or travel memorabilia, while others were interested in the street performers and musicians. Some arrived by taxi, others by subway, and still others by foot or bicycle. Some were there to sell, while others were there to buy.
There were countless reasons all of those people were in Times Square, but they came as a result of their own distinct interests, taking advantage of a panoply of dining, shopping, and artistic vendors, without any central planner coordinating their activities. It is an extraordinary example of the power of the marketplace to spontaneously facilitate peaceful, voluntary exchange for highly diverse individuals with many different interests and needs. As State University of New York economist Sanford Ikeda writes, “great cities are Hayekian spontaneous orders par excellence.”
In his book, The Fatal Conceit, the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek explained the beauty of spontaneous order in greater detail, arguing that while it’s not perfect, the order that arises through decentralized, individual interest is superior to any external attempt to mastermind human action. Hayek wrote:
Such an order, although far from perfect and often inefficient, can extend farther than any order men could create by deliberately putting countless elements into selected “appropriate” places. Most defects and inefficiencies of such spontaneous orders result from attempting to interfere with or to prevent their mechanisms from operating, or to improve the details of their results. Such attempts to intervene in spontaneous order rarely result in anything closely corresponding to men’s wishes, since these orders are determined by more particular facts than any such intervening agency can know.
A few days in Times Square gave me an even greater appreciation for the spontaneous order of the marketplace and its ability to satisfy an array of preferences, peacefully and voluntarily, without central planning or control. It’s an extraordinary display of emergent, harmonious human action.
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