School Choice And Education Reform: It’s Personal

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Like health care, education affects everyone. Like the new Obamacare, education sets central recommendations, controls choices and creates a bureaucracy.

The government way is one-size fits all.

The problem is that just as every patient is different, so is every student. Patients and students need MORE choices not less.

In education, teachers unions and state and federal bureaucrats have powerful incentives to keep things the same.

Unfortunately, same harms the powerless–our future generation.

Education reform is an easy issue to get worked up over and then do nothing. There are multiple reasons for this:

1. Education reform can take a long time — by the time motivated parents take on a certain issue, it is likely their children won’t benefit and once the child is done with school, the parents are simply relieved.

2. Parents have kids in the system — Yell at he warden, beat up the prison guard, and see how comfortable your stay at the clink is. Parents worry about their children being at the mercy of angry educators. They have good reason to be concerned. Teacher retaliation is not theoretical. It’s happened.

3. All ed reform seems to be trimming around the edges and not overhauling central issues.

4. Teachers unions actively fight against any meaningful change. Kids are caught in the middle.

The solution to this problem is to create more flexibility. One proposal in Texas is to have the education dollars follow the child.

I like this solution. Here’s why:

1. Education is still industrial-revolution ready, but less useful for the technological age. Money could be shifted to education focused on modern economic needs.

2. Children are diverse and learn differently. I have an Asperger’s/Autism student, a GT student and a kid who I’m still trying to pin down. The education system is perfectly suited to the middle of the bell curve. What about all the kids who are outside the middle? What about the kid who needs far more structure verses the kid who is so self-motivated he or she could be a college grad by age 17?

3. It’s market-based. Success breeds success. Money will go towards the best solutions.

I wonder why teachers unions are so insecure about their ability to keep and serve students? Why don’t they believe they’d be as competitive as private schools if they’re loosed from all their educational shackles?

Bad teachers would likely have a tougher time. Isn’t that a desirable outcome? Don’t we WANT good and great teachers? Don’t we want to eliminate the bad eggs?

My uncle who has been a Superintendent of Schools in Michigan and has been a part of nearly every ed reform change over the years says that people just want to talk about it but not really effect real change.

That’s probably true. It is patently unfair, though, that wealthy folks (like the Obamas) can put their kids in private schools that succeed while forcing the poor people to stay in failing schools. It is patently unfair that tax paying parents get no benefits while home schooling their own children.

People vote with their feet while resources are being thrown down the gluttonous public maw of educational failure.

It is time to become more innovative, not less, with education.

Working with National School Choice Week has been eye-opening. There is much work to do.

Choice is the answer.

More at and

What if we cured Asperger’s?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I was reading Pejman’s post (other interesting links) and found this from the UK Mail:

A 12-year-old child prodigy has astounded university professors after grappling with some of the most advanced concepts in mathematics.

Jacob Barnett has an IQ of 170 – higher than Albert Einstein – and is now so far advanced in his Indiana university studies that professors are lining him up for a PHD research role.


Jake was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, a mild form of autism, from an early age.

His parents were worried when he didn’t talk until the age of two, suspecting he was educationally abnormal.

It was only as he began to grow up that they realised just how special his gift was.

He would fill up note pads of paper with drawings of complex geometrical shapes and calculations, before picking up felt tip pens and writing equations on windows.

By the age of three he was solving 5,000-piece puzzles and he even studied a state road map, reciting every highway and license plate prefix from memory.

What if Autism and Asperger’s gets cured? Worse, what if the genetic make-up was discovered and “fixed”. Worse, what if they’re diagnosed and destroyed via abortion? What if we have no more socially awkward geniuses around to solve problems?

Not all kids on the Autism spectrum are savants, of course. Many, in fact, require services. But these gems have to more than tip the cosmic balance the other way. And anyway, our definition of contribution to society can be so mangled and utilitarian as anyone blessed with a “special” child knows.

We need the extremes to define the norm for one thing. And we need the unconventional to create novel insights to seemingly insurmountable challenges. Further, we need different perspectives.

In a world dominated with the base and banal, I hope that a child such as this will never be “cured”. Humanity would be worse off for it.

Autism Twitter Day

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Autism Twitter Day

It’s today.

More here and here and here.

Valproate Correlated With Autism

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Valproate Correlated With Autism
Anti-seizure meds cause neural-tube defects. Hmmm…a form of Autism might be a NTD.

Aspberger Criminals

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Does it matter why a crime is committed? I mean, if the victim is dead or the merchandise is stolen, does it matter?

The law allows for things like falling asleep at the wheel. Clearly a sleeping person did not intend to murder with his car and yet the pedestrian is dead. Or the old person who, in confusion, pushes the gas instead of the brake when mowing down a group of people, like happened in New York.

So, what to do about a man with Aspberger’s who hacks into United States government computers because of his claimed obsession with UFOs. Here’s what happened says the Guardian:

McKinnon – who used the online name Solo – is accused of hacking into computers belonging to the Pentagon, Nasa and US armed forces in raids conducted between 2001 and 2002.

Prosecutors say he shut down thousands of machines and caused up to $700,000 worth of damage, while the 42-year-old claims he was searching for evidence of UFOs.

Since the incidence of Aspbergers is climbing, the problem of very smart, socially retarded people doing illegal activities for idealistic or obsessive reasons will increase. These same people would be abused mercilessly in prison as they have no social coping skills.

Additionally, once one person gets off because of a diagnosis such as this, all manner of criminal will attempt a similar defense. The fact is that many criminals suffer from diagnosable mental and biological illnesses that interfere with their cognition. Most, though, couple their poor decision making with wrathful violent action. This is almost never true in the case of people with Aspbergers, who are overwhelmingly introverted and passive, except on rare occasions.

I would like to see the government and businesses harness the natural gifts Asperger’s people possess. If the U.S. government were smart, they would hire this guy and put him to work looking for UFOs in the security agencies of China and Russia.

“There Is No Such Thing As A Genetic Epidemic”

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Autism: “There Is No Such Thing As A Genetic Epidemic”
Cancer maybe? Genetic switch with an environmental trigger? I think both can be explained that way.

Teacher Who Voted Aspberger’s Kid Out Of Class Suspended

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Here’s a follow-up on the lame-brained teacher who had her five year old students vote their Aspberger’s peer out of the class:

A Port St. Lucie school teacher has been suspended without pay after she allowed her kindergarten students to vote a 5-year-old student out of class.

It took only a few minutes for the St. Lucie County school board to decide the fate of Wendy Portillo.

“My recommendation is a year without pay,” Superintendent Michael Lannon said.

School board members voted unanimously Tuesday on Lannon’s recommendation. Portillo was suspended from the school district effective immediately.

Here’s the thing: A woman this stupid will be this stupid again. Would any parent want her teaching his child?

A years suspension is a fair punishment:
Disagree free polls

Cross-posted at

Somali Children With Autism

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Somali Children With Autism
The key to the mystery?

Denis Leary’s Take On Autism

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Denis Leary’s Take On Autism
Well, Leary is getting attention.

Letting Kids With Autism Off The Hook

Friday, October 10th, 2008

It’s not a good idea generally to be to easy on kids. Like all humans, they’ll go toward pleasure and away from pain, and choose the short-term pleasure path even if it nets them long-term pain. The problem with a kid is that they don’t have a long-term perspective. They don’t know that the short-cuts today will hurt them tomorrow. Parents who let their kids off the hook do them a disservice.

Autistic kids often suffer with lowered expectations. I remember one ARD where a teacher said to me, “He does really well for an autistic kid.” Hells, bells! The autistic spectrum is wide and there are children who don’t speak, interact, can’t learn and are profoundly mentally retarded. If that’s the litmus test, he would succeed no matter.

This isn’t an isolated problem:

In fact, one of the reasons we pulled our son out of public school was because of the lowered expectations placed on kids with autism. Every “I can’t,” every anxious wince, every meltdown, was rewarded with fewer and fewer demands.

Finally, by the middle of October of our son Tom’s second grade year, Tom had achieved precisely what was easiest for him: his 1:1 had withdrawn him from art, music, gym, and all mainstreamed classes – and sat alone with him in a classroom rather than support him in a challenging environment.

Of course, it’s easier – and often pleasanter – to allow our children with autism to simply opt out of challenging situations. And sometimes there’s really no choice: as we all know, for example, melt downs and airplanes make a poor combination.

Right. But the classroom isn’t an enclosed airplane (something I’ve written about before) and the educational system is required to teach. It is not always easy, granted, but lowered expectations result in a child never reaching his potential. And, ironically, it results in the taxpayer being responsible for the care and keeping of a person dependent on the system when some investment early could have prevented that.

It is everyone’s best interests, not just the child’s, to expect great things.