Introduction: Gary North, Ph.D., is Director of Curriculum Development for the Ron Paul Curriculum and editor of the Tea Party Economist and GaryNorth.com. He is the author of more than 30 books, including Mises on Money and Honest Money: The Biblical Blueprint for Money and Banking and a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible. Gary North's articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Journal of Political Economy, Commercial & Financial Chronicle, The Freeman, Modern Age, Journal of Libertarian Studies, LewRockwell.com, CoinAge and Coin World.
Dr. North has previously served as a research assistant for Congressman Ron Paul, Editor of Journal of Christian Reconstruction, President of the Institute for Christian Economics, Founder and editor of Remnant Review and a senior staff member, Foundation for Economic Education from 1971-73. He earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Riverside.
Daily Bell: Hello, Gary. Thanks for joining us to talk about the Ron Paul Curriculum: The Story of Liberty, K-12, "an education in liberty like no other." Although I'm sure many of our readers have looked at the curriculum, it is constantly evolving. Please give us an overview of the program today.
Gary North: K-5 are free for now. These are readings-based. They can be downloaded for free. Parents should come to the site and see what is available.
Beginning on August 1, 2015, we will be substituting video-based courses. The K-5 program will then be available only to subscribers.
Grades 6-11 are available now. Grade 12 will be available by August 1, 2015. Parents can preview the existing courses. The first lecture/assignment of each course is online as a sample.
Daily Bell: What was the impetus for the Ron Paul Curriculum? Is Dr. Paul the sole driving force behind its inception or was this a cooperative effort?
Gary North: It is an extension of his book on education, The School Revolution. I am the site's manager.
Daily Bell: Is the Ron Paul Curriculum a complete curriculum, K-12, or do students need to supplement with other materials or programs?
Gary North: No. Our free PDFs do just fine.
Daily Bell: There's quite an impressive list of scholars who are preparing and facilitating the Ron Paul Curriculum, including you. What is your role now?
Gary North: I am director of curriculum development. I produce two or three courses a year. This year it's Western literature II (1492-present) and economics.
Daily Bell: What was your own schooling like?
Gary North: Standard public high school/college. In my sophomore year of college, I came up with the basic outline of what needed to be done: a curriculum tied to Western civilization and Austrian School economics. That was in 1960. In the late 1960s, I was a teaching assistant in the Western Civ program of the University of California, Riverside. That further persuaded me about the need for such a program in high school. But the technology for delivering the lectures was limited: cassette tapes. These were too costly to deliver for high school.
My conceptual breakthrough came in 1982. I saw a way for Pat Robertson to use video technology to take over fundamentalist higher education with his satellite. I presented a paper to him, at his request. He ignored it. So, I published it a year later. A man at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University read it. Liberty was about to go bankrupt. It could no longer pay interest on its bonds. Ron Godwin read my essay, and he presented it to Falwell to create Liberty's "university without walls" program. Falwell approved it. Godwin did it with VCRs, not satellite. That program made Liberty the largest and most profitable private Christian university on Earth. The article was "Levers, Fulcrums, and Hornets."
When I saw YouTube, I realized that what I had recommended to Robertson in 1982 could be done without satellite.
In short, technology caught up with my vision.
Daily Bell: Why is there a need for something like this?
Gary North: Because millions of parents are discontented with tax-funded education, but they cannot afford private, brick-and-mortar education, and they do not have the time and self-confidence necessary to design and implement a K-12 homeschool program. So, beginning next August, we will do all of the teaching above grade 2. We will do 90% of it in grades K-2.
Daily Bell: Was there a time when education in the West was a positive in children's development? What has happened to education in the US and the West?
Gary North: The invention of the printing press with movable metal type was the technological revolution needed to create universal education. (The Koreans invented it first, in the 13th century, but it did not change much – no alphabet.) English Puritans took advantage of this revolution early. So did Dutch Protestants. They created programs of literacy for the masses. But they adopted the medieval university's curriculum, and that was a huge mistake from which they did not recover. That model was too far removed from the world of business and technology.
Daily Bell: What is the most harmful aspect of modern Western schooling?
Gary North: Tax funding.
Daily Bell: Have children always been required to attend school for so many years in the West?
Gary North: No. It began only after World War II in the United States.
Daily Bell: Why do people need to go to school for over a decade to become "educated"?
Gary North: Because they accept the state's model for shaping children's minds. Colleges require it.
Formal education in the West, ever since the late 11th century, has been an extension of the universities. It was education for the elite. The elite wanted access to bureaucratic posts: church or state.
Calvinists in the sixteenth century wanted universal education in the churches. They wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible. But they refused to tamper with the elitist model for college. The college remained an institution designed to supply screened members for the pulpits and the state bureaucracies.
Daily Bell: Does having a doctoral degree mean one is educated? How valuable is post-secondary education at this point?
Gary North: In the spring of 1969, the Ph.D. glut began. It has only gotten worse. I have written about this for years. Even The New York Times picked up one of my articles on this, "The Ph.D. Glut Began in 1969. It Is Far Worse Today, a Million Ph.D.'s Later. Still, the Lemmings Do Not Learn."
Post-secondary education is required to get into college. College is a screening device. It lets businesses recruit. Colleges do for businesses what college football does for the NFL. It trains candidates at no cost to the NFL. The NFL then picks the most likely masters.
College education has always been about getting accepted by the bureaucratic elite. Today, there are millions of degree-holders. The rate of return is falling in most fields. Engineering is an exception.
This is why the Ron Paul Curriculum recommends distance learning for college. It is cheap: under $15,000, total. One of the RPC's instructors, Bradley Fish, earned his B.A. on his 18th birthday. He paid about $11,000. He produces the RPC's courses on cramming for CLEP/AP/DSST exams. Any RPC student can easily enter college as a junior.
Daily Bell: Does Western schooling educate students?
Gary North: Yes. It produces the kinds of voters Keynesians approve of.
Daily Bell: There is a rather widely held belief among some that schools, even public schools, used to teach children how to learn rather than what to think. Is that accurate, generally speaking, or a romanticized notion of the "good old days"?
Gary North: This has never been true. Until the invention of the printing press in the West, formal education was the province of priesthoods and lawyers. Price competition broke the stranglehold. That was in the mid-15th century. The next phase began in 1990: the World Wide Web. In 1995 came the graphics user browser: Netscape – great invention, but no business plan. Bill Gates saw the opportunity. He used Internet Explorer to move Microsoft onto the Web.
Daily Bell: Give us a historical example or two of effective educational systems.
Gary North: The Khan Academy. It is the model of the future. Everything else is comparable to mass education before 1455. Doomed.
Daily Bell: Was Bismarck the founder of modern Western schooling? Were his ideas good?
Gary North: No. No.
Read two books. Start with R. J. Rushdoony's Messianic Character of American Education (1963). It follows the confessions of faith of the founders of modern American public education. It traces the origin to the state board of education in Massachusetts. Massachusetts was the last state to abandon tax-funded churches. That was in 1833. It replaced tax-funded churches with a new form of church: tax-funded education. That was in 1837. Horace Mann was the pioneer. The pubic schools are America's only established churches today.
The other book is John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education. He follows the money. It leads back to big business, which wanted compliant workers in factories.
Both books are online for free.
Daily Bell: What about Dewey? Didn't Dewey believe more in socialization than education?
Gary North: Yes. But he was a late-comer: Chapter 15 in Rushdoony's book.
Daily Bell: Let's get back to the specifics of the Ron Paul Curriculum. It is mostly self-taught. Explain the benefits of a self-taught curriculum.
Gary North: Students learn at their own pace. Parents after grade 2 do not have to do anything, other than pay for the curriculum: around $500 a year for the first student, and $250 for the others. Parents are encouraged to read the weekly essays, but they don't have to.
Daily Bell: The courses are video-based, delivered via the Internet. What benefits are provided by this format as compared to traditional textbook-based lessons?
Gary North: Modern textbooks are written by low-level educators to get past screening committees of establishment academics. These books are aimed at public schools. They parrot the latest party line. The best book on this is Francis Fitzgerald's America Revised (1979). It reveals the most important historian in American history: David Saville Muzzey. From 1911 to 1966, his textbook dominated the teaching of American history in high schools. I was one of his victims. No one remembers him today.
The RPC focuses on primary source documents. The lectures provide the narratives and analyses to take students through the primary sources.
I use a textbook for the first half of my economics course: Robert Murphy's textbook, which is aimed at high school students. It was not written for a committee. I then take students through monographs by Mises and Rothbard, as well as some of my own monographs.
Daily Bell: Are there books that you do encourage students to read? Give us some examples of the most important books to read – by students or anyone, for that matter – to get a good understanding of the overall principles stressed by the Ron Paul Curriculum.
Gary North: I start the government course with Bastiat's The Law. I add other classic essays by Bastiat. I take them through state Senator H.L. Richardson's What Makes You Think We Read the Bills? That immunizes them against the claims of politicians. In economics, they read Mises's Bureaucracy. They read Rothbard's What Has Government Done to Our Money? They read Mises's classic essay, "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" (1920). In literature, they read literature – an amazing concept!
Daily Bell: You and Tom Woods, both prolific writers, teach students to write beginning in the fourth grade. What approach do you take to teaching writing, and how does that differ from what's taught in most Western public schools?
Gary North: They write a weekly essay for each course in social science and humanities. Do that for eight years in two or three classes, and you learn how to write. Writing is a self-taught skill. Read well-written materials. Then write about them.
Daily Bell: Why has writing become such a lost art? It does not seem to be taught at all in most modern Western schools. Why not?
Gary North: Writing cannot be graded by Scantron. Yet.
Daily Bell: What kinds of things do students write? How are essay topics chosen?
Gary North: Topics are selected just as they have been for 900 years. "What can most students write about coherently in 100 to 200 words?"
Daily Bell: You are one of the main teachers in the social sciences and humanities. How do you approach your educative responsibilities?
Gary North: Two lessons a day. Maybe three. I have cranked out 610 so far. I have 650 to go.
Daily Bell: This curriculum teaches self-discipline. How?
Gary North: By requiring a weekly essay or exam. Then we strongly recommend that students create their own WordPress.com blogs, and post their papers where everyone can read them. Students do not like to look like dolts in front of their peers.
Here are examples of student blog essays.
Daily Bell: How are you able to keep the costs of this program so low?
Gary North: Camtasia Studio and Amazon S3.
Daily Bell: At this point you're offering courses for grades 6 to 11 in English, history, Western Civ, math, science, biology, physical science, chemistry, public speaking, government, economics and personal finance. What other courses do you expect to offer for the upper grades when the curriculum is complete?
Gary North: Physics, U.S. history, English, business, and math through calculus.
Daily Bell: Will the curriculum emphasize spiritual or religious issues?
Gary North: Every issue is religious. Commitment to the free society is deeply religious . . . and not widely shared.
Daily Bell: Students get two courses on free-market economics. Can you expand? Do they learn about Keynes or just Mises, et al.?
Gary North: This has been cut to one course. They read mainly Austrians, but I will go through Marx, which I wrote a book about in 1968 (Marx's Religion of Revolution), and Keynes.
Daily Bell: There is a how-to course on how to reclaim America. Is this possible? What is the format of the course?
Gary North: It has been canceled. I figured out that students will not take elective courses that are not required by colleges. That means only one economics course and one government course. Students are hard-pressed to get through everything. We make two exceptions: Western civilization – the RPC's core course – and business, where money is on the line.
Daily Bell: Are you hopeful that this course will have an impact on public schools?
Gary North: No.
Daily Bell: Could it sweep the country?
Gary North: No.
Daily Bell: Can people entirely home school with the Ron Paul Curriculum instead of sending their kids to school?
Gary North: Yes.
Daily Bell: Are public schools doomed?
Gary North: Yes . . . for the same reasons that established churches were doomed. They extract money from taxpayers who disapprove of both the priesthood and its theology.
Daily Bell: Are modern private schools any better, curriculum-wise?
Gary North: A little. Sometimes.
Daily Bell: Why is Western schooling so socialistic?
Gary North: It is funded by the state. Follow the money.
Daily Bell: Can Western schooling be turned around by programs like this?
Gary North: Yes.
Daily Bell: Any other comments you want to make?
Gary North: Anyone who reads this and who does not immediately pull his children, grades 6-11, out of the public schools, is normal. There is great resistance. "Our local schools are different!" The textbooks aren't.
Daily Bell: Resources you want to mention?
Gary North: Ron Paul's The School Revolution.
Daily Bell: Thanks for your time. Good luck.
Gary North: You're welcome. But there is no such thing as luck. "Luck will get you over the ditch if you jump hard enough." – Charles Spurgeon.
Ha! … Gary North can be a kind of curmudgeon but his insights into modern Western economics are often brilliant and usually plainspoken. In this case, he is taking on a monumental and worthwhile job.
Just as Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute changed economics in the US and even in the West, so this curriculum will likely prove a blow to public schooling.
Of course, as Dr. North points out, Western-style public schooling is probably doomed in any case. It is becoming less and less relevant even as it is becomes more of a burden for the taxpayer.
There is already significant unrest in many major Western countries regarding taxation. And without taxation, were the current tax systems to fail, public schooling would likely collapse as well.
Can't happen too soon, in our opinion. Children spend an incredible amount of time in school these days and most of what happens in those schools involves indoctrination rather than education.
These schools fail to include a main component of education, which is critical thinking. Nonetheless, the Internet Reformation is beginning to spawn what public schools lack – credible information and informed history.
The Ron Paul Curriculum will only increase the pressure on accepted Western schooling, in our view. People are becoming increasingly aware of the kind of alternative history offered by alternative media sites including, of course, The Daily Bell.
A final note. Gary North alludes to a number of historical influences on education and information. Bismarck, Dewey and Gutenberg surely remain important influencers along with those Dr. North mentions.
Our thanks to Dr. North for the good work he is doing and for taking time out of his busy schedule to provide this informative and provocative interview.