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provisioning three teens

I work with three smart, active, ambitious and industrious young adults. I like them a lot. I see a lot of me at their age. I understand many of the influences that got them where they are. I sometimes ponder where I may have gone if someone had been able to reach me with some key bits of information. How many stupid moves could I have avoided? I wonder if anyone from the older generation could have reached me at all. That they didn’t could mean nobody tried or that I wasn’t reachable. I’ll never know.

Yesterday I took a chance and loaned these three some books out of my personal library. In their cases, I can at lest know that one person tried.

Suzi is the one who inspired this look through my library. She’s a bright, effervescent high school senior constantly active and productive. She’s planning on joining the US Army as a way to pay for a college degree with a teaching credential in it. She has a plan for getting somewhere that she expects to find satisfying… and Suzi will get there at the top of her class.

Thinking about her aspirations got me re-reading Dumbing US Down. This fine book explains a whole lot about my kids, my wife’s kids, their generation and my generation. It describes a lot about how our thinking, training and what we think of as learning developed. Some of us found ways to expand our knowledge beyond what THEY want us to know and how THEY want us to think, or more accurately how they want us to think we think. Most don’t find a way out.

Suzi deserves better.

THEY don’t deserve her.

Perhaps if I illuminate this little-used trail off to the side she may find a more rewarding path. A couple of days ago her “winter break” began with the next two weeks off from indoctrination center activities. When she mentioned the family vacation plans and her expectation that she would be bored out of her mind, I grabbed my partially-reread copy of Dumbing US Down for her.

With a big gulp, and because she is such a responsible person, I decided to also throw in the early printing of Healing Our World that Mary Ruart inscribed to us when we featured her at the Libertarian state convention. I could have loaned her the newer one, but it was missing a particularly appropriate graph depicting increasing time in US schools corresponding with decreasing knowledge. If Dumbing US Down opens even a crack in the hallway, Suzi might be ready to consider some of Mary’s insights to how centralized government creates much of what is wrong with the world around us.

I hemmed and hawed, stared at and thunk about, then finally grabbed a copy of The Law off my shelves. Definitely not for the weak of grammar and comprehension, this tiny book from the distant past can provide a foundation, an analytical tool for everything that comes your way. Or it can be useless esoteric nonsense. I questioned also the concept of “pushing” even one book on a potentially unwilling soul, let alone three. Oh well, she’s certainly capable of rejecting what she doesn’t want.

I called Suzi this morning to stress our personal sensitivities to her treatment of the special copy of Mary Ruart’s book I loaned out and was pleased not only because she promised great care, but also to find that she had already been into The Law and was really enjoying it… “Thank you so much!”.

Every bit as intelligent, ambitious and industrious, but far more reserved and perhaps more analytical, Nelleya’s trajectory has her in college heading for an accounting degree. This is the path, she is told, to a good-paying job that she feels will suit her personality. As with every other career path reached through our university system, she will be spending most of her time memorizing and regurgitating stuff unrelated to the job she wants. Worse than useless, much of it is just plain wrong. Keynesian economics is a perfect example.

I took a similar path towards a business management degree taking most of the same required subjects she will be taking. The word “taking” that we use in this context is particularly appropriate, as in “take that and that and that” as we pummel our students into submission. I attentively sat through lectures, practiced repeatedly, studied diligently and regurgitated successfully the abstract mythologies that the dominant Keynesian sect uses to explain economics. Decades later I discovered the Austrian School of economic science and am now invulnerable to the hokum that justifies central government manipulation of money supplies and interest rates.

Nelleya deserves the same shield.

Which of my books on economics and monetary theory can shine a light that she might see? Economics In One Lesson seemed like as good a bet as any. In 1946, Henry Hazlitt delivered a clear explanation of Austrian Economics then applied it to the world we live in. I don’t know if this is the best choice, but if she is interested I certainly have others she can pick through.

Bill is quick of both mind and body, strong in work ethic, ample in initiative and eager to get somewhere in this world. He has charted a path and pursued it with a diligence and uncommon purposefulness. One semester from high school graduation, he is likely less than a month from an appointment to the Naval Academy. He will excel there, or wherever he goes. His next forty years are likely to be so much better than that same period of my life that I hesitate to say a thing. I can’t conjure up any picture more enticing than the one he has in front of him.

That didn’t stop me though. I pulled out The Real Lincoln for Bill.

One of the best things someone heading his direction can know is that history is written by the victors. Reading The Real Lincoln was a turning point in my life. If nearly everything I “knew” about Honest Abe was wrong, then I had better take a more critical look at the other “facts” I had so willingly absorbed from official sources. Nothing says, “Think for yourself” always and forever better than the knowledge that the rulers, “leaders” and approved historians are at least as likely to lie as tell the truth. If he does get that message, it sure won’t make success in his chosen career path easier, but he will have a much better crack at retaining the honor and nobility he carries going into it.

I butted in because it would be a great loss to fill those beautiful minds with [more] garbage. I want everyone, but particularly our best and brightest to develop with real knowledge rather than the perverse fictions that have become mainstream. I simply can’t stand idly by and watch, though mostly I feel powerless to prevent it. Those much closer to me have made it clear they wish no more of my outlandish ideas. How can I expect otherwise from people I met mere months ago?

Perhaps like a flower that is open to pollination for a brief moment in its life, this may be that moment for them.