Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Is The Ron Paul Curriculum Failing Its Students?

Dr. Gary North
A friend emailed this to me:
 I wanted to bring to your attention a very powerful review of the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum that I read the other day.  I don't know anything about Gary North as a person (I do see his work quite often on TL and EPJ), but it appears that he is the mastermind behind the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum and is a very authoritarian instructor.

I strongly recommend you
read the following review from an actual student of the curriculum:

Of course this says nothing about the other great teachers the course has, but it's very sad to see such a great idea go so wrong.

Please let me know your thoughts.
The link above leads to a post written by Lillie Riccioli. Some snippets:
In my first year, I took notice of how Gary North talked to students; especially in comparison to how other instructors regarded students. (For anyone who does not know, the instructors do not grade your schoolwork, and all communications are through online forums. The forums are probably about 95% student moderated, and all posts are visible to all members.) Although I enjoyed his courses, I was met with animosity whenever I asked a clarification question, and I was not the only one. Since I was so new to the curriculum, I mostly just kept my head down when I saw North making an effort to belittle students.

The way he spoke was not with authority, but rather, arrogance. Students as young as freshmen were subjected to public embarrassment and humiliation on the public forums;  and each and every question asked was answered with another question: “do other students feel the same?”. If other students would confirm that they agree, he would again ask more questions to avoid fixing his mistakes. Under no circumstances would North accept advice or requests from the students....

Within 6 months of being in the curriculum I had seen an encounter between North and another student that actually upset me so much I contacted the support email for the RPC. North was far beyond disrespectful towards the student, and was clearly aiming for public humiliation in an attempt to deter him/her from asking North to fix his course mistakes.
Now, I read the entire blog post, including the Dr. North responses, and the reponses did not strike me as particularly arrogant.

This might be because I have lived in the world of finance where men can be very brutal to each other. But that said, life is not handed to us on a silver platter. Sometimes we have to struggle with things.

In my youth, at times, I wish I had someone who would have said to me at crucial points, "Just shut up and get back to work, you are in a great position." Instead, when I wasn't served on a silver platter that was shined to my liking, I sometimes went off in nutty directions looking for a perfectly shined platter. And you know what, I still haven't found one. There isn't one out there.

Dr. North might be a little cranky but I tell you the man is a genius. I know some very smart people and he ranks above most of them.

Just from learning about something he is doing in the curriculum, through mentions he has made in his posts, I have more than once thought to myself, I wish I had someone to teach me that in high school.

As for Dr. North's religious views, what does this have to do with RPC? As far as I know, there is no religious instruction at RPC. One of the themes I regularly present here at TL and EPJ is that in a complex society, we exchange with people when it is advantageous to exchange and otherwise don't  generally get involved with their views that don't have anything to do with the exchange.

Indeed, if I could do high school over again, there is no question that Dr. North would be my first choice to study under regardless of his religious views. Knowing what I know now, I would also deal with any of his eccentricities or crankiness.

In fact, years ago when I put together my course on blogging, one of the very few websites I mentioned was Dr. North's and that it should be studied to learn what he is doing.

I continue to learn from his writings.

Lillie, you have a talent for writing. I hope you and Dr. North can somehow reconcile. I can't think of an educator at the high school level that you could learn more from.

I really think he is just old school, and that might not be a bad thing. He might even be a softy.

The notion that a tough arrogant taskmaster is somehow non-libertarian fails to understand the nature of libertarianism.  Sometimes a tough taskmaster is exactly what we need and as long as we aren't coerced by the state into being subjected to a tough taskmaster, there is nothing wrong with the type.

Libertarianism isn't about everyone treating us softly.

Indeed, a friend emails:
I must say that, in general, I have always gravitated toward pedagogically authoritarian teachers, which get more work and cogitation out of me than the more lenient ones.  We are homeschooling our kids and they are still many years away from high school.  I don't know that we will use the RP curriculum, but I don't see anything so far that dissuades me from using it.
The story the great Boston Celtics basketball player Bill Russell tells comes to mind.  He said that when Red Auerbach was coach of the Celtics, he didn't like the way he yelled at some players--especially the way he yelled at Tommy Heinsohn, Then Auerbach retired and made Russell player-coach. At first, Russell treated all the players alike, but Heinsohn was loafing, Finally, in frustration, he yelled at Heinsohn, who immediately picked up his game. After that whenever he saw Heinsohn start to loaf, he sort of looked at his watch and said to himself "It's time to yell and Heinsohn."

Sometimes a tough push isn't a bad thing, especially for youth.

The world is filled with all kinds of people. Take what you can from them that is valuable and forget the rest. In the case of Dr. North, the valuable stuff he offers is very valuable and it is unlikely to be found anywhere else. And that he is pushing students to figure things out on their own is really not a bad thing. In a world increasingly filled with snowflakes, it will be a very distinct advantage for students who have figured things out from a very tough taskmaster. When they get out in the real world they are the ones that will have the confidence to deal with obstacles and proceed to success and great achievements.



Also see:

Tom Woods Responds to Ron Paul Curriculum Article

Dear Libertarian Parents, Please Stop Acting Like Snowflakes


  1. Sometimes tough love or just a plain kick in the ass is needed. One of the best pieces of advice my father gave me was the following; "Not everyone is going to like you but you need to worry about you" I regret not learning it quicker than I should have.

  2. Many years ago when I was going thru training I remember an instructor addressing the trainees as he was looking straight at me and say; "No one is ever completely useless, you can always be the bad example".

  3. Why do young men go into the Marine Corps? Not asking whether they should.

  4. Women do not react to criticism the same way as men. They take it very personally, as if it is an attack on their very essence.

    Further, what they perceive as critical often makes no sense to men.

    That's all this is.

    I use the royal they. NAWALT and all that to any precious snowflakes in the audience.

  5. Whenever someone complains about me not being "nice", I think of this passage from scripture. Sometimes being "nice" is not the right thing in the situation.

    Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. [Matthew 15: 21-28]