Education

Schooling for Troubled Kids, from the Libertarian Tradition

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The Freeman has an interesting account of a specialized school for troubled teens called "Freedom Mountain Academy," written by Ross Benes.

While the story doesn't stress this, the school's operator Kevin Cullinane started as a chosen successor to early libertarian guru Robert LeFevre who ran the mid-60s all-libertarian Freedom School, later known as Rampart College. (LeFevre's story is told in my book Radicals for Capitalism.)

Fee

You might or might not agree with the specific tenets and techniques of the school. They involve:

students start with few privileges but gain more and more as they demonstrate commitment and personal responsibility. That little twist from entitlement and punishment to earning and reinforcement rekindles motivation in FMA's students. The curriculum reinforces this approach by rewarding students' efforts….When students first arrive, they forfeit their electronic devices….

and:

The first book they read is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, which chronicles Frankl's struggle to find purpose in his life as an Auschwitz prisoner. Students discuss the book's theme of suffering and how it relates to their own feelings. At this point they go on their first expedition into the wilderness, where they live off the land for 10 days, learning to work with and rely on one another.

"When you're out in the wilderness you really can see how we're all connected to each other," said former FMA student Travis Ackerman. "They teach you how to grow up and take care of yourself. They don't just teach you to memorize facts but they push you to think of new ways to solve problems," he said…..

The level of regimentation they put the kids through isn't something I'd be comfortable with, but then again I don't have "troubled kids" (or any). The students also work on the farm connected to the school, which provides most of their own food. The article gives at least some anecdotal evidence that the structure helps some kids who needed self-discipline.

The quality of the education itself is libertarian-flavored, even if the relationship between the school and its students is not:

"We don't teach political history," Kevin Cullinane said. "Instead we teach the history of human progress…." 

"The classes don't just teach you what a public school would teach you. He teaches the truth about things the government might conceal," [one student] said, noting that class discussions about the Waco siege and the confrontation in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, opened up her mind. But rather than just take his word for it, Mr. Kevin instructs students to do their own research, she said.

Benes draws the lesson that, whether or not the FMA methods are good for everyone, its existence is:

an example of how independent philosophies can be more effective in helping troubled young people than any uniform system or standardized regime. If Cullinane had to follow rules from a higher district or board, he would not have been able to create his unique program. And his students would likely not have found a program that worked for them.


NEXT: Meet Power of Glamour's Virginia Postrel and FIRE's Greg Lukianoff, Tues., 1/28

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  1. The quality of the education itself is libertarian-flavored, even if the relationship between the school and its students is not

    WTF does this even mean?

    Brian, srsly, libertarianism is not a moral or cultural outlook; it’s a political one. Everything under the sun is compatible with libertarianism so long as its entered into freely and voluntarily or, in the case of these children, if their guardians enroll them in the school.

    1. What NK said.

      1. What robc said NK said

        there’s no reason to consider an institution with a strong element of ‘authority’ un-libertarian if its a relationship you enter into voluntarily. I’d object to a public school behaving this way mainly because *you’re forced to be there*. but hell, you want to go to a military boarding school and get hazed all day by teachers and students? Go for it.

        I went on a couple of those “Lord of the Flies/Troubled Kids in the Woods”-trips, as a junior counselor/guide. The kids were genuinely *troubled*. pretty serious problems: suicide attempts, heroin withdrawal, sexual abuse victims, gang-violence etc.

        I can say this = it generally works. Taking a kid out of the ‘comfort zone’ of a modern environment, with all of its predictable social pressures and distractions, can work wonders for getting their head straight. When you’re cold and want to get warm, and getting warm requires Discipline and Focus = you learn by necessity. It also teaches kids self-reliance and independence; they look far less to others for positive or negative reinforcement.

        The effects are by no means permanent, and it doesn’t work for everyone, but it has surprisingly positive results with most (*boys, I guess I should caveat. the ‘troubled girls’ it helped too, but Im not sure it worked exactly the same way)

  2. Kind of a backwards idea. A lot of “troubled kids” are already intelligent and libertarian. Especially the kind that would probably be sent here.

    1. “A lot”, maybe. Most? I highly doubt it. In my high school experience, the vast majority of troublemakers were just stupid assholes. And I do mean stupid. Most of them reveled in the “thug” culture.

      1. Nobody would be thoughtful enough to send the thug culture stupid assholes to a place such as mentioned here.

        1. actually, happens all the time.

          one of the trips I took kids out on included a 15yr old convicted of manslaughter. Take these kids away from their peers, they become pussycats after 2 days. Whiny pussycats actually. Fact: thugs are easily scared by spiders.

          1. You need to picth this to Hollywood as a new variant of the Home Alone movies.

  3. Schooling for Troubled Kids, from the Libertarian Tradition

    What the fu…. How is that different from a Jihad terrorists training camp? Teaching kids to hate their true Lord and Savior, the government? DRONEZ!!!

  4. A bit OT:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-G…..Avonte-law

    SCHUMER PUSHES LAW TO PUT TRACKERS ON AUTISTIC CHILDREN

    Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has proposed a far-reaching new law that would force taxpayers to cover the costs of placing tracking devices on autistic children after 14-year-old autistic child Avonte Oquendo was found dead last week. The tracking devices would not be implanted, but would instead be attached to watches, ankle bracelets, belts, or shoelaces. “The program would be completely voluntary for parents and run by local law enforcement,” Schumer’s office announced.
    Schumer himself said, “Avonte’s running away was not an isolated incident. This is a high-tech solution to an age-old problem.”
    Studies show that approximately half of autistic children wander away from supervised areas. The legislation would grant $10 million for the program.

    1. The program would be completely voluntary

      For about a year

      1. Make no mistake, moobs wants to put these devices on you. To make sure you ain’t sneaking off with any of his revenue, you know. He needs one FATCA shoved straight up his ass.

      2. If it is completely voluntary, then it can be completely voluntarily paid for as well.

        1. But that wouldn’t feed the army of “caretakers”/future Democratic voters that Moobs envisions.

    2. Moobs is a class A jackass. He’s definitely one of the worst, ever. He’s right up there with McCain and Feinstein. Fucking asshole.

    3. Studies show that approximately half of autistic children wander away from supervised areas.

      From homes, schools, or both?

      1. Studies also show that approximately half of all children wander away from supervised areas.

    4. There really is no lower level of batshittery authoritarianism that Bitch Titties won’t eagerly embrace.

    5. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has proposed a far-reaching new law that would force taxpayers to cover the costs of placing tracking devices on autistic children

      Fuck, why stop there? Why not just go ahead and lo-jack all kids. The fact that then government can more easily keep track of everyone through their adult years would of course be a feature, not a bug.

    6. How about this? Parents are responsible for taking care of their issue.

  5. If some of these teenage thrill-seekers really want to go out and get a thrill. Let them go up into the north west and let them tangle with a Grizzly bear or Polar bear or brown bear and get that effect that will cleanse the soul.

    1. My uncle shot two blackbears in the face with some kind of revolver. True story.

      1. The details sound sketchy. Probably made up.

    2. If they can even find a polar bear, what with all the global warming.

  6. …students start with few privileges but gain more and more as they demonstrate commitment and personal responsibility.

    That’s not really preparing them for the real world, is it?

  7. This sounds like a cross between Outward Bound and “reform school”.
    I’m all for it.

  8. That little twist from entitlement and punishment to earning and reinforcement rekindles motivation in FMA’s students. The curriculum reinforces this approach by rewarding students’ efforts….When students first arrive, they forfeit their electronic devices….

    If it wasn’t already too late, I’d send my spawn there in a heartbeat.

  9. When students first arrive, they forfeit their electronic devices

    I would think this is standard in any classroom…? It would be impossible to teach a class otherwise.

  10. Hmmm… child labor and creating an army of trained libertarian survivalists…. what’s not to like?

    1. Self-discipline and teaching kids to know their enemy…it’s like the Black Muslims but with more nerdy spaceship stuff.

      (seriously, sounds like a good idea. Not the Black Muslim stuff, I don’t know enough about them)

    2. We just need a weapons and tactics class and we’ve got the libertarian version of The Taliban.

      1. I’m almost certain some preppers already fall under that category.

        Unfortunately that probably means they’ll be the first ones killed.

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