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Stossel: A Better School

Kids do real work at a new kind of school.

3 million kids (mostly boys) are given medication that's supposed to make them sit still and focus.

But what if schools, not kids, are the problem?

One former public school student, Cade Summers, tells John Stossel that he hated the effect of the drugs--that it was like he had been "lobotomized."

Cade's parents took him off the "attention deficit" drugs and sent him to other schools. But Cade hated them all. "I would come home and I would sometimes just cry," Cade tells Stossel.

Then he heard of a new type of school in Austin, Texas. It promised to let kids discuss ideas, and to do real-world work.

But the school, the Academy of Thought and Industry, is a private school that charges tuition.

So Cade started getting up at 3 a.m. to work in a coffee shop to help pay the tuition.

What kind of school could possibly be worth that to a kid?

The school's founder, Michael Strong, says kids learn best when they are given actual responsibility, real life work. "Teens need responsibility...Ben Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, started their careers at the age of 12 or 13," he points out.

Nowadays people consider that abusive child labor, Stossel notes.

"I worked as a teen," Strong replies. "I loved it. Teens very often want to work."

Strong's schools do many things differently. Students get Fridays off to work on their own projects. School starts at 10 a.m. There are no lectures--instead students read, and then discuss what they read.

That's different from schools Strong once attended--and hated.

"School is 13 years of how to be passive, how to be dependent," Strong tells Stossel.

"School is about aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and never get stuff done. So I want students who just go out there and get stuff done, fail, get up, try again. That's how we become creators, entrepreneurs...We want them to do what they love now."

For Cade, that meant doing a marketing internship Fridays, where he did actual work.

When he completed Strong's school, he got a job right away--at a tech startup that normally requires a college degree.

Another Academy graduate runs a successful metal music festival called "Austin Terror Fest."

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  • Rich||

    It promised to let kids discuss ideas, and to do real-world work.

    So the authorities promptly shut it down, right? RIGHT?!

  • Griffin3||

    "School is 13 years of how to be passive, how to be dependent," Strong tells Stossel.

    This kid gets it.

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  • tommyguns2||

    The present education architecture is not doing very well. It does work adequately for some segment of the total student population, but so many kids exit high school with very few real skills. I think the county level joint vocational schools are so much better for most of the high school student body. Graduate from high school, and actually know how to do car repair, HVAC, culinary skills, etc. Graduate from high school ready to receive the next level of training while on the job. No college debt, no indoctrination, etc.

    And college really needs to be turned on its head. It's doing a terrible job of creating graduates with critical thinking skills. Just kids with 5-6 years experience getting drunk and laid, and no worthwhile job skills, and all they have to show for it is an STD and $80K of student debt wrapped around their neck. You can get drunk and an STD for a lot less than $80K.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Looking back at my schools, I don't think they were anything special. A few teachers stand out, but only for their enthusiasm, not for bucking the structured environment. I think the reason I succeeded is because I used the school as a resource -- the library and labs especially -- to study and do what I wanted, mostly in addition to the assignments.

    One social studies teacher, for instance, insisted we keep notes of every lecture, which turned out to be just reading the same 5 pages we were supposed to read the night before (and also take notes on). So I read those 5 pages between classes, never took any notes, and read what I wanted during his idiots lectures. He was pissed about my notebook being empty, but still gave me Bs and As because of the tests.

    Not sure why I did it that way. Independent streak, I guess. I remember some friend trying to get me to join the boy scouts -- I could go camping, learn to tie knots, start a fire -- I said I could do all those things on my own, why join some organization? He had no answer. I guess some people just need an organization to permit them to do the things they want to do.

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  • Cthulunotmyfriend||

    I love Stossel, even though I disagree with him lots too. This is a big problem in our society, and getting students, and they are mostly boys, jacked up on meds so they can sit in a chair through the day is a terrible plan. I say this as a school teacher who has seen years of this.
    Watch
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

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  • mtrueman||

    "What kind of school could possibly be worth that to a kid?"

    No school. I'd say rather that it's teachers who can motivate and inspire students. The schools themselves are just buildings and institutes.

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  • factjack||

    This is why kids who grow up on working ranches and farms do much better in life. They start helping out around the place at a young age (I was 6 when I started helping to gather eggs, helped feed bum calves, etc.) and learn responsibility younger, as well. I'm sure glad it wasn't considered a child labor violation when I was growing up eons ago. Without the help of us kids, our ranch never would have been the success it was for many years.

    Kids desperately need three things they aren't getting enough of right now: responsibility and two parents, one of each sex, not a "mom dad" or whatever is out there now. Raising kids is a lot of work and it's beyond disgraceful what's happening to the children of single mom's in some cases. Some of them do fine if the mom is a responsible person, but the single welfare-check mom's are doing their children no favors. The third thing kids need, more than anything else mentioned, is love. Putting kids on pills and psychotropic drugs is going to get them nowhere in life.

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  • vek||

    Something I have long said is that public schools are OKAY (read not great, but not the worst ever, just mediocre) for the majority of students... It is those that are really bad students or really good students who are not served well. That could be just plain dumb kids, or ones with other problems like this kid.

    Drugging little boys is a major problem the last couple decades, and is total bullshit that is mostly pushed by females who don't find boys acting like boys naturally do to be acceptable. This crap needs to end.

    But yeah, US schools are actually NOT doing worse than they used to at teacher the 3 Rs... It's simply that the demographics of the US have shifted from groups that do well in school, to those that do poorly. White/Asian/Jewish Americans do just as well in international rankings as they ever have. Granted, we are spending double the money compared to what we used to to get these same results.

    The real problem is not the 3 Rs but history, civics, practical stuff (personal finance, vocational, etc), and the indoctrination. If it weren't for those flaws public schools would be OKAY results wise, but for way more money than they should cost.

  • madam margaret||

    Americans today are as ready for Liberty as our Children--helicoptered all day, driven to school and 'safe' organized sports, driven to and then deposited at the prison-like compound for the day, sitting in a closed airless classroom and 'absorbing' the 'material'...studying obsessively or drugged for the tests that will enable entry to the elite college

    No wonder all the democrats can think of is the hypnosis of helplessness and heavy-state socialism...today's school

    No school reform...no freedom...sorry

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all.

  • Get Off My Lawn!||

    And though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall.

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    Maybe you should have Holocaust denial school to be in line with Reason's values.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Imagine going to school where this tool did.

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