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December 2016

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A Plea to Betsy DeVos and President-elect Trump

Foreword – I don’t really like the method I am proposing in the following but I have over 30 years’ experience in re-organizing businesses and can state with absolute certainty that this country’s K-12 public school districts simply do not have the ability to transform in any meaningful manner.  It just isn’t possible. 

If we want to finally fix the failing K-12 public education system and help save every child whose heart beats today, we must take action.  Yes, God bless the school choice movement but their impact over the past 25 years as a percent of all K-12 students has been minuscule.  The solution is in changing the system and brute force and blackmail seems to be the only possible method to do so. 

jc

A Plea to President Trump

And so the Trump revolution begins.  If President Trump truly wants to make America great again he must address the sad state of K-12 public education.  It is both the cause and the solution to many of this country’s problems.  Positive national transformation is simply not possible without fixing K-12.

As an experienced manager you know one should always focus on why rather than who when addressing this or that failure.  Don’t blame the teachers.  This country is filled with hardworking, dedicated, and loving teachers, administrators, para-pros and volunteers.  They are not the problem.

Don’t blame the unions.  Yes, unions are always resistant to change but not being part of the solution does not mean they are therefore the source of the problem.  Rather the problem is K-12’s basic top-down system design.

On a per-pupil basis we spend more money on K-12 education than any other country on the planet.  Yet the fact remains most 8th graders are not proficient in either math or reading.  Only about 25% of incoming college freshmen are prepared for college, just 4% for blacks.  And few wake up the day before high school graduation and decide to attend college.  Most of these kids have been on a college-track for years and these are the results?!  What of those who weren’t on a college-track?

And the poorer one is, the worse it is.  The schools poor kids are forced to attend are a national and moral disgrace.  Their lives are being destroyed before they even have a chance.  And sadly far too many of these kids have black and brown skin.  If you don’t want opportunity to continue to be rationed by parent’s zip code, then the Trump administration must act quickly and boldly.

You must act quickly because you are only 7 years old once.  Most studies show if a child is not performing at grade level by 5th grade the odds are they never will.  Far too many school improvement plans act as though the goal is the school, not the students.  Plans taking 10-plus years to even begin to implement are a joke to every child whose heart beats today.  These supposed “improvements” will not impact a single one since they will have already moved far down that vast assembly line of K-12 education. 

You must act boldly because the present clearly isn’t working.  President Trump, in your business experiences you have witnessed the wonders of the marketplace.  How free people freely interacting with other free people can quickly and profoundly transform any area they touch.  Education is no different.

On average this country annually spends around $11,000 per pupil on K-12 public education.  In many inner-cities it is often more than double this.  Please push for introduction of a bill which forces any state that accepts federal education dollars to change the method(s) used to fund K-12. Rather than funding the education establishment, force the states to fund children instead.  The bill will require states accepting federal education dollars to give sole control to the parents to determine how and where these education dollars are spent, of course in some sort of state-regulated environment.  As icing on top, this won’t cost an extra dime.

This one simple change, which could be implemented right now, will unleash the wisdom of millions as the power of free people freely interacting with other free people transforms public education.  Every student will gain as will every teacher.

There are a couple models for this.  At the federal level a similar tactic was used in the 1984 highway bill which forced a national 21 year old drinking age; so what we are proposing is not new or unique and has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

At the state-level we have a model in the effective state-based regulation of beverage alcohol.  This country has one of the best regulated alcohol markets in the world while also being the most dynamic and innovative.  The same can be done with K-12 public education.  Let each state become a laboratory in democracy and watch the transformation happen before our eyes.  Leave it to the states to decide how to do it; the law will simply demand they must if they want to continue to receive federal education dollars.

The only way to fix a failing system is to change the system.  It is within your power to unleash the wisdom of millions by ending the failing, top-down, “we know best” system design of K-12.  Replace it with freedom.  Replace it with true opportunity.  Perhaps go for the whole enchilada and get rid of the entire Department of Education in the process.  It is a remnant of this failing system.

Will this be disruptive?  Of course.  But will it literally save this country and millions of young lives?  Without a doubt.  You have had the courage to do what the vast majority thought impossible; please do not avert your eyes to this on-going American tragedy.

And as a secondary benefit, can you imagine your inroads into all communities but especially the black and brown communities if you come with a $11,000 - $20,000 check to be used by parents to educate their children?  You will transform the political realities of the entire country while saving millions of young lives.  You will go down as one of the most transformational Presidents in the country’s history.

I beg you to bring freedom to K-12 public education.  The eyes of 75 million young Americans are upon you.  Please don’t let them down.

John Conlin is the founder and President of End the Education Plantation, www.EndtheEducationPlantation.org.   He started it because he’s seen first-hand the harm being caused by our nation’s schools and believes it’s time to do something about that.   

No Need For Kings

Just had this published in The American Thinker which you can find here or you can just keep reading…

I don’t like royalty.  Never did, never will.  You’ll never hear me referring to anyone as Prince-this or Queen-that.  I just don’t buy it.  Folks from other countries might choose to anoint others as their “betters” and to then bow down before them but not me.  I don’t care if it is governmental royalty, celebrity royalty or political royalty; you won’t see me on bended knee before them.

Perhaps it’s because I’m just some schmoe from fly-over country but the concept of royalty and me just don’t mix.  Royalty is based on an ancient, wrong-headed belief that “it’s in the blood”.  This is patently offensive to me as well as being quite provably false. 

This sick and twisted thinking is what drove and continues to drive the racial and ethnic stupidity that flows throughout this country. 

I am a proud American.  Perhaps I am naïve but I profoundly believe in the creed that all people are created equal.  Not as in the book Animal Farm where some are more equal than others (that’s royalty by another name) but that at our most basic, every single one of us has equal standing simply by our existence.  I’ll leave it to God to make judgements about our individual moral standing, for me we are all equal.  And please, this doesn’t mean we are all equal in our various abilities; that is a spurious argument at best.

One of the most profound moments in human history was the founding of this country on the premise that all people are created equal and that no royalty or ruling class was required; individual citizens could do just fine running their own country.  It was the people who had a government, not the other way around.

And a foundational belief in this equality is the absolute need for all citizens to be equal under the law.  Rich or poor, powerful or powerless; all are to be treated equally under the law.  If this is cast aside then so must the concept that all people are created equal.

If this is cast aside then we really do have royalty, whether called that or not.  If we allow this to be, it unravels the entire basis for this country.  The concept of equal justice under the law is not just important, it is fundamental.  Without it the words of our Constitution are simply a sad joke for those silly enough to believe them.  Is this where we have arrived where only saps like me are duped by this quaint notion?

How am I supposed to sit on a jury and decide my fellow citizen’s fate when I know that our political royalty are held to a different and almost always lower standard?  How can I demand my fellow citizens tell the truth under oath when no such demand is made of our royalty?  Why should I participate in any system whereby my fellow citizens are held to a higher standard than our political royalty?

I refuse.  Others in this country seem bent on anointing politicians as their betters and then rushing to bow down before them.  Screw that.  Although others might be quite ready to freely cast aside the fundamental notion of our individual equality and bow before their “betters”, I will not. 

John Conlin is President and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading a fact-based paradigm here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.  He is an expert in organizational design and change. 

Our political Battle of Agincourt

As I sit here this morning my heart is heavy and I fear for my country, for my grandchildren, for my fellow citizens.  Immunity deals revealed, government-directed late Friday afternoon document dumps, media and government collusion to a degree few imagined; just more drips from what seems to be a never-ending flow of obvious corruption and criminality from the highest reaches of the federal government. 

To any honest observer this entire FBI – Justice Department “investigation” of Clinton’s use and destruction of a private email server is a joke, a charade, a kabuki dance for us deplorable rubes from fly-over country.  The fix has been in from the start. 

The concept of equal justice under the law lays tattered at our feet.  It seems there remains not a single soul in the FBI or Department of Justice whose personal honor has more worth than a paycheck.

When did we lose our freedom?  How did we lose our freedom?  And sadly why are so many quite willing to elevate people to royalty and to then eagerly bow before them?

Shakespeare coined many a phrase about scurvy politicians and cowards and they ring as true today as when they were written. 

But to my fellow deplorables and all who love freedom I offer another piece of Shakespearean wisdom. 

Let this be our cry.  Let this be our roar.  No matter how vile or whether we agree on other subjects, all who fight for freedom will be forever our band of brothers and sisters. 

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Let today be the beginning of our political Battle of Agincourt.  Let us never stop until we stand on the field of victory or lie in piles of smoldering corpses.  And this isn’t about Trump; he has a role to play and his election is important but our salvation lay in the hearts of millions of freedom loving Americans, hero’s all.  Do not look to others to lead; become the leader, grab the reins wherever you may be and make a stand.

Don’t listen to those who say we can’t win because we are outnumbered.  At the Battle of Agincourt the English fought in the mud; many naked and covered with feces from the rampant sickness.  They were outnumbered by at least 3 to 1.  And they lost 400 while killing at least 6,000 Frenchmen.

Never forget that “Cowards die many times before their deaths.  The valiant never taste of death but once.”

And for those who find Trump and us deplorables far too despicable to stand with and fight, I’ll again let Shakespeare provide the response:

“That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

   Let him depart; his passport shall be made,

   And crowns for convoy put into his purse;

   We would not die in that man's company

   That fears his fellowship to die with us.”

 We will let posterity determine the worth of their manhood’s.  Ours will stand long after theirs are but dust in the wind.

John Conlin is President and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.EICEnterprises.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading a fact-based paradigm here and around the world primarily through K-12 education.  He is an expert in organizational design and change. 

The Organization as a Life Form

The following was recently published in The American Thinker, which you can find here or you can simply keep reading ;-)

 

Take a few individuals and put them together in an organization of almost any sort and an amazing thing happens.  The organization effectively becomes alive.  It creates a heartbeat of its very own and it, the organization, will fight to stay alive from that point forward. 

This is true of all types of organizations, both for- and non-profit.  Even though the organization is an artificial entity it will mimic a biologic life form.

It will first and foremost fight to stay alive.  It will seek to expand and grow.  It will seek out resources and will fight to retain these resources for its own uses.  It will attempt to take care of its own in all of its actions.

And it will do these things almost regardless of who the individual members are or how often they come and go.  Although directed by living people, the organization has a life of its own in many profound ways.   This isn’t a philosophical position, it is a fact. 

In a for-profit organization all of these organizational drives are tempered by the reality of the marketplace.  They must convince individuals to voluntarily part with their money for whatever goods and services are offered and to do so in a profitable manner.  Otherwise they will cease to exist.  These organizational heartbeats depend on success to survive.

But non-profit organizations aren’t bound by this reality.  And the biggest, most powerful, and most threatening non-profit organizations that exist are government.

The non-profits we call government don’t have to convince people to voluntarily part with their money.  They can force the issue.  They don’t have to provide quality goods and/or services and achieving these goals at a profit or even breakeven is not required.  Thus there are no feedback loops whereby reality can easily alter the path of these non-profit entities.  Effective feedback allows for gradual change and adaptation.  A lack of feedback sets the stage for catastrophic failures.

Government is often said to be inefficient.  It is not.  It is very efficient but its goal is not necessarily what we the people believe.  As an example look at the federal war on poverty.  Since this “war” was declared in 1964, the federal government has spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs.  But only about 15% of the money allocated to fighting this “war” actually makes it to the poor.  85% is consumed by the entity.  The organization is quite effective at keeping resources for itself. 

Analyze almost any government program and you will see how efficient the entity is in retaining resources for itself.  100 plus governmental organizations involved in a single issue?  As they say in the software business, that’s not a bug, that’s a feature!

This is also the reason the non-profits we call government will never be satisfied with the money sent to them via taxes.  From the organization’s perspective (not necessarily the employees but the organization itself), it will always be underfunded.  Always. 

These non-profits generally grow by constantly adding people, either directly as employees or indirectly by making others dependent on their actions and favors.  These individuals will almost always vote in their own self-interest and thus the entity rewards and strengthens itself in a democracy by this constant expansion.

And amazingly, these activities have almost no relationship to the actual people who staff the organization. Some people might hasten the speed of expansion, others to slow it but the organizational entity behaves as it does by its very nature.  The process is much like a honey bee hive where the hive itself (an abstraction really) mimics intelligence and purpose, even though its individual bees have very little of either.

And these people can all be quite moral and “good public servants”, yet the organization will operate as it will.  Swarm intelligence and the self-organization it drives ensure this is true in almost all situations related to government.

We need to collectively understand and accept this very biologic nature of every entity created by this thing we call government.  Every single position, every single bureaucracy becomes another beating heart that will strive to continue and grow.

It is easy to blame one political party for the expansion of these non-profits but this growth occurs with either a Republican or Democrat at the helm.    

We see this most spectacularly in the transformation of the federal government.  Rather than the constitutionally construed federation of states with federal power being strictly limited, the non-profit we call the federal government has expanded to effectively subjugate the states and all citizens.

From an organizational perspective this was to be expected.  In fact it would be shocking if this were not the case.  The federal government has become much like the Ring of Power in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; one ring to rule them all.

For all citizens the ultimate question isn’t whether this evolution is good or bad but rather it is sustainable and can it work long-term?  The answer to this is clear.  Left unrestrained government is much like a kudzu plant.  Sooner or later it is destined to overgrow its environment until it collapses in a catastrophic failure; remember that lack of feedback.  Unless the life of these non-profits is constrained in some way, this process will always occur.

This is neither a conservative nor liberal issue; it is a basic reality of organizational behavior.  These organizations truly live in many profound ways and unless we citizens understand and accept this fact we will never be able to manage them.  We either learn to do so or they will most certainly be the destroyer of us all.

John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change.  He is also President and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, www.eicenterprises.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world, primarily through K-12 education.  

Honey Bees and Government

The following was published in The Federalist on 7/23/16.  The original is here or you can just keep reading ;-)

What Bees Can Teach Us About Why People Should Run Their Own Lives


Top-down, command-and-control systems will sooner or later create catastrophic failures. It’s not so with self-organizing systems.


July 23, 2016 By John Conlin

Individual honey bees aren’t very smart, yet honey bee hives, which may contain tens of thousands of individual bees, show remarkable intelligence. Scientists who study this type of swarm intelligence point out a key ingredient: no one is in charge. The hive functions just fine with no management, just countless interactions between individual bees with each following simple rules of thumb. A system like this is called self-organizing. Life itself is self-organizing.

That’s how swarm intelligence works: simple creatures following simple rules, each one acting on local information. No bee sees the big picture. No bee tells any other bee what to do. No fearless leader is required or desired. In fact, if a self-appointed “super-bee” were to attempt to take charge of this process, the entire hive would cease to function and all the bees would be doomed.


How Bees Find the Best Food

As an example, look at how the hive “knows” what is a better food source and reacts accordingly. Consider two foraging bees. Each bee returns to the hive and does an intricate dance that tells the surrounding bees the location of the food sources. In addition, the length and vigor of the dance transmits information regarding the volume of food available.
Just like the honey bee, we’ve unknowingly used swarm intelligence to develop knowledge and create wealth that allows us to collectively live like none before.

One bee has found a so-so food source, while the other has found a great food source. One bee dances for a while and the other dances far longer and thus impacts many more bees. Many more bees are thus directed to visit the better food source. Once they come back they too do a longer and more vigorous dance, again affecting many more bees than those few returning from the so-so food source.

Thus with absolutely no central, controlling intelligence—in fact, with little intelligence at all—the hive behaves very intelligently and directs the vast majority to the better food source, thus ensuring all are better off.

Although we humans like to think of ourselves as quite smart, we are much like the honey bee. Unlike the honey bee, we have complex language, the ability to use tools, and the ability to store and transmit information over generations. This lets each of us believe in our vast individual intelligence when in reality we each enjoy the fruits of millions and millions of lessons learned since the dawn of life itself.

Just like the honey bee, we’ve unknowingly used swarm intelligence to develop knowledge and create wealth that allows us to collectively live like none before. The beauty of swarm intelligence and self-organizing systems is that even for complex systems like human life and survival, behavior may be coordinated by relatively simple interactions. Here’s the key: in a self-organizing system there literally is no cause and effect. It just is.

Government Prevents the Honey Bee Principle

Yet also in the past hundred years we have seen across the globe a tremendous growth in powerful organizations that blatantly operate against the reality of self-organization and swarm intelligence. These organizations are government. Government typically attempts to do the opposite of those things that make for smart group behavior like decentralized control, response to local feedback, and simple rules of thumb. Self-organizing systems are an incredible strategy to deal with complexity. Government is not.

We must pull back from the brink and once again allow self-organizing systems to do their magic.

We have allowed these authoritative non-profit organizations (government) to become far too large and powerful. This violates almost every aspect we know about swarm intelligence. In addition, this in effect makes those who operate these non-profits into self-appointed “super-bees.”

They act as though they know better than the hive. Rather than allowing the wonder of swarm intelligence to freely operate, government “super-bees” instead direct vast swaths of our collective lives, to the detriment of all. As these organizations grow larger and larger, they are beginning to threaten the very continuation of life itself. Top-down, command-and-control systems will sooner or later create catastrophic failures. It’s not so with self-organizing systems.

One of the wonders of this country’s founding is its individual freedom-based political system, which limited government and allowed swarm intelligence and self-organization to flourish like never before.

The incredible wealth and individual freedom this country has produced in the past few hundred years versus the rest of the world proves this reality. We must pull back from the brink and once again allow self-organizing systems to do their magic. As government grows and grows, we are creating more and more super-bees. If we continue down our present path, those self-anointed super-bees will be the death of us all.


John Conlin is president and founder of E.I.C. Enterprises, a non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world, primarily through K-12 education. He is a life-long entrepreneur and an expert in organizational design and change. His book, The Unified Theory, will be published in late fall by E.I.C. Publishing.