Ned Vare, A Tribute to a Leader of the first order

Ned Vare was a leader in the movement away from government one-size-fits-all education to individualized independent and home education.  Ned was a master of many disciplines.  He was an architectural designer.   Like many proponents of home schools, he was a former teacher.  Vare taught in private schools.  He was a rancher.  He has been an elected public servant.  Ned was successful in business as well as a successful author.

Ned Vare was a fearless advocate for home schooling.  He was active in the home schooling community on several fronts. Originally inspired by the great educator, independent learning advocate and reformer John Holt, Ned went on to found the Unschoolers Unlimited Network. He also wrote a blog called “School is Hell” as well as a book entitled “Smarting us Up, the Un-Dumbing of America”. He was active politically in Connecticut. Having been active in Texas Politics I know the energy and determination it takes to run headlong into a state legislature. But Ned was a man of great energy and courage.

Neds’ son was unschooled throughout his life until he was admitted to college.  He was married to a former school teacher Luz Shoshie. Together Ned and Luz were great homeschooling advocates in Connecticut. They were also both leaders of the support group Unschoolers Unlimited.

Not many people have the chutzpa to produce their own television show. But these wonderful people did. They produced the show for a local public access channel. The television show focused on the problems with public schooling in Connecticut. Ned was a constant correspondent and author of op-ed pieces on education topics to the local papers having to do with all aspects of education. Ned also contributed articles to Connecticut Home Educators Association publication.

Ned, like all reformers, was a very opinionated person who was a change agent. Having strong opinions, he was always willing to debate controversial topics about the field. His style was fiesty and realistic. Ned did from time to time give offense to some who were thin-skinned as well as opposed to the home education movement. His opinions and writings were strong.

Here are some of his thoughts written on May 14, 2008 in his blog “School is Hell” in response to an article by Norman Mailer. Mailer was deriding the state of reading skill among American school children. While Ned agreed with the basic premise that many school kids have trouble reading he disagreed with the reasons.

Ned stated the public schools “have the children captive for twenty thousand hours over twelve years or so”. He correctly argued that in spite of that enormous amount of time taken from the lives of our kids, millions of kids still could not write or do even simple math well.

Ned believed as I do that the American public school system is basically a failure. As John Taylor Gatto has said schools do well what they were intended to do which is to indoctrinate, weaken and produce a docile group of actually ignorant people who are easy to control. The goal of government schooling is really not excellence. The actual goal is overall mediocrity.

Recent scores on international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and others show that American schools rank among some of the lowest ranking nations in math and science. Many of our students go to college having made good grades in high schools and having passed the laughably basic state tests unable to handle college work.

Ned believed that education is “in the wrong hands”. The problem is that schools aren’t the property of the American people. No, American schools are the property of the American government. The government makes all the decisions, sets all the rules and defines all the policies. There is no such thing as “local control”.

Ned wrote in that blog that education would not improve until it was separated from government control. Education must be put back in the hands of the people. Education must be privatized. One of the most simple concepts in capitalism is that if you want to see someone working look at a business owner or someone whose income depends on the sweat of their own brow. If you want to see someone not working look at someone employed by a giant entity in which they are only a small cog. Nothing in government runs efficiently because there is no incentive for it to run well. There will be no change in salary. There is no chance of a bonus. There is no reward for excellence. The person who works hard is rewarded in exactly the same way as the person who does little work. There is no incentive for anyone to improve. That is why many home schoolers do so well. The result depends on the sweat of their brown. And, they have found out that they can accomplish the same thing more efficiently and quicker.

Ned, and I, believe that education has to be a free market where education products have to compete for clients. Right now millions upon millions are in a system that rewards mediocrity. At the same time there are literally thousands of websites, producers of curriculum and all the products and ideas needed to home school easily available to families. However, the schools are bureaucratic, politically entangled, unionized, archaic, full of poor programs, full of frustrated people and capped with a culture of corruption.

Ned believed that the education of our children is far too important a thing to leave to the government bureaucratic monopoly that has taken over the education effort. He believed that this situation had to change. He believed that the only way we can solve the problems in education is to take control of it with our own hands.

Rest in perfect peace Ned.

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