Check out Ron Paul's new homeschool curriculum
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Beth Cody, Writers’ Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Ron Paul’s new book is out: “The School Revolution,” and its publication coincides with and publicizes the beginning of his new online homeschool curriculum. As a homeschooler, libertarian and longtime admirer of Dr. Paul, I have been waiting with interest for both the book and the curriculum.

The first third of the book, covering Dr. Paul’s underlying principles of education (personal responsibility, leadership and leaving a legacy), was a bit rambling, although it contained a number of important truths and well-expressed ideas.

However, the middle third of the book, outlining the future of education, was truly fascinating. He compares the public school system to the U.S. Postal Service and predicts that it will be reformed the way the USPS is now being “reformed”: by millions of people abandoning it for better, cheaper, more entrepreneurial choices.

Now that the internet has made the transmission of ideas so universally inexpensive, the direct costs of homeschooling (aside from the time of one or both parents) have been reduced nearly to zero. When this happens in an industry there is always an exodus from an old product to the new one. The parents leaving public schools will do so for many reasons and be of differing political stripes – but they will leave nonetheless.

Many scoff at the possibility of large numbers of families homeschooling, citing the inconvenience to parents. But convenience is a factor only if the alternatives are comparable. If public schools offer mediocre or inappropriate education in an unsafe environment – despite new reforms every decade and more required testing every year – low-cost homeschooling can be the obvious best choice for concerned parents. And income loss is a factor only if both parents want and can find work, not a given in today’s economy of underemployment.

The low-cost educational market is just beginning to emerge, with Dr. Paul’s curriculum joining a growing field that includes free alternatives like Khan Academy and college-level Massive Online Open Courses. Parents want choices, not one-size-fits-all education, and as they leave schools for low-cost alternatives, public schools will face resistance to continued funding increases and will eventually be scaled back, just as the USPS is slowly being defunded.

The last third of the book gives an overview of his online curriculum, although little detail is given in the book or on the curriculum web site. I understand that the curriculum is new and still being rolled out, however it seems to be impossible to find descriptions of the courses without joining as a paid member (the curriculum is free through fifth grade and afterwards costs $250 annually per family, plus $50 per course). But how can I know if a course – or the curriculum itself – is worth paying for without seeing reading lists or syllabi? I feel certain that more information will be available in the future.

Another concern is that the curriculum seems to consist mostly of internet lectures and online publications that can be read or printed out at home. Dr. Paul is undoubtedly correct that this is the most efficient way to transmit learning on a mass scale. Perhaps I’m simply old-fashioned in thinking that a book-centered curriculum is the best way to learn – but I wonder about all the screen time, something I purposely restrict for my children.

Will libertarian parents use the Paul curriculum? Getting libertarians to do anything as a group is like herding cats – will these parents want to cede their curricular choices to anyone, even Ron Paul? And some parents will have a problem with the Biblical perspective; others will believe it isn’t nearly Bible-focused enough.

But the Ron Paul Curriculum is one to watch in the future. Time and free markets will force it to meet parents’ and students’ preferences and to continuously improve – or other low-cost curricula will replace it. And I’m sure Dr. Paul would have it no other way.