#ThriversEd: Snagging the wrench out of the works with self-improvement for the not-yet self-aware.

“You’re following all this, right?”

Photo by: Daniel X. O’Neil

True confession: I can be fun to be around – for a while. But eventually I start to wear on almost everyone, because I can be juggling so many eggs, torches, bowling balls and chainsaws at the same time that everything turns into a blur for everyone but me.

Are we there yet?

If not, I can teach you the best-ever car game, guaranteed to drive everyone but you crazy. It’s called “What’s Annoying?” and it consists of asking that one question over and over again, with as many different flavors of spin as you can put on it, for as long as you can keep it up.

Seriously: I’ve been talking about these ideas in public for two weeks now. We’ve covered a lot of ground, but it’s kind of all over the place: Where I am now and where I want to be soon, but also every blue-sky way I have of thinking about these notions: TV, internet, Yelp-slaughter, global reconquest, etc. It can be hard to tell precisely what it is I’m juggling.

I can clarify at least that much, with text I wrote the other day:

“A Di is cultivating Ds in the victims of Cautious/Incandescent educationism.”

Oh, wait, that’s not clear, is it? If you’re not up to speed on where I am on DISC – and that’s a moving target, I’ll concede – you’re not going to get any of this. By now, I can diagnose and suggest repair strategies for any broken social machine. And that’s what the sentence quoted above is saying:

Education (and all of Western Civilization) has been crippled by the imposition of Cautious/Incandescent pedagogy in place of Driven/Sociable schooling. I’m undoing all of that – and building in defenses to keep it from happening again.

What’s hubris squared? I am become worlds, destroyer of death! Who could find that kind of exuberance wearing?

Someone – Heinlein? – said a school need be no more than a log with a student at one end and a teacher at the other. I like that, but I think the hierarchy is defective: It should be two students working together, one of them better-versed – with the other, accordingly, working harder to catch up.

Can one of them be adult and compensated? Why not. Must that be so? It mustn’t, isn’t and can’t be so: Most of what every kid learns he gets from other kids, and every American alive today who can read learned that uniquely-human skill from a ‘non-professional’ – a parent, grandparent, sibling, etc. A child who gets to the ‘professionals’ still illiterate will never learn to read.

Never learn to read.

That seems like a fate worth avoiding, doesn’t it? Here’s a time-saver – and not just here: Stop assuming you know everything. Stop assuming that there is some degree of anignorance (incapacity to error) to being denominated a ‘teacher.’ The only honor to being Head Ignoramus is in leading all of you – yourself first – out of the musty caves of aboriginal and man-made ignorance.

I’m horizontal everywhere, so you know. I hate vertical organizations in every form: Each new layer of ‘management’ halves the wisdom and doubles the inefficiency of every ‘choice’ the ungainly anorganism (see what I did there?) makes. But verticality in schooling is especially wasteful in that it wastes almost everything in due course: The hierarchy serves to make everyone hate school, rebelling against it with every form of White Mutiny ever devised.

Do you want to know why you should be supporting my work, even without being all they way clear on what it is?

It’s because the failure rate for Cautious/Incandescent educationism is 98%. Scratch that; the “lucky” 2% get more than just progressive neglect, but 100% of all children are miserable for life by the time they’re done with schooling.

Nobody loves school by Graduation Day – with many never even getting that far – and most kids hate it by age seven. There is nothing that anyone could suggest that could achieve worse results than we’re getting now.

Even so, I’m happy to explicate all of my thinking in full. It will make my own thoughts clearer – the best benefit of discursive prose – and it causes me to disclose openly things I would not want kept secret.

Such as? I’m outlining a strategy for manipulating kids, all as a means of manipulating the future course of human history. That’s kind of pushy, don’t you think? It’s what everyone is already doing – unwittingly and therefore haphazardly – and it’s what Marx did with forethought and a diabolical cunning. I think I’m clearer than anyone has been so far on the machinery of human social dynamics – I’m snagging Marx’s wrench out of the works – but still…

I shrug. Cautious/Incandescent educationism conspires to take all the sweet little Toddlers at the playground, and, in twenty years’ time, neutralize the sovereign autonomy in almost all of them, turning the “lucky” few into cruelly-indifferent reptilian monsters. What’s happening in newsrooms and on college campuses right now is not educationism’s failure, but its success.

If that’s not what you want for your kids – or for the world your kids are growing into – you should be talking to me.

So: Let’s talk: The idea of a Dutch Uncle online leadership network combined with a PEAK API is a billion-dollar enterprise, I think, and the sales funnel created by a television show is another, but all I want to talk about right now is schooling, the educational ideas underlying ThriversEd.

We are aided in this task by my friend David Brodie, who has been gracious enough to ask a bunch of hard questions:

> 1) Student led presentations are, 19 times out of 20, extremely boring.

Usus est magister optimus. Practice is the best teacher. We start young and stay with it, doing it all the time and evaluating everything as we go. The way we work now, people (in general) don’t present nearly enough and they are not held accountable for better performance. How could that turn out well? Meanwhile, how did anyone ever do a better job?

> 2) Do teachers have to obey the dutch uncle token?

That would depend on the space. In your facility, you are already the permanent Dutch Uncle of every temporary Dutch Uncle you might enlist. At the playground, the Dutch Uncle relationship has to be completely mutually-voluntary – earned authority – and I like that much better. The good news? Toddlers aren’t that fussy. If you can lead, they will follow. In any case, losing the idea of immutable ex officio ‘authoritah’ is hugely beneficial. There cannot be any such thing as rancorous leadership; that would be incipient mutiny overlaid with yelling instead.

> 3) You present your results regularly – to who? How is it organized? What about my token and my work if I don’t want to participate in the presentation?

What do kids who don’t want to participate do now? Would it be more or less helpful for everyone else to have them doing what they would rather be doing instead? With Toddlers, we’re presenting at intervals because we’re doing everything at intervals. We’re presenting to each other, and we’re ‘organized’ like a party with an agenda – with this fact, plausibly, being known only to the Dutch Uncle.

I don’t love the Unschooling idea, but I detest the imposition of arbitrary authority. If I’m pushing you where you need to go, then I’m just crazy enough to be in loco parentis. If I’m pushing you where I want to go – I’m engaged in actual, practical sociopathy. Training kids in sociopathy turns out to be a poor idea.

> 4) Are there any problems with exclusion of particular students from a group for “not following the rules” where you as the teacher can clearly see that they ARE following the rules, but the other students just want to sit with only their own friends and exclude the outsider? This will happen every single day, especially with younger students.

You’re conflating different types of Dutch Uncle games. We can talk about informal games, if you like, but ThriversEd managed as a formalized Dutch Uncle game is adult-guided where it is not explicitly adult-led. Informally, other people’s choices about friendships should be theirs to make, absent good cause to interfere.

> 5) How exactly are you teaching pro sociable behaviors? Who is teaching these behaviors? How do kids become good models of this? What are pro sociable behaviors?

This is the purpose of the PEAK matrix, to reinforce the values hierarchy everywhere, all the time. You want top-down content. I’ve got little Lego-like bottom-up building blocks instead, lots of them: Performance, Accountability and Leadership. Put ’em together any way you can think of. You’ll make Driven/Sociable education – for yourself and everyone around you – regardless.

Who teaches? Everyone. Who learns? Everyone. Who prospers? Everyone. We’re all going the same way, doing the same thing. I just started earlier than you, that’s all.

> 6) How many teachers/adult-behavior-models are there? What is their role in the classroom/environment?

Toddlers need oversight, but less and less over time. People learn what they can do by seeing other people doing things, so kids will (emphasis WILL) cultivate each other. By PEAKing everything, we remind everyone all the time what good cultivation looks like.

There are plenty of grownups at the playground, too few in pre-schools and daycare centers, but Children make excellent Dutch Uncles, and they teach Leadership better than any adult ever could – first simply by showing kids that kids can lead, but second by not confusing age or office with actual appropriate authority.

Self-leadership is the end goal of education. We (all of us, always) want fewer bosses, not more. A good Dutch Uncle (in any context) should seem to be working magic – leadership that is not just rancorless but which seems sometimes to be positively rapturous. “We few! We happy few!” That’s leadership as storgic love – and I want to make it ubiquitous.

> 7) Your example activities need more spice. Times tables, trying not to eat marshmallows…these things are probably meant just to be bare bones examples but I’m looking at them as actual lesson possibilities.

Toddlers, not Children. But Children educated my way won’t need lesson plans, either. They’ll be leading themselves where they need to go. The point of ThriversEd as a Toddler curriculum is to move incipient-Children toward the execution and management of their own educations.

> 8) “Children are not broken at birth…” broken how? What are the assumptions in this paragraph?

DISC is cultivated – almost always unwittingly and therefore in ways that are detrimental, long term, to the child’s thriving. Well-brought-up children are raised Ds/Sd. This is not because anyone but me knows why this is correspondent to human nature, but mostly because of Survivorship Bias: Until very recently people infested with bad ideas have been too impoverished to propagate, while the prosperous were rich because they were raised in a Driven/Sociable culture. In any case, what we are doing is teaching Driven/Sociable values to children who might not be learning them elsewhere.

> 9) What is the response to a PEAK evaluation? Who cares? I imagine either a score card or a verbal, “Your score is X, how can you be kinder?” and kids giving some canned response before escaping to not PEAK evaluate others.

You imagine badly-raised Children. I think they may be the only Children you know. 😉

At its simplest, a PEAK evaluation can be a business-card-sized slip of paper. In due course, it will be software, with or without a billion-dollar API. What is the response over time? Self-improvement. Who cares? Anyone who wants to get better. Why bother? Because life is contingent upon effort, and every effort is a perfectible praxis.

The question you’re asking is: “Why is the world already broken?” The answer is DISC. How can it be fixed? With PEAK. Why will that work? Why does your FitBit keep stats – and why do you care?

Another way to ask the same question: Where does self-motivation come from?

It’s cultivated – and I’ve got a brand new way to farm.

> 9.5) What is the appropriate response to students not playing by your rules? I don’t want to PEAK evaluate somebody. I don’t want to put effort into it, I’ll just give him a 10/10 on everything.

“Dang. I love it that you’re alive, but I refuse to love your life more than you do.”

Children sulk, Toddlers don’t. Why is that so? Because sulking is an empathy strategy – if I hold you hostage to my pain, you will yield to me – and people who are not yet awake as self-conscious Children cannot strategize. Hence, a Toddler’s emotional reactions – like all authentic, non-affected emotional responses – will be fleeting. You don’t have to coerce Toddlers to get them to play, and ThriversEd is structured play.

> 10) How are PEAK evaluations given? Orally? Written? Scored how?

Written, ideally in a database-able form for future FitBittery. One-to-five stars for each value – Proficient, Efficient, Appealing, Kind – weighted to induce the the Driven, Cautious and Incandescent kids to retain, sustain and improve upon their in-born mammalian Sociability.

Incidentally, acting up is an attention-getting strategy. The Children who do it will just as happily get attention from White Hats as from Black Hats, so PEAK evaluation and Dutch Uncle opportunities serve over time to turn loud bad guys into loud good guys.

> 11) “Even at their best, parents are going to warp their kids, just because DISC will out in all concerned. But if you focus a lot of attention on Ds/Sd displays, and if you make all other displays S pursuits, you habituate Sociability in kids who are seeing too much of its contraries elsewhere.” Teachers are already doing this – how many hours per day are kids at ThriversEd? You can’t be a father for 30 kids. Ultimate fairness would have you being 1/30th of a father, for 6 hours per day. You’re competing with the rest of everything, all the time.

First, it’s wrong to say that anything of Cautious/Incandescent educationism teaches Sociability. Right now, we teach either abuse, neglect or nepotism-by-proxy, all in pursuit of the next generation of sufficiently-sociopathic slave-minders, whose life-sentence it will be to compel the “choices” of the other 98%.

Cautious pedagogy enforces strict compliance to arbitrary conceptual maps where the Incandescent social environment imposes strict compliance to arbitrary mannerly maps. And yet no one was ever scolded or scorned into better choices – which is how Cautious/Incandescent educationism achieves its spectacular 98% failure rate.

Second, as Marx has never tired of showing us, one man with a plan vanquishes billions with none. I know what I want. Except for Bill Ayers, possibly, nobody on the side of tyranny knows why Cautious/Incandescent educationism works so well at laying waste to human potential. Certainly no one knows this stuff as well as I do, simply because no one else knows where to look.

Third, my goal is to be “the rest of everything.” If your values are much like my values, your choices will be much like mine, regardless of any superficial differences between us. All Testudo families are alike, for example, despite differences in nationality, language, culture and customs. I’m not just teaching Testudo values, I’m teaching Toddlers to assert Testudo-fatherhood over their own lives: To father themselves into their own humanity. It’s prosthetic, but it’s better than nothing, and your moral convictions go with you everywhere.

And, chances are, so does a smartphone or a tablet computer. If not, it’s good odds the kids are being palliated by video. In any of those circumstances, I want to be “the rest of everything.” ThriversEd is only small for now. In the long run, these ideas can and should dominate all media – all of what we call culture – just as Driven/Sociable ideals dominated The West until Marx threw a spanner in the works.

> 12) How do you improve the ratio from #12? Does it matter?

As above. We’re jump-starting self-responsible fatherhood. It could take a while.

> 13) This whole idea sounds extremely C. The whole environment with all the structure and rules and activities that require absolute obeisance to the rules – following along with times tables only works with extreme focus, sitting and watching kids not eat marshmallows, etc. How do you teach S values when every non verbal signal is C, and most of the verbal as well?

It’s structured play. You’re exaggerating the C elements, but they will all seem organic to Toddlers in any case: Fish don’t know they’re wet. But if you change the expectations you have for Toddlers, you change all the world in due course, because you will have changed the water in every fishbowl from then on.

Politics is downstream from culture? The culture every sane person wants is downstream from a Driven/Sociable Toddlerhood. Expertise is not simply hitting the pipe with the wrench but knowing where and how to do it. Humanity is what Toddlers are when they wake up. Change that and you change everything.

> 14) If I’m making a lot of assumptions in #13, please clarify so that I can have a better picture.

You think you’re the boss. No one is. 😉

Do this instead: Play with one Toddler, and don’t direct his efforts, just let him lead you where he wants to play. See any boredom? Any sulking, spite, anger, resistance? Now, by repeated mutually-consensual buy-ins – Can we try this? Do you want to see what I can do with that? – teach the kid something he never knew before. Then chat about what you learned together and how you enjoyed it.

You have now both committed ThriversEd: You both presented and were presented to, you both led and followed, and you were mutually-accountable to each other. Everything else is either a frill or a detail. Why do I talk all the time about Dutch Uncles? I’m building prosthetic Testudo fathers, but, to Toddlers, ThriversEd is going to look like what they have grown to expect from grandparents – if they are lucky enough to have any around.

> 15) Is there such a thing as disobedience? Can kids get kicked out of ThriversEd? What kind of students are a good fit?

As you know and others probably do not, I don’t concern myself with outliers. I don’t lack interest or compassion – quite the contrary – but my focus is always on the overwhelming majority of people in the middle of the bell curve. I have never met a normal Toddler who could not play to his own and others’ enjoyment. Is it possible you underestimate how much bad behavior in Children is consciously chosen? Deliberate self- and social-sabotage? Toddlers can’t sustain that kind of mischief, but they can be shown why it is self-destructive before they even know how to effect it. (cf., e.g., Goofus and Gallant, etc.)

> 16) Is the freedom of the child a value at Thrivers Ed? If yes, how is it upheld and nurtured? If not, when freedom and individuality are at the core of Self Adoration, how do you reconcile this?

All cultivation is coercive – but its absence, in human beings, is abusive. Wise cultivation is progressively less coercive, and it is devoted to the best life-long interests of the child, not his parents, his teachers – or their slave-minders. In any case, while almost no Toddlers have to be taught to ask, “What’s in this for me?,” almost all of them have to be reminded, again and again, that kindness starts by asking, “What’s in this for the other guy?” Adults who shun mutually-reciprocal empathy are loathsome to everyone, most especially themselves, so the whole question seems backward to me.

Why should we teach people growing into self-awareness why they should strive to be ever-more-adorable selves? There is no contrary to freedom – sovereign autonomy, informed discretion, free will. The question is, will it manifest itself with affection or aggression? In pursuit of ever-expanding circles of storgic love or with non-negotiable demands for fear, fascination or both? It’s not a hard choice.

There’s this, too: I wanted to cover every big-picture idea early, so I could connect the dots. At that I’ve failed miserably; I’ve talked about too much that is still only obviously-connected in my own mind. But there is one more major dot I’ve left out:


I want for everything we expect of a great high school graduate to have been completed by puberty. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is: Puberty. When they need to move on, they’ve got to be prepared to move on. We’ve been screwing that up – more and more – for two centuries now.

And: Another way of addressing all of the Toddler content, a metaphor made manifest: Self-improvement for the not-yet self-aware.

We are taking all the best promises of the self-improvement industry and actually delivering on them to the people who can make the best use of those ideas: Toddlers.

Even where it is not a scam, self-improvement is broken because adults are already broken – and hard to fix, and never from the outside. Toddlers are not broken, not yet, and they need never be.

ThriversEd is how we will do a better job delivering all the promises of the fully-human life to our children.

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