"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vacation Liberty School Still Teaching Founding Principles

Today's post is dedicated to one of the other hats I wear, that of Co-Director of the St. Louis Vacation Liberty School. This summer program for 5th-8th graders teaches kids our country's founding principles of liberty, both personal and economic, through classroom time, presentations and games. We teach about the constitution; where the ideas in it came from, where it places our country on the spectrum between tyranny and anarchy, and why it is unique among all the government documents in the world.

This year we ran the week long half day program at the Family Vision Library in St. Peters. The close to thirty children attending came from all over the greater St. Louis area. Each year, the children bring a different perspective and dynamic which keeps us on our toes in trying to make the program meaningful for them.

The week starts with the children entering the world of 18th century England, complete with staff in period costumes and a tyrannical King George. They then move to the new American colonies and experience freedom there that the British subjects did not have in England.  The program explores the role that faith played in our country's founding, focusing on John Adams' quote, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The children also play games that demonstrate how a free market works, how that market is distorted by government intrusion and how helping the poor participate in the market benefits everyone. They don't know why they are playing these games at first. They just think they are fun. After the post-game discussions, they have a deeper personal understanding of the principles at play because they participated in these games. It is always fascinating to see how quickly some of them are willing to take risks in the market to get gain more, and how almost non-existent jealously of their winnings is among the other children who were not willing to take the risk.

Can you tell which lump on the floor is really a kid in a gilly suit?
This year we were blessed to have two special speakers come in and talk to our students. One was Paul Curtman who was there in his capacity as an ex-marine, not as a state Representative of the 109th district. He had the children's undivided attention as he talked to them about what it was like to serve his country in the Marines, why he did it, and how important it is for us to support those who give their all for this country who are back home now and injured or disabled. The child who got to wear Sargent Curtman's gilly suit will not soon forget his foray into camouflage. Paul was a fantastic speaker who was able to paint a clear picture for his audience of necessity of defending freedom and the sacrifice that goes along with doing so. The kids then created thank you cards for the vets and their families to go along with the items they had collected to donate to the VA Fisher House in St. Louis.

Our other guest speaker was former state Senator Jim Lembke who showed the commonality and distinctions between our US Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. He helped the children understand the role of a legislator as a protector of our freedoms, not just someone who passes laws, and understand why it is so important to elect people who truly understand that role. We hope our graduates are not the low information voters of the future.

The week ends with the children experiencing anarchy when they play the Game With No Rules. Initially it sounds like every child's dream world. They quickly discover, however, that a world with no rules is no fun and leaves you feeling very insecure. People take your stuff. The stronger or more aggressive have an advantage. Your chances of getting hurt increase dramatically. They also see how natural it is for humans to develop rules (or laws) to give them some sense of security. This games helps the children place the Constitution (fulcrum in the photo to the left) in the proper place along the scale of Tyranny and Anarchy.

Being outside the public school system allows us to talk about things like: the role of faith in our country's founding, why getting the poor working is better both for them and for society than permanent handouts and entitlement programs, how individual Americans are are the most generous people in the world when it comes to charitable contributions, and why less government (closer to the anarchy side of the spectrum) is better for everyone. It's too bad such lessons have to come from the private sector, but we are grateful that, at least for now, we can still teach them.

If you would like to see more photos from St. Louis Vacation Liberty School, you can visit our website.

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