The Extraordinary Grassroots Revolution of Low-Cost Private Schools

Without numbers, a great many myths about education and educational provision would go unchallenged. Before James Toohey started his work (with colleagues) on low-cost private schools, the accepted wisdom was that only government education could provide for the poor in developing countries. In this talk James explores these myths and shares his findings. He has been described in the pages of Philanthropy magazine as “a 21st century Indiana Jones” travelling to “the remotest regions on Earth researching something that many regard as mythical: private, parent-funded schools serving the Third World poor.

UCLA Law School Apologizes to Ayn Rand Institute Over “Anti-Free Speech” Administrators

Last month the Ayn Rand Institute and the UCLA School of Law chapter of the Federalist Society organized an event “Is Free Speech Under Attack?.

Eugene Volokh tells us that the “event was quite successful — I’m told that about 140 students attended — and generally went off well. There was no disruption of the event itself (which ought to go without saying, but unfortunately doesn’t always, these days)”

Before the event, though, the Institute had set up a book display on a table in the hallway and offered the books for sale. There were four books, including “Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond,” by the Institute’s Onkar Ghate and Elan Journo…

Some students disapproved of the book and started arguing with the Institute people. And then a law school administrator demanded that the Institute remove the book, apparently on the grounds that it was “inflammatory.” That, I think, was clearly wrong, and indeed a violation of the First Amendment. Public universities can’t bar groups — student groups or others — from displaying books on the grounds that the viewpoints are “inflammatory.”

Fortunately, the incident ended up with a happy ending. Writes Volokh:

I’m glad to say that the dean has written to the Ayn Rand Institute “to extend my [i.e., the Dean’s] apologies” and acknowledged that the administrator’s action was “not in keeping with UCLA Law’s — or my — vigorous commitment to support free speech and respectful debate.” “It also failed to adhere to our commitment that university policies be applied in a content-neutral manner.” And the dean stressed that the school was taking steps “to prevent such occurrences,” by beefing up training and procedures. I know the dean pretty well, and I think she’s quite sincere about this.

Three Cheers to the Dean of UCLA School of Law for their principled defense of freedom of speech.


Those interested in reading the censored book can find a copy here: Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond.

David Harriman’s Fundamentals of Physical Science: A Historical Inductive Approach

David Harriman’s Fundamentals of Physical Science: A Historical Inductive Approach

by Lisa VanDamme

One of the most formative courses in my educational history was David Harriman’s “Fundamentals of Physical Science” – formative of my knowledge of science, formative of my views on education, formative of my very ability to think. It taught me what it really means to learn science, and by extension, what it really means to learn.

Let me illustrate the difference between science as it is conventionally taught and science as it is taught by David Harriman, using Newton’s law of universal gravitation as a striking case in point.

If your education was like mine, this law was presented as a commandment to be memorized—as knowledge that, along with Newton’s apple, fell from the sky. You had no knowledge of the prior discoveries that were the “shoulders” on which Newton famously declared he stood, no awareness of the questions that remained and that Newton sought to answer, and therefore no substantive understanding of the meaning, the explanatory power, and the monumental importance of Newton’s achievement.

When, in Harriman’s course, you arrive at Newton’s law of universal gravitation, it comes as a page-turning, climactic chapter in an epic story of discovery.

You will have already learned about Galileo’s principle of inertia, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and Newton’s own law of circular acceleration. You will see how these discoveries made possible the question Newton asked himself when the apple fell.

You will have already learned Galileo’s law of fall, Eratosthenes’ calculation of the size of the Earth, and Aristarchus’ calculation of the distance to the moon. You will see how these discoveries made possible Newton’s answer to the question.

When guided through the ingenious process by which Newton integrated this knowledge and built upon it, you are able to thoroughly grasp the principle of universal gravitation: to see that it is true and why it must be true. The law of gravitation becomes connected to and explanatory of the things you see around you every day. It is real knowledge.

Harriman teaches all of the great achievements in the history of physics, from the heliocentric theory, to optics, to electromagnetism and more, in this historical, inductive manner.

The value of a course that takes this approach to teaching science is inestimable. It provided me with a clear filter for distinguishing “knowledge” I had memorized from sincere, independently held, fully-formed knowledge. It helped me to see that complex, abstract principles of science are not the province only of geniuses, but are, if properly taught, accessible to all. It inspired me with epic stories of world-changing discoveries that have made life as we know it possible. And it modeled, and helped me to develop, real intellectual self-discipline.

That is why I cannot recommend this course highly enough.

David Harriman’s “Fundamentals of Physical Science” is now available in the VanDamme Academy Store.

Special Offer: Reduced price for the first 100 buyers!

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