How the Robinson children are faring
An earlier biographical update of the happenings of Art Robinson and his family can be found at www.independentscientist.com
The letter below by Art Robinson was in response to a request as to how the children are faring:
Matthew finished calculus at the age of 14. He is now 16 and working his way quite succesfully through our physics program. (This physics is at the level of Caltech freshman physics.) Matthew is entirely self-taught using the rules in our curriculum.
Zachary has a doctorate in veterinary medicine.
Arynne has a BS in chemistry.
Noah has a doctorate in chemistry from Caltech.
Bethany is studying for a BS in chemistry.
Joshua is studying for a BS in mathematics.
Both Zachary and Noah completed their BS degrees in chemistry with only two years of college work - they skipped the first two years by means of advanced placement exams.
All of the children have performed outstandingly in their academic work.
Noah has been the most remarkable. When he applied to graduate school, he was told by MIT that he was their top ranked applicant. Noah's academic record was especially outstanding. Added to this, his GRE scores were 800, 800, and 770 - two perfect scores and a 99 percentile. The GRE is a sort of SAT taken by those who aspire to graduate school. Scores this high are very rare.
Other than academics, the children are also doing quite well - by our standards. The "World" would think differently.
Below are excerpts of letters and articles by Art Robinson to homeschoolers concerning topics of general interest.
Details and Procedures
[To a mother who lives alone with her young daughter and who is thinking about removing here from public school and home schooling - but is worrying about all of the details and procedures.]
10 October 1998
Hi Xxxxxx, ...
An objective look at the products of public schools shows that, in most cases, the school has a net negative influence on the child. You not only can do a much better job, it would be virtually impossible for you to do worse. Realizing that most home school parents have no teaching experience and no special abilities or facilities, you may be interested in the following academic figures: [''Solid Evidence to Support Home Schooling'' by Michael P. Farris, The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 1997, p A18.]
In summarizing the Farris article in my newsletter, Access to Energy, I wrote:
"on a battery of tests in reading, listening, language, math, science, social studies, and study skills, where public school students average, by definition, 50th percentile, home schooled students average between the 80th and 87th percentiles with an overall score of 85th percentile.
"On reading tests, the home schooled whites, hispanics, and blacks all scored at the 87th percentile, while in math home schooled whites were at the 82nd percentile and minorities at the 77th percentile.
"In the tax-financed "public" schools, however, in reading tests whites were 57th, while blacks and hispanics were both at 28th. In math, whites were at the 58th, while hispanics were at the 29th and blacks were at the 24th. Imagine the howls of racism and child abuse that would be heard from the public schools and their unions if these numbers for home schools and public schools were reversed.
"The cost? Public school costs are $5,325 per student year compared with $546 per student year in home schools (excluding, in both cases, the capital costs of the buildings in which the students are taught). Using the 22 CD-ROM self-teaching home school curriculum developed by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, this cost drops to $49 per student year plus the cost of a computer (already present in half of American homes) and requires very little teacher time.
" . . . . . This academic performance is in significant part linked to the infinitely superior social and moral atmosphere of the home."
Why have children, the most precious blessing imaginable, and then turn them over to the state to raise - where their teachers will be a peer group of immature children refereed by disinterested government employees? Don't worry about all of the details. Simply decide that your daughter should not be exposed any longer to the degraded social, moral, and academic environment of a government institution, and then just keep her home. The rest will eventually work out wonderfully for you both regardless of what mechanics (which curriculum, etc.) you decide upon. If I had a seven-year-old daughter, I would not permit her to spend even one single day in a public school.
One added point: If you have your daughter at your side 24 hours per day, seven days per week, you will soon come to realize that your own life as well as hers has become immeasurably enriched. My children were 12, 10, 8, 6, 6, and 18 months when my wife died. While I then adopted a policy of always staying with them or of taking them with me wherever I needed to go - even on several trips across the country, I was especially protective of the baby boy because of his age. I even moved him into bed with me, so that I could watch at night to see that he was O.K. Well, he is still there; we have been virtually inseparable for 10 years; and we both have thrived so much from the experience that most people who know us are astonished. Add to this unusually close relations with all six children and I have had more happiness in the past 10 years than most people dare to even dream about. Now, they are 22, 20, 18, 16, 16, and 11, so, unhappily, I am running out of children - but they are becoming remarkable adults, so I have some great co-workers. To do this, however, both you and the child must know for certain that it is unthinkable that you would turn him (her) over to someone else for even a brief period. [Even before my wife died, we had a policy of always taking the children everywhere - never ever leaving them with anyone else.]
I lead an unusually rigorous life, so the children have been in some very unusual places. ... You have the great blessing of a seven-year-old girl. Keep her so close to you that the idea of having her away for even a few hours at any school - public or Christian - is just too ridiculous to even be considered.
State interference in family life. Languages
It is unfortunate that your state requires a "cover school." Even at the low price you are paying, the cover over 12 years will cost twice as much as the entire cost of teaching materials, etc. for a twelve year period. Maybe you should eventually start your own cover school. It sounds like a lucrative game.
I just returned from three days in California. On the news (there) was a new ruling by the state that all children must complete kindergarten in a state approved institution before they are permitted in the first grade. They keep moving earlier the time at which they contrive to seize the children. Also, while I was gone, a call came from a mother in Nevada who has just had her 10 and 12-year-old children (she has a total of two) seized by a swat team with guns, handcuffs (for her), etc. This stemmed from her taking one of the children to the emergency room (for what turned out to be a false alarm). After they had her children, the state changed the charge to "educational neglect." She now wants to get our curriculum as a low cost way of having better materials to show the state.
Getting her children back will be the hard part. The state receives about $100,000 from the federal government for each child they seize - which then goes to pay the people who seize them and their various associates who "care" for the children. The state of New Jersey made a grab for my children a few years ago when we were vacationing there. We escaped - fortunately, since the "child protective" industry in New Jersey stood to gain over a half-million dollars in federal money by taking them. They had Matthew (then 7) in their clutches for about a day and were after the others. Virtually their entire investigation of me revolved around finding out how much money I had - so that they could determine how hard I would be able to fight them.
A man and six children in a pickup truck (cab type) were just too great a temptation to them. A detective with a gun grilled a scientist we were visiting.- for about two hours (this scientist happens to have the Nobel Prize in Chemistry).. He repeatedly told the scientist that the primary suspicious characteristic of my children was that they were "too quiet." The scientist (who, with his wife, also raised six children) kept telling him that children learn by example, but the guy just would not believe him.
Why not let Xxxxx learn languages in her recreational time? The restriction to solely essential subjects applies only to at-the-desk formal (best hours in the day) study time. This only occupies about five hours. She will be awake for 14-16 hours. With an hour out for meals, she still has 8-10 hours per day. Learn the languages then.
I hope the curriculum meets your expectations. It really works exceptionally well - especially for children who start it at an early age. Never forget, however, the really important part - Keep Your Child OUT of the World. (Get rid of that television altogether. I know one man who took his out on the back porch and shot it. This is extreme, but do you really want to give this trouble to someone else? Destruction of the thing is the best option.)Then she will grow up naturally - and without the impediments and faults that are taught by the world (but are not naturally a part of a developing human being). With usually quite modest amounts of discipline, children grow into wonderful young adults - if they are not distracted. Surely, some manage this anyway regardless of circumstances - but why make it difficult for them and also risk failure?
The New Jersey incident. What motivates bureaucrats.
Art responds to a question about something mentioned in one of his talks.
The New Jersey episode went as follows:
We all traveled together in those days because the children were then ages 7, 12. 12. 14. 16. And 18 and there is only one parent. I still prefer not to have them away (ages now 11-22). All of us speak by telephone every day (usually during an evening Bible reading).
We were then on a trip in a pickup truck (two doors with back seat) and were visiting Dr. R. B. Merrifield, a scientist at Rockefeller University who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for being the first to synthesize an enzyme and for the development of related techniques. Rockefeller University is in New York City and, for the visit, we were all dressed in the best clothes we had with us. The plan was to visit the lab at Rockefeller and then spend the weekend at Dr. Merrifield's home in New Jersey.
Matthew had developed a cough, so Dr. Merrifield suggested that Mrs. Merrifield could make an appointment with a pediatrician. The Merrifield's raised several children, but all were grown, so she just picked a pediatric clinic from the yellow pages. We arrived there after hours at 5:30 p.m., so two women M.D.s and two nurses were on after-hours duty.
Matthew and I went in, while the other five children waited in the truck. After an about one-half hour wait and following the quickest physical exam I have ever seen, one of the pediatricians announced that Matthew appeared to have a very serious, rapidly fatal bacterial infection - which could be stopped only by immediate hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. I called our pediatrician in Oregon, who told me that the disease, while rare, did exist - and he could not, of course, advise about Matthew without seeing him.
So, the other children went on to the Merrifield's, while Matthew, Arynne, and I went to the hospital. (Arynne also had a cough, but wound up sleeping in the pickup that very cold night because the hospital would not allow her inside unless I admitted her.) Curiously, the Dr. did not suggest examination of the other children who had, presumably, been exposed to this dread and contagious illness. The admitting physician at the hospital seemed confused, since she could find nothing wrong with Matthew other than a bad cold - but she dutifully ordered a set of x-rays and administered the IV and an intermittent respirator, while telling me "you have nothing to worry about" and commenting that our Dr. must have "a very low threshold." I was later to learn that the hospital record code number for Matthew designated "admitted for reasons other than a medical emergency."
What I did not know throughout that night at Matthew's bedside was that, when we visited the clinic, one of the staff members noticed the truck and asked the children to talk with her and to get out of the truck. She, being a stranger, they refused to do either. The Dr. then called New Jersey social services and a plan to trap us through hospitalizing Matthew was decided upon. My first warning was when a woman from New Jersey social services appeared in the hospital room late the next morning backed (in the hallway outside) by two men with guns - one detective and one police officer. She repeatedly demanded that I leave the room to meet with them, which I, fortunately, refused to do.
The interrogation of me that followed (in the room with her running back and forth to talk to the men outside) then centered almost exclusively upon our finances. How much money was in my wallet? How much did our home cost? Where did we get the money to buy it? Etc. In retrospect, I believe that their main purpose was to determine whether or not we were wealthy enough to fight them. After a couple of hours, they demanded to see the other children. So, after reaching an agreement that, if I left Matthew's room, I would be permitted to go back in, we drove to the Merrifields - detective, social worker, and me.
Since we refused the social worker's demand to see the children alone, she questioned them in the presence of Mrs. Merrifield and me - while the detective questioned Dr. Merrifield in another room. Before beginning, the social worker gave us a short talk on how good she was with children. After a couple of hours of this, the two conferred and then left. Professor Merrifield told me that the detective said the most suspicious evidence was that the children were "too quiet." Dr. Merrifield said he kept telling the guy that children learn by example, but he wouldn't believe him.
Back at the hospital, they still refused to release Matthew. However, after I agreed to participate in meetings and examinations the next morning, they let him out. We, of course, immediately drove out of the state.
When I asked later for the state records of this episode, I was told that they were sealed. I was not to be allowed to read them.
Several things should be realized. First, most states have passed laws allowing them to receive child abuse money from the federal government. When a child is seized, these programs provide over $100,000 per child which pays the people who seize the child and their retainers in the police dept., child services, foster homes, etc. Our family was worth at least $500,000 to the social services industry of New Jersey. Second, these laws specify that certain professionals - including MDs - are guilty of a serious crime if, knowing about a potential case - they do not report it. Therefore, at the clinic, once one of the staff had raised a question about the children, all of the staff members were at serious personal risk if they did not call the "social services" people. The ruse they then participated in order to snatch Matthew was, of course, highly unethical. It was after hours and the child services people needed time to get their act and paperwork together. Third, Matthew's need for child protection was, as far as I was able to determine, of little interest to these people. If we had been relatively poor and had not been visiting a famous man. I am sure that all six children would have been seized - and I would have been involved in a long fight to get them back. Even if successful, this fight would have devastated our work, since it would have been waged 3,000 miles from home.
At present. There are more than a million allegations of child abuse each year. 80% are dropped - but usually after the children have been seized and interrogated. About 200,000 children are currently incarcerated in locations away from their parents. Federal funding of this now stands at about $3 billion per year. This pays about $100,000 per child for the seizure and institutionalization of 30,000 children per year. States supply similar amounts of money. After the child has been processed and placed in a "foster home," Yearly tax-financed expenditures are less.
Teaching Students to Think
From: Access to Energy: A Pro-Science, Pro-Technology, Pro-Free Enterprise Monthly Newsletter
AUGUST 2000 (Vol. 28, no. 1) Box 1250, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523
Copyright 2012© 2000 by Access to Energy
Teaching Students to Think
by Dr. Arthur B. Robinson
We live today largely in a trust-and-parrot society. This fact and the erosion of our government from a republic into a poll-driven democracy is costing us our freedom. Those who would enslave us have gained the trust of our people and have taught them that anything goes so long as the majority approves. This is the tyranny of mob rule, but they do not realize it.
...I have concluded that the teaching of math and science, if done in an appropriate manner, can add greatly to the student's inclination and ability to think.
To be sure, not all Americans have fallen into these traps. We associate ourselves personally with people of similar interests and inclinations to our own, so each of us tends to think of our society as made up of the people we see around us. It is difficult to integrate our observations over 260 million people except by evaluating their aggregate actions. Those actions tell a sorry tale.
More than half of our economic freedom has disappeared into a federal, state, and local tax system that confiscates over 50% of our earnings. We are surrounded by capricious and irrational controls, such as the massive web of "environmental" regulations, which is largely based upon self-serving political claims rather than reality. Every newspaper and magazine is brim-full of items that a thinking individual would designate for "Stark Raving Mad."
This is, of course, the key — a thinking individual. Our people do not think. They simply mimic the claims of others, communicated to them largely through television, and pretend that they are thinking. The media launches a particular propaganda campaign; the pollsters monitor its results; and, when the polls indicate that over 50% of the people now parrot the propaganda, unprincipled politicians act on it.
We cannot change this entire system overnight or even in one generation, but how do we ensure that those for whom we are personally responsible do not succumb? How can we teach them to think?
On the basis of our experience with home schooling — we now have, through our curriculum, about 40,000 students - I have concluded that the teaching of math and science, if done in an appropriate manner, can add greatly to the student's inclination and ability to think. This should begin at an early age.
First, let me assure you that this course of study can be followed successfully by most students.
Our curriculum requires that, during the first year of school, the student learn to read well and also learn the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables through 12s by instant, rote memory. These tables are learned primarily by flash card exercises after an initial period in which the student learns their conceptual meanings. Most students are ready for this first year at some time between ages 5 and 7, girls being ready a little earlier than boys.
After this initial year, the student starts with the Saxon 5/4 arith metic book and progresses at his own pace through the nine Saxon books, including calculus. A fixed number of problems are worked each day, with the number metered so that the student fmishes in two or three hours and has an average error rate on the initial attempt of less than 5%. The student grades his own paper and then must find the correct solutions to any missed problems. Most children are capable of finishing calculus between ages 14 and 17.
A key requirement is that the student never be helped with his math. He is learning problem solving — not the solutions to problems. If the student says he cannot work a problem, the response is that he will just have to remain at his desk until he figures out the solution. If started early in life, rarely if ever will a problem remain unsolved. In any case, even if there is such a problem, it should remain un solved. Never should it be worked for the student.
After the student finishes calculus, he begins calculus-based physics and, after that, chemistry. These subjects are handled in the same way. The student reads the text and solves the problems without any help whatever, if he has trouble, he rereads the text and thinks about it until he finds a solution.
Science is not taught to the student before he finishes mathematics through calculus. It is never taught as facts to be memorized. This precludes early science courses because, until he has the needed math skills, the student is not able to figure out solutions for himself. He is only able to trust and parrot, a habit that is to be avoided.
First, let me assure you that this course of study can be followed successfully by most students. We have substantial experience that demonstrates this. Math and science problem solving can become, like most other tasks, simply a job that the student knows he can and must complete each day. Helping the student, on the other hand, robs him of the benefits of the more difficult problems and breeds a dependency that removes his confidence in his own thoughts.
Today, my 13-year-old Matthew is sitting at a desk near the one at which I am writing. He is halfway through Advanced Math, the book before Calculus. Matthew has an unusual string of seven straight days with 100% right answers going. He is trying for an eighth. His perfect scores will undoubtedly soon end, but consider his mind set. Matthew is not a genius. He is an ordinarily bright boy who has, for seven years, been working his math by himself - math that has gradually increased in complexity. He knows that he can assemble a set of facts and deduce a right answer by thinking for himself. He does so every morning except Sunday.
If you want a man to think, put him in a position where he must think, every day.
Matthew does not know much about "science" at all — only that encountered in hobbies. He will not know science until he is able to do it by himself — beginning with calculus problems based upon Newton's laws in introductory physics. Other l3-year-olds are being taught "science." That is to say that they are being taught to trust and parrot facts about science that adults are giving them to memorize. While gaining this skill to mimic what they are told, they are not learning to reason for themselves. They have "help" with their problems and physics books that use no calculus — instead giving them formulas to memorize because they are unable to derive them.
If you want a man to think, put him in a position where he must think, every day, for the months and years that he is growing up. if you want him to trust and parrot, give him lots of practice in memorizing things told to him by authorities. The choice is clear and the results are as expected.
Math and science are not just for scientists and engineers. They are a great blessing which the advance of human knowledge has made available to everyone. Properly incorporated into early education, they can markedly enhance the ability to think and to think with confidence — a trait that must be maintained in order to preserve freedom.
"New Report Urges Return to Basics In Teaching Math" by John Herhinger, The Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2006, p. A1, reports that even the tax-financed social engineers in the American public schools are becoming nervous about having abandoned the teaching of fundamental mathematics.
American public schools are becoming nervous about having abandoned the teaching of fundamental mathematics.
American students scored 15th in the world in a recent international math exam. The average American score was 504 - not even close behind Singapore in first place with 605 and Japan in fifth place with 570, out of a possible 1,000.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, that worthy organization of 100,00 "educators" who are directly responsible for this debacle, now recommends a return to the teaching of multiplication tables and long division and less use of calculators.
An example of the sort of problem these people have been posing to American students: "To solve a basic division problem, 120 divided by 40, students might cross off groups of circles to 'discover' that the answer is three."
Never having had the disadvantage of control of our home school curriculum by the unionized public school mob, we have always emphasized the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic – earning the Robinson curriculum first place in Curriculum and Literature in a national poll of the readers of Practical Home Schooling magazine this year, surpassing all other home school curriculums.
"Extreme Juggling: Parents Home-School The Kids While Holding Full-Time Jobs" by Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2006, P. D1, reports that, "Students using the Robinson Curriculum, for example, a program popular among working parents for its emphasis on independent problem-solving, have doubled in five years to an estimated 60,000 students ... "
In our curriculum, after understanding these concepts, students learn their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables by instant rote memory during the first year. Then, typically at the age of 6 or 7, they begin self-teaching math - with a book that is of the ordinary public school level for 4th and 5th graders. Moving along smoothly, a good student can finish calculus at age 14, although many require until 15 or 16. This leaves plenty of time for self-study of chemistry and calculus-based physics after math is completed. All of this is self taught, without teacher intervention.
In public schools, students are taught by inferior methods and all are kept in a holding pattern at a very low level of skill until the poorest students can use their hand calculators. Physics, if it is taught at all, is usually of a non-calculus kind that consists primarily of just plugging numbers into equations that the students do not derive.
Public school students are, of course, just as intelligent as our home schooled students, but without good study habits, a good study environment, and a good course of study, they fall far behind the level of accomplishment that they could have achieved.
Home Schooling - an article by Dr. Art Robinson
Research scientists often have a special fondness for research papers that they have published. It is important to them that other scientists reference their papers and the discoveries that they have made – especially the ones of real importance. Their favorite papers are those that they think are of greatest lasting significance.
My favorite research paper is a little different. It does report measurements of fundamental deamidation rate constants that will be useful for a long time. Once reported, these values will not likely be re-measured, so our report will have some lasting value. This is not, however, my reason for favoring this publication.
The literature reference is Robinson, N.E., Robinson, Z.W., Robinson. B.R.. Robinson. A.L., Rothman, Robinson, M.L., arid Robinson A.B., Structure-dependent nonenzymatic deamidation of glutaminyl and asparaginyl pentapeptides, Journal of Peptide Research (2004). 63, 426-436. It should have had eight Robinsons as authors. but their mother died 16 years before this was published. She was a chemist and computer systems programmer.
As the education of my 6 collaborators and coauthors continues, our telephone is becoming increasingly confusing. Callers often ask for Dr. Robinson. but there are three of us. Zachary has a doctorate in veterinary medicine and Noah has a PhD in chemistry. I am hoping for additional confusion. The future is always uncertain, but it is healthful to have hope.
At present, Arynne is in her third year of work toward a DVM, twins Joshua and Bethany are both in their second year of work toward PhDs in nuclear engineering, and Matthew is in his second and last year of work toward a BS in chemistry.
Since the tragedy of Laurelee's sudden death in 1988, both Providence and people have helped us in countless extraordinary and generous ways. It will require seven Dr. Robinsons and more –working at fullest potential for their entire lives – to begin to repay, in their accomplishments, the encouragement and help that has been so generously given to us.
Among the gifts of men, the greatest was given to us many years before 1988 by airline pilot Captain Jim Foley. Jim convinced us to home school. When Laurelee died, her students were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 6 years old – all in the home school that aim Foley had urged LIS to create. Matthew was then 18 months old.
When their teacher died in 1988, I let the home school continue on a self-teaching basis. I reasoned that this would be much inferior without a teacher, but putting them into the social situation in the public or private schools was unthinkable. They were just provided with books, a school room with a large desk for each, and essentially free study. My only contribution was to do my own work at another desk in that same room. As time passed, we worked out formal study rules and more useful self-study procedures.
My lust clue that something was amiss came after Zachary finished calculus. Having nothing more appropriate, 1 gave him Caltech freshman physics and chemistry texts – both books intended for top college freshman augmented by three lectures per week and formal help sessions.
Zachary kept right on reading and working all of the problems correctly. By then, he just didn't know any better.
Now, I thought I had been a pretty good student. I was at the top of my class in public high school and was accepted for college by Caltech, MIT, Harvard, and Rice. Zachary was 17, and, by any objective measure, he was three years ahead of anywhere I had ever been at his age. O.K. I had a star student.
Actually, I had six. Normalized to age, every one of them was far, far ahead of anything I had ever been or even seen – except perhaps for a couple of real geniuses at Caltech. Yet, there were definitely no geniuses in the Robinson household – just smart young people with unusual work ethics, excellent study habits, and extraordinary personal bonds to their brothers and sisters.
Just before Zachary entered college, we learned about Advanced Placement exams. There was no time to prepare, so he just took all of the exams that seemed interesting – scoring so high that he entered college as a junior and finished his BS in chemistry in two years. Another unusual star? Nope. Noah and Matthew did the same thing. As an encore, Noah scored two perfect 800s and a 99th percentile on the three graduate record exams for graduate school – and then completed his PhD at Caltech in three years.
Some people think that I caused this – that I taught the children intensively and drove them to excessive study. Nothing could be further from the truth. We actually had a rule in our school that I would never help the students. I adhered to this rule. Matthew says I broke it sometimes. He insists that I helped him – about once every two years. On average, they spent 4 to 5 hours a day, six days per week, ten and one-half months per year in the schoolroom.
Ten years ago, the children decided to clone their study system. They scanned their books and study materials and methods onto 22 CD-ROMs and started selling the sets – 12 years of education for all of the children in a family in a box for $195 postage paid. Each family prints its own books from the CDs with a computer printer.
Today, they have more than 70,000 students – an estimated 3% of the home-schooled students in the United States. All six of them are far superior to their father in a multit_Idz of ways -- not just in ::icademics. Each has followed a different path and has developed different skills. Well trained minds have greatly helped.
Jim Foley gave these young people a wonderful gift. They have cloned that gift and passed it on to many more. This gift is not solely academic. Children learn by example.
If children grow up on a public or private school playground, they learn the ethics and values of the playground. If they grow up at home, their own inborn good qualities are developed, and they emulate the ethics and values of their families. The gifts of Providence are therefore not negated by the world. Home schooling is a tool that allows parents to raise their own children – both their greatest responsibility and their greatest blessing.
About one-third of the readers of Access to Energy have formal training in physical science. They understand, from first-hand experience, that this training is primarily education in problem solving. Ideally it is training in figuring out how to solve problems – not in memorizing the solutions to problems.
Most public and private school texts provide the latter. For example, in order to make their curriculum easier, most schools now teach physics without calculus. Yet, introductory physics is almost entirely Newtonian mechanics – the physics that underlies the Industrial Revolution. While he was inventing mechanics, Newton also invented calculus because he could not work the problems of mechanics without calculus.
If Isaac Newton could not do physics without calculus, how can ordinary students do so? The answer is that they cannot. They instead memorize the solutions to physics problems and plug numbers into those solutions. By contrast, problem solving in mechanics actually involves using calculus and Newton's simple laws of force, mass, motion, and energy to figure out the formulas that constitute the solutions to specific mechanics problems.
Mechanics problems vary from simple problems such as the trajectory of a rifle bullet to the very complex. Perhaps the most famous was a mechanics problem that was posed by the great mathematician Bernoulli when Newton was already an old man. This problem had baffled the famous 18th century mathematicians of Europe for more than six months.
Presented to Newton in the afternoon, he solved it before going to bed. Although the solution was sent to Bernoulli anonymously, he is said to have exclaimed upon reading it, "tanquam ex ungue leonem" – "as the lion is known by its claw" – thus expressing his chagrin when he recognized Newton's method.
In order to solve problems, the student must learn to think. He must learn to study a problem until he understands it and then to find a method of solution. Usually there are several methods. He need only discover one. These skills are developed by – practice. The student solves thousands of problems – beginning with simple arithmetic and extending into applications in physical science.
There are two essential things required to solve a problem – skill and self confidence. Unless an individual is confident that he can solve the problem, he is unlikely to do so.
The extraordinary problem solving ability imparted by self-teaching requires the careful metering to the student of problems of gradually increasing difficulty. This begins at age six or seven with arithmetic and continues to the highest level of difficulty. Explained in detail in our curriculum, this works for students of all levels of ability. Those of lesser ability have the work metered to them at a slower rate. The metering adjusts the number of new problems each day to the students error rate and the time required to complete his lessons.
It is important that the student never be helped – either in learning from his book or in solving the problems. He grades himself and discovers, by further study and without help, the causes of any errors he makes. After acclimatization to this method, his brain knows that every morning he will face a set of problems – and that he will solve all of them correctly either on the first pass or after further study. Over a period of years, this builds great and justified self confidence in the student.
To be helped by a teacher is counterproductive. First, the student loses confidence in his own ability. He learns that that there are some problems that he cannot work without help. Second, he is deprived of the experience of finding a solution to the problem. He needed to solve the problem – not to watch someone else solve it.
Self teaching of math and science also enhances the teaching of history, literature, economics, and all of the other subjects in the curriculum. A student who begins his day each morning in a quiet home school environment – solving, solely with his own brain, a few problems in mathematics, physics, or chemistry – approaches his remaining studies that day with an entirely different mind set.
Additionally, this method teaches important subliminal moral lessons. The answers to math and science problems are either right or wrong. There is no moral relativism in mathematics. This causes the student's mind to seek the truth in other subjects, too, where it is more difficult to discern.
Ah, but will they do it? Does this require an overbearing disciplinarian who nails their shoes to the floor under their desks and hovers with menace over their work?
Actually, students much prefer this kind of work. I have received numerous letters from mothers saying that this method changed their entire home school. Their students were happier, quieter, and far more scholarly and studious after they had used thismethod for a short while. This was certainly our own experience.
I emerged from Caltech in 1963 with a good ability to solve problems. The six Robinson children emerged from their home school before college with better problem solving ability and better study habits than I had in 1963. The difference was that they were educated in an entirely self-taught home school.
GENERALIZED SELF STUDY
No teacher? No instruction – even in graduate level work? I know this sounds improbable. It would have sounded improbable to me, too, had I heard it before our family's experiences. I taught freshman chemistry to classes of 300 students at UCSD in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Did the students really not need my lectures and the problem-solving seminars I provided every evening?
The answer is a qualified "yes." The qualification rests upon the lives the students are leading. If they are living quietly in an off-campus house or apartment and are trained to think for themselves, they are likely to be self sufficient. If they are living in the dormitories of an American university and emulating the habits of their "peers," they need all of the help they can get – to slide through the course with a passing grade and a minimum of acquired knowledge.
If parents are so selfish that they are unwilling to raise their own children – if they turn their children over to the government to raise, they must endure the product that the government provides. The streets of America are awash with the tragic results of this system.
To be sure, there are many outstanding young people in the United States who have been educated in the public schools. There are also some poorly educated young people who have been educated in home schools by parents who did not value academic work.
Suppose that one were given responsibility for teaching 100 children to swim. One procedure would be to simply toss them all in a cold lake on a blustery autumn day. Many would drown – but not all. Those who survived would eventually figure out how to swim.
Alternatively, the children could be taught by their parents. Some might still drown, along with perhaps a parent or two – but many more would survive. On average, the result would be much better.
Better still, each family of children could be provided with a wann indoor swimming pool filled initially only six inches deep and with books of instructions. Gradually, over a period of years, the level of the water in the pool would be raised. A parent would always be present – but only to serve as a lifeguard.
At those evening problem solving seminars at UCSD, I worked any problem that the students posed – extemporaneously at the chalk board. Of course, only the best 50 students attended the sessions. In retrospect, I doubt that 1 specifically helped them to learn to work problems. Instead, I served as an example. I was only a few years older than the students. If I could do this, so could they.
The parents of young people in good home schools eventually face an apparently unsolvable dilemma. The colleges and universities of America have largely become little more than degraded extensions of the public schools – with drugs, alcohol, and institutionalized immorality on an adult scale. Moreover, course work in history, literature, and the other humanities has become mostly politically correct social indoctrination into the radical chic of academia. To say that the faculty and administrators of these institutions have abrogated their responsibilities as teachers is an enormous understatement.
Yet, a young person without a college degree in today's society is at a great professional disadvantage. How does one obtain a higher education without the terrible personal risks associated with incarceration in one of these zoos?
Actually, "zoo" may be uncharitable. After he had been in college for a year, I asked Matthew, "How do you like it? Is it a zoo?" Matthew replied, "No. It is more of an insane asylum." He went on to say that the single most remarkable thing was the ubiquitous profanity in the speech of virtually all of the undergraduates. Mitigating this Matthew said, "However, since my vocabulary is deficient in this regard. this does not affect me so much."
Every one of the six Robinson students has remarked to me about the profanity - which is apparently knee deep on American college campuses. Most American college students - at least in the presence of their peers- are apparently unable to express a thought without use of the obligatory profanity of their social group.
A solution to the parents' dilemma can be found by first considering the nature of higher education. In the Europe of the young Isaac Newton, most university students studied the "classics." They studied literature - both secular and religious - in Latin, Greek, and other ancient languages. The great libraries of their universities were filled with the highest level available of past human thought.
Yet. most of these students were being prepared for lives in commerce. in the military, and in ordinary trades. Very few became teachers and scholars. The actual subject matter of their educations was unnecessary to their later professions.
Higher education in those days consisted of training the student's minds to think. To accomplish this, they were trained in the highest level of human intellectual knowledge of their time. which encompassed primarily philosophy, history, religion, languages, and other subjects. which we catagorize today as humanities. These humanities are. for the most part. no longer available on our college campuses. The humanities have become instead vessels for political and social indoctrination, with their truths falsified in order to fit the objectives of the "teachers."
Since Newton's time however, there has arisen a far more rigorous body of human knowledge - in mathematics and the sciences. The truth in these subjects cannot be successfully falsified in university courses. There are exceptions - such as so-called environmental science and evolutionary science, but these are easily avoided. The propaganda content of a good course in math, physics, chemistry, or engineering is necessarily very small. So, the same educational goals of the great universities of England and other developed countries of past centuries can be achieved today with math and science - regardless of whether or not the student will likely use the factual content of these subjects in his life's work.
Thus, a student can avoid the course work pitfalls of a contemporary university by enrolling in math, chemistry, or physics - and he can still obtain a respectable college degree. What, however, does he do about the "humanities" requirements? The best solution is to study these subjects in his home before he goes to the university, and to skip the university indoctrination courses by means of College Board Advanced Placement exams. Failing to obtain advanced placement, this opportunity still exists in the form of College Board CLEP exams, which the student can take while he is in college.
Advanced Placement provides additional advantages. It allows the student to spend fewer years in college, thus lowering the financial costs and minimizing exposure to the degraded intellectual and social environment of the university. All that is required is a good home school environment in which he can prepare for these exams.
Lastly, there is great advantage in independence of personal environment while at college. The student who rents an apartment or small house near the college or lives at home if the university is nearby has a substantial advantage. He controls his own study envi- ronment and social environment. This is essential to continuation of the study habits and moral principles that he has learned at home.
This system works. Study a science, skip the humanities with Advanced Placement, spend as few years in college as possible, and live off campus - never in the dormitories. This method has worked well so far for all six Robinson students. I hope that it will continue to work for them. I highly recommend it.
A further comment about dormitories. At Caltech between 1959 and 1963, I was president of my class twice, secretary of the student body, a member of the tennis team, leader of the dramatics club, and, finally, president of my dormitory, Dabney House. This last -president of one of the seven houses - was the most respected such position among the students.
All campus life centered around the houses, which functioned somewhat like fraternities with the exception that they were not exclusive. Every student who wished to participate was a member of one of the houses - which included about 90% of the 700 students.
At dinner each evening - for which coat and tie were required - no one in the room could sit down until the president did. Each house was a dynamic and well-organized system of social, athletic, and scholastic activity - in constant competition with the other six houses. These were wonderful environments in which to continue the process of growing up. They were self-run by the students, but the faculty paid one graduate student observer in each house to make sure things stayed on track.
So, I should be a great advocate of on-campus student life -right? Wrong. That life no longer exists. I have visited those same student houses in recent years. The environment defies description. They are, quite simply, barely fit for human life. This applies to the dormitories of most universities.
So, do not deprive your home-schooled student of a higher education. Send him to undergraduate school and, if possible, to graduate school. Encourage him to study math, science, and engineering, to skip the humanities with advanced placement, to spend a minimum of time and money in the school, and to live apart from the on-campus dormitory life. One cannot avoid all of the dangerous places in life, but he can minimize the risks.