Versatility and the Dangerous Child

The following is co-posted on the Al Fin Next Level blog:

A Dangerous Child will master at least three means of financial independence by the age of 18 years. And that is just the beginning. Dangerous Children continue to learn and master new skills and competencies their entire lives, in order to be able to ride the shifting currents of creative destruction in the larger world.

Versatility in Thinking is Just as Important

Being able to thrive financially is important for adults of all ages from 18 to 108. Just as important is the ability to adapt to new ideas and ways of thinking, as we gain experience.

If we indoctrinate the young person in an elaborate set of fixed beliefs, we are ensuring his early obsolescence. [It is important to] develop skills, attitudes, habits of mind and the kinds of knowledge and understanding that will be the instruments of continuous change and growth on the part of the young person. __ Chapter 3 in Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner

The Dangerous Child movement grew from the realisation that if humans are ever to move beyond the current levels of thinking and living, that a better — more competent and self-aware — substrate of humanity is needed.

Albert Einstein understood that humans needed to move to different levels of thinking in order to solve many new problems which were cropping up.

The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them. __ Albert Einstein quoted in Des MacHale, Wisdom (London, 2002)

The above quote is often phrased: “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” (Goodreads) .

It is safe to say that most people rarely contemplate the different levels of thought which they — and others — may use in the course of making plans, solving problems, and working through their days.

It is unfair to expect everyone to be able to change their ways of thinking, at whatever point in their lives they have reached. But children are something else, and Dangerous Children are something else yet again.

While ordinary and extraordinary children will inevitably think somewhat differently from their parents, Dangerous Children are trained specially to be flexible and versatile thinkers and doers.

The versatility of thinking displayed by Dangerous Children goes far beyond their broad base of skills, competence, and resourcefulness in the practical world. Dangerous Children are flexible thinkers, and are trained to review key assumptions in their thinking and planning at regular intervals. This is necessary because much will have been experienced by the child directly and indirectly over time, which may induce him to modify some of his basic assumptions. He must have a sound and effective way of making whatever changes are necessary in his conscious (and sometimes unconscious) foundations of thought and action.

Habits Rule us All

The specialist is more susceptible to falling into the rut of rote responses to stimuli, over time, due to the limited scope of problems he typically faces. Generalists must necessarily be more flexible, since they face a wider range of problems.

But even generalists can be forced into rote patterns of thought and response. That is why periodic reviews of personal and professional axioms, premises, and assumptions are necessary.

Habits are good insofar as they allow us to function productively in a more efficient way — freeing us up for greater achievement and enjoyment. But habits must be questioned from time to time, and changed as necessary.

The Dangerous Child is Usually a Mixture of Specialist and Generalist

In human societies there is no reason whatever why specialists should not retain the capacity to function as generalists. __ John W. Gardner in Self-Renewal

We are born into generalism and must function as generalists as we learn to walk, talk, read, and get along with others. Dangerous Children are immersed much more deeply into versatile generalism in the course of developing their broad base of skills and competencies. But many Dangerous Children will launch themselves from the springboard of early financial independence into more specialised careers and businesses — until they are ready to move on to something more challenging.

Modern human societies are based upon the specialisation of labour, and would not be nearly as prosperous without it. But specialists too often find themselves out on a limb as times change, and the world seems to move forward and leave their now-obsolete specialty behind.

For the health of the individual as well as for society as a whole, versatility is crucial.

US Schools: Smart Kids Getting Shafted

Children Should Learn at Their Own Pace

But that is not what happens in public schools and other conventional US schools. Everyone is crammed together in the same can — like sardines — and forced to soak in the same mind-numbing routine of programmed conformity, regardless of the child’s innate ability and interests.

because the system arbitrarily separates students by age, students of varying academic abilities get put on the same track. The low performers remain consistently behind, in a constant struggle to play catch-up. And they’re the ones who get the majority of the attention of today’s schools and education reformers.

But the high performers are also suffering in this system, too. They’re forced to sit in a classroom for seven hours a day going over simple material and concepts at a snail’s pace. Eventually, intellectual atrophy sets in. __ http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/education-system-isnt-designed-smart-kids

It is even worse for boys and very active girls, whose innate need for physical activity is subjugated to the career ambitions of professional educationalists from the US Department of Education, to university schools of education, to foundations, to thinktanks, to lower level school systems. Every professional educationalist wants to leave his mark on an already hopelessly convoluted and dysfunctional school system.

A recent Johns Hopkins University study reveals a dirty secret that threatens to overturn the entire basis of the US K-12 school system. It seems that large numbers of young US students score at or above the next higher grade level. In other words, kids are being forced by the system to endure an education that is “dumbed down” below their ability to learn and comprehend.

Table 1.
Percentage of Wisconsin Students Scoring One or More Years Above Grade Level17

Grade ELA % scoring 1+ years above Mathematics % scoring 1+ years above
3 32% 38%
4 36% 25%
5 41% 30%
6 37% 33%
7 44% 34%
8 45% 26%

Table Source

The table above reports findings from Wisconsin, but similar results were discovered from California testing, Florida testing, and multi-state testing including students from 30 states.

Very large percentages of students are performing above grade level.

Five different data sets from five distinct assessment administrations provide consistent evidence that many students perform above grade level. Based on the Wisconsin and California Smarter Balanced, Florida FSA, and multistate MAP data, we estimate that 20-40% of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, with 11-30% scoring at least one grade level above in math. __ http://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/?p=153

It is the policy of Dangerous Child training — and other forms of self-teaching and unschooling — to teach children to teach themselves at a very early age. After this is accomplished, children can move forward at their own pace and in their own unique combinations of learning directions — with only limited supervision necessary.

The Dangerous Child must demonstrate mastery over particular core areas of learning — including maths, effective reading, clear and reasoned writing, basic money handling – investment – and business practise, practical biology, and the child’s self-directed learning in music, art, movement (usually a mixture of dance and martial arts), and a quantitative approach to geography and history.

The Robinson Curriculum is a popular example of a self-teaching approach to homeschooling children. It allows children to proceed at their own pace, while making sure the child is prepared for accelerated higher education if that is the direction he chooses.

Many parents are choosing internet-based homeschool curricula, then adding extra features considered important by the family and culture.

Parents of Dangerous Children can choose any number of homeschool approaches. But the additional “dangerous skills” and business skills of Dangerous Children must be incorporated within the best capacities and judgment of parents, mentors, and coaches.

Remember: A Dangerous Child masters at least three means to financial independence by the age of 18 years. The earlier the child is given the foundations and practise in developing the necessary skills and competencies, the better — as long as necessary supervision and safe methods are used.

It should be obvious that a “one size fits all” educational system is just as damaging as a Procrustean Bed. Heads and legs too often are cut off in the pursuit of a uniform result.

Dangerous Entrepreneurs

More people become millionaires by owning their own business than any other way.

More

Dangerous Children study and practise investing and small business entrepreneurship from the age of 8 or earlier. Doing deals is at the heart of the human enterprise, whenever one human interacts with another. The Dangerous Child Method is all about creating Dangerous Entrepreneurs, as well as other dangerous types of humans.

An entrepreneur is anyone who is independent, creative, inventive, and willing to take risks… Most great entrepreneurs simply love what they do — whether it’s problem-solving, building something from the ground up, or a passion for their product or service. __ Sam Zell in “Am I Being Too Subtle?”

Dangerous Children are inventive risk-takers, independent and contrarian to the core. As such they do not fit in very well at today’s groupthink universities, government agencies, conformist media conglomerates, or the rent-seeking echo choirs of most corporate cultures eager to feast on government contracts.

Today’s societal compulsion to “send every child to college” is cutting the legs out from under future innovation and business skills, not to mention its damaging effects on the crafts and trades. With a college loan debt in excess of $1 trillion, the US is beginning to suffer from this financial (and human) misallocation in a significant way.

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has been experimenting with a $100,000 fellowship for selected young people, to encourage them to build, invent, and sell new things rather than to sit in classrooms and receive an academic lobotomy.

College is not necessary for one to become a successful entrepreneur — and in many cases it is an active impediment. Entrepreneurial skills can be best learned by an on-the-job learn as you go approach.

Hard core entrepreneurs tend to come up with their own ways of matching supply with demand, and meeting their customers’ and clients’ needs. But sometimes a would-be entrepreneur needs to borrow an idea to get started. There are a number of franchises with entry fees of less than $4,000.

Dangerous Children master at least three ways of financial independence by the age of 18. Whatever skills or types of expertise they develop, business skills will increase the profitability of those skills.

Once a youth achieves financial independence, he can choose and navigate his own pathway through life — through a wide range of businesses, through the professions, via creative arts, through science and technical occupations — or even in government work if absolutely necessary.

Entrepreneurs are inherently dangerous to top-heavy societies such as one finds in Europe and the Anglosphere. This is why most unprincipled politicians (Obama, Clintons, etc.) seem to reduce overall opportunities in society by diverting massive amounts of funds to parasitic rent-seeking political allies.

Things are even worse in corrupt states of the emerging and third worlds such as Russia, China, India, Brasil, the African dictatorships, etc., entrepreneurs must be prepared to pay large bribes at different levels of government just to get started. Successful entrepreneurs that are not deeply connected to top level government officials walk around with a bulls-eye on their backs. Entrepreneurs in Russia who refuse to pay the mafia are typically shot down as examples to others.

If you can imagine a society mostly composed of independent entrepreneurs and their skilled and resourceful employees, you can imagine a society with fewer problems with unemployment, drugs, crime, and government corruption. Imagine a society where even the least-paid labourer can earn a living income at least three different ways, and you can imagine a society with far less insecurity and anxiety.

For that to happen, changes must take place at both the top and the bottom. At the top, taxes and regulations must be streamlined severely, and tailored to small businesses, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, and tradesmen.

At the bottom, children must be taught to teach themselves, discipline themselves to follow self-developed plans, to understand money and business, and to be independent, creative, contrarian, thinkers and doers.

In the middle are the people who raise the children and who run the businesses, do the work, and invent new ways of doing things.

Such a society is immersed in creative destruction and disruptive innovation. It is, by definition, “dangerous” to the current elites who maintain their wealth and influence via rent-seeking.

Every Parent a Psychotherapist

Just a Cigar
Sigmund Freud

Understanding Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Development in Real Time

We want to raise children who grow up to feel confident and free to walk their own paths through life. Unfortunately too many children, youth, and young adults become twisted up and paralysed by the dominant messages of anxiety, fear, hatred, insecurity, and hostility which pervade media, academia, and other cultural institutions.

The best way to prevent your child from being programmed by the destructive emotional ambience of modern societies is to limit his exposure to mainstream nonsense and to follow his emotional development on a regular basis. Then it will be possible to intervene with useful projects and exercises the moment it seems the child is losing his self-direction to an invasive cultural meme attack of mass destruction.

How Many Ways Do Things Go Wrong?

David Burns MD, in the 4 million-copy bestseller “Feeling Good,” lists 10 common cognitive distortions which are often at the heart of modern misery and dysfunction. We are all prone to falling under the spell of one or more of these distortions. The sooner a child comes to recognise these mental parasites and how to deal with them, the better.

  1. All or Nothing Thinking —
    Anything less than perfect is a complete failure
  2. Overgeneralization — a few negative events are seen as a never ending pattern of defeat
  3. Mental Filter — Everything is seen through a filter of negativity
  4. Disqualifying the Positive — Positive attributes are discounted when tallying the personal accounts
  5. Jumping to Conclusions — This can take the form of “mind-reading” and “telling the future,” believing strongly in negative attitudes in the minds of others and bad outcomes in the future, that cannot really be known
  6. Magnification or Minimization — Undesirable qualities are magnified and desirable qualities are minimized
  7. Emotional Reasoning — Allowing our feelings to define our reality
  8. “Should” statements — “should statements” involve many assumptions which are probably either not true or grossly exaggerated
  9. Labeling and Mislabeling — Attaching harsh labels to oneself or others which emotionally loads how one reacts to that person
  10. Personalization — You see yourself as responsible for something you are not responsible for; eg, a child feels responsible for the divorce of his parents.

__ David Burns MD in “Feeling Good”

The alternative to following the emotional and mental development of your children closely — and being ready with playful but effective interventions when needed — is to watch your child slowly become wrapped up in the contradictory and paralysing insecurities and hostilities of parent societies and their institutions.

Best Ways to Intervene?

David Burns has written several books for laymen and therapists alike, describing interventions that he has found helpful over the course of his career for helping clients out of the ditches they dig for themselves. The book “Feeling Good” is the best starting point for most people — including prospective parents of Dangerous Children.

I am not aware of any work by Burns that is applicable solely to children and child-raising. But any parent clever enough to raise a Dangerous Child, will also be clever enough to adapt the ideas in “Feeling Good” to the circumstances of his own family and child.

The David Burns Method Uses 50 Strategies

In order to “untwist” the distortions caused by the above 10 self-made delusions, David Burns utilises 50 methods to untie the knots of misery and dysfunction. Here is a short list of the first 10 out of the 50 strategies:

  • Empathy
  • Agenda Setting
  • Identify the Distortions
  • Straightforward Technique
  • Double Standard Technique
  • Examine the Evidence
  • Experimental Technique
  • Survey Technique
  • Reattribution
  • Socratic Method

The average psychotherapist may use no more than 4 or 5 out of the 50 strategies in an average week of practise. And no one can expect a parent to study all 50 methods on the off chance that his child may require one of the less frequently used techniques. But it is good to be aware of the depth of possibilities when one is thrust into the psychotherapy profession — even as an amateur.

Observe Your Child Closely; Be Prepared to Intervene in a Timely and Responsive Manner

A child of 3 is different from a child at 6. Likewise, children change radically between the ages of 10 and 18. A failure to monitor mental and emotional changes of your children as they happen is like leaving your dream car in a back alley in Harlem unlocked with its keys in the ignition. Too many people are ready and willing to hijack the complex processes of self-development which your Dangerous Child is undergoing, to neglect regular close and thoughtful interaction with your child.

Sometimes an Outsider Can Spot Developments Which a Parent Overlooks

If it can be arranged, it is good to have friends and associates on the Dangerous Child path who are involved in effective methods of psychotherapy as a profession. Informal outings where such people can casually observe your Dangerous Children can yield important insights and avenues of change and self-empowerment which many parents might not see on their own, if an honest interchange of ideas is allowed to be comfortable and non-threatening.

Dangerous Children Are More Effective When Well Balanced

It is crucial that parents allow their children to develop the strength of character and emotional balance which allows them to make their own way through life according to a well informed set of maps, including opportunities and cautions.

More:

U. of Toronto’s Jordan Peterson has a series of class videos titled “Maps of Meaning” which provides an interesting foundation of concepts for helping university students to assemble a functional set of personal beliefs which facilitate meaningful action for their own benefit and enrichment.

Here at the Al Fin Institute for The Dangerous Child, we always say that if you wait to educate the child until he reaches university age, you have waited too late. On the other hand, at university age not all of the windows of development have closed irrevocably. Much can still be salvaged, although much is also lost by that time, if not already somewhat developed.