April 22, 2022

Change Happens Slowly – Until It Happens All At Once – with Robert Bortins – [Ep. 118]

Change Happens Slowly – Until It Happens All At Once – with Robert Bortins – [Ep. 118]

Many people are surprised at the perceived swiftness of cultural shifts in our society affecting economic prosperity, national security, and the stability of families and communities. Freedoms we once took for granted hang in the balance. It may seem...

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Many people are surprised at the perceived swiftness of cultural shifts in our society affecting economic prosperity, national security, and the stability of families and communities. Freedoms we once took for granted hang in the balance. It may seem sudden, but change happens slowly until it happens all at once. Ideologies dominating the upheaval have been permeating our educational system for decades, and results are evident. How can parents and employers turn the tide and promote skills that teach how to think, not what to think? Listen as Linda discusses this and more with Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations, a unique educational resource company serving families around the world. 

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Linda J. Hansen: Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of The Prosperity 101 Break Room Economics podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host, and the author of Prosperity 101-Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck and the creator of The Breakroom Economics online course. The book, the course, and the entire podcast library can be found on prosperity101.com.

I seek to connect boardroom to breakroom and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement, and retention and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit prosperity101.com.

Thank you for joining with me today. I've titled this episode, "Change Happens Slowly, Until it Happens All At Once." If you are a regular listener, you know I cover a variety of topics, all of which are impacting our American culture and the sovereignty and security of our nation. Every episode is released with the goal of helping people to connect the dots between current events and ideologies and how they affect individual freedom and prosperity.

You may be aware of the mountains of culture, business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion. It is within these mountains that national unity and individual independence can be won or lost depending on who dominates the narrative of each mountain.

It often takes less than three to 5% of those operating at the tops of cultural mountains to actually shift values and behavior. Right can be deemed wrong, wrong, right and the age old battle for the hearts and souls of individuals and nations rages on with children as pawns in the high stakes game.

Many Americans are astounded and surprised at the perceived swiftness of the cultural shifts. Ideas like guaranteed income, ESG, the Environmental Social and Governance issues, critical race theory, and gender theory issues in grade schools, not to mention the lockdowns, health mandates, and a general lack of freedom to enjoy the rights long guaranteed to us by our U.S Constitution.

However, change happens slowly, until it happens all at once. It may seem sudden, but many of us have been well aware of the increasing presence of such ideologies permeating our educational systems. This has affected our economic prosperity, our national security, and the stability of our family's and community's as many American just assumed that what schools were teaching was in line with their spiritual and moral values and that the education provided would guarantee strong academic skills and the ability to think critically.

Our current culture shows us the results of such complacency and how it has led to societal upheaval and to a generation that in many ways is ignorant of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society, as they've been educated in a way that is not consistent with core American values.

With Prosperity 101 I work to educate those who are generally in the workforce, whether high school age or beyond, I hope to develop a children's program some soon, but that's for another discussion. But now we need to awaken, or reawaken, an understanding of our founding documents and how they have provided opportunity for millions of people. More so than in any other country. And I believe employers can, and should, play a pivotal role in doing so.

However, it is much better to begin a solid education when the child is young. Precept upon precept, skills are taught in preparation for vigorous academic, social, physical, and spiritual challenges. Great leaders are well educated leaders. Here with me to discuss the importance of a great education, especially a classical education model is Robert Bortins.

Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations, a very unique educational resource company. The company has grown from supporting homeschoolers in about 40 states to supporting homeschoolers in over 50 countries. And Classical Conversations has become the world's largest classical homeschooling organization. Robert is on the academic board of the classical learning test and on Gutenberg College's Board of Advisors. He is also a member of C12 group, the largest professional development network of Christian CEOs and executives. He's also a member of Christian Employers Alliance, which is how he and I first met, even though as a veteran homeschooler, I had long been aware and supportive of Classical Conversations.

Under Robert's leadership, Classical Conversations has been named a certified best Christian workplace by BCWI for five years and he has recently launched his own podcast, Refining Rhetoric. Robert is married to his wife, April, and they have three young children. Welcome Robert, thank you for joining with me today.

Robert Bortins: Linda, happy to be here and happy to talk about this serious, but changeable, situation we're in.

Linda J. Hansen: Oh, well, that's great that you say it's changeable because we can change it. Education matters and ideas have consequences, policy matters and policy is brought about a lot by education and what people understand about world events and history and things. So it's so important that we provide truth and great academic skills and help people have great critical thinking skills. And I know Classical Conversations does that. Could you give our listeners a brief overview of how Classical Conversations even began and how you came to be the CEO?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, it began in my basement when I was a high school student in 1997. My mom invited some other family's to join us as we started our high school homeschooling through high school. And you know how to get into college, how to teach these harder subjects was a question on everyone's mind. And she created a curriculum and it went well and more parents were interested in joining us. And so we started a second year and started a second group.

And by the time I got into college, there was four or five groups in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And I was off to college to get an industrial engineering degree. In the meantime, my sophomore year, my mom called me and told me that my dad had quit his job and they weren't going to help me pay for college anymore. And they were going to see if they could make Classical Conversations a real organization.

There was about 3000 students when I graduated college in 2006. And by the time I joined in 2012, there was roughly 40,000 students, give or take. And I spent a year with my mom just learning from her as she was focusing on homeschooling my two youngest brothers, there's about a 15 year age gap. And so I started running the day to day operations and she kept her eye on the academics and we've just been blessed to grow from there and continue to support family's, not just here in the United States, but now around the globe.

Linda J. Hansen: That's so exciting. And it's just so indicative of the American dream in a sense, but also just I always love to promote family businesses, but this is a business that actually truly helps other family's. I I know my daughter is homeschooling with Classical Conversations, or involved in a Classical Conversations community, and it's just been a very rewarding, enriching experience for their entire family and for me.

I enjoy attending the events and everything, but when I was homeschooling, we didn't really have Classical Conversations then. So in my homeschool group, which I formed, we tried to bring in a lot of classical education type enrichment activities and different ideas. And I focused on the book, The Well-Trained Mind and all of that and it was great.

So I love to see what is happening now and the growth of this. And especially, when I was homeschooling in early years, we didn't have the internet yet. So the ability for this to grow throughout the world is just amazing.

So if you could sum up for listeners, some of the high points of why the classical education model is so important to creating leaders for tomorrow? I'd love for you to do that.

Robert Bortins: Yeah, so I think you hear, we teach people how to think and not what to think, and that's really, you got to use a classical education model to do that. And so there's really three main ways you learn anything. The first is what we call the grammar stage and that doesn't just relate to English. It could relate to basketball or music or history, and that's just learning the facts.

So for our students, they learn the timeline from creation until today. And then after that is the dialectic stage. And that's where you start comparing facts and contrasting them. And then finally the rhetoric stage is where you can explain those facts to other people. And so it's really thinking logically and a process for doing that. And you really read original source documents and you don't read someone's opinion of those documents or the people who wrote those documents. You go directly to the source.

So it really teaches an individual how to learn anything. And we know, in the working world, right? Technology is changing so fast. You need people who can learn this new technology or learn how to deal with the world around us at a quickening pace. And so a classical education gives you those skills.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it really does help prepare individuals for the demands of adult life, really. And so there's many options available for parents, but I do recommend parents look into classical education models and this applies to employers as well. And the reason I choose to have this in a business related podcast is because we hear all the time, how employers need to find good employees. They can't seem to hire enough employees that can actually do the job or are able to have a good work ethic, they're able to understand basic instructions.

Many times I've talked to employers who are bringing in remedial reading tutors, to help people just read. And so our education system has failed, not only the individuals and the family's, but has failed our nation in preparing leaders for tomorrow. So a classical education really does prepare people to be the leaders of tomorrow?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, absolutely. And with all the disinformation and information being censored by Big Tech, it's important to have the ability to think through things, to be at a reason, to be able a step back and look at the bigger picture, even if you don't have all the details so that you can really understand what's going on and where to get good information.

And so we have about 150 and employees here. We have currently about 20 job openings. So the finding good people is definitely a struggle for businesses right now. And a way that you can head that off as a business owner is to encourage your staff to make sure that their children are getting a good education and being involved in their lives. And, even for us, we have a library for our staff and we have, of course, a lot of educational books in there. So even if they're not homeschooling, they can still use some of these educational techniques at home.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, that's a really great point that learning continues all throughout life and lifelong learning is a key to leadership and it is a key to having a successful life. So you mentioned how parents, whether they're working or not, or homeschooling or not, I know that some people will say, "Well, but I'm working. How can I possibly homeschool?" And I know many many family's who have had jobs or worked and still homeschooled because it allows for that flexibility and you can be really creative with it. And especially when you have such a supportive community, as with a Classical Conversations homeschool community, there's a lot that can be done.

Could you address that? So if there's parents or employers who are wondering now, "Well, how can someone homeschool if they have a job?"

Robert Bortins: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, of course we've all spent a lot of time working from home these last couple years. And even as we come back to the office, there's a lot more flexibility. And so I think a lot of people think that schooling has to be done nine to five. And certainly with younger students that need to have someone watching them, you need someone at home that has that capabilities, but most people, like for us, we have 150 employees, 70 to 80 of them are homeschooling. And so that flexibility is key for us. And knowing that you don't have to homeschool during typical school hours. You can school at night, you can school on the weekends.

And I always challenge people, everyone homeschools. You taught your child to walk, to talk, to tie their shoes, when they get older, even if you're sending them to public or private school, how you ask them about their schooling, how you approach your job, how you approach your spouse. These are all ways that we're educating our children. And so really homeschooling is a holistic method of education. And we should encourage, even if we are outsourcing some of the education to an institution, for our family's that are our team members to be engaged in their children's lives because as business owners or business leaders, those children are going to be the ones that work for us one day.

And if they don't have a good education, the education system continues the slide that it's been on for 30 years, we're going to have to spend a lot more money on remedial programs just to get people onboarded.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, exactly. And then we have uneducated leaders as well. People that can't really think through the issues in a deep manner and can really understand cause and effect. And when they don't understand history, it's hard to chart the future.

So I love that you have a strong focus on primary documents, whether it be our founding documents of our nation or other primary documents that are related to history or anything. It's great because in our social media world, and in the headline grabbing world, people just look at headlines and they don't look a little bit deeper. And to help people understand issues more fully, taking them to the core of that discussion, is really important. So I love that approach.

Now, another thing that's really true when a family homeschools is that the parents are reeducated as well. And so not only do parents learn as the children learn in a sense, and believe me, parents, you will learn a lot. Not only academically, but about yourself, but you will grow in many, many ways, but also Classical Conversations offers a program for parents who actually maybe want to finish their degree as well. Could you explain that to the listeners?

Robert Bortins: Yeah. So, as someone who runs a business, we love hiring homeschool moms because like you said, they've just spent the last 12 years getting a great education and being able to teach it. So they're just so smart and I just encourage anyone, if they have an opportunity, to hire a homeschool schooling parent who might be an empty nester to do that. But we've launched a program with one of our partners to either help homeschool parents finish their degree if they didn't finish one or get a master's in classical education. And by using the teaching that they're doing at home, by using the books that their high school students are using in Classical Conversations, as well as writing papers and doing some more in depth research on some subjects. And they can do that through our, CC Plus is what we call it, partnership with SCU, which is a Christian university down in Florida, but you can do it from anywhere.

And it's really our heart for the parents that, "Hey, if you're homeschooling, you already have a PhD in education, but the world doesn't recognize it." And so we wanted to create a pathway for them to get some recognition and the ability to teach that they really have so that employers, whether they go into teaching or HR or business or work at the local library, recognize and see on paper, just the effort that these homeschool moms are doing.

So it's not a requirement to be in the program. Even if you don't do the master's program, in my mind you're doing master's level work in many ways, homeschooling, and you deserve that recognition.

Linda J. Hansen: I just think that is great. And I wish that would've been around when I was finishing, homeschooling my kids, but I'll tell you a funny story. When I was a deputy chief of staff for Herman Cain's presidential campaign, and there was the period in there where he was number one for six weeks and it was constant travel around the country and constant press and just everything, right? And I was doing an interview with a journalist and he looked at me, he said, "So, Linda, what prepared you the most for the rigors of a presidential campaign? Especially one such as this?" Right?

Robert Bortins: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Linda J. Hansen: All I could think of was, I looked at him and I said, "Have you ever raised and homeschooled six kids?" I felt like I was the most prepared out of anybody on the campaign because they expected things to kind of go this way and I'd be like, "Well, now we have to pivot." You learn to adjust. There's so much when you're raising, especially a large family, any family, really, there's so much you learn.

And as a homeschooler you are reeducating yourself constantly and just constantly growing and learning and it's fun to do it with your family. And I think that employers, such as yourself, that allow for flexibility and really encourage that lifelong learning, you are the ones that are helping to not only create strong workforces now, but you are helping to create strong leaders for tomorrow. So our nation doesn't have to be in the same mess it's in right now.

Robert Bortins: Yeah, I would just like to encourage parents that you don't have to know it all to begin with. You learn along the way. You just stay a day ahead of your students. And if you don't understand something or don't know it, you say, "Hey, let's go research this together." And then teach them the tools of research because that's what's really going to create leaders and create opportunity that's endless for them as an adult that when they see someone modeling that humility and that research lifelong learner mentality in front of them.

So just want to encourage, at the end of the journey, you've learned a lot, but it's just one day at a time.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it is. And especially when you have a homeschooling community, there's always other parents who may know things you don't know, as well. When I was homeschooling, when my kids were in AP chemistry, that was really not my strong suit. I could have the teachers guide. I could see what to do, but there was a chemical engineer that was also a homeschool dad that lived down the road. So you can guarantee when they had hard questions, I sent them to him. And I was not fluent in Spanish, but I found a great Spanish tutor who came over and taught our whole family and it was great.

So there's always resources available. And I think, as we've learned through the pandemic, people had to learn how to do their jobs differently. I hope it opens people's minds to how to educate differently because there's so much more than just online learning, which parents have been frustrated with that and kids can be frustrated with that, but also helping it to be, like you said, more holistic.

So whether you're working from home, away from home, or whether your kids are schooling at home or away from home, you are educating them and you are growing together as a family. So it's just so important. If people would like to contact you and get more information about how to learn more about Class Conversations, how would you recommend they do that?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, the best way is to go to classicalconversations.com. And if you want to enter your zip code, we have local homeschooling leaders around the country and really around the globe, that'll be happy to talk to you about your state and your city and what we have going on locally. You can also find us on your favorite social media platform and see what we're all about, but that's classicalconversations.com. And we have a K through college credit programs across the United States.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it is such a great program and I'm looking at the catalog right now. And just so people know the mission is to know God and make him known. And the vision, it says, "Classical Conversations fulfills its mission by curating curriculum, providing services, and training parents to build flourishing homeschool communities. And a flourishing homeschool community will bring flourishing family's, flourishing individuals, and a flourishing nation."

So we're just thrilled what Classical Conversation brings to the table in terms of educational choice, but also the strength and quality that it brings to our nation for creating leaders for the future, and today, with these parents who are standing up to educate their children in the ways that they know right and good. So thank you for that. Do you have any other closing comments for employers or parents?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, I think, parents, you can homeschool. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it, but just someone who's willing to spend the time and love their children. And for employers, you know that we're going to have a real trouble in the future if we don't get better education for our family's and we can impact that by being supportive of alternative education choices and through flexibility. Otherwise we're going to continue to see higher hiring cost, higher turnover, higher taxes, and lower results. And so this is an investment in our future and we can make it now and we can make it happen.

Linda J. Hansen: That's great. And as I said before, ideas have consequences and policy matters and education matters, because they help students form these ideas and we need to help them see what really creates a flourishing nation, flourishing family's, flourishing individuals. So thank you for what you do. Thank you to your mom for starting Classical Conversations. And thank you for taking time for this interview.

Robert Bortins: Thanks, Linda.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. Thank you. And if you could just share the website one more time?

Robert Bortins: Sure, classicalconversations.com. So classicalconversations.com and you can find us on your favorite social media platform.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you so much.

Robert Bortins: Bye.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library, to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free e-book, 10 Tips For Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Their Paychecks.

Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. I give special thanks to our sponsors, Matthews Archery Incorporated and Wisconsin Stamping and Manufacturing. Please contact us today at prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.