April 13, 2023

Classical Education – Empowering Families For A Brighter Future – with Robert Bortins – [Ep. 164]

Classical Education – Empowering Families For A Brighter Future – with Robert Bortins – [Ep. 164]

Education in America used to focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, and critical thinking. That’s not as true today, unfortunately. Deviating from high educational standards and core American values has led to societal upheaval and a generation...

Education in America used to focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, and critical thinking. That’s not as true today, unfortunately. Deviating from high educational standards and core American values has led to societal upheaval and a generation ignorant of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Teaching young people how to think, not what to think, prepares them for adulthood, and empowering them with truth prepares them for leadership. What can business owners do to support school choice, especially homeschooling, and how can doing so increase their bottom line?  Linda and her guest, Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations, discuss this and the benefits of a well-educated populace for the future of our nation. Freedom can be lost in one generation. Let’s make sure it is not lost in ours.

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The opinions expressed by guests on this podcast do not necessarily represent those held or promoted by Linda J. Hansen or Prosperity 101, LLC.
The opinions expressed by guests on this podcast do not necessarily represent those held or promoted by Linda J. Hansen or Prosperity 101, LLC.

Linda J. Hansen:  Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom 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 break room 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 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 Prosperity 101.Com.

Thank you so much for joining with me today. If you are a regular listener, you know I cover a variety of topics impacting American culture and the sovereignty and security of our nation. Many Americans are surprised at the perceived swiftness of the cultural shifts in our society. We've watched as biological men dominate women's sports, young children are inundated with information on transgender issues, and businesses are hiring based not on talent or experience, but on race or gender based factors. We've seen our border flooded with illegal immigrants, crime on the rise, and fentanyl flooding our streets, destroying the lives of thousands of young people. Socialism is discussed as a viable alternative to our current capitalist system. Yet if you talk to any immigrant who fled a socialist or communist regime. They will tell you to run away, as fast as possible from those policies, for they destroy freedom and increase hardship for citizens. The changes may seem sudden, but change happens slowly until it happens all at once. I've often mentioned 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 shift values and behavior. Right can be deemed wrong, wrong right, and the age old battle for the power rages on with children as pawns in the high stakes game. You may have heard the quote, “to the victor goes the children”. I'm not sure the source, but you can see the truth, especially if we study history to learn how every tyrannical regime has overtaken a society. Education in America used to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic. That's not true today, unfortunately, and our current culture shows the results of deviating from high educational standards. This 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. We need to awaken or reawaken an understanding of our founding documents and how they've 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's 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 today to discuss the importance of 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 and I first met at a Christian Employers Alliance Summit, and although I was a veteran homeschooler, I'd never met him, but had 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. Thank you so much for being here with us, Robert. I just appreciate your input and the work of Classical Conversations, and I'm so glad you're here to talk to the listeners today.

Robert Bortins: Yeah, Linda, thanks for having me. And I just appreciate your plug for classical conversations and classical education is so important. That's how our founders were educated. That's how our country was educated for the first 100 years or so and really, this modern education experiment is coming to an end. In some sense, we are seeing the final results of multiple generations having rejected search for truth, beauty and goodness in our education system, instead of instead now searching for what fulfills the individual. A selfish, self-centered education system that puts the student as God instead of God in the center and learning about the truth of the world that he's given us.

Linda J. Hansen:  I appreciate your word so much because putting the student in the center, we've really raised a generation of narcissists, in a sense, and everything is about them. And there's so many factors that are contributing to this, whether it's the educational system or social media or parents who are too busy to train up their children. But I feel like there's a way to take it back with what I do with Prosperity 101. Obviously, I'm trying to get to people after they've really been through the educational system, hoping to reawaken an understanding of these core principles and reawaken people's minds to learning and to really focusing on truth. But I totally recommend and support school choice homeschooling, and I love what Classical Conversations is doing because it's really developing the mind and training the mind to learn. Training the will to learn and really helping children to have a humble and teachable spirit is what helps to create a better society. Scripture tells us in Luke 25:2 that Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with both God and man. And if we teach our children to be well rounded individuals like that, they can become the leaders of the next generation.

So how did Classical conversations start? I know you've been on the podcast before, for listeners, If you want to go back and listen to his first episode, it's episode 118 where we tell the story a little bit. But for those who've never heard, how Did Classical Conversations start?

Robert Bortins:  Yeah, my mom was an entrepreneur growing up and just always looking for different jobs and different things. She decided to home school us early on, so she was one of the early pioneers. And as I was getting into high school, she saw that there was a gap in really curriculum and resources for parents. How am I going to get my kid into college? How am I going to teach my kids these harder subjects? How are we going to do debate and mock, trial and dissecting? And those things are hard to do if you're homeschooling. So she thought, well, what if we formed a community that met once a week and see if that would be able to kind of fill that gap? And eleven families joined us, or a total of eleven of us that first year, ten other families in ours, eleven in 1997. And it went so well, they decided they wanted to do it again. So he did it again. And she took her 16 pages of stapled curriculum that she had put together and resources and gave it to another mom who did the first year with another group of kids, and she did the second year. And six years later, there was maybe 80, 90 kids in the program at different houses and a waiting list of 300 people. And so at that point, my dad quit his job so he could help homeschool my younger brothers. And she started trying to see if Classical Conversations could be an organization that helped more than just a handful of families in North Carolina.

Linda J. Hansen:  Well, it certainly has grown to do so as it's now worldwide, and it touches my family. One of my daughters homeschools her children with Classical Conversation, and she's a tutor within the program as well. So I see it firsthand, I see it in those grandchildren, I see the benefits and even though when I was homeschooling, it really wasn't available. My kids are old now, but it wasn't as available and we lived in a small rural community. It hadn't come, but I began reading about it, and I began reading books such as The Well Trained Mind and other things about how to really train a child to be able to handle difficult concepts, training them to think critically.

Training them to think logically. And I learned a lot as I was studying. But also I feel that my children are much stronger adults because of that. And had they come through the public education system, I'm not sure that they would be as strong adults as they are now. I can't know. But I really believe that their ability as entrepreneurs, as adults, their strength as individuals is largely due to the way that they were homeschooled. And I'm so thankful for that opportunity and just really counted as a blessing.

Robert Bortins: Yeah. One of the things we say we do at Classical Conversations is redeem two educations at once. Because even like you're doing at Prosperity 101, we are teaching the parents a lot of these things. The parents we hear often like, I'm learning more, I'm making more friends, I'm doing these things. So it's not home schooling. Homeschooling is not doing it alone, but doing it in community and I think it's attributed to Frederick Douglas that it's easier to raise strong boys and repair weak men. And that's true, but it's never too late. And don't think that you need to be an expert in education or a particular subject to home educate. Homeschooling is a lot about solving problems, which is talking about that entrepreneurial spirit, obviously, that's developing business skills and just communicating with people, not just your own age, but adults, other teenagers, people younger than you. And so homeschooling is really just living out life together as a family and then having an educational curriculum that you're using to make sure that you know the world that you understand what's going on. And the classical model gives you a great way to teach younger kids the middle school ages and the high school ages and give them what they need when they need it so that they're able to fulfill their full potential in Christ.

Linda J. Hansen:  Absolutely. And I love the progression that you mentioned, too, because while some people may think it's too rigorous, children thrive under the program. And for those parents who are listening now, who may have special needs children or some special needs parents, maybe you're ill or whatever your need is, there are ways to still make this happen. And that's the wonderful thing about having a community, having a Classical Conversations community. Because like Robert said, you don't necessarily have to do it all on your own. And he also mentioned the paradigm, basically, that people often have that homeschoolers are just locked up in their home and they never really get to have friends or outside experiences and that's just so far from the truth. And I have found not only with my own children but with so many others that the breadth of well-rounded experiences and social interactions that can occur within a home schooling environment so well prepares the child for adulthood that they don't struggle with people of different age groups. I often tell parents that when in adult life, are you only interacting with people born within nine months of you?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, exactly.

Linda J. Hansen:  And it seems so logical when you look at it that way. But yet we lump these children and we say we need them to have social skills to go to school. And we're like, well, learning from who? Their peers who don't have good social skills. So having a wide range of people. Yes, of course they need to learn to communicate and be involved with peers and things, but they also need to learn how to handle a baby, how to deal with elderly people at the end of their life, how to hold down a job, how to make food, how to grow food. I mean, there's so many things that we're talking about preparing for adulthood and you mentioned, too, the entrepreneurial aspects of it, helping people understand how to create a living and be prosperous with the gifts that you've been given and it doesn't have to be this assembly line.

Robert Bortins: Yeah. I would argue that one of the reasons that the United States was so great is when we were founded, this idea that everyone was working for themselves, everyone was a business owner. Even if you were paid directly from an individual, like worked on a specific farm or something, you sold your time to them. And if you wanted to go sell your time to someone else or for more, you did that. And really, this modern education system has put us in this factory mindset, where we think we should be provided for, our health insurance should be provided this and that and all these things by the job provider. And not that we don't offer those things here, but they have a different mindset. We don't have that entrepreneurial mindset throughout society anymore. And we've seen a decline in our prosperity. We see the decline in birth rates because a lot of people don't see a brighter future for America. Peter Zahan, who he's a writer. He has his own podcast and things like that. He said the best year in the world for the next decade or century is 2019. That all these demographics, all these different things that are going on in our world are just going to make things go down. And if you're a person who's going to have to rely on others, you're going to be in a bad situation in the future, I believe

So, Developing these skills and your children make them more resilient. They make them be able to see the opportunity and go get it. If technology changes, hey, AI is a big new thing. Well, if you're home schooled and classically educated, you're not scared of AI. Because you know that it's a tool and you're going to be able to learn how to use it because you have the tools of learning versus the modern education system just wants to say, learn this, learn that, and regurgitate it, but they don't ever give you the tools to learn for yourself. And that's what classical education is all about. I think that's what life is all about, is really being a lifelong learner. If you're an entrepreneur or business owner or in middle management or something, you know that to improve, you have to always be reading. You're always picking up what's the best management book? What's this group doing that's working right? You're constantly learning. And so our education system actually squashes that into the United States. So that's why, whether it's private school or homeschooling, getting your kids out of the government systems into a place where they can thrive is going to be critical to your family's future.

Linda J. Hansen: 100% agree. Obviously, I've lived that for my life. But also being able to have that school choice allows us to teach children how to learn and not just focus on what to learn. The public school system often pushes what to learn, and this is true throughout history, especially when there's been tyrannical regimes. They come in and everything is what to learn without teaching how to learn. And our children are crippled then, and they are easily led astray by different ideologies and truth is no longer truth, and everyone has their own truth, and they don't have the critical thinking skills to think it through and say, well, this doesn't actually make sense and so teaching children how to think as opposed to what to think is a really important skill to help them be strong adults. And really we're preparing children for adulthoods. I've often said on this podcast, and my kids have heard it so many times, that when they were growing up, I used to tell them, I am not raising grown up children. Like, over my dead body will you be a grown up child. You will become an adult and I still remember one daughter, she was at college, and one of her professors said something like, you're so mature. How did you get so mature? And she said something like, well, I tried hard not to be, but my mom wouldn't let me.

Robert Bortins:  That's great.

Linda J. Hansen:  It's great. And there's no perfect parents, no perfect kids. Every family has issues. Every family has family drama. I don't ever want to paint the picture that we never had any, because of course we did. We're all individuals. But homeschooling, I think, actually helps families navigate things, helps them learn better together, and helps them learn how to navigate different difficult seasons in families. Whether it be illness or maybe it's something that requires counseling. Maybe it's a heartbreak of some sort, but you have these relationships you're building and you're learning the skills to navigate all these situations that come up in life and your children also get to see you be real as a parent. You really can't hide a lot from your kids when you're homeschooling. You just can't fool them. They're very smart. And especially eventually, your goal as a home school parent, too, is to work yourself out of a job. So eventually, by the time they're ready to be adults, they don't really need you to learn anymore. You've provided them with all the tools and resources, and you've helped guide their learning. So they are now ready to fly and I can tell everyone, from a parent's perspective, you will find you will learn so much from your children as they discover things about the world that you never thought to look at because you weren't looking through their eyes.

Robert Bortins: Yeah, absolutely. Working yourself out of a job, it's different for every family, but a lot of times between that 14 and 16 year age group, like, the parent is more becoming a supervisor of the educational experience versus the teacher making sure, okay, well, if you didn't get a concept, did you go back and look? What chapter did they teach this concept? Have you gone to Google or encyclopedia or whatever your favorite place is? So you don't really need to be an expert in everything. You just need to know how to learn. And then I also thought about Adam and Eve. They had a Cain, killed Abel. So those were the very first parents on Earth didn't do a great job. Not that that should be our standard, but yeah, every family has issues. So don't think as my kid has this or I struggle with that, that you can't take control of your child's education and direct it yourself, and that you don't have those skills because you love your kids. No one's going to love your kids more than you do. And not that teachers don't try to love them. My wife was a middle school teacher for eight years, but she saw anywhere from 240 to 300 kids a day. You just can't physically love that many people. There's a great documentary called, like, Waiting on Superman that was probably, like 20 years old now that talked about just it's impossible, the whole system. No business person would look at our public school system and set up a business that way.

Ronald Reagan said that if a foreign entity came into the United States and dictated that we educate our children the way that we are, that it would be considered an act of war. I'm paraphrasing what he specifically said. But the point is, parents, or even grandparents, its incumbent upon you to educate your child. Like, whether you outsource it or not, you're still the one responsible, and the system will be happy to tell you, no. Just feed them, get them to the bus stop, and make sure they do their homework, if they even assign homework anymore. But that's a lie straight from the devil. It's your responsibility and of course you can get help. Classical conversations is a way to get help, but it's still your responsibility and we don't usurp that. We lift parents up and our systems are designed to push parents down.

Linda J. Hansen: Good point. And I want to encourage the working mother, the two parent, job holding families. There's so much you can do. And since this podcast often talks to employers, what can employers do to educate employees? How can they help their employees? I would really encourage business owners too that especially if you have a homeschooling family member, allow for flexibility. Remember that those homeschooling parents are really giving their all to try and help the next generation. As I have looked at the societal changes and we see. I just listened today to testimony of a woman she was giving at a school board meeting where the school had transitioned her daughter sexually without her knowledge and it had been this slow thing and they continued to promote this. And that's not the only thing that often goes on in schools. But there's so much sexualization of young children. But Baltimore, Chicago, most of the school districts, 0% of the children can read at grade level. I think in Baltimore, all of the school districts in downtown Baltimore could not read at grade level. So we are teaching and brainwashing children in these societal changes but neglecting their education. So you brought up a good point, what Ronald Reagan said if you were going to take down a nation, how would you do it? You take it through the education system.

And that goes through to what I said at the beginning. But it's so true. To the victor goes the children. And anytime tyrannical regimes have wanted to overthrow a country or a society, they go after the children. And it's a long game. It's a long game, it's generational and you don't see it at first and that change happens slowly until it happens all at once. And all of a sudden those children are in charge with these crazy ideas and your society falls apart. We still have a free country in America at this point. It's teetering and those of us who understand the gift of our freedom need to exercise our freedom and we need to protect Policies like school choice. So listeners, make sure you contact your elected officials at all levels of government and ask them to really support anything that can support homeschool families or school choice. And be careful also we're talking about elected officials, but some people want vouchers, they want all these different payments from the government for school choice. I personally am concerned about home school families taking money from the government. I do not want the government dictating what I could do or not do in my home school. Tell us your thoughts on that.

Robert Bortins:  I don't know if you know my thoughts, but Linda, I am 100% for school choice and 0% for the government paying for those choices. I think private education needs to be paid for private individuals, and that's why it's successful that as soon as the money comes in, it's going to decrease the quality of private education and increase the cost of private education. We've already seen this play out in college. We started with the Pell Grants to make sure that everyone can go to college. And now college prices are outrageously high. We have trillions of dollars in debt, and our colleges are teaching garbage. So as soon as the government bureaucrats get their hands in private education, it doesn't make more choices, it makes less choices. And so why I am 100% for school choice and 0% for the government paying for those choices is because I think ultimately you're not taking public schoolers and getting them into private schools. You're getting private schools and making them into public schools and so it's really government overreach. I don't understand why conservatives think that this is a good idea. It's the biggest expansion of government power probably in my lifetime, excluding maybe the Affordable Care Act. And what we should see instead is employers find local 501 or private schools or educational funds and donate money to it. Make sure that you are allowing that flexibility for those people who home school. We have 150 employees, almost all of them home school. Some of them are two parents working and we give them that flexibility to work from home. And you can't really do that with little kids, but sometimes grandparents help out. We let kids come into the office, and it really increases employee engagement in the company because they know that we care more about their family than necessarily the bottom line. But guess what? The bottom line goes up because they do a better job knowing that they're not stressed at home, their kids not having problems at school that they're having to deal with. And look, if you're a parent and you're just stuck and you can't get out, look, be intentional with the time that you do have with your kids. Do not assume that they're getting a good education because they're getting straight A's at the local public school. It might mean that they can read and are nice in class. It doesn't mean that they're gaining knowledge or really mastering the material. So home school at night with your kid for half an hour, an hour, make sure my grandparents are immigrants. They fled a communist country or a country that was taken over by communists, and they gave extra homework to my uncles and my father growing up because they didn't think the school was given enough to them that was in the so imagine what they would be doing now. There's always options out there, and I know we always want to take the easy path and ask the government to give us money, but that money has to be taken from somewhere, and it's from your neighbors. And just as a Christian, I don't think God is going to honor an education that's paid for with stolen money.

Linda J. Hansen:  Good point. All those points are great, and I agree 100% with you that I love school choice. I want parents to have choice, and I don't want money from the government People used to ask me all the time when I was homeschooling, do you get money from the government for that? And I'd say No! And I wouldn't want any, to be honest, because I don't want them deciding or having any control over what I would use and it was very expensive, It actually did cost money, but it was worth every bit of sacrifice. And you can't take all the material things with you when you go. I was with a dying person recently who said, where’s all my stuff? I said, well, you can't take it with you where you're going, so you might as well just let it go. But our children, their spirits are eternal, and we can have an eternal impact by making the right choices for our children and as employers like you have shown and shown to have so much respect and concern for your employees and their families, we can really help families be strong and when we have strong families and children growing up into be strong adults, we can have a strong nation. So it's not too late for America It's not too late. It's getting to be very late in America. But God willing, he will intervene and I pray for revival and I pray for a turning. I pray that we can educate enough people and get them engaged so that we truly can preserve this great nation, so we can be that beacon light of freedom for not only our own citizens, but for the world. If America falls, there's nowhere else. So we want to keep that freedom and I believe, like you do, that homeschooling is a piece of that in the sense where we're creating these leaders for tomorrow that can really be that breath of fresh air and that breath of freedom for citizens all over the world.

Robert Bortins: Thank you, Linda. Yeah, I 100% agree. And that's why we started classical conversations. And we have over 10,000 students now internationally. So the Lord's really blessed us and let's keep financing our education privately. And if we're in a position to help others, let's do that through charity, for personal charity and not through the force of government brute. So thank you so much.

Linda J. Hansen:  Absolutely. And if people want to reach out to you, Robert, how should they do?

Robert Bortins: Yeah, so you can find us on classicalconversations.com and you can search for your zip code and you'll find a local community near you. Of course. My podcast, as you mentioned, is Refining Rhetoric. You can go to RefiningRhetoric.com or find the podcast on your favorite podcast station.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, that's wonderful. So classicalconversations.com, and I highly recommend the program for anybody that's interested in homeschooling or even looking at some of the materials they offer to supplement your current schooling situation. Before we close, I do want to say for parents who want to keep learning or maybe didn't get their college degree but would like to, we don't have time to go into it now. But they also have a track for parents that you can literally get college degree for things that you do as you're homeschooling your children and they have special things for you and it makes it very affordable to have parents gain a really high quality education as well.

Robert Bortins: Yeah, thanks for telling our listeners about that. We really are about the parents and empowering you to do the best for your children.

Linda J. Hansen: Yes, well, thank you again, so classicalconversations.com and thank you, Robert Bortins.

Robert Bortins::  Thank you.

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, Inc. and Wisconsin Stamping & Manufacturing. Please contact us today at Prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.