FreedomProject Education is an online classical-style academy with a philosophy firmly based on Judeo-Christian values. They offer regular Common Core Free courses for students of all ages, as well as "special event" courses for families of students 13 and up to take together. Their 2015 course offerings include Mother, Should I Trust the Government? presented by Jake Jacobs, PhD, which Luke and I were chosen to participate in. This course especially appealed to Luke because there were mandatory papers or exams; it appealed to me because of the cost. Although there is no tuition charged for these family courses, FreedomProject Education suggests a $50 donation per family to offset costs.
As the class progressed through the sessions, we also progressed through American government history. Luke has been taking a US Government course, and this was a fantastic companion to it. What I especially appreciated was this wasn't just a "lecture" based on the book. The class was interactive, with the online students able to communicate in real time with Dr. Jacobs, and able to discuss concepts with him and the in-class students. (My only wish was that the audio from the in-person class was stronger, so that we could hear those students better. Some students remarked they could hear better with earbuds/phones rather than through their computer's speakers, but this wasn't an option for us because there were two of us taking the course.) Luke's other course is purely lecture-based, and of course he's learned how the government works - three branches of government with checks and balances, the text of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Amendments, etc. However, it has a slightly "stale" feel, because it is a "just the facts, ma'am" program. Being part of a class with an instructor who has a passionate political view brought government to life for him.
Dr. Jacobs never shied away from discussing political views - both of past and present politicians and his own; participant opinions were welcome as well. I admit that our family's political views tend to be a bit all over (generally conservative, with some more centrist and even *gasp* liberal views on specific topics), and I was a bit nervous that it was going to be too conservative for our family. I had read the first several chapters of the book before the class began and and feared it might be a little too passionate and conservative, but felt that it was important for Luke to experience these views as he formed his own. Luke and I discussed how the views discussed might NOT be what our family believed, but it was important to respect others' views. I couldn't have asked for more deft handling than the way Dr. Jacobs set ground rules, right from the very beginning. Dr. Jacobs acknowledged the elephant (pun intended) in the room immediately. I asked Luke to keep notes for the course - while the course itself is not graded, I wanted him to get experience in taking notes from a live lecture - and he wrote the following about Dr. Jacobs:
He'll be busy studying political science for a while!
This particular class is offered once a year, but there are plenty of other exciting courses on the 2015 roster. Upcoming classes for FreedomProject Education include How to Think: A Crash Course in Critical Thinking, presented by Dr. Juan Valdes. The course description includes the statements:
We live in a world where people are spoon-fed WHAT to think, but are seldom taught HOW to think. It is easier and far less demanding to be told what to think than to have to engage in the rational exercises of critical thinking and analysis.After being inspired by Dr. Jacob's call to action that he look deeper into the context of government, Luke is very interested in this class as well. Critical thinking skills are really going to be necessary to wade through the history of governments past and the politics of governments future.
Mother, Should I Trust the Government? is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Pink Floyd song, but in reality is a valid question. When Dr. Jacobs wrote the book, he showed the manuscript to his mother, who in turn took it as a real question and responded "NO!" After this course, Luke has learned that the government is only as trustworthy as those who are involved, and trust should never be given blindly.
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