Institutional Failure and the Healing Power of Key West

What follows is a history of institutionalism in the United States and its impact on the minds of the American people. It is long, so be ready to take your time. But if you stick with it, you might find it very rewarding.

So enjoy.

What do Walt Disney, John D. Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, and Rachel Ray all have in common; none of those people have a college degree. It has always confounded me as to why and how the myth that an institution can give someone the needed components to be successful became such a universally accepted concept.

There is a lot of history on the subject of the progressive movement and its evolution from 1880 to the modern era, so there is no need to lay it all out in this work. The research is there for anyone that wants it. The important thing is to ask, why do some of the most powerful and successful people in the world push formal schooling aside. After all, if parents really wanted their kids to have a good life, why would they steer them in that direction spending tens of thousands of dollars on education per year when some of the most successful people in our history have either not gone to formal schooling, or had to drop out because the institution got in the way of their personal gumption.

The answer is remarkably foolish and I’m going to spell it out here. First we’ll deal with what the problem with college education is, then we’ll deal with the impact it has had on society.

College, and most of our education in general from grade school and up, is just forms of analytic thinking. This thinking is extremely useful for finding out where you’ve been, and it can tell you where you’re going if you can find a way to incorporate it with creative thinking, I’ll explain that in a minute. The successful people mentioned, and many others, realize that while the world outside the class room is going by, the college professors are insisting to freeze time while their class is being conducted to study processes.

In management, I have watched hundreds of college educated, well intentioned souls wrestle with a complicated problem for days, or weeks, only to have someone who works on the floor solve the problem in a matter of hours, which of course is quite insulting to the person with a degree. They are supposed to be smarter, and better equipped to deal with problems. After all, that’s what society told them would happen if they pursued a degree.

What they ended up with was a job, and a decent paying job relatively speaking. Enough money to make a decent living, buy a decent home, drive a decent car, and take a decent vacation. But deep inside most everyone is some silly little form of rot that knows they sold themselves short. They wonder how such uneducated specimens as the laborer could know how to reason anything out or have any ideas of value.

The best example I’ve ever heard of why the process of higher education, which is the parent to analytic thinking, comes from Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. In that fine book, Pirsig paints a picture of this analytic process by referencing a train moving down a long track. The track represents the quality of whatever you’re dealing with, whether it is business, or your personal life. At the front of the train is a locomotive of course, and behind it are box cars of cargo. Within each box car is the history of whatever is behind pulled by the train, he calls this Classic Knowledge. In business, it’s the sales records, inventory variances, staffing requirements, engineering development, etc. In your personal life; it’s much the same, mortgage values, asset management, and livelihood issues. Pirsig made the designation that at the front of the train is a thing called Romantic Knowledge. This is important because on the train tracks of life, seldom does the track just run infinitely off into the horizon, but rather there are many decisions that must be made along the way. And someone has to be at the front of the train to see those changes coming and make the decision to take a different course when those situations present themselves. Romantic Knowledge is what we see and how it relates to the track of life we’re on. The Classic approach is to analyze where the train is and where it’s been to figure out where to go. But in life, the train is always in motion so by strictly using the classic approach, the decisions are often not made in time.

I’ll take this explanation one step further. In my experience, people who swear by the classic approach are often the ones less certain of their course of action, because after all, they did not earn their knowledge, but gained it by assessing data collected. So they tend to rule from the back of the train, in the caboose. I know not many trains have a caboose anymore, but I like cabooses, so I’m going to use it here. Most of the meetings I’ve ever been in, at all levels take place in the caboose.

Why, because life is always a game of hot potato, and nobody wants to be holding the potato when the music stops. We all remember that game from grade school, right. You get the point. And the same holds true from even company presidents, and owners, accountants, engineers, sales people, everyone from the top down. It works this way in business and politics. Those people in the back of the train, drinking tea in luxury in the caboose, with their finger to the wind studying the contents of the train, but at the first sign of trouble, they can jump off the back, or perhaps even detach themselves from rest of the train by pulling the release lever if it is discovered that the train is headed over a cliff.

Meanwhile, at the front of the train is the romantic knowledge person, who is at the complete other end of the train. Those are the people that are most invested and the workhorses that drive the company because if they go over a cliff, they’ll be the first ones to fall. You’ll also find your visionary types up there, at the front with all the workhorses, scanning the countryside for pending trouble. They leave the analytic work to those in the back of the train to deal with the necessary hum drum of business compliance and government regulation, but to them, the real work is at the front.

It takes guts to be at the front of the train. You are essentially on a branch all by yourself, because the structure of every company is of course behind you, but they will abandon you at the first sign of trouble. And the romantic knows this, but stays in that position regardless.

Without realizing why I was doing a lot of things in my life, I ran across Pirsig’s book because it was noticed by many that since I ride motorcycles in the harsh cold of winter, and it is well known that I do many long distance trips by motorcycle, and that I was a different kind of thinker, that I would like the book. It had been out for many years after all. There were two things that came at me in discussions regarding my love of motorcycles. That I should watch the TV series by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman called Long Way Round, where they rode a motorcycle all the way around the world, and this book by Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Knowing both items were about long distance motorcycle riding, I wanted to complete a trip to Key West that had been on my mind for a while, so I put them off until I had done that. My decision to make my big trip to Key West came at a time when the company I had been working for had an annual inventory, and was the best time for me to get away for a weeklong trip. And since I had been working in aerospace, there are typically a lot of details that must get covered in an inventory, where just a few weeks prior, we had our annual NADCAP audit, which really slows things down. So a vacation to Key West with my wife on the back of a 1500 cc Suzuki Boulevard was just the right experience.

In sharp contrast to my daily life of rigid rules and very tight production deadlines, life on Duval Street was the polar opposite. Reputedly loose, and known for its gay population, I found it easy to not notice too much of that. Instead, I found the lack of politics on that small island ideal for total relaxation. It was to me the way humans if left to their own devices would create everything, for good and bad. On that island, there wasn’t much discussion of social hierarchy. There wasn’t much desire for status. The goal seemed to be to watch the sunset at Mallory Square, buy drinks from a street vendor, and possibly get naked on the roof top bar of Adam and Eve.

That type of thing is a bit too calm for me, but it did give me insight into the truth of the human condition because as I looked around, I saw a lot of professionals that were there for similar reasons. I’m not a big fan of intoxication, and many of the visitors I saw were, what they shared with me on that visit was a desire to travel to the end of the earth and just get away from the mainland, but still be under the umbrella of the United States, which is a great thing. More on that later.

Anyway, what that has to do with Pirsig, and this whole idea of institutionalism is that I made a point to read that book after my trip there, and was happy to find I had similar thoughts as he did when he made a motorcycle trip with his son across the northern part of the country going from Minnesota to California. I was worried that if I had read the book before I made a big trip of my own, that my own thoughts might have been corrupted somewhat instead of enhanced by a shared experience.

Long trips like that on a motorcycle have a way of putting you in touch with things, and your observations are much keener, because they have to be. There is not protection from the elements. There are no air bags in case of a crash. It’s you, and the road a few inches below your feet rolling by at 70 mph. Rocks, bugs, rain, the rays of the sun, can have devastating effects to your body, and after traveling over 1500 miles one way to get to such a place as Key West on a motorcycle, you find yourself driving down Duval street with your wife in a bathing suit pressed to your back and knowing you traveled a road till it just dropped off into the ocean. And you feel the relief of social convention drop away with each island you travel through down US 1. And when you come to the sign that says “welcome to paradise,” you get the feeling you’ve arrived truly at one of the world’s great places.

For me, and apparently for thousands of others that go to Key West for fishing, snorkeling, or just to visit the drinking establishments on Duval Street, the island is devoid of institutions as much as is possible in organized society. And that is what makes it a paradise.

And it takes stepping away from something sometimes before you can clearly see it, and I had been on a 20 year crusade against institutions without really knowing why, just that I was at the front of the train in every position I had ever held, but I had no explanation as to why some things that came easy for me, were so confusing to others, especially those that insist that analytic data is the only data worth looking at.
I had been to college myself three different times. The first time was right after high school, I did the typical enroll in classes because society says that the best way to get a decent job. I took night classes in economics while I worked full time during the day. But, the professors to me seemed out of touch, and my conclusion was that they taught because they couldn’t practice it in reality. And I really couldn’t see how those classes were going to equate to a good job. I was working at a metal stamping plant at the time, and I identified with the people on the floor more than the people in the front office. On the floor was where the battles were taking place. Out on the shop floor was where people got injured, lost fingers and sometimes worse. The front office was a place I saw little value being done, and the people went home safely every night. That life seemed boring, so why would I want a job up there? So I could make an extra $20,000 a year as a white collar worker?

My wife and I had one car at the time, so I rode a bicycle 8 miles each way to work so she could have the car during the day. And it was a mild excuse for me to bring some adventure to each day with my exposure to the elements. The rides to work by bicycle, and the danger of life on the shop floor was more appealing to me than what the college promised, so I quite after the first year. The late nights staying up and boring classes just didn’t hold much appeal.

I returned to classes a few years later when management at that same company suggested I had the kind of leadership ability they were looking for, and I’d need school to advance. I signed up for the classes, waiting in the lines at the enrolment office at the University of Cincinnati’s Raymond Walters College, and went to the first day of classes. College level English, business math, economics, that kind of stuff. I could not see how this was going to help me, or my family, so after one night, I quit again.
The third time was after several jobs. I had felt the sting of being a floor worker and holding token leadership positions, and having contracts cancelled and job reductions result. I bounced around from several different companies always finding myself in a position of a leader, by default, but not really having job security. I had a couple of kids, and since my wife and I agreed to have her stay home to be available at all times to raise our children, I worked several odd jobs to make supplement income. Some of those odd jobs included grill cooks at McDonalds, and Wendy’s, I did various sales work, I did janitorial work, and I worked as a tree trimmer.

The tree trimming was dangerous work and I liked it most of the time. But it was hard to work all day at a normal punch the time clock type job and have the gumption to climb a tree at the end of the day and remove it piece by piece hanging from a rope. So I lobbied to switch to third shift at my machine rebuilding job at Cincinnati Milacron, which was a pretty good job at the time, and went back to school full time during the day so I could go for a white collar position either at Milacron, or someplace else.
In a couple of weeks of classes, I couldn’t help but see the blank looks on all the students, many were my age, some were coming back to school to get a better job, some were just kids out of high school, doing the college thing because they wanted a good job. But the overall atmosphere was one of decay, and stagnation. The professors had not changed, and why should I expect them to. And I had not changed in the direction needed to complete school. I still had too many questions for the authority in charge, and they could not give me the answers I needed.

Only books could do that, and I read extensively over the years. One powerful quote that came to me from some of Joseph Campbell’s works was that often the reason many stories involve a hero having to leave society in order to find a way to save it is because society is the one in trouble, so they are not equipped to give the hero what he needs. So the answers are often outside the establishment.
So I quite school for the third and last time. And I looked outside society to find answers to some of the problems within it. And that led to many adventures that we will discuss as the chapters progress. But for now, Key West, outside of society in a way, Pirsig’s thoughts on romantic knowledge, which certainly defines my approach and my own long motorcycle trips.

I have had great success in management positions over the years. It has been a routine for me to take over positions from other managers and quickly fix the problems they had been having. What I never did do was look at the fish bones and other charts from the previous managers. I created my own fresh perspective. This of course is not what’s taught. Teamwork and collaboration are the cornerstones of modern business, so says Bill Smith of Motorola and pioneer of its Six Sigma applications in 1986. He died of a heart attack in 1993 at work but not before seeing Motorola receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. GE and Honeywell were two of the first to jump on the Six Sigma bandwagon and used it as a way to find savings they should have always seen, but for the fact that they are huge companies that had huge waste, undetected while they strolled the golf courses of America. Nothing against Mr. Smith, hindsight is 20/20, and he was only trying to get his bosses to listen to reason from pioneers such as Genichi Taguchi who helped Japan reclaim itself after World War II. As it’s turned out though, like many things, good intentions pave the way to hell. Of the 58 large companies that took Six Sigma as a method 91% have trailed the S&P 500 since making that decision. The invisible villain to Six Sigma is it stifles creativity, and ingenuity, and prohibits growth. It saves money by cutting logical waste, but puts everyone in the back of the train leaving nobody up front to make decisions. That is why it is an unmitigated failure to American society.

As you read this, look around at your peers in business and politics. Look at the course of life they are on, and see if they aren’t in for a similar fate as Bill Smith. Organizations such as Six Sigma have gone to great strides, unintentionally, to bring about our lack of competitive advantage currently. And they have worked their way into every aspect of society.

And colleges, like all institutions, have swelled in this later half century because they offer the same thing large companies like GE have bought in to with Six Sigma; a savings of money, and ease of effort, to maximize some proportional return on the investment. But what ends up happening, is a loss of future development while you may show slight profit on paper.

That’s why the answers were always along the road less traveled. While I was on my motorcycle trip in Key West I had to look around at the people packed into Sloppy Joes to listen to a half decent band play while drinking profusely. And I had for them a new understanding to explain their behavior. Escape.

Escape from the world and all its childish institutions. For me, it was a long standing answer to the question I had, why is drinking so prominent in our culture. Adults from 1947 to current that routinely drink alcohol hovers around 64%, and my question has always been why? What makes anyone want to consume a beverage that dehydrates your body, and can make you feel terrible the next day? It is a learned behavior and natural byproduct of going against our natures where we all feel is progressing along without our help or input. So the alcohol provides some needed numbness barrier against that sense of impending doom. And this is a steady and predictable reaction to the slow, eroding conditions institutions place upon our society. College age kids are learning this wherever they are going to school. Every campus has this culture as a natural counter to the mundane diatribe of the college professors.

And for working adults that have to either put up with some company line where the heads of companies force a Six Sigma program on their company whether it’s at the front office level, or the manufacturing floor, it impacts everyone within the organization. For every dollar gained from saved waste, there is always the loss of potential income gained through ingenuity. And everyone at some level feels it, even if they can’t articulate it. And those leaders in those companies typically are at the back of the train looking at powerful companies like GE and they see the report that GE saved 12 billion over a 5 year period and added 1 dollar to their market share, and they allow that information to steer their decision to commit to a program that basically goes against American ingenuity, which is something we have as Americans innate, because we all grew up in a free society. So powerless to stop the avalanche, we turn to the drink, or turn to religion, and many times both.

Six Sigma is not an American idea. It is a concept started in Japan, that Mr. Smith put some new names to, and added a few processes to in order to make a claim to invention. And I’m picking on Six Sigma because it is one of many institutions that are in place in modern business that is prohibitive to what America is naturally good at. And it’s so popular now, that it has name recognition even if the company you do work for isn’t using it.

I’ve personally had to sit through hours of classes in my positions studying this concept and feeling sorry for the instructors, and the owners of the companies I’ve worked for because they are just like fish that bit the hook of a fisherman, with a line in the water. In this case, the Japanese, have a book, actually a couple of books, one is called The Art of War, and the other is The Book of Five Rings which explains in great detail what they are doing to us, and both books will be talked about in further chapters. But in post World War II, we had just bombed their small island with nuclear bombs after a very bitter conflict, and we thought they were just going to go away and be our friends? No, they gave us Six Sigma, a slow poison of which they have immunity to.

The reason they are immune to the effects is because they are not like us. We’re all people with two arms, two legs, a head, hands and feet, and I certainly don’t mean they are inferior, or superior, only how they think is different than us. They are very good at group organizing and incorporating the analytic process. They will work around the clock and not ask for much in return. They live in much smaller living space than the average American, and will often stay with their parents even after they marry. They in many ways understand us more than we understand ourselves. And they knew they could out manufacture us, and what they’ve done as an international business strategy, was to get the world to follow them.

But we can’t be like them without fundamentally changing ourselves and they know that. And to properly do their Six Sigma program, you have to think like a person from the East.

Americans do not like to work together though. We’ll go to the grocery and pass two feet from someone, and not make eye contact with another person. We are one of the few places on earth where we grew up in space, and we like our elbow room. We do not feel compelled to acknowledge another person even if they bump into us. And while the world, that has been jealous of the space we have, points its finger and tells us we are wrong, and we should change, it is probably time that we put some sort of definition on what an American is.

An American isn’t a white homosapien, a Native American, an African-American, a Hispanic American, and Asian American or any of those titles. We are a people that love space, liberties around the clock, and we are a very individualistic group. And we’ve wasted a tremendous amount of time being defensive about that from Europe, and Asia where individualism is not near as important to them because it has not been an option in thousands of years of social development. And it’s time we focus on what we are good at and stop trying to copy everyone else. If you want evidence of this, look at the football played by the rest of the world, and look at the football we play. Our football is a uniquely American idea, and most of the star players are not decedents from Europe. But the concept is all American. The other things to study are who made the last blockbuster film from Tokyo, or Paris? How about London? They all make films, but the films produced are often reflective, by default, of the cultures that produce them. You want to know about a culture, study their art. And studying American art is easy, go to your local video store. Our films are the envy of the world because American culture has so much to say, because we actually think and naturally question authority.

So let’s get back to a guy like Walt Disney, who never went to college. He dropped out of high school at age 16 even, and never came close to entering college. Books by themselves could and have been written about Disney. But the short of it is this, who has been able to replace Disney as a media empire? What foreign company has come close to equally Walt Disney? Don’t you think they would if they could? George Lucas is the closest that comes to my mind, and he uses Disney’s model. And before you say Disney as a company has made more money since the theme parks opened in the 70’s than it did while he was alive, it was that they stayed true to his vision and did not stray. So they’ve kept the quality of his work intact.

After Walt Disney died, the animation division faltered and was not resurrected until the 90’s with when Jeffery Katzenberg took over the animation division. Most of Disney’s modern era animation films, which they are known for, came while Katzenberg was at Disney. Once he and Michael Eisner had a power struggle where Eisner failed to promote Katzenberg to president of the company, Eisner left to found DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg. And before you say that Pixar, a Disney company that still makes great animated films, which was started by George Lucas and bought by Disney, they didn’t develop that on their own.

However, not since Jeffery Katzenberg left Disney’s animation division has Disney been able to recapture the magic, and they are still waiting for that special guy to come and help them make great animated musicals again. The reasons I bring all this up is because consider the power the Disney Corporation has. Consider the reach they have. Think of all the top students at all the universities all across the country that wish to work for Disney. And they have vast resources to develop with, yet why is it so difficult to put out a film like The Little Mermaid again? Because people like Katzenberg, Walt Disney, George Lucas, and those types of people, cannot be duplicated in an institution. No matter how hard they try, no class anywhere can create people who produce at that high level.

If the intention were to teach students to be thinkers at a high level, it would be a different story, and one that I could see would be something of value. But the intention is only to produce some mediocre specimen in a social context. None of my experience at college or even grade school has shown me there is any quest in the student body to find the exceptional among us, except in sports.

There’s nothing wrong if you did go out and pursued a degree, and spent a great deal of money on it. But the degree will not make you the next Walt Disney or Henry Ford, just so long as everyone understands that.

While it’s true that things were different back in the early days of the industrial revolution, and very few people pursued a formal education then, the same rules apply in the modern era. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. He did find some friends there that helped him work out his thoughts, but what at Harvard was some professor going to do for someone as forward thinking as Gates? He set up a deal with Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems(MITS), after reading a popular science article and told them he and his friends had been working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In truth, they had not, but they figured it out in time for a meeting with the MITS president a few weeks later. One thing led to another and pretty soon Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft within a few months.

Steven Spielberg snuck onto the lot of Universal Studios and set up an office and pretended to be important and just sort of hung around as an unpaid intern. He applied three times to USC’s School of Theater but was turned down because of his C average. So he enrolled at California State University at Longbeach. But it was his sneaking onto the lot of Universal that got his career moving. 35 years later, Spielberg did get a degree at USC; I suppose to prove a point, that after he made some of the most successful movies of all time.

What colleges have done is firmly imbed themselves into politics. It is now an expected part of our culture. Parents begin saving for their children’s college before their kids even enter kindergarten. And it is an unfashionable taboo to question the institutional process even though much of the liberal oriented political viewpoints are imposed by professors upon the students at universities. Not necessarily a harmful thing directly, but does become a force to contend with at election time when millions of college age students go to vote. The institution then becomes a political weapon.

No matter what you’re political persuasion is, having an entire age group think in one political manner does not accurately reflect the values of the society at large. As it currently is, higher education is a powerful mechanism for the DNC, and for that type of vote buying power, they should be paying us for the influence they have over our kids. Not us paying them.

Not all students buy into the liberal positions of colleges, and of course not all professors are liberal hippies. But overwhelmingly, the young people between 18 and 22 are likely to believe in gun control, social reforms, and minority rights, as important voting issues in an election. And that makes the institution not just something that will get them a professional position at some company.

Woodrow Wilson went from being president of Princeton University, to governor of New Jersey, then soon after, President of the United States. He is responsible for the League of Nations which paved the way for the United Nations. And while he worked with England and France to divide up the post World War 1 Europe through the Treaty of Versailles. During this wonderful divide, the Middle East was created which led to most of the current troubles in the region today. Iraq was formed due to the Treaty. Germany was forced to pay the reparations of the war completely, which bankrupted them and gave Hitler a platform to rise, and a young Vietnamese bus boy at the Ritz in Paris called Ho Chi Minh begged for a chance to plead for Vietnam’s independence to Wilson, who was ignored because Vietnam was not near the issues of Europe. At that time, Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist, and a fan of the American Revolution. He wanted the same for his county, but when the League of Nations wouldn’t listen he turned to the communists in the Soviet Union which eventually led to the Vietnam War, more on that later. So with all the great intentions Wilson had in forming a massive League of Nations, that stood on the high ground of morality and international good will, he really screwed up. In historical context ninety years isn’t very long, but it exceeds our short memories as Americans. It is difficult to look that far back and see how decisions made then impact now. But they sure did. The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II, The Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, both of them. And that is the model of the current United Nations. With all the current activity going on at the old Palace of Nations in Geneva we can only guess at the many plots boiling there that will impact us twenty, thirty years down the road. But that’s just me talking from the front of the train. All you in the back enjoy the ride.

Wilson is a hero to the progressive movement, and the modern democrats as well as colleges across the country because he was in essence an intellectual, like them, so he is widely followed. But looking at the Treaty of Versailles, even though the intentions were good, turned out to be absolutely devastating to the American way of life.
Institutions whether you’re talking about a typical college, or something like Six Sigma are not American ideas. They are foreign ideas, and should be available under the umbrella of freedom. But of the founding fathers, which Jefferson graduated from the college of William and Mary, Madison from Princeton, and Adams from Harvard, George Washington did not go to any college, and he was the first president, and that says a lot about our character. It wasn’t just the bravery he exhibited, but there was a sense of logic to whatever Washington did. But he wasn’t the only found father that did not attend college. Ben Franklin was never schooled beyond age 10. Come to think of it, Abraham Lincoln never attended a university. He passed the bar exam by reading books on his own, sometimes walking over 12 miles to borrow a book as a kid.
Here’s the bottom line. Using a European model for colleges, and an Asian model for programs like Six Sigma, institutions have within a 200 year span of time, and most rapidly since the industrial revolution, taken over much of what we do and how we do it in America. And it has been a slow poison that has robbed us of our vigor. In our freedom from the shackles the rest of the world has been burdened with whether it is feudal families of Asia, or kingdoms of Europe, we developed truly original ideas that has greatly improved the livelihood of most of earth. And we have been raised with massive corn fields, and farms, and shopping malls, and free press for all of our adult lives. But to us all, the institutions feel wrong, and we know it on an innate level, but feel powerless to question the process because we all need jobs to fuel our personal economies. So when our business leaders, lazily copy off each other, because that’s human nature, and listen without thought to Jack Welch spew on about Six Sigma and how much money they saved, a careful investigator would ask, Jack, why did you need the Japanese to tell you how to create a product with little waste and deliver it on time to a customer? What he really meant to say, but couldn’t is that GE is a huge union company and he needed some program like Six Sigma that is too complicated for union stewards to understand, to sell the idea of actually applying common sense to everyday business practices. But what he did, like the blundering escapade of the Treaty of Versailles is creating more institutional limits to the American Imagination, good intentions gone badly.

So powerless to take in the whole picture, we watch our football games and drink our beer. We talk about going out at night and getting hammered and root for the players on a football field where the rules are simple. Get a first down, score a touchdown.
And that is the real cost of this institutionalized society we’re currently in. At a personal level, we feel it, but in most cases we’re willing to trade a decent wage for some loss of personal input. But on a national level, we’re allowing influences from the outside to define our national identity. When the reality is that no place else in the world has the ingenuity that has come from the United States been shown, why would we be so willing to listen to inferior strategies?

Being a great leader, manager, politician, or even an artist requires vision, and that is something institutions cannot give you. They can help you set goals, and figure out how to get the analytic data. But they cannot give you the vision to see what is coming. Only those that are willing, and bold enough to put themselves out on the cutting edge, and not hide in the safety of the masses, will have the ability to make their vision a reality.

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior

My Contribution to Justice: Sales of The Symposium of Justice will go to Education PAC.

The Symposium Initiative.

The freedom fighter, Cliffhanger battles the assassin, R.L. Justice and his Dark Knights of Order as sinister plots unfold upon the seemingly unimportant town of Fort Seven Mile. Inspired by Cliffhanger’s writing and heroic actions council members, Mary Lawson, Misty Finnegan, and the gunsmith, Ben Carter plant the seeds of rebellion as powerful forces set their sights on a secret project called, “The Veil of Knowledge,” a form of mind control being conducted as an experiment soon to be unleashed upon the world.

Plot to The Symposium of Justice, 2004 Rich Hoffman

One thing that is hard to come up with in a campaign is money, especially in a tax initiative. People are reluctant or just can’t give especially when they don’t see any direct result from the money they’ve given.

When you have a situation like we have in Lakota, and now that we’re talking about legislative movement where a very entrenched teachers union has invested millions of dollars lobbying to protect the initiatives that created the legislation that has embroiled itself in this whole education mess, it is apparent that money will be needed to take the fight even further.

If you look at just the idea of a third levy attempt within a year’s period of time, it will typically be the same three or four people that will give money to defeat the levy. And for them, the cost will be over three to four thousand each during that span, and that’s a lot of money for anybody.

Unlike the Pro Levy campaign, which has direct access to over 18,000 students and their parents through direct flyers, and many PTO organizations that contribute large sums of money, it is difficult to generate enough money to combat a tax initiative.

(How much did Lakota spend on the last levy attempt?  Check this out)

There is also an additional problem, it is apparent that virtually all school systems violate Ohio Revised Code 3315.07 (C)(1) which states:

Except as provided in division (C)(2) of this section, no board of education shall use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any school district employee for time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a school levy or bond issue election.

What this basically says is that schools cannot use school resources to pass a levy. And what is happening is that virtually every school system openly violates this because prosecutors turn away from it. What is required for enforcement is a legal precedent to put the issue on the table, and that will cost money as well.

I personally don’t have the financial resources to continue to throw money at these issues, and even the most well off people that contribute to our campaigns can’t as well. It just doesn’t make economic sense. So what we need is a revenue stream, a fundraiser of some kind so we can fund the legal activities of fighting school levies and standing up to the politics that have built fortunes off education.

That puts my mind on a book I wrote back in 2004 called The Symposium of Justice, based loosely on timeless storybook heroes such as Zorro. The lead character and vigilante, Cliffhanger prevents the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in the book’s opening chapter and leaves behind the Symposium of Justice, a manifesto that includes Cliffhanger’s 10 rules that read like Moses’ Ten Commandments, and a series of stories that are intended to justify his vigilante behavior.

Henceforth, the main character becomes an avenger of evil while walking the thin line of the law. The local authorities and criminals alike come to despise him.

Woven into the novel are stories of political conspiracies, horror, romance, science fiction and a legal drama that are deliciously vivid in their depictions.

I was very happy to publish this book in 2004, and I accomplished what I set out to do, which was let the book teach my kids some things about life that I wanted them to know. Some of the things I wanted to teach them had more potency coming from a book then if I just sat down and told them. So writing the book helped me introduce them to some very complicated issues in the form of a story.  I knew the lessons would sink in, because they both did book reports for school on their dad’s book, which made them proud, and they therefore remembered the material because for a few months they were minor celebrities.

Further sales, although nice, and may contribute to a vacation fund, isn’t the most important thing in the world to me. This leads me to put the book to new use. Any future sales of The Symposium of Justice will go to add a PAC fund starting with the Lakota School Levy, and depending on how much money the book generates, extending to statewide education issues.
So what I’m saying is that starting on November 1st of 2010, I will donate all profit I would otherwise receive from sales coming from The Symposium of Justice and use that money to continue to fight education issues at Lakota and hopefully across the state of Ohio.

Using The Symposium of Justice as a fundraiser option at least gives the donor something back instead of having the feeling of contributing money and not getting anything back as a result, although, we will still take donations the traditional way at the NoLakotaLevy Website, emailing your intentions to

If you’re looking for something to read, or a gift to give at Christmas or somebody’s birthday, and you want to know that the money the author is making off the book is going to fight an important issue, then I will make that pledge now, and for the duration of time it takes to get the State of Ohio to fulfill its constitutional obligation, and so long as I continue to work with the original publisher which looks to continue well into the future, the profit I make will go straight to education reform issues.

The book is available at in a traditional format, or it can be purchased as a Kindle version for a much reduced price.   Click here to buy the book at

I wrote this book to bring a sense of justice to my kids in a world that seemed to be going mad at a young and impressionable age. It would give me a lot of pride to know that The Symposium of Justice could extend that influence to others not only in the written word, but also as a financial resource to combat education reform resistance.

The Symposium of Justice at

Rich Hoffman

Education Funding and Institutional Delusion

We’re coming up on the levy season, and Lakota, which is the school district closest to me, is asking for another levy after we just voted no on the last one initiated in May.

There are many, many reasons I don’t support a new levy. Many of those issues are dealt with in the below video done by John Stossel for a 20/20 assignment. This video reflects my own experience with public education, that it has become an entitlement culture for the staff, weakened by union connections, and the philosophy has become too progressive for my taste. Not something I wish to spend almost $10,000 per kid.

In my business experience, anything over $6,000 per child is a complete waste of money. Anything over that number, I believe you need to restructure the administration, and benefit packages to support $6,000 per child. But as shown in the 20/20 film, there are schools that have cut their cost per child below $5,000 and they are performing at a superior testing level.

What voters have to admit to themselves before they can see this issue clearly, is that the system is essentially a scam. The state sets standards schools have to live up to. The state has to create those standards based on federal mandates which are imposed because the state accepted federal money.

From there organizations like that which reside in Ohio, my home state, such as the OSBA lean on state officials to shape education policies which of course are expensive to follow. The more money spent, the more jobs created, which the administration can then take credit for creating at tax payer expense. The reality is, most of those jobs created could be consolidated, and would be in the private sector.

In February of 2010, I put together this video about progressive education policies.

It is important to understand that things don’t have to be like this. That the control is truly in the people’s hands, and that the education policies of our modern age are doing very little to shape positive aspects of our national pride, teaching students to be self-reliant human beings, heck, most of the kids coming out of the school system don’t know basic geography and history. So what are we teaching kids if they don’t even know where Iran is in the world? And if they know more about American Idol than what’s happening in the next election cycle.

True, most of us would rather not pay attention to the details of an election cycle. There are many things more fun to think about. However, for a republic to work, people have to invest a bit of themselves in understanding what to tell their representatives in government, what to do. When those representatives know that the population doesn’t care, and aren’t watching, they’ll do what most people do when the boss isn’t looking; they’ll goof off. And that’s why we have corruption in those offices, because the people are apathetic and not watching.

And that is how people who are employed by education have scammed the system. The word was when they were getting education degrees and putting in their years, earning their pensions, that the money was good in education. They didn’t have any thoughts that someday, like social security, the funding may run out.

In Ohio, led by the OSBA, they have become very good at twisting the arm of the voter through school superintendants. And they use the dirtiest trick in the book. They hide behind children to make their argument. It is impossible to attack their position once they stand behind children and tell you that if you cut their funding, then you’re kids will suffer.

Edgewood, a community just to the north of Lakota lost it’s levy passage by just a few votes, and the reaction toward the community is the same as it is to every district across the state; as taught by the OSBA in their seminar for superintendants, they cut busing, cut sports programs, and make other schedule changes that make it difficult for parents to adjust. Their thinking is that if they put enough hardship on parents, then the parents will vote their way during the next election, because the increase in taxes are less than the fuel of driving their kid to school, or paying for the sports programs on their own.

To call it what is it, would be to call it a form of extortion. Only the assailants have smiles on their faces, and we are forced to trust them because they care for our kids. You see, they know what many don’t want to admit, that they are day care providers first, and educators second. They know that parents are strapped for time and cash maintaining their careers, and don’t have time to watch over their kids during the day. And they certainly can’t afford day care for their children over age 5. For many parents, finding a way to deal with summer break is challenging enough. As long as they see the light at the end of the tunnel at the end of summer, they can get by. But parents now more than ever, rely on schools to watch their children while they work. And school officials know this, and use that information to pad their pensions, and provide incomes for themselves that would be unheard of in the private sector.

And before anyone says it, I raised my kids with the same principles. Even when my own kids were in the middle of their educations, I still didn’t support the wasteful spending. And at the heart of my opposition is a strong dislike that I have for institutionalism.

Anyone with just a bit of investigation can see that there has been a progressive political movement in the United States for most of the last century. The strategy is as clear as a battle plan from The Art of War, Sun Tzu’s classic book. First break up the American Family. Second replace the family with a centralized authority, which is public education, and change the values of the youth through that centralized authority.
In my experience with the western arts, cowboys are the symbol of American values. They stand for rugged individualism, which was the spirit in founding the country. And as I meet young people these days, I don’t see them learning those elements in school. They are learning interdependency, and other values that my experience say’s is mostly irrelevant to a good and happy adult life.

The video below are people I’d consider to be amoung the best and brightest in this country. Not becaue they have degrees, which some of them do. Or because they have extremely high IQ’s, which some of them do. These are the type of people I call friends and all of them represent what is best about America. They don’t do what they do for fame or money. They do it because of what is good and right in their hearts. And they have what’s right for America in the front of their ideas.

I live by a saying; advice is only as good as the person that gives it. If the person giving the advice is an unhappy person, then the American dream is something lost to them, and they aren’t in a position to advise young people how they should live their lives. Happiness is not something obtained through money, so throwing money at a situation is not an answer I endorse. So my position on taxes, public welfare, and school levies is that I generally don’t support them, because I believe that institutions in most every instance, will fail by their nature, institutions lack accountability and allow for poor strategists and lazy minded employees to hide in the massive structure of an institution.

And passing a school levy only feeds the institutional monster. It won’t get rid of it for good.

Rich Hoffman