Arthur Robinson is a curious fellow. He has a doctorate in chemistry and briefly taught at UCSD. He co-founded a medical research institute with Linus Pauling. He is the founder and former head of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and the primary author of that institute’s famous Oregon Petition, which purports there is no scientific consensus on global warming and boasts 31,000 scientist signatures. He is one of the 700+ signers of the Dissent From Darwinism statement challenging the basis of the natural selection theory of evolution, which comes from the famously intelligent-design-favoring Discovery Institute.
In the late 1980s, in response to how political, anemic, and (in his words) evil the American public school system had become, his wife created a homeschool regimen for their six children aged 1.5 to 12. He claims the regimen worked so well that he was able to raise and educate all his children alone after his wife unexpectedly died before starting the lessons.
He claims that any child who is forced to do schoolwork (literally, as in physically confined and allowed to do nothing but sleep and eat until it’s finished) and is given an environment with no distractions (including other family members with less-studious lifestyles) is guaranteed to learn to like studying and successfully self-educate in any topic. Some will learn faster than others, but all will succeed eventually and all will enjoy it. The only exception is children who have already been ruined by too-casual conditioning, who are allowed to get out of work by throwing tantrums, who receive hints and help and encouragement when encountering difficult subjects.
The regimen is strict. Schooling occupies five hours per day (from breakfast to afternoon, when the mind is freshest), six days per week, for a total of about ten months per year. It’s not a ten-month span with two months of break, though. It’s year-round with many short vacations. Every single school day, regardless of age, includes two hours of math problems and a one-page essay. All problems must be completed and correct, redoing work as necessary.
Is it hard for him to administer? He says it isn’t. He claims to have spent a lifetime average of less than 15 minutes of education-related attention per day per child, yet had them scoring in the 99.9th percentile of standardized college entrance exams by age 16.
There are, however, rules that the entire family — students, older children, parents — must obey without exception:
- No added sweeteners of any kind in any food or drink. No saccharine, no aspartame, no sugar, no honey. All artificial sweeteners are incompletely understood, natural sugar impacts mental attitude, and any sweetening sabotages the human body’s natural enjoyment of healthy foods like vegetables.
- No television. It’s passive entertainment (which is bad) and it lets in the evils of societal norms (which is also bad).
- No use of computers or calculators until after calculus is mastered. Children are in school to learn how to think; they should not be distracted into conflating thought with data manipulation. Also, as a matter of foundation, they must become adept at performing the simpler arithmetic operations, such as division down to four decimal places, entirely mentally, otherwise their higher thought processes will be bottlenecked at unacceptably slow speeds.
- The only schoolwork assistance a parent is to give a child, ever, is to instruct the child to try again when the child encounters a problem he can’t solve correctly or a topic he doesn’t understand after reading about it.
He sells his curriculum for a couple hundred dollars. The bulk of it is a primitive proto-eBook library: TIFF-format scans of dozens of reference, history, classic literature, and textbooks, intended to be printed as necessary. The reference includes a 98-year-old dictionary and a 100-year-old encyclopedia. But that’s not a problem. The dictionary is unabridged, and the encyclopedia nonetheless covers 98% of human history (and besides, its age means it hasn’t suffered dumbing-down, political correctness, or multiculturalist revisionism).
Physics is excluded entirely until the child has mastered calculus and is able to personally replicate Isaac Newton’s entire body of work from scratch, which should happen at approximately age 16 (that’s grade 10-11). The child then gets full-bore physics, with no simplified or approximated formulas because those are misleading and wrong. If the child wants to use F = mg for the gravitational pull on everyday objects, he can — if he comes up with that formula himself, and realizes he can use it, and realizes that in real life, gravity is weaker near the ceiling than near the floor and pulls in a different direction in this corner than in that one. Also, air slows things.
His curriculum deliberately excludes everything beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. Reading is essential for self-teaching everything else for the rest of your life. Writing is essential for communication. Math is essential for teaching rational thinking and the existence of absolutes, and it’s the foundation of sciences such as physics, which is itself the foundation of chemistry and biology. Family Bible readings, household chores, and music lessons are crucial components of rearing his children but are expressly separate from their education. Other “academic” studies like foreign languages are left as hobbies. The kids can pursue them on their own time if they want, but it’s utterly voluntary and on the side. School is for fundamentals.
What are his goals? They seem simple. He wants children to learn
- questions have correct answers,
- those answers are determinable, and
- the child can determine them — all by herself.
He is a proponent of absolute morality. Killing humans for convenience is wrong, period, in all cases, not wrong most of the time but right if it’s a fetus (even in the case of rape). Any given activity, such as watching television, is either bad for you or it isn’t. If it isn’t bad, the only proper amount to let a person indulge in is “as much as that person wants”. If it is bad, the only proper amount is “none whatsoever”. Therefore television is banned in his house. And not just for the kids, because, for example, even if it weren’t bad, there is no logical justification behind limiting the 4-year-old to half an hour a day but letting the 40-year-old watch as much as he wants. That only teaches the kid the immoral, despicable lesson that it’s okay to apply stricter regulations to other people than to yourself.
His policies haven’t always helped his children. They’ve been attacked twice. The first time, in the early 80s, armed Child Protection Service agents interrogated his family and friends, and one son was held at a medical clinic under a law that mandates that medical professionals who suspect a domestic issue must contact authorities and fabricate false medical claims to detain the child. A clinician became concerned when she saw this large family all packed into a single pickup truck, and the agents cited the children’s unusually quiet demeanor as suspicious, presumably indicating fear due to abuse or an abduction in progress. Robinson asserts the authorities were interested less in helping children and more in the $100,000 federal payout their state got per child rescued, and thus viewed his family as an easy half-million bonus check.
The second time was in March of this year. Three of his children, now graduate students in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University, were blocked from their degrees and expelled for no apparent reason. Robinson claims it’s retaliation for his political stance against the university, including his running for a Republican seat in the House of Representatives against a Democrat incumbent with long, strong ties to OSU. The university says the claims are meritless and that it’s illegal for them to discuss details publicly without the students’ consent.