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The Bottom Line Michael Medved Interview: Donald Nielsen on Education Transformation

Credit to The Michael Medved Show:


A guest this week on the Michael Medved show, our program chair, Don Nielsen, is a graduate from Harvard Business School and a former Seattle School Board President. A successful business entrepreneur, Nielsen is a senior fellow at Discovery Institute, based here in Seattle.

Nielsen recently finished the updated version of his book: Every School: One Citizens Guide to Transforming Education.

The State

Michael Medved: “In the new addition you came up with a new insight and that new insight is?”

Donald Nielsen: “The state, its not the school, its not the district, its not the federal government, it’s the state”

Nielsen: “They control the vast majority of money, who’s allowed to teach, lead, curriculum, testing, compensation, and graduation, so fixing our public education system has to start at the state level”


Medved: “My late father believed that the public schools changed his life”

Nielsen: “The world changed, after WWII the world started to change big time, we moved from agrarian and manufacturing to service and technology, and our school system was designed in 1904, believe it or not, and the courses that I took, that my children took, and that my grandchildren are taking are the same courses, they go to school for the same hours, the same amount of days, the credits are the same, and the entire world has changed”

Medved: “You are making the case that the problem isn’t that the schools changed in some destructive way, it is that they failed to change to adjusting circumstances”

What is Lacking?

Nielsen: “We treat everybody the exact same…we treat education like a swimming meet not a swimming lesson, in a swimming meet you try to figure out the best swimmer, in a swimming lesson you try to make sure everyone can swim”

Medved: “That is extraordinary, we have about 20% of students in our country that are not graduating high school, what happens to those kids that do not graduate in today’s society?”

Nielsen: We have spent twenty-two trillion dollars on the war on poverty! And we today have more poverty than we have ever had in our history, and the reason is that we are under educating our children”

Home Schoolers

Medved: “How does home schooling fit into the overall picture of education reform?”

Nielsen: “Home schooling occurs because parents have concluded they can’t get the education they want in the education system, parents can give their children experiences and exposures that the education system cannot provide”

Game Plan

Medved: “What is incredible about the new updated version of Every School, is Don Nielsen has a step by step game plan laid out, its not just for educational leaders, its for everyday people, its for citizens, how can people get involved through Discovery Institute?”

Nielsen: “We are looking for foot soldiers in Idaho and Mississippi, these two states are in the best position to take this effort head on, it has to be a phased effort”

Medved: “You are doing the lords own work and I wish you God speed and every success”

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.
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