Monthly Archives: May 2016

Death, Taxes and Launchpad Eagles


More young people ages 18-35 live with their parents than at any other time in modern history.  Over half of post-college aged adults now live with a family member, rather than  living independently.  Sadly, many college graduates are directionless, saddled with large loans and over half are underemployed.  

Not much is certain beyond death and taxes.  But here’s a good bet:  Ten years from now you’ll be hard pressed to find an Acton Academy Launchpadder living on a parent’s couch, lacking grit, skills or direction.


Overheard in the Grocery Store Check Out Line


Overheard and reported by an Acton Academy parent:

Two cute, young, fun-looking traditional teachers were in front of me in the grocery store check-out line, talking about how busy the end of year was and lamenting the torture of standardized tests.

Then one said: “Oh my god. I didn’t even read their final research papers. I just skimmed over them. If they had as much as an intro and summary, it was good enough for me.”

 Then they both laughed. Such an injustice to the young people who had worked hard.

At Acton Academy, every writing challenged is peer reviewed.  In most cases with a detailed critique; in many cases, posted on the wall for all to see.

Here’s the point.  Of course everyone would prefer having a warm, caring English teacher, who nurtures each student; writes like Hemingway and could offer Tolstoy a helpful literary critique.  But that’s not reality.

The truth is, Acton’s transparency and peer critiques offer far more coaching and motivation than in any traditional model, with a far lower likelihood of the outright fraud that no one even bothered to read your thesis before assigning an arbitrary letter grade.

Bringing the Tribe Back Together

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Groups of humans split quickly into we/them factions that can spiral downwards into personal attacks, and eventually civil war.

During the Politics and Economics Quest, Eagles argued passionately for different causes, on occasion leading to hurt feelings.  Because we are a tribe, not a group, the end of the session meant it was time to come together by:

  • Finding a Common Enemy;
  • Pursuing a Common Mission;
  • Bringing leaders together for Conflict Resolution, where necessary; and
  • Examining our own psychological shadows, to curb the unhealthy projections that drive us apart, so we each rediscover deeply buried parts of ourselves.


Reconciliation and re-commitment.  All part of the Hero’s Journey.


Our Politics and Economics Quest Exhibition

Tension built as the Libertarian Party, Demo-Green-Surprise Party and independents assembled for a Battle Royal of a political convention.

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Candidates for Executive Office unleashed stump speeches to persuade Elementary, Middle School and Launchpad Eagles to support their campaigns.

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Legislators gave floor speeches in an attempt to pass important legislation for the Acton Academy studios and Acton’s worldwide…..

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…. while Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments.

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We celebrated important lessons learned about personal political principles, powerful tools and political Kryptonite (corrupting influences), all combined into a toolkit Eagles could use to change the world.   Eagles also showcased White Papers, Editorials and Hero Stories written as part of the quest.

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In the end, the Libertarian Party prevailed, proving if nothing else that Acton Academy  is the only place in the world Libertarians can win an election.  Or at least until the Demo-Greens-Surprise party regroups for the next election.

Propaganda or Spreading Truth?


During the Politics and Economics Quest, Eagles earned the right to watch movies such as 2018, a movie based on by Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron


and Poverty Inc. by the Acton Institute.

Afterwards, Eagles circled up for a Socratic Discussion to debate the power of story to communicate political truths as well as political propaganda.  Of course, the real trick is to tell one from the other.


The Federal Reserve, Depression and Hyper-Inflation


The Chair of the Federal Reserve is one of the most powerful people in the world, and one of the President’s most important appointments.


The Great Depression. Unemployed men queued outside a soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone. The storefront sign reads 'Free Soup, Coffee and Doughnuts for the Unemployed.' Chicago, 1930s (Newscom TagID: evhistorypix027753.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

As part of the Politics and Economics Quest, Eagles explored Keynesian and Monetarist theories before playing a powerful Inflation Simulation to experience how the Federal Reserve and monetary policy impact economic booms and busts.

Then Eagles had to stand in the shoes of the President of the United States, making difficult economic and political decisions during the 2008 Economic Crisis.

Would the Eagles have approved a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street?  Not likely.

Political Tools, Well Used


Traditional students study the three branches of government.  At Acton Academy, Middle School and Launchpad Eagles make learning about governing by running a real campaign.

libertpup up

Eagles not only wrote and delivered campaign stump speeches, legislative floor speeches and oral arguments for the Supreme Court, but also polled and canvased Elementary Eagles to convince them to register and vote in the Acton Academy election – a task almost as difficult as motivating the average American.


As the battle between the Libertarian and Demo-Green party grew intense, some Eagles started dressing up each day in order to make a better impression on voters.

If only an Eagle would consider running for President in 2016.

Going to War; Paying the Price

Fifteen intense Socratic discussions have put Launchpad and Middle School Eagles in the shoes of a political leader facing a difficult decision.   Perhaps the most difficult of all decisions for a leader is to order American troops into harm’s way.


Eagles investigated four frameworks that couldhelp a President decide whether or not to commit troops:

  • The Just War Doctrine
  • Vital Interests
  • Idealism and the Spread of Democracy
  • Isolationism

Each Eagle dug deeply into one or more of the following wars to decide if he or she would have committed troops as President:

  • Korean
  • Bosnian
  • Vietnam
  • Iraq I
  • Iraq II


Then we assembled for an intense simulation where Eagles would take turns acting as the President in a time of war.  Before we started, we watched scenes from Saving Private Ryan to drive home that war is not a video game.   Once the discussion started, in real time new information arrived in the Situation Room and demanded to be included.   The tension kept rising, but in the end, the President had to make a decision.


As one Eagle soberly commented afterwards: “It is a heavy responsibility.  Someone is going to die, and as President, you have to decide who it will be.  And then you must explain to a mother, father, husband, wife or child why you asked their loved one to make the ultimate sacrifice.”

Quests at Acton Academy are not an academic exercise.  Quests are preparation for real world decision, and the heavy burdens it places on a leader.




Experiments, Simulations and Role Plays


The Politics and Economics Quest featured more than ten economic and political experiments, simulations and role plays, including the Lord of the Flies, Tragedy of the Commons and The Power Game.


Soon, Eagles were finding an executing their own behavioral experiments to prove a point, including the Privilege I and Privilege II experiments shown above to drive home the need for Affirmative Action, as well as a counterpoint M&M Incentives Game to demonstrate the impact of high marginal tax rates on economic growth.

Sheep, Wolves, Sheepdogs and Shepherds


According to Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman there are three types of people in the world:

  • Sheep who go about their business,
  • Wolves who feed on the sheep; and
  • The Sheepdog who protects the flock.

At Acton Academy, we would add Shepherds, the countless servant leaders like Gandhi, King and Borlaug who pursue individual callings that strengthen the fabric of society.

Of course, people are not animals; wolves and the need for protective violence are thankfully rare; and we live in a society where you can enjoy the fruits of freedom without participating in the political or civic arenas.

Nevertheless, in the midst of our Political and Economic Quest, we should never forget that it is the sacrificial love of Sheepdog and Shepherd Heroes who keep our fear of wolves at bay.

Acton Academy.  No sheep allowed.