Home schooling an American boy in Ukraine – a book review

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This review on Amazon of the ebook Edward came about as the author, Graham Seibert, contacted me after reviewing my book The Swedish story. My book is quoted in his and now I will try to judge his book. Amazon sure makes people publish and find new online friends. Much appreciated as I have similar international experiences..

His book is by far the most unique writing on education and society I have read. It is deeply personal yet abstract in its reasoning over his choice to leave the US for Ukraine and home school his very young child Edward. He tries to connect every detail of his own life, including two failed marriages and unsupportive adult children, with general knowledge and views about the rise and fall of Western civilisation, morals, politics and bits of science on intelligence testing and races, social development and ethnics groups. Not unlike my book about Swedish culture and history but more personal and far reaching into future demographic and economic changes.

INTRODUCTION

He starts his writing of the book Edward, which alludes to J-J Rousseau’s similar self-educational 18th century treatise Émile, from an impersonal point of view yet bold:

“This is a plan to home school Mr. Seibert’s son, Edward in his mother’s homeland, Ukraine. Character is key: if he is honest and dependable, Edward will be a success. Pride and respect for himself and his ancestors are essential inspirations to be a good husband, father, and provider. Mr. Seibert’s experience as a parent, private school trustee, teacher, and finally educational school student led to the strong conviction that, in educating a second family, he had to take full control of the process. This book describes why and how.”

By this rather megalomaniac stance the reader is caught into the author’s world of learning, views and future plans in Ukraine. Seldom has an author been as self-critical and open as this author and readers will be aware that he does not bow down to anyone.

Readers who do not appreciate his fight for starting a new family – and by God, telling the world about it in a book – will put the book down and are also urged to do so. Rousseau was also considered mad in his pedagogical fervour yet he started a whole new educational tradition, the progressive (of which neither I nor the author Graham Seibert have much care for).

I predict that very few will actually read and appreciate this new 21th century Émile but for those who do, it is a pleasure to follow Seibert’s well-written and well- reasoned ways. Yes, the book is mad to begin with but it is worth investing the price and read carefully. In the end, one may consider it a worthwhile read but still a mad endeavour to tell the world about one’s personal life and total focus on one single poor toddler in Kiev, Edward or Eddie as his writing father calls him.

I cannot refrain from thinking while reading about the fatherly cares and plans for his son, the progeny, of what Edward Seibert will think when he reads the book himself, by year 2030 or so. But that has not and should not keep Seibert Senior from publishing his thoughts.  His grownup children in USA seem to be lost to him anyway and maybe Edward will be proud to become the topic of 230 pages of partly dense academic prose of the philosophical foundations of his character development. Or not.

THE AUTHOR

Here is the family story of the author Graham SeibertEdward, essential knowledge to readers:

The author Graham Seibert grew up in California in early 1940s and had a decent career in information technology, teaching and statistics on the East coast (Maryland and Washington D.C.).  After two marriages and somewhat unsuccessful attempts to raise his children, he is now starting a second family in Ukraine.  His dissatisfaction with raising his first children seems to be their inability to appreciate traditional American values, history and culture (but in that they are like all born after 1950) and their abstinence from granting him grandchildren, not to mention decent careers, stable relationships and marriages.  He states openly that:

“I assign the bulk of the responsibility for my first family’s failure to carry on my values, to do the ‘normal’ thing and give me grandchildren, to dysfunctional cultural trends in the United States”.

Seibert set out , in 2007 to find a new mate by the time he retired at 65 years. After a stint in Costa Rica, he set off to Kiev in Ukraine to study Russian and eager to find someone more like him with traditional/conservative values and less liberal/individual bias. Mrs. Oksana Seibert appeared out of the blue, a Russian speaking Ukraine traditional woman. Seibert does not tell us how they met as that may be another book and Edward was born 2011. The book tells also of his future children, which means this adventurous American septuagenarian will procreate siblings to the much awaited Edward. Yes he is too much but I like his daring ways.

His reasons for favouring Ukraine is its freedom for children (ride on public buses to school, play and walk outside, much like Sweden), high trust in neighbourhood but distrust of government (which has supported self-reliance), homogenous population and economical living standards. His American retirement on Social Security will get him by but he plans to invest in real estate as money may be taxed or taken somehow. He trades and invests online to stretch his budget, an occupation he seems to love and recommend to toddler Eddie too.

LEARNED WRITING

His learning is deep yet he reads widely and draws conclusions which are in the order of libertarian and paleo-conservative lines. His statement  “Our message for Eddie will be that he can and should expect just about nothing from government” is of classical liberal and laissez faire governments of the 1776 constitutional kind, not found anywhere since. Furthermore, 18th century conservative philosopher Edmund Burke will guide the political philosophy of the author’s progeny dear Edward:

“Our job will be do provide Eddie with a Burkian sense of how the world really works, starting with the premise that the only person in the entire world who is entirely dedicated to his welfare will be Eddie himself.”

The author calls himself an ex-patriate which is true but in US’ political terms he would support the two presidential candidates Pauls anyday.  This is no stated but my conclusion as he does not dwell much on contemporary American politics, thankfully. He rather discuss long term changes in Western culture and civilisation, often contrasting Christian, liberal and evolutionary thoughts with one another. Evolution wins most of the time,

A thesis he argues for with some scholarly and journalistic references is that the white Americans and Europeans will become the new Jews, destined to be a successful yet unappreciated minority.  They will be scare in numbers with their higher intelligence and lower birth rates, but essential to drive an even more complicated economy relying on technology, science and information services. People will hate them for their brains like the Jews always have been and unfortunately the whites are the first to blame themselves for their privileges.  He notes that:

“As intelligent people are having fewer and fewer children, and the world is simultaneously putting a premium on intelligence, on people who can create value by automating the repetitive work now done by duller people, Eddie’s talents should be in increasing demand. Jews have been combating envy for eternity; white people have only a couple of generations’ practice. We should have become more adept at defending ourselves by the time Eddie comes of age.”

FALL OF THE WEST

The relentless self-criticism of Western civilisation is one of the main threads in this book, which echoes of Bruce Bawer, William Dalrymple and Charles Murray. Edward is thought to be safer in Ukraine when the financial chaos will start to spread in the next decades the author and father claims and hopes. Left in the US, he would be target of even more criticism from both minority groups (by then in majority) and from the whites themselves in their political correctness and self-annihilation.

Like Gibbon’s classical 18th century study of the rise and fall of Rome and the 20th century study Family and Civilization  in 1939 by Carle Zimmerman,  Siebert  views civilisations come and go but finds a pattern in the decline due to rise of nuclear family both in Athens, Rome and the West. A mis-guided sense of altruism, UN mantra of egalitarianism making all racial differences due to ill-meaning society and neglect of adherence to one’s tribe, culture and nation adds to the current crisis of the West, along with its near economic disasters. He notes that:

“You can count me among today’s doomsayers. As I write this I am predicting a worldwide depression starting fairly soon, one that will affect just about every country in the world. I anticipate a lot of good coming out of it, however. I think it will restore a work ethic and expose the multitudinous faults in the social models that have emerged from academia to dominate all of Western society over the past century. Specifically, it will show that people are indeed different, and that unbounded altruism can doom a society. I expect that it will accelerate the decline in birth rates already visible in almost every nation, which in turn will reduce population and pressure on the world’s resources. It will also put a premium on educated and capable young men – like Eddie.”

The political correctness of American academia, politics and media is surely a reason to keep Edward away from his country (his citizenship is American) but he needs to learn how the important mumbo-jumbo talk. His father relates current PC taboos without pardon:

“Should you happen to have a social death wish, you can easily exercise it on campus by offering the opinion that homosexuals subject themselves to more health risks than heterosexuals, that children do best when they are raised by two natural parents who happen to be married to each other, or by repeating Larry Summers’ gaffe of referring to intelligence research that rather conclusively shows that at the high end of the range of intelligence, men fairly handily outnumbers women. Don’t even get started talking about how low the actual incidence of rape by white men is, compared to minorities, or how many false reports of rape there happen to be. Anybody with a brain in his head knows that rationality has nothing to do with these dogmas. If you are a student, a government employee, or some cog in the wheel of a big corporation you have to spout the party line or the powers that be will make your life miserable. This is the modern limit on individual freedom: even to propose that unlimited freedom in individual behaviour might not necessarily be a good thing is not permissible.”

CHARACTER

Edward’s education will be about character formation rather than only academics. The author and father  notes that his educational role models- Aristotle, Locke and Rousseau-  devote their efforts to morals, virtues, judgement and steady development of one’s civil and familial duties. Central is Aristotle’s ethical doctrine of the Mean and in the background the classical wisdoms of Socrates, Stoics and Montaigne.  Four principles of moral virtue should define the goals of Edward; work hard, learn from experience, pray/meditate and depend on your judgment.

Edward and his future siblings  “need to appreciate restraint and modesty in an immoderate age”, the author writes with reference to sex and indulgence in drinking and drugs etc.

The father recalls these values of modesty being around when he grew up in California by 1940s, went to El Cerrito High School and attended Mrs. Stewart’s private etiquette and ballroom dance academy. Of course he is quaint and old-fashioned in his attitudes but he argues reasonably and grants that his cherished childhood and decent middle-class schooling will never appear as the world has changed. But it was not all bad and there are things to learn from his own father, Edward’s grandfather, who taught young Graham to drive nails with three strokes in mid 20th century California. His father’s hammer is still with him in Ukraine.

SELF-DEFEATING LIBERALISM

Home schooling a child, which is the rationale for writing this book on little Edward, is often thought to raise egotistic and weird anti-social children.  The author strongly declare his and his new family’s and society’s abilities to counter any such developments. The liberalism in USA is what breeds these undesirable traits he states and what is even more unintended; people have become less original in their individual freedoms, strangely enough:

“Liberating man from historical constraints and responsibilities has taken away the incentives that drive people to be creative. Nobody would argue that free time is more abundant today than ever, and there are more people than ever, yet none would argue that humanity is reaching new heights in music, fine art, theatre, literature, inventiveness or much of anything else. The liberal premise that freedom was a prerequisite to creative expression is simply not borne out. The disadvantages, however, of freeing citizens from the obligation to invest in social capital are becoming clearer by the year.”

This observation of a conformist individualism is something I also have found in Swedish value systems (see my book The Swedish story and Gina Gustavsson’s PhD thesis, Treacherous Liberties, 2011, Uppsala University).

His current scholarly references on morals, education and evolution, apart from Charles Murray, are David Gelernter’s America Lite, John Gatto’s An Underground History of American Education and books by Stephen Pinker , Alain de Benoist, Diane Ravitch among others. With these contemporary sparring partners in research and current debate, he sets out to discuss his thoughts on Christianity and liberalism vs. evolution and socio-biology. Being a science – inclined thinker, the author leans towards his teenage hero Charles Darwin but views somehow that practical Christianity rather than Enlightment liberalism is evolution has found does the job better.

But he is very clear about his unfounded support for Christianity which bothers him but in the end is useless to argue about. His wife Oksana is a Russian Orthodox Christian and himself, the retired and late father Graham Seibert, is a reluctant believer, more of an agnostic and existentialist. But he calls himself a practical Christian, in the view of Winston Churchill who cheered the British masses with “Onward, Christian Soldiers” to unite them in faith but most of all in hope.

HOME SCHOOLING

Since the book is about home schooling (which is the lesser part but does not make the book less valuable), the writer tells us some things about how Edward shall go about his studies.

The curriculum  at the Seibert family home in Kiev will contain;

Languages – English, Russian and Ukrainian

Math

Biology

Physics

Chemistry

History

Society

Business

Information tools

There will be focus on one or two subjects at a time, depth rather than skipping through. Meta cognitive skills are desired goals above all as academic content change quickly.

Much attention is given to values and social behaviour, just was set out in the preface with references to Aristotle, Locke and Rousseau. Little Edward as well as all future Seibart children will have learn to behave well before one year. We find small sections on preparations for Edward’s future relationships, flirting, courting, how to find a mate and succeed in marriage, as well as who to make small talk, dinner conversation and if needed, argue and fight.

The home schooler and father Graham Seibert hopes to find fellow homeschoolers in Kiev and globally online which is an important reason for writing his book Edward. That seems not be an easy task locally in Kiev, but online there are many opportunities to meet and share experiences and teaching matters.

The 70 year old father Graham Seibert keeps well after doing daily physical exercises for 40 years, which he wants to his son Edward to continue, as well as to train in some (individual) sport. Outings will be useful to home schooled little Edward, such as paddling down the Dnieper River by Kiev and visiting the family cottage, the traditional Russian/Ukrainian dacha, close by. Biking will be common way of transport and enjoyment including how to fix flat tyres oneself.  Music, grooming, sketching, painting is to be taught along with photography, video, computer graphics, housework (including sewing). Regular text books are to be avoided but father and son will assembling text books themselves when needed. Test will be done as time comes.

The little boy will listen to fairy tales, pre-Disney style and some Biblical tales, such as

The story of creation

Adam and Eve

Cain and Abel

Sodom and Gomorrah /Lot’s wife

Noah and the flood

Noah and Ham

Abraham and Sarah; Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac

Getting Jacob married, the story of Jacob and Laban deceiving one another

Joseph and the coat of many colours

Pharaoh and the plagues; the Exodus

The Kiev house where all this will be done will have small bedroom for the children with no electronic devices available, certainly not handheld connected machines. No television will be sounding in the living room and no children sneaking into their rooms for undesirable activities (as the author’s earlier children did watching porn and smoking pot).

CAREER

The future career of Edward is vaguely mentioned yet with some directives.  The father hopes for him to excel academically and find a future in science, business, finance or real estate. Ideally he should be his own boss, have integrity and be a master of his wealth, not enslaved by it. Further, he should marry early and abstain from sex.  Entering the workforce by 2030, when a high IQ and sought after traditional middle-class social skills are desired but rare, he should make it as well as his father or better.  They may even cooperate:

“I also plan to teach Eddie about trading and investing. I will be entering my eighties as he enters his teens. One doesn’t have to be a statistician to anticipate that I will lose a little bit of mental acuity in my ninth decade. I will depend on Eddie to help manage my IRA portfolio, when possible giving him some fraction of it to manage by himself. I hope he takes a strong interest; it is the money that will support him in college and his mother in later life.”

Life will not be all fun and play for Edward. Being kind of thrown out of two countries with an fast aging father and not siblings close by (or even desiring to meet the former family members), the father and author “anticipate a kind of existential loneliness for Eddie, as a man out of his times”. He will be like a Jew but without a Jewish tradition and tribe. If the whites of Europe will gather into new nationalist tribes, Edwards may feel connected to them but the father is sceptical, even if these groups would support his agenda of procreating more white (grand) children.  He suggests Edward to remain aloof and simply observe the cultural changes, a wise decision. Edward’s loyalty is primarily to his family and he is expected to carry on the family line, no matter what happens to the world.

We want grandchildren, the father and mother of Edward state. That was the reason Seibert left the US and why he found a new wife and wrote this remarkable book. Sorry his personal longing for grandchildren might not come true within his own lifespan, but being a true Darwinist he seems not to care as long as his genes evolve.  I am impressed by his honesty and his clear-sightedness in so many important areas.

DRAWBACKS

However a few glitches stick out that I noticed.

His criticism of Jewish cosmopolitanism and their support for black grievances against the whites but also admiration of their learning, success and separation of culture does not make sense. He scorns them for promoting universal values yet they have survived by keeping to themselves.

He wants to instil a sense of being superior in Edward which is of course fair for any parent, but stating it in a book makes a teenage and adult Edward Seibert embarrassed and maybe bullied. Tell him rather, but do not write it. His personal future being the topic of a book by his father is enough.

Digressions abound. Most of the time entertaining but for readers with little interest in the history and evolution of our civilisation, they could make up another book, the third in line.

Bitterness is accidentally surfacing, as when the old family and children are mentioned. I find them awkward even if their attitudes and life choices are set into a general picture of the decline of the West. How they relate to their father after this publication I do not want to think about.

These are small drawbacks in a great book. Yes it is by far the maddest thing I have read in a long time but I like his old tyme style. He is certainly a Grumpy Old Man to most people, a proud one at that but he has every reason to be a Happy Elderly Man.

GRATITUDE

Many thanks Graham Seibert for the splendid endeavour accomplished with starting your new family and the book to you written to set yourself a goal in your home schooling.  I am sure that in a century or two Edward will be as well known as Émile.

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