Copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.
The short answer is University of Minnesota Law School J.D. magna cum laude (1990). (That's all some people want to know about me, what my academic degree is.) The medium-size answer about who I am makes up most of the rest of this paragraph. I am a parent of four children (one of whom has now grown to adulthood), interested since childhood in better education for all. I am an alumnus of public schools in Minnesota, from kindergarten through law school. I currently educate my two younger sons and my daughter at home and in the real world here in Minnetonka, Minnesota, making sporadic use of school programs. I am now a mathematics teacher in private practice and educational consultant on gifted education, having previously worked as a Christian missionary in Taiwan, a Chinese-English interpreter, a language teacher, a lawyer, and a free-lance writer. I use much of my recreational time to research better approaches to education, and have spoken on that subject as an attendee or speaker at conferences of parents of gifted children, librarians, homeschooling parents, advocates of privatizing provision of educational services, schoolteacher union members, and charter school advocates. The long answer about who I am follows below.
I was born and grew up in Minnesota, attending public schools in the Robbinsdale School District (No. 281) of suburban Minneapolis. I've been interested in school curriculum issues at least since the second grade. That's when my dad saw me reading a book about dinosaurs and asked me to tell him about what I was reading. He told me that some children don't learn to read in school all the sound-symbol correspondences found in the names of dinosaurs. (He noted that I could read words like “triceratops” and “ankylosaurus” very easily, but that many adults cannot.) That got me thinking about why not all schools teach reading effectively, as my school evidently taught me. A few years later, I helped coach my younger sister at home in learning to read before she started first grade. She is an avid reader and writer to this day. My sister's experience was an early example of how someone can learn to read at home, which I kept in mind for many years. Much later I learned that my dad's uncle, my great-uncle, the only member of my family with a Ph.D. degree and widely read in multiple languages, also learned to read at home, having been taught by my great-grandmother before starting school.
I had schoolteachers in elementary school who encouraged my interest in learning by their general kindliness and patience. I had other teachers who prompted my interest in school reform by their general incompetence. One of my kindly and patient teachers, my fifth-grade teacher, persistently encouraged all her classes to care about social issues. My first published writing on education reform was written at her direction. That was a letter to the editor of the Minneapolis Tribune, written during the 1968-1969 school year, urging more emphasis on history and culture of places besides Europe in school curricula. (My teacher put me up to writing the letter, but the words were my own.) I still have an interest in genuine multiculturalism today. I have practiced my interest in non-European cultures by living in one, the Taiwanese (Minnan) culture of Panchiao, Taiwan, where I lived from 1998-2001.
While I was in junior high my family moved to Wisconsin. While living in New Berlin (Joint City School District No. 1) in suburban Milwaukee, I continued to be influenced by the recommendations of professional educators. I discovered radical education reform literature when my junior-high assistant principal recommended that I read John Holt's How Children Fail (1st ed. 1964). Thereafter, I included books on improving education in my longstanding habit of voracious reading of library books. The first title I discovered on my own was Charles Silberman's Crisis in the Classroom, which I read later in ninth grade, in 1972. Later my family back from the Wisconsin school district to the same school district in Minnesota where we had lived before. Seeing that each school district told parents that the district was giving children a good education, although in fact each had problems easily identifiable to anyone who moved in from outside, showed the credibility of critiques of the school system by various authors. I continued to read various books on education reform through high school and on into college, sometimes mentioning them to my schoolteachers. My senior year in high school I formally discussed proposals for reforming education finance as a member of my high school's forensics team.
I majored in the Chinese language at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, spending much of my time in college exploring the vast resources of the University of Minnesota Libraries. After graduating from college I lived in Taipei, Taiwan from January 1982 through February 1985. An important influence on my thinking was discovering, soon after my arrival in Taiwan, a used American paperback book in the Campus Bookstore (校園書房) near the National Taiwan University campus. The book was by historian Daniel Calhoun, his little-known The Intelligence of a People (1973), a thought-provoking exploration of what schools do and do not do for whole countries.
Observing the effects of strict central government control on schooling in 1980s Taiwan influenced my thinking profoundly. Did you know that Chiang Kai-shek almost single-handedly defeated the Japanese armed forces in the Pacific theater of World War II, saving the United States? Schoolchildren in Taiwan were taught that when I lived in Taiwan the first time (1982-1985). Even more despicable nonsense is still taught in government-operated schools on the other side of the Taiwan Strait today. I have learned from these observations that any government-operated school generally
establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body just as John Stuart Mill said it would when he wrote On Liberty in 1859. Seeing a different educational system in action and its overall effect on national development helped me digest Calhoun's book on the American experience. Remembering my own experiences in America helped me ponder the deeper meaning of the sayings of Confucius and Mencius on education, which I studied at the National Taiwan Normal University's Mandarin Training Center. Contrasting Taiwan's and the United States's models of national education policy provided me in following years a three-dimensional perspective from which to examine books such as Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. I had found Illich's book much too radical to finish reading when I first saw it in a library in 1972. Today, I join a growing list of other “radical” authors in promoting freedom-based education reform.
From 1985 through 1998 I worked seasonally as an independent contractor for the United States Information Agency, serving as an interpreter for official visitors from China. I traveled all over the United States, visiting schools, universities, educational organizations, and countless varied examples of American life outside of schools. Through my travels and the intensive study sessions arranged for the official visitors, I came to a deeper understanding of the context in which education reform in the United States must take place. The continual thoughtful questions of the Chinese officials whom I accompanied helped me see both my country and their country with new eyes.
From August 1987 through May 1990 I attended the University of Minnesota Law School. My motive for law study was to learn how to defend the rights of parents to pursue effective alternative education for their children. I decided to go to law school after reading in 1986 about famous parental rights in education cases in Raymond Moore's book Home-Spun Schools (1982).
After my first year of law school I was a Thomas J. White Institute intern at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The next school year I became a member of the Minnesota Law Review, intensifying my research on government regulation of home schooling. I then began his acquaintance with Lyonette Louis-Jacques, now of the University of Chicago Law School library, a legal librarian who was very helpful in advancing my knowledge of bibliography. I found other researchers on education reform among the law school faculty, including Barry Feld, a homeschooling law professor who is an expert on juvenile justice issues and who exposed me to provocative writings on the relationship between schools and crime.
It was during law school that I began making multiple lists of books and articles related to education reform issues. My habit reached its peak of output when I attended a seminar course taught by Professor Feld, who said,
I love big bibliographies. The effort I applied to my studies was blessed with good grades in law school, especially in such favorite classes as evidence, so I ended up graduating magna cum laude and was elected to the Order of the Coif national honorary society of law students. (But who cares about academic degrees and academic honor societies in the world outside of school?)
After law school I was a judicial clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court for the 1990-1991 term. I then became an associate with a Seattle law firm, practicing immigration law and nonprofit corporation law. I later turned my interests from law practice to writing about education reform and moved back to Minnesota. During the next several years I did whatever “day job” I could find that left me time and energy for writing, and tried to purge my writing style of legal jargon and lawyer-style sentence structure.
I have attended statewide or nationwide homeschooling conferences in California (CHEA of CA in Anaheim, in 1989 and 1990), Minnesota (MACHE in various Twin Cities locations, in 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993 [and where I spoke in 1996 and moderated a panel discussion in 1998], Gregg Harris workshop in 1993, and MHA in various Twin Cities locations, in 1992 [and where I spoke in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996]), Iowa (1991), Wisconsin (CHEA of WI, 1991), Michigan (Gregg Harris workshop, 1991), Washington state (WA State Homeschool Convention, 1992) New Mexico (1993), Maryland (Maryland Home Education Association, 1997), and Massachusetts (Mass. HOPE, 1997 and Growing Without Schooling magazine twentieth anniversary conference, 1997). For the 1994 and 1995 MHA conferences in Minnesota, I was one of the conference planners, as part of my duties as a member of the board of directors of MHA. For the 1995 MHA conference I transcribed and analyzed all of the conference evaluation forms, so I think it is fair to say that I have a close familiarity with what homeschooling parents seek to learn as they attend conferences.
I have attended other conferences about education reform through channels other than homeschooling. In 1993 and 1994 I attended two meetings in Pennsylvania of REACH Alliance, an organization seeking to reform school financing in that state, at which conferences I met a number of very famous national authors on education reform, including fellow Minnesota native Myron Lieberman. I attended the second national meeting of the National Association of Charter Schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Minnesota I have attended a special meeting on the
threat posed to schoolteacher unions by various education reform proposals, a meeting sponsored by the suburban Minneapolis Uniserv unit for the area where I then lived. I have spoken as a workshop presenter at the 1995 annual meeting of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented, as a panelist at the 1996 annual meeting of the Minnesota Library Association, as a panelist at the nationally televised Separation of School and State Alliance conference in Washington, DC in November 1996, and as one of two workshop presenters at a Dakota County Library in-service meeting for librarians in December 1996.
In recent years I've spent much of my time promoting freedom-based education reform by writing for informed general audiences, actively participating in education-related online forums and email lists. I've had the pleasure of meeting dozens of my on-line friends in person at various education conferences. My Bibliographies on Education Issues were some of my first FAQ files, a key part of my advocacy for education reform, providing an annotated guide to the better books on education reform to let motivated parents and voters learn and make up their own minds about what should be done to improve education. This Web site was a result of reader requests to post some of my most popular FAQ files at permanent URIs on the World Wide Web. I am happy to note that this site has received several awards and press notices that indicate discerning readers appreciate the work I have put into it, which is also indicated by the large number of pages that link to this site.
I have been interviewed by print and broadcast journalists in connection with my own homeschooling research and my leadership of Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance. I was interviewed by various radio and newspaper reporters, including a live phone-in radio talk show host, regarding the annual conference of Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance. On other occasions I was interviewed by staff reporter Maureen Smith of the Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minnesota's largest daily newspaper) about general homeschooling trends, and by freelance reporter Laura Sinagra of City Pages (Minnesota's largest weekly alternative newspaper) for a full-page profile of my personal experience of homeschooling.
Now I have four curious, active children, and I keep most busy overseeing their education. In my occasional moments of spare time I try to post messages helpful to other parents online, and I will eventually turn those messages into new content for this Web site. My community volunteer work includes serving as a member of the board of directors and president-elect of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented (MCGT). My educational consulting, which is my current occupation, is coordinated through Edina Center for Academic Excellence (ECEA), a nonprofit corporation of which I am co-founder and president. Following up on both my volunteer work and paid work, I was awarded a 2007 Edyth May Sliffe award recognizing my middle school math coaching (and honoring the achievements of the outstanding students who have participated on the math teams I have organized). My wife is a Chinese teacher for ECAE and a piano teacher in Minnetonka and nearby communities in the western Twin Cities suburbs. Now I'm following the writing interests of my children on various websites, including ImpishIdea and other sites discussing better writing for young people. My Google+ profile gives other information about my current activities.
I have been a whole blood donor since 1980, and actively encourage other healthy people to give blood.
But enough about me. Please enjoy the rest of this site. The site map will show you all the pages on the site. Sometimes you can find specific pages with specific words most efficiently with the search form on this site. And you can find out about other people's Web sites on this site's links page. Thank you for your visit. Please visit again, and tell your friends about this site.
[Last revision 27 February 2013]
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This School Is Dead: About Karl M. Bunday page is copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.
A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.