Last summer I set a goal for myself to read more non-fiction books. I didn’t keep a log of the books, but I read around 10ish in a few months before diving back into fiction.
I find fiction more relaxing when I am completely exhausted, which is most of the time nowadays, but reading non-fiction satisfies my innate need to be constantly learning. I find the academic development to be a break from the constant interpersonal development that is full-time motherhood of a toddler.
I used the hubbub of January resolutions to reset last year’s goal of reading more non-fiction. I am excited to use this blog to review the books that I have read and more interestingly, I hope, discuss my reactions and next steps relating to what I have learned.
Book 1: “The Astronaut Wives Club” by Lily Koppel
The Astronaut Wives Club was a speedy-enjoyable read about the wives of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts. The author’s writing style was choppy and occasionally felt gossipy to me, but overall the book was a good read.
The astronauts and their families were effectively the first reality TV stars and unlike the Kardashian/Bachelor/Survivor type shows it was real, mostly unscripted and incredibly dangerous. NASA’s proposition to wives was essentially, “we will be strapping your husbands to explosives, we aren’t 100% sure what will happen next, and please have a Life magazine reporter and television cameras watching you 24/7 for several days as we do this. ” Side note: please be sure to be patriotic, brave, and strong. Good luck.
The wives were an impressively brave group and I enjoyed learning more about their transformations from military wives to celebrities, who had tea with Jackie Kennedy and parades in their honor! Many of the astronaut wives paid for their husband’s educations and/or supported their families during his education. One wife was a pilot herself. They all raised the children mostly on their own as well as maintained the households.
All of the astronauts were incredible test pilots who gained experience during WW II and/or the Korean War. The death toll of the pilots and the astronauts was heartbreaking for me. Such courage both in war-time and in the space program! There were missions such as the Apollo 1, where the astronauts died in a fire before launch, and Apollo 13 where the astronauts barely made it back to earth. As well as several other astronaut deaths from their commutes in their personal fighter jets (how cool!) and constant Corvette racing. Death was a near certainty for some percentage and success was elusive, but for the advancement of science and the U.S., these men and women preserved.
As a millennial, Americans in space is a fact of life, impressive, but not terribly interesting. I enjoyed reliving the excitement of each successful mission, the technological advances, and the worldwide glory of each launch. After finishing the book, I re-watched Apollo 13 on Netflix and had a new appreciation for it. I also watched a couple episodes Friday night of the 2015 TV series, The Astronauts Wives Club, that is based on the book. The TV series followed the book so closely that it lacked drama, in my opinion, which is sad for such an exciting story!
From a finance perspective, it was amazing how many perks were given to the astronauts. Free corvettes every year, free furs, heavily-discounted designer clothes, $1 hotel room with free food, homes built at cost, and from NASA – a jet that each of them used to commute daily/weekly.
NASA in the late 50s and 60s required that astronaut families project the perfect, model, happy family image. Unfortunately, most of the marriages did not last through the 1970s. While sad, I found this a cautionary story on the pursuit of “perfection” over the solid, real and imperfect reality. The astronauts explored a new frontier, but the toll to their personal lives was ultimately more lethal than the physical danger of being strapped to a rocket.
Book 2: “The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System”
I found The School Revolution to be such an energizing book. After reading it, I am even more excited to witness and participate in the creative destruction that is occurring in the education system. The most substantial disruptions so far have been in college-level education, but K-12 disruptions are coming rapidly and it is exciting to have a front-row seat and a test case in Leonora!
Former senator and Dr. Ron Paul briefly discusses the failures of public education since the 1950s and the broader failures in the last 180 years of classroom-heavy education. He advocates returning education ownership back to the parents and individual student through homeschooling, similar to the educational model prior to the industrial revolution. Paul also discusses the philosophy of his own homeschool curriculum, which is available for purchase online.
As you would expect, a history of the libertarian movement is discussed as well as Dr. Paul’s personal background and history. I found the libertarian leadership philosophy that Paul advocated to be unique. For example, Leonord Read’s point in 1962 that “reforming the world begins with reforming ourselves” (pg 36). Rather than exerting themselves to change others, libertarian leaders choose to focus inward on changing themselves. Similarly, libertarian leaders place a high value on learning to persuade others, because in their view “persuasion is superior to coercion” (pg 55).
Paul argues that the most effective way of reforming public schools is through voluntary replacement. He uses the gradual obsolescence of the US Postal Services as an example. Advances such as email, Fed Ex, and UPS have made a service hundreds of years old nearly irrelevant. With centralized control at a federal level of schools, parents can have only limited impact over change. Homeschooling allows parents to have control, through power of the purse, over their child’s education, so it is preferable to Paul.
In the 1450s Gutenberg invented the printing press. Book rapidly became cheaper and therefore more available. Education was forever changed. Paul argues that the Internet is the most revolutionary innovation for education since the invention of the printing press. New technologies cut costs and by cutting costs, widen the market.
The internet will continue to revolutionize education. In a free market, when the price of a good fall, more of that good is demanded. Homeschooling is becoming cheaper and easier since the 1970s and 80s. He argues that eventually, a “classroom education in the liberal arts is going to become second-rate education as digital technologies improve (pg 111). There has been much disruption to university-level education already, but K-12 innovation and disruption is what we can expect in the next decade or so.
I liked Paul’s philosophical discussion on life and education. He defines one’s calling as the “most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace” (pg 43). Some people have a calling, that is the same as their vocation/job niche, but this is unusual. Jobs frequently change, but callings do less frequently. In addition to each of us having a calling and a vocation (job niche), Paul discusses the idea of a service/volunteer niche where we each can serve others and improve society as a whole.
The goal of finding and expanding one’s calling and service/volunteer niche is to help all people leave a legacy greater than their job or vocation. Self-education is likely the preferable method of refining a calling. Rapid technical change makes it preferable to focus on callings because vocations will likely change multiple times. Unlike the rapid change of vocations, strong legacies frequently require multiple generations to materialize fully.
Overall, The School Revolution, reaffirmed the importance of an exceptional elementary school education for me. I looked through the Ron Paul Curriculum for homeschoolers and it is very much still in development. Some elements of his curriculum were intriguing, so it will be interesting to see how it develops in the next few years. I think his goal of a integrated and self-reinforcing curriculum is excellent, but I may want to create my own for Leonora.
I have at least two more books to review for January, but will write them up in another post! This one is long enough. Happy Monday!
Now it is your turn:
- Did you find either of these books interesting?
- What are you currently reading?
Please share in the comments or on my social media pages! I love to hear that people are actually reading my posts!