Interview with Dale Reed

July 23, 2009
Dale Shoveling Ice

Dale & shovel in Antarctica

by Tammy Drennan 

I met retired electromagnetic engineer and champion of independence Dale Reed over ten years ago by way of a discussion loop associated with the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. The loop was a place where we talked about government involvement in schooling and held each other to rigorous standards of thinking and expression. Dale struck a great balance between stirring the pot and being an encourager. He’s been a stalwart supporter of many freedom causes – and in some unconventional ways.

Today, Dale and his wife Katy enjoy retirement in Seattle where he walks, throws boomerangs and continues to stir pots on-line and support the preservation and promotion of liberty.

During their child-rearing years, Dale and Katy’s two sons started out in public school, but when it became clear those schools were not meeting their expectations, they switched (when the boys were 11 and 12) to private. Dale writes:

“Katy had been carrying her folding lawn chair into their grade school classrooms but after she attended a Preparing For Junior High meeting where a bearded counselor told about one hundred nodding-in-agreement parents that they should “back down, back up, and back away” from their fast-becoming teenagers she gave up and started shopping for a non-government learning environment.  Homeschooling was not legal yet.”

Katy already had some experience with private education. She had run her own “Pooh Corner Pre-School” while Dale was teaching at the University of Colorado and working toward a higher degree.

Here is Dale’s story, in brief, in his own words.

Tammy: What is your educational background, as well as your “career history”?

Dale: Mostly government schools except for one year of Military School when I was in tenth grade. We were living in Denver and our father thought Dean [Dale’s brother] and I should try out a private school where an old friend of our father taught.

We lived and went to school in Lakewood, Colorado, El Monte, California, Salt Lake City, Pomona, California, back to Denver then to Wheat Ridge, Colorado where I, then Dean, graduated from High School. I attended (earned a BS/EE) the University of Colorado, in Boulder, on a tuition-free scholarship (top five high school graduates earned these merit scholarships and I was the second in my class), then my senior year Dean and I lived together as Dean started, but never finished, studying Meteorology. Later (after marrying Katy), I returned to the University to teach and earn a MS/EE.

After I graduated with the BS, I trained at the National Bureau of Standards, in Boulder, then spent a year at Ellsworth Station, Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year studying the Ionosphere and Cosmic Rays. Returned home (Boulder) for a brief try in Geology at the University of Colorado before quitting and driving my little open top red MGA to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Back to the ice at Byrd Station to study the Ionosphere, Radio Noise, and Very Low Frequency phenomena. Home to marry my secretary (Katy), father two sons, teach and earn my Masters, then to Seattle for thirty years at Boeing.

Fifteen years in Aerospace and fifteen years in Commercial. Protected the Minuteman system against the NEMP threat, trips to the Pacific Ocean, etc., eventually designing the shielding of the fly-by-wire 777 against the Induced Lightning Threat. Turned a Sword into a Plowshare applying the electromagnetic codes developed for the military to commercial purposes.

Tammy: When and how did you first come to believe the state should not be involved in education?

Dale: Heard Stephen Arons use the phrase “Separation of School and State” during a speech at a local Catholic High School.  Always had libertarian tendencies (from my dad) and our sons were not prospering in the local government schools. Trucked Marshall Fritz (and all his stuff) from Seattle to (ferry ride) Jim Boyles’ church so Marshall could give his speech and sell his tapes.

So between Arons, Marshall, John Holt, Jerry Mintz and a couple boxes of other materials in my attic I started supporting alternatives to the present establishment.

Tammy: How did you meet Marshall?

Dale: Depends on the definition of “meet.”  I was involved in libertarian/Libertarian Party activities and may have talked to someone in a SepSchool booth or possibly visited the Advocates for Self Government [Marshall founded the Advocates], whatever. 

But I actually pressed the flesh for the first time at a friends of his apartment near Green Lake, Seattle when I filled the back of my 1990 Dodge 4×4 with the Great Big Winch Bumper! and trucked him across Puget Sound to Whidbey Island. 

Tammy: What are some ways you’ve promoted independent education?

Dale: Participated in tens of homeschooling lists, attended a few homeschooling conventions, wrote and had published many letters to the editor, invited private school folks to have tables at Libertarian Party conventions, and at one I made sure that David Friedman talked to our local Sudbury Valley school. Ran for school board. Lots of stuff including Logo1.doc and Math1.doc [see resource list below] and my participation on the SepSchool lists.

Tammy: Tell me about running for school board. I recall you having pencils or pens made up with some provocative saying on them. What prompted you to run?

Dale: Pens and window stickers but that was for Katy’s projects.  The “gold” ball point pens had three things printed on them:  “Visit Your Child’s Classroom,” “Parent’s Duties,” and “Parent’s Responsibilities.”  The window sticker said “Visit Your Child’s Classroom.”

Prompted to run by my experiences attending hundreds of school board meetings.  Mostly my own Highline School District but also “county” school board meetings.   In Washington State we have three levels of school board and I ran for two of the levels.  I thought I could do a better job and I wanted to learn about running and if I won I would learn about the government schools from the inside.  

Previously I had been elected and participated in many different ways with the engineering union (SPEEA) that represented the engineers and some techs at Boeing. Learned a lot for sure being an insider rather than just throwing rocks from the outside.

[Read Dale’s surprising School Board campaign Position paper.]

Tammy: Can you think of a particular rewarding experience related to your efforts?

Dale: Not really. I expected the homeschoolers to come up with better ways of learning but even though I keep reading (I used to subscribe to many) homeschooling magazines in the library I am disappointed in their lack of new ideas.

Tammy: What’s the most effective thing you think people can do to promote independent education besides removing their own children from public schools?

Dale: Our sons, and most of the children in the neighborhood, could add and subtract in different number systems before they started school.  They learned as they helped me saw, split, and stack my winter wood. Many have dropped by over the years to say how much they enjoyed visiting our home because of all the interesting books and other things to learn from — especially the summers when the yard was filled with children participating in drawing/designing contests that I judged when I got home from work. Others remember all the trips we took to the seashore, mountains, skiing…  Lots of opportunities to learn when you are with Pooh and Piglet in the Hundred Acre Woods.

Tammy: How much of an impact on our future liberty do you think our continued devotion to state schooling will have?

Dale: I like to compare it with a term we engineers, especially electrical engineers, have called “positive” feedback.  And positive does not always mean good.  It is what happens in a large concert hall when the amplifiers are turned up too loud and the sound bouncing off the walls gets back in the microphone where it is amplified again until terrible Squeals and Howls result.   

But better ways of learning what we want to learn when we want to learn it are being developed.  Can’t just turn off the government schools without better alternatives.  Nature abhors a vacuum and all that.   

Tammy: Are there any books you would recommend for someone new to the idea of schooling free of state involvement?

Dale’s book list and other resources.

Two documents Dale created to help homeschoolers and other parents; they contain a mountain of good ideas, book and web resources and links: Math1.doc and Logo1.doc

“The Almanac of Educational Choices, Private and Public Learning Alternatives and Homeschooling” by Jerry Mintz 

“Beyond Discipline, From Compliance to Community” by Alfie Kohn, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandra Virginia     

“Separating School and State, How to Liberate America ‘s Families” by Sheldon Richman

‘The Myth of the A.D.D. Child, 50 ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion” by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.

“School’s Out, A Radical New Formula for the Revitalization of America ‘s Education System” by Lewis J. Perelman

“Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto

“The Teenage Liberation Handbook, how to quit school and get a real life and education” by Grace Llewellyn

“Short Route to Chaos, Conscience, Community, and the Re-Constitution of American Schooling” by Stephen Arons

“The Connected Family, bridging the digital generation gap” by Seymour Papert

“The Art of Education” by Linda Dobson

“Freedom and Beyond” by John Holt

“A Sense of Self, Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls” by Susannah Sheffer

“Education and Ecstasy” by George B. Leonard