It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it? (Author: Buster Benson)

I believe in disposable razor blades. About the time I turned 16 Gillette sent me a coupon or postcard entitling me to a free Mach3 razor and I bought it hook line and sinker. I just received my license, I was 16 and freedom and manhood were mine! What better way to be a man than to shave like they did before electricity? To this day I still have the electric razor that was given to me as a birthday gift around the same time, but I rarely use it... since I married there is no need to shave while driving to my dates house (and government thinks cell phones are bad). Nope, instead I buy the super cheap handle and pay through the nose for the disposable blades that attach to it. In a world of electricity and digital, I believe in manual grooming technology.

But that's not what I really believe in. Right?  Well, no. What I believe in is what disposable razor blades represent - the power of free. If you are like me and follow Seth then I'm sure you've been sucked in by the power of free. I'm pretty sure that's how I have 1/4 of my Seth Godin library... "free" promotions. Of course people love getting free stuff, but I really believe in the power of giving free stuff. In his book Free Chris Anderson shares the early story of Jell-O the delicious dessert treat that no one had a use for, that was until the salesmen started passing out free recipes that called for the use of Jell-O. Suddenly the demand for Jell-O went up because the consumer finally understood when and how to use the product. In this case the free recipe book resulted in sales for Jell-O.

I work at a Christian School, by that I mean a private, non-church affiliated school that teaches from the Reformed/Christian Reformed tradition. We are also struggling. I'm not sure anyone wants to fully admit it, but it feels like the water is starting to circle the drain. Sure we have initiatives and ideas to "fix" things, but ultimately we never seem to have enough students, or more bluntly, enough money to do better or (gasp) even maintain the status quo. We charge anywhere from $5,000 - $8,000 a year depending on grade level and number of family members in the school so I realize we are costly. Yet I feel tradition weighs heavily on all decisions and contrary to what Seth rights, we are trying to be 'safe' by not taking big risks. I want to give away our education for free. Yup, instead of charging an average of $7,200 per student let's just give away the curriculum, the material and even the lectures and tests for free. With the Internet isn't even our best attempt at curriculum free for the taking anyway? Employing the tools like Google and YouTube, not to mention the free stuff from MIT, can't I get all the material I'd ever need for free already? So really giving away our knowledge of facts really shouldn't be that big of a deal. If information is free, how are we getting away with the high way robbery of charging tuition?

Instead of charging for the material, why shouldn't the school charge for the experience, the staff, the students, the buildings, even the toilet paper in the bathrooms? Let's charge for the opportunity to learn with individuals who are forward thinking, prone to quick failure (and thus learning), and willing to explore outside the lines of traditional education? Why aren't we charging for the connections we have, the people we bring into the classroom, or the environment we create by hiring the best teachers available and creating comfortable, modern, and student centric learning spaces? Why? Because that's not the way we've done it in the past. I believe giving away our information for free is the only way that we can reinvent our school and not only survive, but thrive.

I've done little to get this rolling myself. I encourage staff to use technology to put material online so students can access it. I share my dream that all lessons be stored online so that in the event of sickness, weather cancellations or even worse, "school" can continue even if the students aren't in the building. I do try to be wiling to sahre with others the information that I learn at no cost. I've benefitted from free help why shouldn't others? What I am going to do is continue sharing my beliefs with my co-workers and do what I can to show them how giving away their lessons for free can actually help us.

Or I'll just start my own free school. Free worked for razor blades and Jell-O... why not education?