4 Reasons to Change the Way We Think About School

The way in which we view education has a lot to do with our past; how we grew up, societal influences, and the way we were schooled ourselves. It is the legacy that we pass on to our children. Tragically, the current way our education system is engineered, it appears our children seem doomed to be unsuccessful.

We live in a time where our schools are failing, our children are unhappy and overworked, and the current system becomes more obsolete every year. Something needs to change if we want our children to be happy, and our country to be successful, once again. The system we have now was built on a fault line and it has become increasingly evident that the cracks are growing exponentially. It isn’t too late to change that model.

We could talk about how to improve schools, maybe more money or less political involvement, but in the long run those are not the things that stand in the way of our children’s futures. What stands in the way is an archaic mindset build on false education and an inability to look past the norm. With our country in a dire economic situation with mass joblessness and stifled innovation, it is time to step outside of the box that public education has put us in to find solutions.

1. Our schools are failing miserably: That’s not to say that some students do not do well in public school and end up happy, but statistics do not lie. At an annual average cost of over $10,000 per student, the U.S. is lagging behind countries that don’t spend half that much. Money does not appear to be the problem, so throwing more into a broken system is just adding fuel to the fire. No Child Left Behind has been a total failure, where states are suing the federal government over this catastrophe. NCLB puts extreme emphasis on tests — as if still trying to churn out worker bees — yet, the U.S. ranks far below most industrialized nations. We seem to be wasting money letting political agendas decide what is best, rather than the parents or teachers who know what children need.

Unsettling Education Statistics

  • Students are not faring well on national assessments. The most recent NAEP assessments indicate that less than one third of U.S. fourth graders are proficient in reading, mathematics, science, and American history.
  • More than half of low-income students cannot even demonstrate basic knowledge of science, reading, and history.
  • U.S. eighth graders ranked 19th out of 38 countries on mathematic assessments and 18th in science.
  • U.S. twelfth graders ranked 18th out of 21 countries in combined mathematics and science assessments (Source: The Heritage Foundation)

History shows that modern-day schooling started with the Industrial Revolution, but many still refuse to accept that the people who funded its inception did not have children’s education as their main priority. Men like Rockefeller and Carnegie wanted good obedient workers to take the jobs they needed filled. They didn’t want free-thinking students to reach their potential; they wanted a large dumbed-down class, just disciplined and smart enough to show up on time and work their factory jobs.

John Taylor Gatto, teacher for over 30 years, NY Teacher of the Year, bestselling author, and homeschooling supporter, states: “The secret to American schooling is that it doesn’t teach the way children learn, nor is it supposed to. Schools were conceived to serve the economy and the social order rather than kids and their families….that is why it is compulsory.” This is a system set up for all the wrong reasons, and it is a system whose goals were set deep inside of ulterior motives and still are today. Maybe schools are not the best places for our children to gain knowledge.

2. Our children are unhappy: Our children are unhappy, overworked, and not learning what they need in order to be successful. The first thing that needs to change is how we define that word success. We hear it all the time used as a measure of how our children are doing in life, but what if the way we define success has been wrong all along? What exactly are we as parents supposed to focus on? Is happiness even on the radar screen when success is discussed?

It seems most parents these days get so caught up in competition that they can forget that our ultimate goal should be our children’s happiness. Who’s to blame them, as we are all conditioned to survive in the rat-race dog-eat-dog economy. But this ultra-competitive model seems to make school an unhappy place, as a record number of children are now on mood-altering drugs to handle their pressure-cooker lives. It is a place where strangers with corporate-government mandates are controlling the minds and bodies of our children.

We cannot expect our children to be free-thinking independent adults if they are kept under lock and key, segregated by age, fully controlled by rules, and forced to learn a federally-mandated curriculum. It is an institutional and cold conditioning of the mind. Americans have been taught to think of the word success as being dependent on excelling at school, but it seems societal success is more dependent on knowledge — and the two are not synonymous. If we can change our thinking about success then it can equal happiness — the ultimate human success.

In 2007, for the first time, UNICEF did a study on the wellbeing and happiness of children in 21 industrialized nations. The US and UK, two of the wealthier nations on the list, came in dead last. This alone should raise some eyebrows and prove the point that our children are not happy, and that more money is not the answer to the problem.

Another study was conducted in 2009 by the American Psychological Association to survey stress levels in children; they found some alarming information. To start, it showed that stress levels in adults and children have risen dramatically over the past few years, but even more upsetting is that parents seemed mostly clueless to the fact that their children were stressed at all. What were the main issues causing stress in children? Worry about grades, about getting into college, and family finances top the list. These problems are causing children to experience headaches, nausea, and trouble sleeping. If our goal is happiness, the school system is again, a failure.

3. School has become obsolete: The last 10 years has seen more technological advancement than in the entire century before. All of the world’s information is now literally available in the palm of our hands. Almost the entire world’s wealth of knowledge is accessible through the Internet and integrated into our everyday life. Small improvements have occurred to incorporate this new lifestyle, but not nearly enough to catch up with the rest of the world. In fact, some researchers suggest that students would be better off with self-directed learning using the Internet, because we all learn better when it is something that we are interested in.

The current system is repetitive, memorization and test driven, and downright boring. It’s a place that resembles prison where, “Very little of what is taught is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is actually used,” as John Holt states in How Children Learn. Couple that with the fact that 50% (technological knowledge) of what is learned in the first year of college is worthless by graduation, and you just have to ask yourself: What is the point? And can’t we do better than this? Our children not only deserve better, they require better in order to compete in a market with nearly 10% official unemployment.

College seems to be less cost-effective every year. Rising college costs put our children in insurmountable debt due to the lack of viable employment. Tuitions have skyrocketed in the past few years (Harvard University is now $60,000 per year). To make matters worse, universities are now making kickback profits from credit card companies, while graduates aren’t even able to find jobs. With over 1/3 of college graduates now taking low-skill jobs, and over 65% graduating with crippling debt, it is now legitimate to question if college is the right path to put our children on.

4. The wrong people control the system for the wrong reasons: “The education system was deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens in order to render the populace ‘manageable.’” — Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, Sr. Policy Advisor for the US Dept. of Education, and whistleblower on government activities to deliberately dumb our children down.

She also notes that the system is set up to make good consumers, as well as standardize people to keep them predictable and easy to control. Does this sound like something you want to support? Do we really want our children controlled and held back in life?

The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 were the first steps toward a large government role in education. What people failed to realize was that the money from these Acts became obligations to play by their rules and it continues today. Because the Feds were financially supporting the schools, they could control what was taught, thus bringing another facet of American life under their control. This is proven again and again when we see how difficult they make it for people to choose alternative education options for their own children.

It is clear that the purpose of school has become to serve corporations and government. This is evidenced most recently when we learn that BP played a role in writing the environmental curriculum in California. I think we all can agree that public schools should only serve the taxpayer’s families and their children’s best interests — not the corporations that write the curriculum. When the day comes that the people in charge make families (and not greedy corporations) the priority then maybe, just maybe, our children will be learning what is really important, rather than learning how to serve the very people who set up this failing system.

Conclusion

In a time when our economy desperately needs more innovators, how can we change education to expand the potential of each child? It seems we must do some things we did NOT learn in school: Question assumptions about education; think for and believe in ourselves; speak up against what we know is wrong; and challenge what we’ve been taught to believe is right. It is each parent’s right and responsibility to decide the best way to guide their child to maximum human potential.

It seems that our modern world provides all of the tools to support a child’s natural curiosity to drive their own education. Homeschooling and unschooling may be the most powerful form of revolt against an establishment which is terrified of individuals that question authority and refuse to be good little worker bees. John Holt said it well: “To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves … but most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” We also must begin to trust our own abilities as parents to guide our children toward happiness and independence, not to blindly trust the failed government standards that have resulted in anxiety and stress conditioning.

It is time for all of us to look outside the box for solutions to our education system to ensure our children’s happiness — this should be deemed the ultimate success.

Author Mary Hickcox is an unschooling advocate, mother, and life guide to three sons (11, 7, 3). Read other articles by Mary.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on September 15th, 2010 at 7:38am #

    However, before we even start thinking about schooling, we need to decypher meanings—-most of which are running deep and silently and difficult to espy—contained in “no child left behind”.

    One of the meanings i derive from that nice-sounding nostrum is that children wld be deliberately left behind in school but also near-totally abandoned; justifcation for it given that if you’re not great or part of the Greatness of America, it’s your fault.

    Of course, even if discourse on the meanings on “no child left behind” was held, it would be held by privateers or people who are designing mass failure in public schools because warlords and peoplelords need to obtain mass of serfs and meat for wars, abuse, etc.
    In sort, one must continue forever to wage wars for poverty and ‘stupidity’ or false knowledge. Without which one cannot even stage a fist fight let alone wars.tnx

  2. Don Hawkins said on September 15th, 2010 at 8:37am #

    Ouch maybe reading and witting basic math as a start with cooking, raising crops, finding water, survival classes farfetched well let’s see how the winter and next summer look you know see if we see any funny weather not climate. At he bottom of the screen as am witting this it reads you could be entitled to join a class action law suit if you used toilet bowl cleaner made with bleach made in the United States. You can’t make this stuff up and maybe a class on in a mad world only the mad are sane and why you don’t want to do that. I can hear the outrage now it’s ok to be mad in a mad world we all do it it’s just normal what are you a commie or unsymmetrical? No I try to be symmetrical at all times although my right ear rings all the time.

  3. hayate said on September 15th, 2010 at 8:54am #

    Montessori, it works.

  4. John Andrews said on September 16th, 2010 at 12:46am #

    Public education is a huge subject. There’s very little about the existing model that’s any good, and some of it is downright bad, as this article partially reflects. After children have learnt the 3Rs, and how to use the internet, there really is very little further use for any of our existing schools.

    League tables are irrelevant. Education supplied in most countries is designed to serve the controlling classes – not the people – so it matters not (to the people) which country appears where in the masters’ lists.

    The writer is perfectly correct in her belief that society SHOULD be teaching young people skills and interests that would help facilitate their happiness, but it doesn’t. Whilst the happiness of children is obviously important, they will be adults for far longer so long term happiness is a more important aim. And central to understanding happiness is understanding the importance of helping others to be happy too. But this has never been an object of public education.

    Religious education needs to go – all of it. Matey can go ahead and burn his Qu’ran – no bolts of lightning will strike him down. But he might as well burn all the other religious fantasies too. Most of it them bear no more relation to reality than Lord of the Rings. The primary purpose of religious education is, like the rest of public education, to help turn children into mindless automatons brainwashed into serving their rulers. There is only one simple lesson in morality that is worth learning and that is this: do unto others as you would have others do unto you in the same circumstances. And how hard is that to teach?

    Perhaps the most important lesson to teach children is how to earn a living for themselves independent of bosses – to be self-employed and self sufficient, to work as and when they want, doing what they want, at whatever job they want to do, rejecting the accumulation of material things as a measure of ‘success’. And they should learn how to think for themselves, to be able to ignore the relentless brainwashing they’re subjected to 24/7, and to understand the importance of happiness – to all living things.

  5. Deadbeat said on September 16th, 2010 at 1:20am #

    I don’t know but this article and some of the comments herein sound like pie-in-the-sky and is impractical under the Capitalist system. For example John Andrews misses the contradiction of self-sufficiency on the one hand and the need for a job on the other.

    Also home schooling only works when you have a two-parent or multi-parent household however most adults need a job just to keep a roof over their heads. Commodity based housing accompanied with debt forces most people into the job market.

    It’s all great to suggest to children how they should be “happy” but it is up to the adults to struggle for a better system. This article reads like directed at for the upper privileged ranks not to the broad based working masses.

    Also the $10,000/student doesn’t tell the whole story. A lot of services in the public schools have been privatized over the past 30 years and education spending is quite unequal. When I lived in Texas, the parent there sued the state for equal funding. The schools for children in poorer areas are dilapidated. I gather education spending in wealthier areas are well about the average. At the time back in Texas spending in wealthier areas were anywhere from 3 to 5 TIMES the average.

    When I was in school I has a great public education because the commitment was there and parent wasn’t as stressed out as they are today and participated in the education of their children. We don’t have the family structure today to support that and we don’t have the social commitment to support it.

    The condition of education today is a direct result of the neoliberal rollbacks of the past 40 years. Thus we are examining the symptom rather than the cause. Even then when I was a kid in the public school system people demanded improvements. Their demand today would seem radical by comparison because standards have so eroded much.

  6. rosemarie jackowski said on September 16th, 2010 at 9:44am #

    Deadbeat – maybe if the $10,000 was given to a stay-at-home parent, more home schooling would be possible.

    There are a lot of problems with the school system as it exists now – the culture of bullying and violence, the teaching of blind patriotism, the worship of the military, many teachers don’t have a clue about the real US foreign policy…

    Too often going to school inhibits real education and enforces in-the-box conformity. How much critical thinking is being encouraged in most schools – little to none.

    I am a former teacher. When I sent my own to school, every morning as I kissed her good-by, I reminded her not to believe everything they would teach her that day in school.

  7. Don Hawkins said on September 16th, 2010 at 10:55am #

    http://www.greenhearted.org/outside-the-curriculum-box.html

    Rosemarie here is an interesting site oh and Glenn Beck please don’t read this as you will have to get another blackboard but if you do at the top of the blackboard write A New Way Of Thinking be bold Glenn.

  8. kalidas said on September 16th, 2010 at 11:14am #

    It’s still not illegal to sit under the apple tree and read, read, read.

  9. Deadbeat said on September 16th, 2010 at 2:04pm #

    Rosemarie writes …

    Deadbeat – maybe if the $10,000 was given to a stay-at-home parent, more home schooling would be possible.

    I don’t think so. Schooling should be a socialized endeavor. Home schooling is a tactic to privatize and atomize education that will yield unequal outcomes.

    “Back in the day” when women were in the home they still sent their kids to the public schools.

    The problem is not public schools the problem is lack of control and participation of the stake holders and a society where people’s time is robbed from them.

  10. Hue Longer said on September 16th, 2010 at 2:53pm #

    Hello Rosemarie, how ya goin?

    rosemarie jackowski said, “How much critical thinking is being encouraged in most schools – little to none”.

    And so many clever people think that that cleverness is “critical thinking”…takes more than reading. Teaching is very critical

  11. Don Hawkins said on September 16th, 2010 at 3:50pm #

    THOUGHT’S

    Some (maybe much) of the curriculum we teach is now irrelevant, especially in a world heading for the collapse of human civilization and the mass extinction of species (including our own) due to global warming and climate change. greenheart

    There is little evidence that our individual intelligence has improved through recorded history.

    Geological change usually takes thousands of years to happen but we are seeing the climate changing not just in our lifetimes but also year by year.

    Civilization in its present form hasn’t got long.

    Climatologists are all agreed that we’d be lucky to see the end of this century without the world being a totally different place, and being 8 or 9 degrees hotter on average. Lovelock

    It becomes clear that needed actions will happen only if the public, somehow, becomes forcefully involved. One way that citizens can help is by blocking coal plants, tar sands, and mining the last drops of fossil fuels from public and pristine lands and the deep ocean.
    However, fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognize an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used. Solution therefore requires a rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.
    A carbon fee is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.
    Governments today, instead, talk of “cap-and-trade-with-offsets”, a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.
    Stabilizing climate is a moral issue, a matter of intergenerational justice. Young people, and older people who support the young and the other species on the planet, must unite in demanding an effective approach that preserves our planet. James Hansen

    As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, “much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science.” I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations. James Inhofe

    All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.

    BARACK OBAMA, speech, Apr. 3, 2006

    One disappointment I would raise is if you look at the understanding of climate change by scientists — let’s be generous — 95 percent of scientists say we understand the process and we are convinced there is global warming. The media reports it, like a lot of other stories, as 50-50. They want to always show the other side. That’s good, but I’m disappointed that the media does not reflect that there is a 95-5 percent discussion. It sounds like it’s 50-50. The public reads this and they can’t make up their mind usually.

    KONRAD STEFFEN, interview, May 18, 2007

    I think that the Greenhouse situation is a lot like alcoholism. It isn’t one moment or one single drink that does you in. Can there be a single “a-ha moment’ when you realize that civilization has moved from social drinking (of oil and coal) into a substance-dependent, blackout situation? As an individual, when you’re on that slippery slope, there probably is some moment of revolt when your sense of dignity is offended. You wake up in a pool of your own vomit for instance, or find your clothes ripped off by some total stranger. Time to put the cork in the bottle. Find something more life-affirming to do with your time. Unfortunately our society can’t rally the way a person can. So instead, we’re ending up with these grotesque affronts massive heat waves, dying coral reefs, huge floods and so on, popping out across the face of the planet like an alcoholic’s veins. But we’re in denial about the Greenhouse thing.

    BRUCE STERLING, interview, Aug. 9, 2009

    Many scales of climate change are in fact natural, from the slow tectonic scale, to the fast changes embedded within glacial and interglacial times, to the even more dramatic changes that characterize a switch from glacial to interglacial. So why worry about global warming, which is just one more scale of climate change? The problem is that global warming is essentially off the scale of normal in two ways: the rate at which this climate change is taking place, and how different the “new” climate is compared to what came before.

    ANTHONY D. BARNOSKY

    Moderates who have supported climate legislation in the past have not supported the climate bills this year because they are deeply flawed. The Democratic leadership and the environmental community have refused to compromise and so there’s been no opportunity for bipartisanship. I’m not saying Republicans don’t share in the blame, but no one seems willing to consider the possibility that the Dems overreached with legislation that went far beyond capping carbon and would have restructured the entire economy. Other ideas have been simply ignored. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

    The problem is that global warming is essentially off the scale of normal in two ways: the rate at which this climate change is taking place, and how different the “new” climate is compared to what came before. The problem is that global warming is essentially off the scale of normal in two ways: the rate at which this climate change is taking place, and how different the “new” climate is compared to what came before.

    Is there still time to slow this down and plan for what we can’t slow, yes just not in this present form.

  12. Don Hawkins said on September 16th, 2010 at 4:59pm #

    The quote from Lovelock, Civilization in its present form hasn’t got long, and many more of the best minds we have that can get the word out as best they can; say they are correct. Do the people at CNN, Fox, NBC, The Weather Channel, the United States Congress, the Executive, The Judicial, The Business Round Table, The Bilderberg Group, the leaders in China, India, Japan, Russia do they also know this but of course. So far nobody want’s to stand up weather it be a Country or leader. Here in the States stand up more like just your run of the mill madness. I guess for the next few week’s the elections in November very important well just on the off chance nonsense to the second power just more foolishness and again do they know this but of course.

  13. Don Hawkins said on September 17th, 2010 at 4:33am #

    I sent this out to media this morning hoping they would use that little bit bigger brain. I sent out two and I hope I didn’t overload there mind.

    Fujiwhara effect,

    http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/catl/wv-l.jpg

    The Fujiwhara effect or Fujiwara interaction is a type of interaction between two nearby cyclonic vortices, causing them to appear to “orbit” each other.

    When the cyclones approach each other, their centers will begin orbiting cyclonically about a point between the two systems. The two vortices will be attracted to each other, and eventually spiral into the center point and merge. When the two vortices are of unequal size, the larger vortex will tend to dominate the interaction, and the smaller vortex will orbit around it.
    The effect is often mentioned in relation to the motion of tropical cyclones, although the final merging of the two storms is uncommon. The effect becomes pronounced in these storms when they approach within about 1,450 km (900 mi) of each other and are at tropical storm strength or stronger. Wiki
    Almost like when two Galaxies collide. Well no almost about it but as we know bigger fish to fry the elections in November and tax cut’s keeping the free market free and all that. Let’s see how does that go nothing is off the table ok keep the tax cut’s for the top 2% as they pay half the bill again thank you so much and please don’t raise your prices and tax everybody else nothing off the table. Oh speaking of off the table or off the scale.
    Many scales of climate change are in fact natural, from the slow tectonic scale, to the fast changes embedded within glacial and interglacial times, to the even more dramatic changes that characterize a switch from glacial to interglacial. So why worry about global warming, which is just one more scale of climate change? The problem is that global warming is essentially off the scale of normal in two ways: the rate at which this climate change is taking place, and how different the “new” climate is compared to what came before. ANTHONY D. BARNOSKY
    The problem is that global warming is essentially off the scale of normal in two ways: the rate at which this climate change is taking place, and how different the “new” climate is compared to what came before. What came before and today with these elections much reason, knowledge, people working together to keep the free market free because the American people have spoken. Well looks good on paper anyway and I always’ wanted to say that.
    Don

    Did you think about it,

    Ok did anybody think the bigger storm is the 2% because if you did perfect doesn’t make any sense it would fit in the first part of the twenty first century where in a mad world only the mad are sane. Now let’s go with reality an example would be the Earth revolves around the Sun the big storm is the masses and the little storm in somewhat of a weaken state is the 2%. Using the laws of nature what will happen well the smaller storm will orbit the bigger storm try and gain some energy mass then run off to the North like a frighten little mouse. Just a theory of course and here’s a new one the old five star theory.

    A theory we could call it the five star theory. Ok the theory in very simple terms states that a few corporations run by educated men and women are destroying planet Earth for profit and doing it with style. A few more men and woman who are thought of as less educated because they have less money have brought this to the attention of the men and woman who run the corporations with no success. The theory then states that on this present path the Earth will be destroyed for life and no winners but done with style. The cart is being put before horse and the illusion of motion is being put forth with trick photography.

    Think not well.

    Moderates who have supported climate legislation in the past have not supported the climate bills this year because they are deeply flawed. The Democratic leadership and the environmental community have refused to compromise and so there’s been no opportunity for bipartisanship. I’m not saying Republicans don’t share in the blame, but no one seems willing to consider the possibility that the Dems overreached with legislation that went far beyond capping carbon and would have restructured the entire economy. Other ideas have been simply ignored. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

    Nothing good comes out of congress well again in a mad world only the mad are sane and nobody likes being thought of as a nut. Well then again,

    “[The skeptic community overwhelmingly embraced what they formerly dismissed as] New Age claptrap … We give up! The nuts were right.”
    Nostradamus

    Don

  14. bozh said on September 17th, 2010 at 6:35am #

    Don,
    Does the ruling class in US expect that much of the planet wld be uninhabitable in just 50 yrs or so.
    If onepercenters indeed expect that, this wld explain why indian wars continue.

    For one thing world plutos and other criminal minds see that parts of the planet are there for the taking; no land or empire opposing theft of land—only a few individuals and, if one wants to be led by nose, islam standing in the way in plutocratic land grab.

    In fact islam had always been very devoted to the onepercenters if oneperecenters leaves ulema alone. This explains the latest mosheic paroxism at islam.
    How many people may dsiappear in near future? Two, three bln? And planet able only to sustain about one or two bn people living the way americans et al do?

    True, christo-talmudic soyuz wld like to see islam utterly destroyed. However, it seems to me that most of the criminal minds that rule almost all countries, appear godless [pardon the word].
    Thus, ‘our’ despotic rulers just might side with the christo-talmudic evil soyuz.
    Being also godless, the new alliance; or, rather, the old alliance between godless people like priesthod and gangsters may actually melt in one pot!? tnx

  15. Don Hawkins said on September 17th, 2010 at 6:42am #

    Has crossed my mind on just how it could play out.