The Vision

Emaginos Foundation Letter from the Founder;
Jack Taub

“In the Beginning”

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, This is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning of what I believe history will prove to be America’s finest hour.” – Jack Taub

I’m Jack Taub. Please, read and come to know where and how my journey to transform the American K-12 public school system began.

Perhaps it started when I was only 14 years old and was thrown out of high school for being a disciplinary problem (which I now know was caused by terminal boredom).

In those days you could make a living without an education. I pursued a passion I had for stamp collecting and turned that passion into a business. At one point I had my stamp store on 5th Avenue across from Tiffany’s in NYC and owned the whole building. I also owned the Scott’s Catalog (The Bible for stamp collectors) I put the US Postal Service into the stamp collecting paraphernalia selling business and had 3,500 post offices exclusively selling my products. I made a lot of money that allowed me to invest in a new company.

In 1977 I established the Source which was the world’s first consumer online company. At the Source we pioneered the reason for computers going online. The Source became the model for the consumerization of our current Internet. In the December 16th, 1978, Financial section of the Washington Post, (many years prior to the existence of the World Wide Web as we know it), I was quoted saying that someday the online service would be as ubiquitous as a Big Mac and cheese.

I think my journey actually started when I saw the excitement of kids going online. In particular was the amazingly positive impact it had on my son, Scott, who was born with Cerebral Palsy. I could write hundreds of pages about how going online improved his life. In short, he now has great self-confidence and self-esteem and earns over $100K annually as a self-taught computer programmer.

In 1980 Reader’s Digest made me an offer to buy 80% of the Source at a price I couldn’t refuse. As a kid born in the depression, I now had more money than I ever believed possible. However, not the kind of money these kids today obtain through building and selling Internet businesses.

Now came the moment of truth for me. I was searching for the meaning of my life. I kept going back to the excitement of kids online and always mused to myself wouldn’t it be great if school could be that exciting. However, I decided that being involved in public education was more than I wanted to take on. Part of that decision was driven by the fact that there are more than 15,000 school districts – each like their own country. Even if you transform 10,000 classrooms a year, it would take almost 400 years to get done once. After much pondering, I decided I would try to help handicapped children utilizing what I learned about interactive technologies and the impact they had on my son. I figured if I could help 100 or even 10,000 children, it would earn me a place in Heaven and satisfy my need in searching for the meaning of my life.

Not knowing anything about the operation of public schools and their special education needs I started talking with special education teachers; trying to understand the issues. I assumed I could be involved in special education without having to suffer the politics of K-12 public education, which even then was flooding the newspapers with seemingly unsolvable problems.

Early on in the journey, about 1981, I learned that every disabled child was entitled by law to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Shortly thereafter, Congress passed a law that all disabled children must be mainstreamed. That shattered my whole dream of avoiding K-12 Politics. The law called for the existing approximately 5,000,000 ‘special ed’ students to be mainstreamed into about 2,500,000 classrooms. When I first started the journey, the troubled children were in distinct classrooms. As a result I was able to avoid, in my mind at least, the politics and technology issues that mainstreaming would cause. In those days an electrical outlet in the classroom was considered leading-edge technology. I was truly disturbed by this chain of events as I had committed the rest of my life and fortune to this journey.

Not being able to visualize any solution, I gave up. However, during the following weeks I chastised myself by asking what kind of commitment is this that I quit the first time something goes wrong. So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and went back to the frontiers of the K-12 public school system. Truly, it was like a war zone in many schools. For those of you old enough to remember, in 1983 the White House issued a report called “A Nation at Risk” stating that “If a foreign power had tried to impose on America the mediocre educational performance of our schools, we might well have regarded it as an act of war.” Even before this report came out, I began to realize after 2 years of studying the K-12 system that the whole nation was in peril. We were turning out high school graduates that knew virtually nothing. Most people were focusing on the dropouts. I believed then as I believe now, that the graduates were an even greater risk to America in being unable to perform the job skills necessary in a rapidly changing, technology-based global economy.

Now to the bottom line. I decided that if customizing education was the law for ‘at risk’ students, and that virtually every student was being socially and economically disabled as a result of the current education system, then virtually every child was at risk (granted some at greater risk than others). Why not customize education for every child, thereby eliminating student boredom and reduce the risk for all children? I realized that the current system was legislated by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 and the activities in many of today’s classrooms look disturbingly like they did in the 19th century. In 1982 I was still naïve enough that I did not understand that to customize education for all students the whole K-12 public education system would have to be transformed.

In addition to committing my life and fortune to this task I made one other major commitment as we designed, implemented and tested a solution which was not to sell individual pieces of a solution to schools until it was part of the greater plan for transformation. The reason for this decision was that as a vendor I would be distracted from the journey. Besides, I thought I would have accomplished the goals of my journey before 1990.

Well, here we are 30 years later, having finally cracked the code to transforming our entire K-12 public education system, by customizing education for every child. To solve this problem, about $100M has been spent. Far too much of it was my own money. In fact, as I began to realize the complexity of the goals and the journey, I was sure that my commitment was so complete that it was reasonable to believe that I would die broke.

We now have over 8,000,000 hours of student and teacher classroom experience and results and truly have solved all of the problems of scalability, funding, (it must be accomplished within existing budgets) and hundreds of other issues including union contracts etc. I can assure the readers that if we didn’t have proven solutions to all of the issues of K-12 transformation we would not now be moving forward. I refer you to the “Introducing America Part II” paper for a closer look at the vision. Everything in this plan is not only doable, we will do it! As a nation, failure is not an option. I don’t expect the readers to understand all of the issues any more than the nation understood the detailed steps that would need to be taken when President Kennedy said we would land a person on the moon and return him safely to earth in ten years.

Since our federal government and congress are so polarized we are going to accomplish our goals from the local communities up. We do not need or want federal leadership, (How’s that for an oxymoron?) additional funding or increased local, state or federal taxes to accomplish our goals. What we will need is a national grass-roots effort to build support for the transformation. This foundation will be a critical component of that effort.

With that in mind, I have asked Bonnie Bracey-Sutton to serve as the leader of the Emaginos Foundation. I believe the strongest statement we can make about our intention to be focused on transformation is embodied in putting Bonnie at the head of the organization. Her commitment and dedication to the values we all share are unsurpassed. Her experience and knowledge, combined with her personal network, make her eminently qualified to lead this critical work.

In addition to growing support for transformation, the Foundation will also serve as a vehicle for serving the communities after the program is implemented. For example, one of the Emaginos corporate commitments, as a part of its subscription services, is to refresh technology every three years. As a result, there will be technology being phased out from schools into the communities every year. Our intention is to establish local community-based Emaginos Foundation offices. The local chapter will be named for a local education leader in the community – selected by the community. In our present thinking, the national foundation will pay for the local executive director’s salary and provide the technology and other support. The local community will be asked to provide office space and staff salary. (We can afford to pay all of the costs, but we think that the program will have better connections to the community if they have some ownership.) The phased-out technology will be refurbished by students paid by the foundation and made available to disadvantaged families and community non-profit organizations in need. The only requirement that Emaginos will place is that any family applying for the technology must agree to have the parents trained to use it. The Foundation will provide the training. This will allow us to impact a generation that we can’t reach in the regular school population.

The whole technology infrastructure program, from its initial implementation in the schools through its use in disadvantaged homes, is designed as a digital equity program.

Thanks for your interest and hopefully your trust. Together we can make America Part II happen! There is nothing wrong with our children!

I leave you with the following quote:

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

This is the idea and this is the time!

America: Part II – A nation where truly no child gets left behind.

The future of America will be created by customizing education for all students thereby transforming our nation’s K-12 public school system into schools of discovery and innovation–nurturing every child to enable them to realize their potential.

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