“Education is the lifeline of our productive society.” – Dr. Aaron Smith


If you are to change one thing in our current educational system, what would it be? Having an answer to that question only means one thing- there is something that the system lacks and should improve on and that’s not a bad thing.  On this note, Dr. Aaron Smith educates us on the challenges of producing graduates that possess more than adequate literacy levels but are also confidently competent individuals. He also explains the importance of a concerted effort in raising awareness and practicing accountability. Academic standards and pedagogy are evolving and we all have a vital role in it to ensure it can keep up with today’s advancement without sacrificing integrity and quality. Tune in and learn the 3 key factors to be successful!


Listen to the podcast here:


02:09 Challenges On Online Courses
08:06 Accountability At Home
13:35  More Focus On Learning
17:38 3 Key Factors To Be Successful
20:47 Parents’ Job, Not Teachers
24:11 Blank Check
29:29 School Finance System
39:56 Raise Awareness


The world needs a new generation of competent and confident leaders. Tune in as @myexpectation and @aaronsmithphd discuss how to transform our educational system. #epiphanies #expectationtherapy #distance-learning #accountability #education… Click To Tweet






11:02 “Parents have to understand that we all should take a concerted effort in verifying and ensuring all kids graduate confident and competent.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

11:21 “Give the kids the ability to feel confident, and have the chance to learn to the best of their ability.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

17:31 “You can be anything you want to be when you really want to be it and you have the passion to totally go after it.” – Art Costello

18:24 “Attitude equals our altitude.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

26:37 “Kids should be the first and most important decision, especially when it comes to education.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

27:02 “You have to show a concerted effort to make every child successful.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

28:07Education is the lifeline of our productive society.” – Dr. Aaron Smith 

40:51An education needs to be willing to step up.” – Dr. Aaron Smith

Meet Dr. Aaron:

Dr. Aaron Smith is an active leading STEM School Director and a Professional Speaker with expertise in workplace readiness. Aaron assists schools, corporate supporters, and community leaders to collaborate so educational professionals understand the needs of the business. Aaron is also the author of Awakening Your STEM School: Assuring A Job-Ready Workforce and the newly released book, Blank Check, A Novel: What if You Were Asked to Reinvent Public Schools?, a young adult novel designed to inspire a new generation to become involved with fixing the public school system in America. 

A 2008 graduate of Old Dominion University with a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Dr. Aaron L. Smith has over two decades of experience in the classroom as a Mathematics teacher and administrator. His dissertation focused on comparing alternative teaching certification routes to that of traditional teaching certification in conjunction with SOL results. Aaron has developed a passion for workplace readiness and STEM where he has shared his knowledge as an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University and Christopher Newport University.


Art Costello: Welcome to the Shower Epiphanies Podcast. Today, my guest is Dr. Aaron Smith. Aaron is a second time guest on my program. He’s an author, an active and leading STEM school director, and a professional speaker with expertise in Workplace Readiness. Aaron assists schools, corporate supporters and community leaders to collaborate, so educational professionals understand the needs of business. Aaron is also the author of Awakening Your STEM School and the newly released book, which we’re going to talk a lot about today, Blank Check: What if you were asked to reinvent public education? A young adult novel designed to inspire a new generation to become involved with fixing the public school system in America. Highlights include the crystal star award from national dropout prevention center to earning the state partnership award from the Virginia department of education. Besides the numerous accolades, Dr. Smith’s proudest achievements are being married to his wife and being a dad to his three kids who challenge him to reach for the stars everyday.

Old friend, welcome to the show.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Thanks, Art. It’s always fun to talk to you and truly an honor.

Art Costello: Yes, it is for me too because we always have these great conversations about school, and education, and America and all that. What have you been up to lately?

Dr. Aaron Smith: Oh, gosh. Outside of E-Commuting, we’re doing everything from learning about distance learning, understanding the intricacies of that. I’ve been dabbling a little bit with virtual reality. We’ve got that going in our building, so we’re trying to create specific scenarios that kids can undergo, and just trying to keep up with the workforce. Seeing what the needs are, and how we, as a school, can bridge those needs even in times like these.

Art Costello: These have really been challenging times. Our schools here in Texas, I don’t think we’re very prepared for teaching kids through Zoom and through all of these different platforms that they have now. One school district we have here, which is really an exceptional school district, is called Westlake, and I have friends who their children go to. That school district is the only school district that I know that actually transgressed, I don’t know what it is you would call it, but transferred into the online learning platform almost flawlessly.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Wow.

Art Costello: My daughter is in the school district, South of Austin, and she says: “Grandpa, I can do all the homework they sent to me on Monday. By noontime Monday, I can have it done and I don’t feel challenged.” I told her, I said: “You’ve got to challenge yourself.” And we’ve assigned her reading and all those kinds of things. But the other school district that I was telling you about, their kids have told me that they’re actually having to work as hard, if not harder on the online programs that they’re doing. What have you done with your schools to get through this challenging time?

Dr. Aaron Smith: One thing I can honestly say is I appreciate the folks, the parents that I’ve worked with, the teachers that I work with, everybody’s been patient because they know this is something that nobody could have foreseen, foresaw, and it’s like you’re flying it while you’re building it, and you have to make constant adjustments because you learn a new issues that pop up. Example, I’m five weeks in E-commute mode and I got a brand new technical situation with 11 kids I was never made aware of. So it’s a lot of learning, new technical things, it’s learning how to reteach because teachers understand how to use digital learning and the digital learning platforms like Google. The problem is teachers don’t know how to fully utilize it, and hopefully that makes sense to you because anybody can post up a video, anybody can put up a PowerPoint, but there’s still a disconnect. You’re missing that human element, you’re missing the feedback, the engagement that you would get, and captivate a truly rich and meaningful conversation and education. We prepare through lesson plans, and our lesson plans would include some sorts of technology. And before this, we would have occasional technology pleas, where you would do, let’s say poll everywhere. Or you would do, let’s say an online lab that would last for 10 minutes or so. But because of the distance, and then you also have the situation where those who don’t have access to technology, the internet, you’ve created a digital divide where you’ve got to find a way to shore them up just like you got to reassure the kids who you’re connecting with daily. So it’s created opportunities, but it’s also created a lot of difficult and strenuous situations.

Art Costello: I can identify with this because I have an online course, and it’s some of the same challenges for me. I just read a figure, a statistic, that out of all the online courses on the internet that people take, only 13% complete the actual course.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Yes.

Art Costello: It just floored me. Why would you spend your money? Why would you spend your time and not complete a course? I mean, I’ve taken courses at college I would never have paid for credits and not gone ahead and done the work to complete them and get my certification, get my information, I wouldn’t do it.

Dr. Aaron Smith: It’s because they’re distracted and there’s no structures built at home for them to be consistent with it. You think about the typical learner today, let’s just say K-12 for example. How many of them are able to keep up with their things? How many of them use a calendar or some sort of schedule much less appointment. And I think of the number of kids who I’ve helped them look for [inaudible] in their backpack and there are thousands of papers all on the bottom of it because they’re in disarray and try transferring that digitally. So you think about those, you’ve got to create the structures, you’ve got to create the focus because then you’ve got distractibility, you can click on Facebook, get your social media, and you’ve got to create consistency along the way.

Art Costello: Get back to the same old thing that you and I have talked about every single time. It’s not the teacher’s job or the administrator’s job to do that, you have to do the parent’s job because the parents are the people who should be setting the structure for their child’s study habits and all that. Am I wrong? I mean, I’m not a person who wants to put off things onto other people. I take full responsibility for what my actions are, what my kids’ actions are. I want to set up the systems that make them successful. Not very many parents I think are telling me to do that.

Dr. Aaron Smith: It depends on the families, and I think we all agreed there has to be a degree, some accountability at home. Parents have to wake the kids up and tell them they’ve got school today, they’ve got class at 9:00 o’clock, but you also have to take into consideration how many families are still having to work because they quote unquote essential workers. And at the highest school, the oldest one has to watch the siblings who are elementary school kids, so he misses out on that time. You also have to think about situations where parents are deployed and they’re not able to talk and really create structures with the kids so you have to rely on the teacher to give them a little bit more of that time and opportunity to fill those gaps.

Art Costello: Yeah. I guess we’re allowed to disagree or agree, but I think that if I was still in the military, and when I was in the military, but if I was in the military and had children, I would have had these structures in place already.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Yes.

“Give the kids the ability to feel confident, and have the chance to learn to the best of their ability.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: I mean, I would have had them in place. I think that responsibility ultimately falls to the parents because I believe that our teachers are asked to do way too much today for way too little pay.

Dr. Aaron Smith: You’re talking about one of the biggest pitfalls of an educational system. And going back to the parents and the expectations with them, I do agree with you because I think all parents do have a responsibility, but also do look in the situations where on occasion it may not work. But getting back to the teacher, especially now in distance learning, teachers have to rely on parents, grandparents, family members at home to relay the information that they otherwise would have gotten directly from the teacher. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember chemistry, so I hope my son doesn’t ask me what to do with chemistry because I think I would set him up for failure, but I can help find the right information form or make sure he’s able to ask the right questions for the teacher, it just goes back to the supports. Parents have to understand that WE ALL should take a concerted effort in verifying and ensuring all kids graduate confident and competent. They’re not going to have all the skills, that’s another conversation, but give the kids the ability to feel confident as well as have the chance to learn to the best of their ability.

“Parents have to understand that we all should take a concerted effort in verifying and ensuring all kids graduate confident and competent.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: Yeah. I guess one of the things that I thought about when you said all of this was the old phrase, what is it? It takes a community to raise a child.

Dr. Aaron Smith: It does. It really does.

Art Costello: I think that’s what just dawned on me. I know there’s personal responsibility, but we actually have a communal responsibility to make sure every child is taking care of and I can see you’re more geared that way because you see such a broad range of economic situations from children, emotional situations, split families, all of those things come into play, and children learning appropriately in a good manner.

Dr. Aaron Smith: It is not just necessarily my city or your city, because children across the world are having to go through the same situation in terms of distance learning. You’re going to have a divide between the fluent and not a fluent. You’re going to have a divide between already ability between kids, the narrow, diverse kids. How are they being set up for success? How are the parents relaying the information to the kids instead of just giving it to them and turning on candy crush? You have to put everything in a perspective. And unfortunately in my experiences, there’s over-communication when problems have occurred, when it should be the other way around. We should be over-communicating prior to and preventing crisis and disasters. That’s one of the biggest pitfalls that I see in education that there’s a disconnect and there are those who feel like education is fine, they don’t need to do anything, but it’s quite the opposite. When you fix education, you’re going to be fixing a lot of the world’s problems and increasing the quality of life for the kids.

Art Costello: Oh, I absolutely agree with that, 100%. And I was going to ask you a question, everytime we talk I think of different things to ask you, one of the things that has always intrigued me because I watch a lot of the schools here in our local area in Central Texas, we have a large Asian and Indian community from India and they are always in the top 10% of their class. They seem to be driven by education. I have a friend in New York, her name is Dr. Bindu Babu. She is a medical doctor. She has two PhD’s. She has more degrees than you could ever imagine. She’s a Reiki master. She does all of these things and I asked her that question, she said, in her part where she lives in India, if you are expected, it’s the expectations that their parents put on them, that the only way that they can be successful is being multi-degree, become doctors, lawyers and all of those kinds of things. But here in the high schools, you see it all the time, they’re in the top 10%. The Vietnamese, the Indian population, the kids, they thrive. I mean, they’re involved, I’ve heard people say, Oh, well, all they do is study, study, study. But they’re in theater, they’re in all the different–

Dr. Aaron Smith: Balanced. Yeah.

Art Costello: I mean, they’re driven though when it comes to learning, they’re more focused on it. And it’s amazing.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Because there’s a culture, and an understanding where education is valued. Unfortunately, a lot of families that are less of fluent focus on the moment rather than focusing on the future. And that’s a part of poverty that I’ve learned, families sometimes literally don’t know where they’re going to live from one day to the next. And it’s hard for them to think about five and six years down the road for their kids when they’re just trying to survive today. And that puts already an immense amount of stress on the kids. And when you have families who come from different cultures and different countries and come to America, they see the opportunity, they see the value. And English language kids, I love them because they’re fun. And the majority of the ones that I’ve been having the pleasure of working with, they are some of the hardest ones I’ve ever seen work because they know they have a gap that they have to get, but they’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves and go get it. In some cases, I think American kids are relaxed because they feel like they’re going to get promoted or they’re going to graduate, but they don’t see themselves connected to a job or career, and that’s another one of the pitfalls of our schools. We talk about it, but we don’t have this system set up to create internships, to create mentorships, shadowing opportunities where you get those kids hooked into great opportunities, great careers, well before they cross the stage.

Art Costello: I think that a lot of kids see it, but they don’t believe they can attain it. They believe that it’s more for somebody else, not them. And it’s the furthest thing from the truth because as you and I know, if you work hard in your Scholastic abilities and put them into action, it’ll pay off.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Absolutely.

Art Costello: You can be anything you want to be when you really want to be it, and you have the passion to totally go after it.

“You can be anything you want to be when you really want to be it and you have the passion to totally go after it.” - Art Costello Click To Tweet

Dr. Aaron Smith: You bet. When kids come on board with us in the 9th grade year, I explain to them what their families are seeing over 10 years. There’s three key factors that kids that leave the program and are successful have along their journey. Number one, they ask for help when they need help and they’re not afraid to go get that additional support. The second thing is they surround themselves with the right people. I tell them: “You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t want to live for the moment. You don’t want to go where your friends are going. You need to go where your heart goes.” And that especially should be true for careers. And then the third thing I remind them is that their attitude equals our altitude, and everybody is going to have crappy days, everybody’s going to have great days, but if you stay focused and driven and you keep taking that step towards that degree, that certification, that job will become intimate.

“Attitude equals our altitude.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: Aaron, we need more people in administrative positions in the school system like you, you have a heart for your students and you actually transpose that to them, and you verbalize it to them. And God, we just need more of you out there.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Well, thank you. First of all, I’m going to tell you right now, there’s a lot of champions out there and not only are they really committed, I’ve seen and heard of many people across the country spending 50, 60 hours, especially during distance learning, trying to do everything they can to make sure their kids have everything they need. And teachers know they’re not going to make a lot of money, but teachers should be valued and appreciated. And it bothers me sometimes when parents don’t realize how much of a concerted effort that they try. And it irks me when they cannot pick up the phone, but yet they can pick up their child’s phone during the day and tell them to call them at lunch and say, Hey, what’s going on? It just rubs me the wrong way.

Art Costello: One of the things that I think goes on with parents with this is that they have just come to think that it’s not their job, it’s the teacher’s job, and that’s what I was alluding to in the beginning of our conversation. It’s not the teacher’s job, it is the parent’s job, but they are so self centered themselves, like you said, living in the moment. I mean, they’re in jobs that they hate, it just flows down Hill. I mean, when it goes to, it goes all the way right through the whole system and to the kids. And it’s terrible when people are that unhappy, that they don’t tend to the things that are best for their children. And I speak from experience because when I was little, nine years old, I was put in a position where I had to figure out life on my own. But the teachers that I had literally had given a hoot about me. Matter of fact, they used to tell me, you’re not going to amount to a hill of beans.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Wow.

Art Costello: And a lot of parents I think, think that teachers work seven or eight months of the year, seven months and then they go have fun all summer. They go home at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, they show up for work at eight in the morning and that’s all they do, which is the furthest thing from the truth and you know it. Teachers are putting in more of their own resources that are so limited as it is right now to have their students successful, parents just need to open up their eyes. And really, I mean, we have parents that do have open eyes, but it’s the majority. We’ve got to get the majority of people on board understanding that this is a community effort to get these teachers taken care of, and to get the students educated because it’s the backbone of America.

Dr. Aaron Smith: I wish there was a reality show for teachers that people could see behind the scenes of how much effort that they do. There are hearts breaking when things just don’t go right, or they see a child in crisis. Because I want parents who think that teachers have got it made right now, I would love to put them in the position not only of being in the classroom, being in a distance learning position and just showing them, you think it’s easy? Bring it on. Because you will never understand the things that people go through unless you have been in there yourself.

Art Costello: And that’s true in life. I mean, we always look at other people and take things so much for granted.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Yeah.

Art Costello: When we do put ourselves in their position, or we are thrown into that. I was a manager one time in a facility and I had never ever thought about the duties that management cooks, or had to do to get ready for their employees. And until I got thrown into that position, it just opened up my eyes. But that’s what we have to do. So I want to cover some more things so we don’t run out of time and all that. Tell us about the new book, Blank Check.

“You have to show a concerted effort to make every child successful.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Dr. Aaron Smith: So Blank Check, ask you to create a value. The co-author of Awakening Your STEM School with me, we’re discussing it, great things and great conversations happen around alcohol. We talked about what are my next steps and I told him I wanted to do a STEM 2.0. He looked up at me, and I’ll never forget his expression, he said: “Why in the hell are you writing another cookbook?” And I said: “What are you talking about?” He said: “Do something that’s going to inspire people. Do something that’s going to make a difference and stretch the imagination.” And back then, didn’t know what it was. But a few weeks later we started talking again and we came up with, what would it be like if a school had a blank check? Then it created another conversation. You can’t do a nonfiction book because there’s too many laws and regulations, and people will be bored by it. But what if you created a story that centers around a young adult and a burnout principal who team together on a daring education experiment that not only talks about improving the facility and improves the teacher report, but it also creates buy-in from the community. And 23 versions later, here we are. I’m so excited because the people that have read it already, they’ve gotten different interpretations from it, and that’s what I wanted them to take away. For some, they joke with me and they say, wow, this is way over my head. And I was like, no, you just actually got engaged in a critical thinking young adult book. And then I would ask them some questions about education and then they give their opinion, and then they thought, wow, I never really understood it until you brought it out of the book like that. For some, they appreciated the young adult, Colby, going through a crisis, and understanding the opioid situation and getting through that, and making sure our kids are at the table, especially when it comes to important decisions. Kids should be the first and most important decision, especially when it comes to education. I’m sorry, but when it comes to our children, you shouldn’t put a price tag on them. If you value them with your life, you need to show that you need to demonstrate that and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to throw a bazillion dollars. You have to show a concerted effort to make every child successful. The system that we’re in, it’s not perfect, it has not been fixed in centuries, and it’s broken. I’m not here to say it’s this person’s fault or this person’s fault. My prayer in this is to raise awareness and to ask everybody for their help in their communities in making a difference, because the more we do this, the more we’re going to see changes.

“Kids should be the first and most important decision, especially when it comes to education.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: Again, it almost brings tears to my eyes because I remember us speaking in our last podcast that we did, you were going to write that book Awakening 2.0, STEM School 2.0, you were going to write it and you did a complete 360 and came up with this. I think it hits the nail on the head. I mean, I think it addresses the core issue of what we need to be doing.

Dr. Aaron Smith: We do, we do. Education is the lifeline to a productive society. Education bridges skills to employees, which gives them gainful employment, gainful employment turns into profits, profits turn into a solid tax base, it’s a cycle. And if you can solidify one of the pieces that’s lacking the most, you have to do it.

“Education is the lifeline of our productive society.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: Yeah, we do. We have to do it. Let me ask you a question because there was another thought I had when you and I speak, they just come at me like zingers, I guess. Do you think that under our current school finance system, do you think that the schools are wasteful in some of the ways they spend their money?

Dr. Aaron Smith: It’s going to depend on the account. And let me clarify this, at the end of the school year, school systems will scoop up any unused money and spend it on valuable projects, or initiatives, capital improvements, but there are specific accounts that you cannot touch. And in some ways, those become waste because you’re not able to transfer it to another need within the division.

Art Costello: One of the things that I was thinking, and maybe it’s just Texas because we’re such a football crazy environment, but we have school districts here that have stadiums that would rival any college facility. I mean, we have a school district that has spent a hundred million dollars on a stadium.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Wow.

Art Costello: I mean, it’s a wealthy school district. And it’s in North Texas, but their stadium would rival any college facility. It just seems to me that I love football, and I love the kids participating in it and all that. And that’s a choice that kids make to play or not to play. And I know we could talk about all the physical things that are going on now, the brain injuries and other physical industries. But the thing that I’m talking about is the money that comes out of the education system from the taxpayer’s pocket to facilitate those kinds of facilities.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Yeah.

Art Costello: It could be better spent on, and I think that that was part of the Robin Hood process here in Texas. They robbed Peter to pay Paul because we have so many little tiny school districts that have 3, 4,000 students in the total school district. Where we have other districts that have a hundred thousand kids in the system and they’re wealthy, wealthy school districts, and they’ve taken money from the wealthy school district to put into the poor school districts. But where they make the difference in the big school districts is the bonds, the bond elections that they put up.

Dr. Aaron Smith: The referendums. Yeah.

Art Costello: Yeah. I mean, I just go, Oh, my God. You know what? A lot of them are being defeated over the past few years because people I think have gotten tired of the way that the money is being spent. What’s your idea? How do you think we can finance? I’m not talking about the property, but once the school district has the money. I mean, STEM Schools are terrific. I love them. I think we need more of them. But a lot of schools districts can’t afford them.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Right. And understand, STEM is the combination of four industries, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. You can speak a STEM school, but it could be anything from the integration of these. It could be something like a commercially based project lead the way, type of thing. It’s how the school embraces that concept, how they buy into it. And that’s where you will see very creative things come out. That’s where you’re gonna see kids who love being at school everyday. That’s where you’re going to see a difference in the kids’ skills versus non skills. Funding is always a funny topic because people are afraid of, why am I spending money on this? But if each one of us gave a little bit, think how much more we will gain. Every high school dropout, I saw this the other day. Every high school dropout in America is a loss of $292,000 in the economy.

Art Costello: That’s something to really think about and ponder.

Dr. Aaron Smith: $292,000. How many times are we focused on those kids? We’re not, because that’s called the silent epidemic, high school dropout. Because basically, once they fall off, the school system unfortunately doesn’t have the resources to go after them, find them, and learn their story to keep on getting them back on track. Schools really need to be created with a model that allows the teacher flexibility to address and teach each student. Parents should have a responsibility of making sure kids are prepared in terms of their homework, in terms of socialization. And if they’re not able to do it, at least have a little bit of awareness to tell the schools that they’re not equipped to do that.

Art Costello: Boy, it’s so much in there to think about. I keep referring to central Texas, we have a large population of students that come across the border who are not bilingual. They come into the system, and the dropout rate is, I think you would fall off your chair, but I don’t want to tell a tale, but I think it’s somewhere around 57%.

Dr. Aaron Smith: I believe that, I believe that. Yeah.

Art Costello: It’s huge because they don’t fit in, they don’t feel that they fit in, they don’t feel that they are tended to. I mean, there’s all kinds of reasons, but when you multiply that by 292,000, that’s a huge economic impact.

Dr. Aaron Smith: It is.

Art Costello: And they can’t get jobs anymore. I mean, what do you do? What do kids do when they can’t get jobs? They sit around, lounge around and then they end up getting into trouble.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Or they become a burden to society, exactly. And the way that we’re going to have to do that is we have to rethink the things that we’ve done in the past. The States we’re going to have to give more money to the rural areas, they’re going to have companies think outside of their little region how they can get more highly qualified and re-trainable employees available. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It’s all about what you think you need to prioritize.

Art Costello: One of the problems I see is that we, I don’t want the government to get bigger, I’m talking about the federal government, and there seems to be a big argument between the States, and the federal government, and funding. In Texas, we fund our schools through property tax. Our property taxes here are very high because we don’t have a sales tax. We don’t have a personal income tax. We have a sales tax, we don’t have personal income tax. They said that the lottery was going to fund schools and all that. They end up throwing that money into the general fund, which goes into what they call the rainy day fund. There’s all kinds of issues and everybody’s always saying, we’d like to see the federal government put more money into the system. And honestly, I’ve always been one for a flat tax. We have a flat tax that is straight across the board. The poorer you are, the less you pay. The wealthier you are, have it go to 10%. But everybody, even corporations pay 10% on their gross profits, and have it paid into there. And then we can allocate funds from the federal government to the state and let the state administer the program and have so much going into education. So much goes into here or there, but I don’t know if I’m wishful thinking or what.

Dr. Aaron Smith: No, you’re definitely hitting the nail on the head. I look at it like every locality is a student. Some students are going to be brilliant. They’re going to get things very easy. You’re going to have some that are everyday average, and you’re going to have those that are going to need additional supports. There shouldn’t be strings attached to those that need additional supports. We focused on standardized testing too much. Let me tell you something, I believe in testing, but I think we’re over-testing. And if we are to find a place where we can take away a little bit, I think we need to take away on that. In my experiences at Aviation Academy, our kids use real life problems, as they’re building an airplane, as they’re flying in a flight simulator, as they’re using our wind tunnel. When you use those real life experiences, they’re going to be more than prepared for the test, and that should be what is essential. It’s not whether somebody passed or failed a standardized test. Are they able to do the job and the skills that they need to do at the next level? You’re talking about billions of dollars every year that has been spent. State, local and national. From companies like Pearson and McGraw-Hill, some of the gorillas who control education because they’re able to drive influence. That’s the scary part. If we can reverse that and let the businesses say what our schools need, let the community say what our schools need, that’s when you’ll see a quicker and more rapid response to fixing it.

Art Costello: My next question, how can we help you spread the word about this? What can my audience do? I know I have a lot of teachers that listen to my show, what can we do?

Dr. Aaron Smith: Well, first of all, allowing me to share the story. Because social media, unfortunately, focuses so much on negativity. They focus on the bad things in life. I think number one, we need to celebrate the achievements that we have already in place, but we also need to raise awareness and raise it in a way that’s going to promote discussions with everybody, because everybody should have a voice in this decision. The business sector, and I keep going to them because we need them to tell us more. An education needs to be willing to step up more and ask, what are we not doing right? How can we make it better? We need to ask our legislators, give us more funding in schools so that the teachers can get the right training and the ability to administer certifications for kids. So when they leave high school, some of them can be drone operators, some of them can go and start to become their careers as pilots, some of them could be CAD and A+ certified. We’ve got to stop thinking in this old model that we’ve had for three centuries, and we’ve got to start developing some new things. Teachers have to understand also that there’s responsibility on them too. Your audience are probably going to be the ones who want to make things change. And I’m going to tell them, you keep doing that. We also have to focus on the ones who don’t want to change, and we have to find a way to get them on board. Just like we gotta have a fund, a way to get the parents on board. And this conversation, I’m hoping is going to start.

“An education needs to be willing to step up.” - Dr. Aaron Smith Click To Tweet

Art Costello: Well, I am too. I mean, that’s why I do what I do. And I know you do what you do because you care, and I care. And I know that we both know that education is what is going to create the shift in our society. And then thinking, yeah. Well, we’re nearing our time and I wanted to give you the last five minutes or so to tell everybody where they can get a hold of your book? How can they get a hold of you? Where can they reach out to you? And any other pertinent details that you have.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Sure. Well, Blank Check is available at bookstores. You can get the Paperback as early as September 8th, the ebook is going to be available. That’s the first place you can do that. And I get it. I get budgets are tight, and you question, do you want to really buy an education book? But I ask you to go to my website, it’s aaronsmithphd.com/blank-check and you can download the first chapter. I think it summarizes how every educator feels right now about education, how parents feel about education that is fed up, and it’s hopefully beginning to show people that we can make a change. We’re only bound by our imagination. It’s how bad do you want something that’s going to make it reality. Social media, I love y’all. Come talk to me, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, it’s all aaronsmithphd.

Art Costello: Aaron, it’s always a pleasure. I want the audience to know that all the information that Aaron has just given you throughout the show will be in the show notes. You’ll be able to go to the show now when the show broadcasts and download the information, but I hope you had a pen in hand when you’re listening to this and get a hold of him, don’t wait for me to post this. We’re going to get this posted soon, it’s too relevant to not. And again, Aaron, everytime I speak to you, I just walk away with a heart full of hope, a heart full of love for you, and you’re just a tremendous asset to our world. I can’t thank you enough for being Dr. Aaron Smith.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Art, thank you. I mean, it’s hard to believe we met, three years ago now?

Art Costello: Yes.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Because it feels like I’ve known you for years. And I say that because we do have great discussions, it’s like, you know what I’m thinking and I know what you’re thinking. We share a good laugh. And to me, that’s humanity. That’s a comradery that I’m hoping we all are going to be able to have one day when it’s all said and done.

Art Costello: I hope we do too Aaron, because you’ve added value to my life, you’ve added value to my children’s life, my grandchildren, and you add value to everybody in the world. And that’s a great thing, and I’m just blessed. I want to close that out on that note. And we appreciate you and what you do, and we appreciate all teachers. I just encourage the audience to go ahead and get Aaron’s book. Get copies for your school board, get copies for your school superintendent, get copies for your children’s teachers. Just go do it, and let’s get a Blank Check written for each and every child so they can live the life that they’re meant to live because that’s why we all do it. Thank you Aaron.

Dr. Aaron Smith: Thanks Art. Really appreciate it.

Art Costello: And I’m going to let Heather White take us out of here. We’ll call it another episode in the books.






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