Defend Your Right to Learn

I purposely refrain from talking about politics on this blog, but something is happening in New York State (and other states in the US) that deserves your consideration. It concerns your right to learn and to use what you learn to benefit yourself and other people.

Regulating What You Can Learn

In April, regulators in New York State decided that yoga teacher training programs are “vocational training" programs , and are requiring these programs by force of law to register with the state or face a $50,000 fine. The licensing process takes 8+ months, and the state gets to decide what kind of education is “appropriate" for yoga teacher training. Current programs are being shut down via cease-and-desist letters from the state threatening legal action if the studio refuses to comply.

As I talked about in my post about Absence Blindness , what regulators fail to consider is all of the programs and all of the schools that simply will not open or be available because of this regulation. Many/most yoga studios rely on teacher training programs for the majority of their revenue - shut down the programs, and you shut down the studios, reducing availability of quality yoga instruction and eliminating the ability of yoga teachers to provide valuable instruction to willing students.

Yoga is centuries old, but now that it’s a $6BN industry, the government wants to get a cut, and it’s willing to destroy lives and livelihoods to do so. According to this memo by Ms. Carole W. Yates , the Director of the New York State Education Department Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision:

“If the student would expect to learn skills which may be used in an occupation at a later point, whether employed or self employed, then the training needs to be regulated by our bureau."

This statement, my friends, is the most egregious and dangerous use of political power I’ve seen in quite some time. If you value your right to learn, it’s in your best interest to do what you can to fight this noxious idea in your own locale. If history has shown anything about political power, it’s that it tends to grow unless consistently and strongly kept in check.

Fight for your Right to Learn

This is not just about yoga - it’s about your right to learn marketable skills. By this definition, any source of practical knowledge that you can potentially use at any time in the future to improve your valuable skills and knowledge is subject to government regulation and approval. (Note: consistent enforcement of this regulation would require all publishers to comply as well - business / self-improvement books teach “skills which may be used in an occupation at a later point, whether employed or self employed.")

I firmly believe that every individual should have the right to learn (1) whatever they want, (2) from whoever they want, (3) at a mutually agreed-upon price, and (4) apply that knowledge to the best of their ability to benefit themselves and others, without any interference from any governmental or regulatory body whatsoever.

What You Can Do Right Now

  1. If you’re in the US, contact your Senators and Representatives about this issue. To educate yourself on the details, read this page , which is constantly being updated with new information as the situation progresses. Use this page to find your Senators or Representatives. Tell your congressional representatives to (1) speak to the Senators and Representatives from New York State about this issue; (2) actively reject all infringements on a person’s right to teach and learn in their own state.

  2. Let your thoughts be heard. Write an e-mail or make a phone call to the NYS regulators below. Be courteous and polite (remember the Golden Trifecta: appreciation, courtesy, and respect), but be clear that this position is neither wise nor acceptable. People should always be able to learn from or teach whomever they agree to work with, without governmental or regulatory interference.

Carole W. Yates Director (and author of the memo), Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision 518-474-3969 cyates at

Edward G. Kramer Supervising Investigator, Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision 212-643-4760 ekramer at

  1. Always remember that governmental power ultimately comes from one and only one source: physical compulsory force. Government provides many benefits for our society in the form of protection: police, military, and justice system. The governmental monopoly on the legitimate use of force is the best way to keep order in society, but it is open to abuse when that power is extended into domains in which its use is not legitimate.

In the case of this legislation, imagine a regulator walking into a yoga studio forcing compliance with this regulation at the point of a gun. It’s unnecessary and outrageous, and the only way to prevent this abuse of power is to take a moment stand up for your right to teach and learn.

(Captain America is a trademark of Marvel Comics.)

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Published: May 13, 2009Last updated: May 13, 2009

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