Friday, July 24, 2020

Entrepreneurship in the Classroom

Earlier this month, a fellow entreVIEW author told us the tale of how his entrepreneurial-minded daughter recently launched a baking business. While I won’t fail to at least briefly acknowledge how much I love hearing about female-led startups (probably even more than I love baked goods!), this post is about why entrepreneurship should be taught in schools at an early age.

I don’t believe entrepreneurship is genetic or inborn. Instead, I believe an entrepreneurial nature can be fostered through imagination, creation and innovation. I, like Dan's daughter, am lucky to have grown up encircled in entrepreneurial sprit. I grew up on a farm and had no better friend and mentor than my Grandpa, a farmer. I followed him everywhere and learned a lot about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, including work ethic, risk management, the impact on reputation and business longevity of keeping a handshake promise and more. In a lot of ways, I view farmers to be the ultimate entrepreneurs. Not everyone is as lucky to be inherently surrounded by entrepreneurship from a young age, which brings me back to my original premise: entrepreneurship should be taught in schools at an early age.

Unless my memory fails me, I did not have a single class on entrepreneurship from elementary through high school. For those without an inherently entrepreneurial home life, school may be the only exposure a young student has to entrepreneurship, especially in rural areas. As with all other fundamental subjects taught in school — math, science, music, etc. — entrepreneurship as a school subject would encourage students to engage with the world around them and imagine what could be different, brainstorm creative problem-solving ideas and scale-up innovations.

We, the world, have so much to miss out on by not teaching the most formative members of society that they, too, can think up a business. Here are a few reasons to include entrepreneurship in school curriculum:

  1. Everyone can benefit from learning business skills. My high school taught sewing (remember those masks I made?) and cooking (I never quite mastered this subject) while I was a student. Today, I would find business skills more valuable.
  2. Entrepreneurship education can benefit students from all socioeconomic backgrounds and can promote economic opportunity. With entrepreneurship as a school subject accessible to everyone, it can serve as an agent of social justice and equity. 
  3. By making entrepreneurship education available to everyone at a young age, we can start to close racial divides in entrepreneurship, which is an important step in creating jobs and spurring economic growth. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to start a business and are underrepresented among entrepreneurs, representing 12% of the U.S. labor force, but only 9.4% of business owners.
  4. Entrepreneurship education can serve as a creative outlet for outside-the-box thinkers who may otherwise be left uninspired by conventional course loads. 
Bottom line — schools should be teaching entrepreneurship, preparing young people to assess and diagnose problems around them, seize opportunities and, maybe, even launch a business. 

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