Saturday, July 21, 2007

Entrepreneurship Education and High School Education

I have been thinking about the course we offer in High Schools called Entrepreneurship. In that course we usually have the students do the ground work for the beginnings of their own new business - frequently culminating in a full-blown business plan. Rarely do the students go beyond this to actually create a business.

That may sound like a criticism and in a way it is but there are other values to this course. We recognize that not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur or at least a successful entrepreneur. But everyone should understand the role of the entrepreneur, their motivations and both the good and the bad emanating from that role and those motivations.

We all deal with the fruits of the entrepreneur's labour. The computer I am typing this on is a Hewlett Packard. Many people don't realize that those aren't just two names picked out of the air - they refer to David Packard and William Hewlett. They were friends, both electrical engineers, who started their business in Packard's garage in 1939 with total capital of $538. It is clear that their entrepreneurial spirit built the company - otherwise it would have gone the way of many other garage based projects.

As an aside I can't help but think about the two Steve's working out of their garage too - a few years later than 1939!

Many people see the Entrepreneurship course as an incubator for future entrepreneurs - it may be that but to my mind if that is all it is then it has failed what I consider to be an important part of the high school mandate. High school is not just to prepare people for employment or future schooling. I believe high school should introduce adolescents to the world.

Inadvertently we do a terrific job in allowing them the opportunity to socialize. We should also purposefully introduce them to the world in which they live presently and will live for the rest of their lives. Adolescents in this sense are a bit like infants and toddlers. Infants and toddlers discover many parts of the world just by growing and becoming aware. They acquire language, the recognize patterns, they begin to think and conceptualize. These are very sophisticated bits of growth but they are our basic tools as human beings.

We should look at the high school experience as moving that growth one step further. Yes, adolescents have language but do they have the language of poetry, of science, of math, of business?

They have the ability to see patterns but can they see and understand the patterns in art, in music, in the economy?

They have the ability to think but are they good decision makers, good resource allocators, good fact finders?

They have the ability to conceptualize but do they have the basic information that will allow them to conceptualize important concepts, important ideas?

The entrepreneurship course, as should all business courses, should address these issues from the perspective of the student at human and social being. We can allow students to grow as communicators, thinkers, decision makers, etc. all within the many roles they play within the business context.


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