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Just curious, do our local schools teach entrepreneurship?

Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2012, at 9:06 AM

Years ago it seems they taught some common sense things like handling a checkbooks, paing bills, etc. but do the business courses also encourage being entrepreneurial?

One definition of an entrepreneur: "Someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced."


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Mr. Mills, I know that this does not belong here. I started typing it and by the time I had finished, I realized that it was way too long and boring to post on the other blog, and likely pointless anyway. That being understood, I hated to delete it without posting, so I decided to put it here.

Disclaimer: This very brief overview of public education cannot begin to fully appreciate the nuances of the people and factions described. People are seldom a perfect mold of any specific ideology, and typically contend with multiple personally motivating forces, which shape their perceptions and actions while evolving over time. For example, Dewey--while acknowledging the need for social conformity--also hoped to eventually abolish the need of a fully engineered society through education. Unfortunately, the most nefarious of his initiatives were adopted, and the most democratizing have been systematically discarded. Likewise, the interests of factions are given to change over time. For example, the effects of protectionist policies may prove beneficial to a faction during times of a weak economy and manufacturing, but detrimental during times of strong production and stable economies--when free-trade then benefits the same faction. There are many filters that can be applied to history, and this comment only superficially examines the result of one of them.....

After the Revolutionary War, when President Washington and his cabinet went about the business of establishing a nation, there emerged discord instead of the anticipated unity. This division took the form of a split between what were generically labeled federalists and anti-Federalists. The Federalists (Hamilton, Adams, and Jay) advocated a strong federal government and centralized bank. The strong federal government that they envisioned was based upon British pre-capitalistic (mercantilist) economic policies (i.e. East India Company) that were favorable to a small, but elite, segment of society, such as those engaged in finance, business, and industry. Their opponents, fearing the potential effects of the nation's wealth being manipulated by international traders and financers, advocated greater diffusion of power, with a more agrarian and egalitarian system of governance that promoted democracy.

The formal existence of the Federalists was short lived, with only one sitting president (Adams). An enlightened and literate population (long before the advent of public education) refused to embrace policies that were set firmly against its interests. The considerable influence of its members, however, survived for much longer. Through Adams' appointment of Marshall, the Supreme Court set the president for Federalist policies in the U.S. for decades, during which time, much of the ideology of the Federalists eventually transformed itself (loosely) into the Whig Party. The anti-federalists evolved (again loosely) into Jeffersonian, and then Jacksonian Democrats.

Although a minority, the factions who eventually became the Whigs continued their guidance of US policy throughout the period of an apparent Jeffersonian Democracy consensus. By the middle of the 1830's though, everything was changing. The seat left vacant by Marshall's death was filled with a Jackonian Democrat. The Second Bank of the United States (The Central Bank) was losing its charter. It appeared to some that the considerations afforded those who favored an elite class would soon disappear entirely.

It was within this environment of panic that the governor of Massachusetts (a Whig stronghold) created the nation's first Board of Education without elaboration or fanfare. It was not created to administer the existing tuition/ecclesiastical schools, but to lobby for, and organize, a new system of universal compulsory education. Edward Everett (the governor) appointed Horace Mann to lead the newly created Board. Mann (like most Whigs) was primarily interested in the German (actually Prussian--names change, but locations abide) model of education. Mann favored this model for its proven suitability to advance the needs of the elite.

Prussia had a long history of education and militarism, but when routed by Napoleon's upstart army, was compelled to re-evaluate the fitness of the models that it was using. It implemented important reforms in the way its society was administered. Among other things, the educational system was overhauled to ensure obedience, conformity, and nationalism. The reforms worked, and soon Prussia was again a leader in Europe and contender for the spoils associated with that distinction. The advancement was not without its consequences though. The restructuring also concentrated more wealth and power into the class of Junkers (elite aristocracy) than ever before. The common people were left with relatively little, and the formation of the first loosely planned welfare state emerged. Although Prussia faced many wars and political evolutions, it remained the center of German power well into the 20th century, and only truly fell with the defeat of the Nazi's (whose power originated in what was, for all intents and purposes, Prussia).

It was this model that was chosen for the state of Massachusetts, and although it faced opposition, its establishment was not extremely difficult--given the political make-up of the state. Other states emulated the model for various reasons, but the issues which demanded the most attention at the time were related to slavery and the ensuing war (Civil). After the disorder of the war, reconstruction, and the now firmly established structure of state versus federal power, the effects of the educational and political seeds began to take root. Like clockwork, the Gilded Age (the concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands) began almost as soon as the war ended. It was predictably followed by the progressive era (a rise of the welfare state).

It was toward the end of the progressive era that schools were once again evaluated and targeted for modernization. The needs of those whose interests were served were quickly changing as large-scale industrialization really took off and spread across the nation, the central banking system re-emerged as a dominate force, and the US assumed its role as an empire on the world stage. The beneficiaries of the gilded age (Carnegie and Rockefeller most notably, but by degrees, most elites) sought to reform schools to ever more narrow objectives. The psychologizing influence of the schools mirrored, to a close proximity, that of the media in general as they evolved. It became clear that what the children (and by extension, adults) actually knew was nowhere near as important as how they thought, and how they thought was a growing concern of many who sought to control it. This concern led to the rise of the public relations, propaganda, and thought manipulation models that we witness today. It was in this time that thinkers such as Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman, and John Dewey realized the potential for influencing public opinion and made public schools a cornerstone of that objective.

Children across the country (even those in traditionally agrarian locations) needed to be conditioned to submit to arbitrary external authority, as opposed to only state authority. This took the form of imposing the structure that extracts the most of human capital (i.e. regulated restroom breaks, the deference to a bell to signify the changing of activities, and the dependence upon estimating one's self-worth through comparisons with other equally conditioned peers, as opposed to independent evaluations). The most important aspect of this education, though, was the near elimination of the critical thinking skills required to understand the world around us, in a way other than the model that was presented.

Our curriculum lends itself almost entirely to rote memorization and disconnected facts that are difficult to blend into an overarching amalgamation of understanding. It is only with a reservoir of usable information, tied to the ability to apply that information to daily events, that the benefits of knowledge can be achieved.

Instead, we provide a very narrow spectrum of reality that transforms every individual into a paradigm of black and white extremes (with the vast majority ending up one, or another, shade of gray). The media continues this illusion as the divisions created within our schools act themselves out in the realm of adult politics, and define the way in which we all view ourselves and others.

Our current system of education is leaning toward a model that relegates the high schools to trade schools, with smaller gymnasiums (prep schools) housed either within the main schools, or as stand-alone magnet type schools. The majority of the important psychological conditioning occurs before the eighth grade and it is believed, by some, that no further academic instruction is necessary, provided technical training is available. This has been the objective since the 1930's. It has been fought, but is now being imposed through the use of NCLB as a catalyst for generating popular support. Already, there are collectives of educators and parents who are demanding lower standards and easier to achieve outcomes. This voice will only continue to grow, as the screws of NCLB are tightened.

What is at stake is no less than the ability of our children (and our society) to govern itself, assuming that it is not too late already. Teachers, parents, and students need to understand the nature and purpose of public education in order to mitigate its pernicious effects, while embracing what little education is offered and demanding more, not less, from public school's responsibility to educate.

The three R's should be replaced with the two C's (classical education and critical thinking) not trade schools.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Apr 1, 2012, at 1:04 PM

I imagine that what is needed is a local sponsor to organize and promote the idea. I doubt the curriculum is very pliable. It is, for the most part, imposed from the top down and due to cost saving "borrowing" by local systems--and obligatory requirements--almost exclusively from very limited sources.

I am sorry that a teacher, or someone from the BOE, has not yet commented. It sounds like a great idea. I am also sorry that the side discussion has stopped. I believe it is a conversation worth having, even if it gets a little messy. To that end, I will add the following:

The public school system is working exactly as it was intended. It was created to regiment the populace into a unified collective, by acting as a sieve to stratify society and instill a united morality of obedience and deference to those who manage it. Teachers and administrators are the willing--but typically unwitting--facilitators of that objective (irrespective of their own internal motivations).

I realize that is a harsh assessment, but as far as I can tell, it is an accurate representation.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Mar 25, 2012, at 5:57 AM

That is a good point about business/personal economics and the difference between entrepreneurship. Still, teaching business/personal economics would be a real poisitive class for Juniors/Seniors.

Can someone from BCBE comment? Is it being done?

As far as the Entrepreneur club, I suppose that could be open to any and all. We just need to find a way to encourage our youth to participate.

I know many of us "more seasoned folk" could use the enthusiasm and can do spirit of youth. :-)

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 7:06 AM

steve,

i apologize for hijacking your topic. i am proud to be a conservative, and sick of having ignorance and misinformation labelled as conservative "thought."

on topic, i don't see that schools could really teach "entepreneurship" per se. creativity and drive are not readily taught in the classroom. i think the club idea would be more appropriate.

i would hope that the schools might teach business, or personal economics type classes that provided the tools needed to turn initiative and imagination into a business model. but i have to confess that i am not sure what is available in the way of business and personal economics classes. i am reminded, tho, of our old civics classes. i have heard those dont exist any more, but when they did almost no one came out of them with a clue about how our government works (or is supposed to).

-- Posted by lazarus on Tue, Mar 20, 2012, at 8:48 AM

see tim, there is that forwarded e-mail thinking. do you have an example of a bedford county class (elementary or otherwise) being taught to put a condom on a banana? or anything at all about homosexuality? and i would like to know what comprises a "liberal" version of natural history? now, i cant say for sure about "star" athletes being given a pass. i can name a few who lost eligibilty in-season over their grades. i know of more than a few coaches who track their athletes' performance in the classroom... and put personal pressure on them when they start to fall off pace.

of course the gem of this whole commentary is; "the nea sets the curriculum." you really are at war with imaginary enemies.

as for how bedford county schools perform; "That's not so much the teacher's fault as it is a system wide problem." you are right, and if you want to know what the "system's" problem is, just take a look at the demographics of bedford county. when you farm rocky hillsides without much soil, you get poor crops. i can tell you with confidence that kids, who come from homes that value learning, have access to just as good an education in bedford county schools as they do anywhere else. i know because mine did, and they were able to move straight from bedford county schools to exceptional private colleges and compete in the classroom from day 1.

as for teaching values in the schools. it is a shame that is necessary, but some kids won't get them any other way. of course, if you do teach values in the home, you shouldnt be afraid for your kids to be exposed to different ideas. but i cannot think of any time that a teacher demonstrated values that i would find objectionable.

-- Posted by lazarus on Tue, Mar 20, 2012, at 8:37 AM

lazurus, you forgot to mention the oh so important curriculum involved in teaching elementary school children how to put a condom on a banana or that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. You could have also included the very liberal versions of our nations history taught in classrooms or the number of children who are given a pass because they are star atheletes. The NEA decides what curriculum teachers must teach. Most teachers do the best they can with it. They give of themselves and work long hours to make sure our children are receiving the best education possible. I applaud them. It's the SYSTEM that also allows ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom that have no business being there because of liberally favored tenure. when you can't fire bad ones, the good ones have to work harder. Teachers deserve all the praise they can get, but make no mistake, they are working with a badly broken SYSTEM. Just how high did Bedford County schools score recently? If I remember correctly it was near the bottom of the barrell. That's not so much the teacher's fault as it is a system wide problem. Values are to be taught at home...that's not a schools responsibility.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Tue, Mar 20, 2012, at 4:32 AM

Midnight Rider, if your friend gets a little timid after reading some comments, we can start again. Don't let her get away.:-)

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Mar 19, 2012, at 6:10 PM

and i am calling you for repeating a load of bull.

the teachers are the system. there is not some floating stone head of zardoz coming out of the sky to teach this mythical "blatantly liberally biased curriculum." you are not assailed by a legion of secret enemies.

tell me about this liberal math, or how about liberal chemistry? maybe you can set me straight on liberal geography? is there a liberal way to punctuate a sentence, or spell a word? (altho i do believe that capital letters are a communist plot)

are you concerned that kids might be taught values alongside the math and english? i think it is a shame that they need to be. but that is not the result of some ominous liberal plot. that is a failure of the parents. i've been around enough to hear what the teachers are telling our kids. things like; "make something out of yourself, treat other people decent, work with others on a team," and "learn to think for yourself."

this idea that education and liberal are a comingled threat is a media invention. and anti-intellectualism is not conservative.

-- Posted by lazarus on Mon, Mar 19, 2012, at 10:47 AM

@ lazurus...Just where in my post did you find the word teacher? God knows they are doing their best with the broken SYSTEM we have. It's the system that's broken, not the teachers who are mandated by law to teach the blatantly liberally biased curriculum found in todays classrooms.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Mar 18, 2012, at 9:27 PM

Steve, apparently it is taught in Economics and Finance. One of the things they do is have them do a research project on an entrepreneur about what made them successful and about their product and so forth.

-- Posted by Midnight Rider on Sun, Mar 18, 2012, at 5:36 PM

"Our public education system has been dumbed down and in the dumps for so long now that they are likely indoctrinating students into accepting that dependency upon government is success."

tim lokey. in the middle of a reasonable discussion you have to insert this ignorance?

just curious who you think is teaching in our schools? could it be people who grew us with us? could it be people who attend the same churches, shop at the same stores, and think much the way we do?

you need to spend a lot less time watching fox tv, listening to hate radio, and swallowing forwarded e-mails hook, line, & sinker.

it seems to be all to easy to convince gullible people that they are the target of some vast, secret conspiracy.

among the many shameful actions of an ignorant portion of our state legislature is the demonizing of our teachers.

news flash: our teachers are people just like us, who think they can make a positive contribution to society by educating the next generation. they are not mysterious invaders from outer space, they have not been replaced by pods.

you should apologize to every teacher you see.

-- Posted by lazarus on Sun, Mar 18, 2012, at 5:00 PM

Our public education system has been dumbed down and in the dumps for so long now that they are likely indoctrinating students into accepting that dependency upon government is success. (Though I really do hope exactly the opposite is true)

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Mar 18, 2012, at 12:49 PM

Steve, yes, my friend is local. I will contact her and ask if she would be willing to comment on what curriculum she follows.

-- Posted by Midnight Rider on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:17 PM

amshaye, do you think students from Bedford County would participate in a "club" format? No dues, nor any qualifications except a desire to discuss their ideas, learn from real-life business people, etc.

That would not require waiting on any school board or Chamber decision and I think we could get some local business folks to step up. Just promote it through the T-G, FB, Twitter, person to person (I know, that is old fashioned, but...), etc.

It would be nice if we could get some students on here, but I do not know how many read the blog.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 7:53 PM

It would make a great class for Leadership Bedford. However, they need to look more into the students they choose also. I was not chosen for the group, and I know of many of the members who were chosen who have dropped out of school and not done much with their lives. It would have been a very beneficial project for me, and I would have applied it to the real-world.

Again, I sure hope Bedford County can come up with something. I know my college business classes, as well as my current job, have been great in providing me with knowledge of the business world. I just wish I could have received some of the real-world knowledge a little sooner than college.

-- Posted by amshaye on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 12:32 PM

You are right John. It would be a great leadership class project and have long-lasting benefits.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:40 AM

The Small Business Administration says that 50% of small business fail in the first five years. http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/smallbusin...

Looking at the reasons, most of the issues can be overcome or avoided with education. How much better could that percentage be if we equipped our young people with tools to succeed.

It does not matter if they plan to go on to college or step out into work right from High School. Both would be better prepared for the realities of life.

What they are being taught will have much more meaning if they could see why Math would help them with their finances, estimates and budgets, Language skills for writing proposals, designing web sites, communicating with their customers, Art to give them a perspective when designing advertisements, etc., etc..

In our internet business we constantly have people who think free shipping is free. Constantly see listings that are distracting because of misspellings, misuse of words or sentence structure. Sellers who lose money because they miscalculated or forgot to take something into consideration.

The examples are endless and I am sure those of you reading this can offer many more.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:38 AM

This is the type of thing that might make a great class project for some future Leadership Bedford class.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:06 AM

Now that I think of it, I believe it was the late Bob Green who worked with Junior Achievement, while he was director of the Chamber of Commerce.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:05 AM

Is your friend going to be local?

If not, maybe she could sign-up with an alias and join our discussion? I would not want someone local getting in proverbial "hot water"

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 10:03 AM

Steve, a friend of mine recently graduated with a Business education degree specifically to work in the high schools. I am not sure exactly what she teaches. But, your idea is a good one.

-- Posted by Midnight Rider on Fri, Mar 16, 2012, at 1:57 AM

A better voice could not be heard. Can anyone get someone from the Board of Education to comment?

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Mar 15, 2012, at 9:33 PM

As a current business student at MTSU, I wish I was taught a little more about business at SCHS. I've found that many other college students were taught business courses in high school. I am hoping to go get my Masters in Business Education. Maybe I can come back to SCHS and be hired to teach a few business courses. :)

-- Posted by amshaye on Thu, Mar 15, 2012, at 5:36 PM

I talked with the Junior Achievement folks in Nashville today. Nothing in Bedford County at the moment.DO you have any idea who spearheaded that John?

They have some pretty interesting programs and classes but they are primarily aimed at working through the education system and once you start adding more and more "approvals" and sponsors everything gets bogged down.

While it would be nice if the school system would find a way to work with them, I think more immediate results would be from starting a "Young Entrepreneurs" club that could meet inside Bedford County.

I toyed with starting a business that would primarily employ High School Juniors and Seniors and then college age students. Teaching them business development from the inside, then helping them start something of their own, BUT it has always just been an idea.

Alas, maybe in another life. :-)

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Mar 14, 2012, at 8:08 PM

We had a Junior Achievement program for a while in the 1990s, I recall, but I haven't heard anything about it lately and assume it has gone by the wayside.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Wed, Mar 14, 2012, at 9:12 AM


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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter and live on a farm outside of Bell Buckle. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.