A group of California high school students is demonstrating the future of education with an extracurricular club they call the Paly Entrepreneurs Club. This is the kind of thing we need to see more of in schools across the country. It shouldn’t just be entrepreneurial extracurricular clubs. It should be Entrepreneurship 101, at the high school or even middle school level. From an early age, we should be teaching kids to think for themselves, outside the box: big, game-changing ideas. These kids are showing us the way.
Mr. Slipper, who plans to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara in January after a stint in R.O.T.C. boot camp, demonstrated his video-sharing app, speaking quickly so as to leave time for everyone to talk about their ideas before the lunch bell rang…
“How will you protect your intellectual property?” asked Aaron Bajor, 18, one of the group’s founders. He was waiting to discuss a diagram of his own project, a social network for entrepreneurs entering college.
“Someone can always copy your idea, but that will be half-baked,” Mr. Slipper said confidently. “It’s not theirs.”
James Maa, another club founder, was up next to discuss his project, the study group social network.
“We’re not out in public yet,” he said, apologetically. Mr. Maa, 18, plans to study computer science at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. His social life, which included attending many events for start-ups, had gotten in the way of building the network, which he calls Bubble.
Not everyone had a project to present, and that was acceptable.
“The goal here is inspirational,” said Mr. Bajor, who is headed to the University of Southern California to study entrepreneurship. “A great idea can hit you any time. Even if you do not have a great idea yet, if you have capabilities and passion others will want you on their team.”
America’s big box schools mostly still train American kids to sit still and follow directions. The structure of school teaches kids to wait patiently for promotion at the end of the year. And it socializes them to think of learning as a process that involves memorizing material and repeating it on demand. The creativity that American education at its best teaches isn’t entrepreneurial creativity, unfortunately; it’s the manipulation of abstract symbols and ideas. It’s an education that, at the upper levels, teaches kids to be bureaucrats and followers. They learn that the way to change the world is to work for a non-profit and the way to manage your career is to find a place in a big organization and fit in.
This isn’t just a matter of the curriculum, or even of the big box mentality of lifelong teachers (though we could use more free range people in education so that kids aren’t overexposed to a limited selection of personality types and life outlooks during the educational process). It’s about the inherently bureaucratic structure of the system in which our young people spend such a huge proportion of their most formative and impressionable years.
What American kids really need to know is how to be entrepreneurs. Even if you work for somebody else these days, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur building your brand and steering a business. That’s going to be even more true in the future.
What these kids are doing in this club is what a lot of kids need to be doing in class. Like so much of American life, our school system doesn’t just need to be tweaked; it needs to be re-imagined, and we still have a long way to go.