At no point has a client ever come to me, quizzed me on what I knew, handed me a check based on how I performed on that quiz, then told me I was free to watch a movie until it was time to start preparing for the next quiz.

In fact, I feel pretty safe in saying that I don't know any business that uses the model described above.

Yet, as a father who has had children in public school systems in three different states over the past decade and a half, I've seen the model above used in varying degrees in every school my children have attended. Kids are prepared to take a standardized test, then once the test is complete they often watch movies, or in the case of my high school-age daughter, watch Netflix on their phones.

This isn't an attempt to bash teachers. There are few professions and people that deserve more respect. It's also no secret that many teachers desperately wish for a better way.

And, with fewer new businesses being started than ever before and fewer younger people choosing entrepreneurship, it's obvious that if we want to create entrepreneurs and not test-takers, we need to find that better way.  

There are programs that integrate entrepreneurship into elementary school curriculums, like Junior Achievement's BizTown, or local programs like Lindenwood University's Lemonade Week in St. Charles, Missouri.

However, while important, programs like these are not a substitute for entrepreneurship programs that are integrated directly into school curriculums. BizTown, for example, is one of many Junior Achievement programs that make a big difference--for a small percentage of students. According to Junior Achievement, their entire roster of programs reaches 4.6 million students, which is about 9% of the 50.1 million students enrolled in K-12 programs.

And programs like Lemonade Week (while also well-intentioned and impactful), are conducted after school and off campus. Programs like that can be difficult for low-income or two-income households to participate in.

How do I know?

Because I grew up in a two-income, low-income household.

My parents worked constantly and simply didn't have the time to shuffle my brother and me to and from after-school programs. My mom either attended community college at night or got off work at 8 PM. My dad was on the road, sometimes for months on end.

Two parents who had to work incredibly hard to make a living weren't the only reasons why I was never exposed to entrepreneurship.

I, like many other low-income kids, never knew a single business owner growing up. In fact, I was well into my twenties before I knew someone who owned a successful business (partially because back then selling pot was not a "legitimate" business). 

There are a lot of kids who grew up like me:

Kids who had poor parents, or busy parents, or poor and busy parents.

Kids who never knew an entrepreneur.

Those are the kids who would likely benefit most from entrepreneurship lessons that are incorporated in classrooms at a young age, when kids are still passionate about learning.

In order to do that, legislators and education officials have to de-emphasize standardized testing, and give teachers a chance to get creative and incorporate lessons on math, science, language, and even the social sciences into building a mock (or real) student-run business.

It's an idea  that has made an impact in the limited number of classrooms that have implemented early entrepreneurship education.

But whatever we do, something has to change.

Why?

Because as an entrepreneur and parent of a child who is close to finishing her public school experience, I believe the current emphasis on standardized testing has done very little to prepare my children for a world where their best economic opportunities result from entrepreneurship. 

Published on: Jul 26, 2016