Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Permanent Solution to the Down Economy

The government cannot permanently spend our way out of recession. Its so-called investments will, on average, lose money. Otherwise, the private sector would have funded them. And such investments are, on average, unlikely to kick-start the private economy to the extent necessary to replace our tax dollars.

So eventually the tax dollars needed to fund those government schemes will run out and the government will have to stop the programs or print more money, reducing the value of our savings.

The long-term answer: Create a nation of ethical entrepreneurs: people who know how to identify unmet needs (for example, in-home companions for shut-ins) and develop and execute an ethical business plan for meeting that need.

That would not only improve society, it would increase the chances of millions more Americans, especially the not-academically-oriented, to make a good living. Today, so many such people struggle to pay the rent, spend so much time looking for their next job and after landing one, living in fear of getting laid off because of a personality dispute, it's a project job with a built-in end date, or that their job will be shipped to a low-cost country. Instead, a nation of entrepreneurs will be hiring themselves as their own business's CEO.

How to create a nation of entrepreneurs? From kindergarten through college, the curriculum should include hands-on opportunities to learn ethical entrepreneurialism. How would that fit into the school day? Lengthen the school day and school year, which brings the additional advantage of ameliorating the nation's child care problem. Also, pare elements of the existing curriculum that are less important than entrepreneurship. Does anyone want to defend that, for example, it's more important that all students know geometric theorems than learn entrepreneurship? How about understanding Shakespeare's arcana? The intricacies of the periodic table of chemical elements? How about all those wars from the Peloponnesian to the War of the Roses? The endless celebration of multiculturalism suffused throughout today's curriculum?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Yes, it should be added and nothing has to be subtracted from education now!

Anonymous said...

shakespeare's atavistic language? You might want to think about whether that's the right word to use.

Reading and understanding Shakespeare and the Bible would together provide a truly excellent basis for functional English skills. Since the Bible's flat out in the US, that leaves Will, who happens to remain the most quoted source in use in English today.

Hardly a throwback. My impression was that you were interested in establishing some foundational stuff in schools - language, math and

Where I disagree with modern schools is in waiting until high school for Shakespeare. Yes, some of what's going on in some of the plays is going to be hard or impossible to understand.

That's fine. If every student understands every assignment the first time out of the gate, then first the assignments and then the students are dull. In my public high school not many years ago we did not cover the European royalty and its wars, the periodic table was of interest only to the extremely pointy-headed (and in fact in college chemistry at Berkeley we really never got into much detail beyond calcium.)

We did get basic geometry, and in high school actually did get some treatment of proving it. We read some Shakespeare as well. I suggest that both the reasoning skills involved in understanding what a proof is and in parsing a sentence more complicated than one used in Time magazine is in fact something you do want an entrepeneur to be able to do. He will need to read contracts, in all likelihood, and maybe just maybe be able to convince an audience.

On the spending, the government of course can't permanently spend its way out of recession. The point of what governments around the world are doing, including our new landlords from China, is to cushion the worst effects of the collapse of the speculative bubble.

Much of the economy is pure psychology, and right now a lot of folks have their money figuratively in their mattresses.

The Chinese stimulus package was much larger than that in the US, and has been more successful - they've gotten things heating up enough that domestic consumption is making up for a lot of export consumption already. It

Marty Nemko said...

Thanks, Anonymous. "Arcana" is better than "atavistic language."

But I question your widely made assumption that the thinking one does in studying the liberal arts will transfer to real-world problem solving as well or better than actual real-world problem solving, which one would do much more of in a curriculum that explicitly teaches entrepreneurship.

Anonymous said...

The *most* quoted author in English. Moreso than the authors of the Bible collectively considered.

How can that be arcane? Seriously, can you make an argument supporting arcane for such a widely quoted writer, any more than atavistic?

If teachers don't tell students why it is that folks are paying attention to the method of formal proof, then the students may well never come to understand it. At which point, yes, it's pointless and won't generalize at all.

I think that people really do want to understand what it means to be convincing. A part of a curriculum focusing on entrepreneurship that pointed out that in order to convince people of something, it helps to follow a logical structure could certainly include lots of examples. Geometry could be one set, a good management text another, Supreme Court decisions another.

As far as Shakespeare goes, again it's in how you teach it.

I heard a brilliant piece on the BBC a few years ago, from a fellow at a business school in the UK who was using Henry V as a management text (and Shakespeare more generally, I think.)

The concrete example he gave was from early in the play, when Henry needs to rouse the troops during the siege of Harfleur.

The prof framed his introduction this way: Henry is committed to completing a project. He's over budget. He's now far behind schedule. Henry does not have firing the staff and replacing it as an option, nor does he have quitting the job and looking for another.

He simply must finish the project with the men and resources now tasked to it. He will miss his deadline, but he cannot (and historically did not) fail.

I thought it was a brilliant way to think about the speech, and it did two things: it increased my interest both in management strategy and in the play.

There is no good reason to think that entrepreneurship or any other way of human thinking is in fact new under the sun; if we agree with Ecclesiastes on that, then it seems reasonable to draw from the full arsenal of learning on the topic - if for no other reason than to make it less monotonous.

Does one want to have some practical focus? Of course.

Can one teach careful reading and close arguing solely from within an entrepreneurship syllabus?

Perhaps, but perhaps doing so would reinvent wheels that are already around.

Few entrepreneurs I've heard of think that reinventing the wheel is a good start.

It's also just not a good idea. I was reading a conversation on Slashdot this afternoon, where someone was kicking around the idea that maybe your web browser should start to include a built in web server, too, to do certain technical things.

The person proposing this was bright, but new to the field, and took a shellacking from every corner - security, programmers, analysts.

Almost all were making one point: you need to know what came before the web, and how it is that it was developed, before you start theorizing this sort of stuff. It would help direct you away from repeating old mistakes in new clothing.

Marty Nemko said...

I encourage Anonymous to visit an AVERAGE public high school and then assess the extent to which his recommendations are valid vs. out-of-touch with the realities of high school students. The validity of term "arcana" in referring to high school students' familiarity with Shakespearean language will likely also come clear from such a visit.

Anonymous said...

Marty, I agree that the system is broken badly.

I disagree that we accept it, forget that during the Civil War there were troupes doing Shakespeare for the masses, and keep using Dick and Jane Learn Phonetics curricula.

Are today's, or yesterday's, high school kids going to be able to get through all of Richard III unassisted? No, but they needn't wait until high school to start getting challenging reading in school.

If we eliminate culture from schools - and here I'm thinking of the language of the (still) dominant culture, and the exposure to traditions of mathematical and rhetorical rigor - we are taking the biggest step we can to multiculti adoption, by presenting no culture at all in our schools.

What has only gotten truer over the years is that our educational system's condition could be construed as an act of war had it been imposed by a foreign power.

In fact this is largely self-inflicted, resulting from things going on inside and outside schools (television, cell communications and text messaging are all things no one tolerates much in a business training session; why do we tolerate them in schools?)

But faced with an act of war, it seems to me that you are proposing surrender.

sam said...

Practical subjects are always more important than learning arcane details. History in Europe is taught teaching the basic concepts and events and their impact on history rather than details of battles and dates. Doing this for many classes alone would free up much more time to learn more things pertinent to the 21st century.

As always, I love your educational reform ideas and truly want them to become reality.


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