The Business of America is Business…So Why Aren’t We Teaching it to Kids?

Seal of the U.S. government's Small Business A...

Seal of the U.S. government’s Small Business Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my students can take apart a classic El Camino or Gran Torino and put it back together blind folded. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but the kid is a mechanical wiz. He loves classic cars, especially muscle cars, and can talk for hours about a ’69 Shelby or Cougar. He’s self-admittedly ADHD and as he tries to concentrate on the algebra test in front of him, when he’s not popping his head up and looking around like a squirrel sensing danger, he looks up at me and says,”Mr. Lopez, I just don’t get this crap.”

Then there’s another student who loves to cook and dreams of culinary arts school and her own restaurant. I remind her daily that the door to her dreams is unlocked by passing algebra to which she replies,”I know and it sucks.” Okay kid so jump through the hoop. I’m here to help you do it. I want these kids to fulfill their dreams probably more than they do or I wouldn’t be getting up at 5:30 every morning to sell algebra to a very tough audience.

On the other hand, I have an economics student who stayed up late nights working on his business website project. He did a beautiful job which you can see at The econ students have shown a great deal of interest in building business and personal promotional websites. The product of their labor is immediately relevant and can be viewed on the web by friends, family and, more importantly, by future employers. Students are beginning to realize that web design, graphic arts and social media are critical skills for making a living in a web-based economy.

Teacher-preneur that I am, what am I trying to say? Should we not teach algebra to all our students? Most definitely we should. Teachers can’t predict who will or will not end up needing the various skills we teach. But let’s look at the numbers. According to census bureau data 28 percent of Americans have a four year degree or higher. The trend has been upward for years but appears to be flat-lining, especially among the minority population. New York times published an article (College graduation rates are stagnant even as enrollment rises, a study finds, Sep. 17, 2011) which corroborates the numbers from the census bureau. Of course, there are a host of reasons why students don’t graduate with 2 and 4 year degrees among which is lack of funds or the need to make a living. Another problem is that many students don’t have the academic aptitude to complete college (note I didn’t say “don’t have the intelligence” which is an entirely separate issue). Furthermore, many occupations to which students aspire do not require a 2 or 4 year college degree, for example, the various trades.

Now add in these statistics from the Small Business Administration (

How important are small businesses to the U.S. economy?

Small firms:
•    Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
•    Employ half of all private sector employees.
•    Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
•    Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
•    Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
•    Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
•    Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
•    Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
•    Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

A couple of stats jumped out at me, “Are 52 percent home-based” and “produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms” (have any of you ever used the “chip clip?”). Quite a few people are working independently and coming up with great product ideas.

What do the college grad stats and SBA stats tell us? Our secondary education curriculum has a huge hole in it. We are not serving a large portion of our clientele. Many of the continuation high school students I teach are intelligent, talented, have good people skills and have no interest in going to college. However, given the correct tools these kids could end up being highly successful in business. So why have we not carved out a place in our secondary curriculum for helping our students acquire some foundational, 21st century business skills? Hence, this blog.


6 Comments on “The Business of America is Business…So Why Aren’t We Teaching it to Kids?”

  1. Purnimodo November 1, 2012 at 10:46 AM #

    What I find is that there is also a mismatch between textbooks and today’s business environment. It’s changing faster than the books are written. More so social media is at this moment completely absent from our curriculum and what we see is that after an internship students sometimes don’t bother going back to school. When schools don’t close this gap and deliver education that is relevant this will only increase.

    One of the history teachers (I am clueless as to why they have multiple teachers for the same course) of one my student has started uploading his lectures online. I think this empowers both the teacher as well as the student.

    • Robert-preneur November 2, 2012 at 12:54 AM #

      You are absolutely right. Technology and its uses for business and networking is rapidly outpacing curriculum at the secondary level. Most teachers are behind the curve and require a lot of training themselves in the use of technology in the classroom. What do you teach?
      Warmth and Peace

      • Purnimodo November 2, 2012 at 1:24 AM #

        Teaching not so much but a tutor. Dutch, English (poor souls) and basic Mathematics. Mostly high school students. It’s fun, challenging at times not to mention draining but fun.

  2. Robert-preneur November 2, 2012 at 2:54 AM #

    You are a fellow educator and I salute you. 🙂

  3. Malcolm Greenhill November 16, 2012 at 4:48 PM #

    Exactly right. We have confused education with training. Most people should be trained. Some people should be educated. I don’t mean this to sound elitist but I believe there is a real distinction here.

  4. Robert-preneur November 16, 2012 at 10:52 PM #

    Thank you for your comment Malcolm. I don’t think you sound elitist at all. There’s nothing elitist about recognizing that students all have different talents, aptitudes and aspirations and that the education system should maximize the opportunities for growth and success in an incredibly diverse student population.
    Warmth and Peace

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