Note: This OP-ED was submitted by Edwin Bifelt of Huslia. Edwin is Koyukon Athabascan and holds an MBA.
10 Reasons Why We Need to Teach Capitalism (Business and Economics) in Elementary, Middle School and High School
In 2009 all school districts in the United States spent $610.1 billion on elementary, junior high and high schools. That’s a LOT of money! Yet most would probably agree that youth are not prepared to succeed in the U.S. after high school. The majority of the U.S. population probably doesn’t understand basic accounting (Revenue, Expenses, net profit and profit margins), basic economics (supply and demand), human resources, marketing/business development, operations and the basic corporate structures (C-Corp, S-Corp, LLC, Partnership, etc.). These are the basics of capitalism (free market economy), the engine that drives the entire U.S. and most of the world.
Here are 10 reasons why we should teach the basics of business and economics in public school (the reasons are more for Alaska, but they apply to the entire U.S.
- Kids ask why
Challenging assumptions is critical for innovation. There are usually always better ways to accomplish things. Today innovation is more critical than ever.
We live in a capitalist society, yet we don’t teach capitalism in our mandatory public schools. That’s like the ancient Japanese Samurai not teaching martial arts… The system is almost guaranteed to fail.
In rural Alaska we have an epidemic of hopelessness. The opportunities are endless in this country! Maybe all a kid needs is for his or her eyes to be opened. What if the next great idea never comes to light?
- Finding something you love to do
I am almost positive that there is scientific evidence that we are happier in life when we are genuinely passionate about our work. For those of us that have found something we love to do, think about how different life would have been had you not found your calling? But kids need to learn about all possible opportunities at a young age.
- Listen to our Elders
“You need to get your education”. That message has been spread by our elders for decades in rural Alaska. Our Alaska Native elders grew up in a very different time. But they knew that success in the western and capitalist system meant a solid education and understanding of the system. They may have been talking about the school system, but there message was really to learn the ways of our new lifestyle. Which is capitalism.
- Business is everywhere!
It’s the clothes we wear, cars we drive and homes we live in! Almost everything is made by a business.. Yet most people don’t know the basics about business and economics.
- Take a page from youth sports
Ask any high school sports coach in the country. The key to a successful program is teaching kids sound fundamentals at an early age. You can’t hand a kid a basketball for the first time in 9th grade and say bring home a state championship. Building a successful individual starts from the foundation, when they are seeds sprouting their roots.
- Alaska is all about challenges
We may not have a lot of things in Alaska (Red Lobster, current fashion, sandy beaches), but what we have plenty of is challenges. Challenging climate, challenging distances, challenging economics are just a few of our problems. It has always been a struggle just to survive. Solving these challenges will take innovation and creativity. The more minds we have working on these complex challenges, the better chance we have of creating a successful state economy.
- Most High School students won’t graduate from college
It’s a proven fact. If we teach business in public school, then EVERYONE should learn at least the basics of business and economics.
- If you don’t understand the game, how can you ever expect to win?
As kids we are taught winning at a young age. Winning in the United States means providing a comfortable and enjoyable life for you and your family. It means acquiring enough wealth to enjoy your life. It’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness. But poverty doesn’t either.
Just because we teach our kids about business doesn’t mean we want them to be business owners or managers. But they do need to understand the world we live in. They need to have a blueprint to succeed in whichever profession they enjoy. Here are examples of possible programs:
Ideas for Educators
- Junior Achievement Program
- One business class in elementary, junior high and high school
- Incorporate ‘business lessons’ into classroom activities and lesson plans
Ideas for Parents
- Find something a kid really enjoys, like sports, technology, fashion, hunting and fishing, video games or science, etc. Then, have them research jobs and small/big businesses within that field.
- Alaska Business Academy
- University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Arctic Innovation Project
Idea for the U.S. and Alaska
- Include Business/Economics as a CORE COMPETENCY in education curriculum!
I know it’s not simple. A change like this (adding business as core curriculum) would be a systematic revision to the entire U.S. education system. That’s probably impossible. Teachers and school administrators would hate it, politicians would argue over all details. But, then again, how long can we keep spending (and wasting) $610.1 billion on a terrible education system?
To Summarize: If we teach ALL youth the basics for success in our economy, then we increase the intelligence of our population. A smarter population should make it more efficient, reduce poverty and increase innovation and creativity. Everyone would have the OPPORTUNITY to have a good quality of life.
Thank you for sharing Edwin!