By Jeffrey Balbi
Entrepreneurship is arguably the best route one can take, assuming you understand the economic system our country embraces. The framework that our country was built upon is called capitalism, which is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Entrepreneurism today is progressively on the decline as more American businesses are dying rather than coming to life.
An economy that does not form new companies is an economy that won’t be able to survive for long. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, our country ranks 12th among developed nations in relation to business startup activity. Countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Israel, and Italy have higher startup rates than the United States. The Census Bureau data also indicates that 400,000 new businesses are being initiated annually nationwide, while 470,000 are on the decline. Though the unemployment rate has been falling, there are still a large number of Americans that are no longer part of our once-prominent labor force. A critical component of developing jobs is by having startup businesses, as they are responsible for creating more than 20 percent of new jobs.
A main contributor to the decline of entrepreneurism in America is the structure of the educational system. The current educational system has been sucking the creative and innovative spirits out of our children. According to research done by Kyung Hee Kim, professor of education at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, all aspects of K-12 level students’ creativity have been in significant decline over the last few decades. Based on scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, Kim’s study shows “that children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” The results based on these scores indicate that it’s a very gloomy subject that needs to get addressed sooner rather than later. It’s difficult to state a factual reason as to why this has been happening. One can infer that it’s partly related to the psychology of social conformity that increases with age and a higher level of social awareness.
Sir Ken Robinson, from his famous TED Talk “How Schools Kill Creativity,” discusses the need to reform the existing education models, in which were originally designed to support industrialization. He mentions reconstituting the conception of “the richness of human capacity” and adjusting our education systems accordingly. Robinson also brings up the fact that due to the world changing in transformational ways, “creativity now is as important in education as literacy,” and consequently should be treated in the same regard. He further argues that as a society, we tend to “stigmatize mistakes,” and as a result “we’re educating people out of their creative capacities,” thus eliminating children’s natural willingness to take chances.
Robinson’s point of view can resonate with many individuals who take a rather close view on society as a whole. His overall argument is perhaps the reason our nation is facing a decline in new endeavors given that these are exactly the skills and traits needed to be innovative and entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is not only good for our economy’s sake but it is also a powerful moral human activity. Our educational model rewards us for staying within the lines, for doing well on standardized tests and assessments, and valuing achievement as defined by society. On the other hand, entrepreneurs are able to contribute to society by imagining and creating innovative solutions, products, ventures, services, and technologies that ultimately benefits us all.
It is no secret that most entrepreneurs and innovators fail numerous times before they succeed. With that being said, why not teach our kids how to “fail fast, fail often” so that they learn from their own experimental failures and successes? It’s time to encourage the future generations to come to be comfortable with their failed attempts, and the learning that is revealed in the process. The fear of failure is ultimately the fear of experiencing success.
Fitchburg State University has brought in a new Entrepreneurship minor program that is available to non-business administration degree students from all majors. It emphasizes innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and creative processes, and operating as a member of a cross-functional team. This minor is founded on the understanding that there is a common process for the realization of new ventures and provides the student with the foundational knowledge to undertake entrepreneurial activity.