Guest Column

Teaching entrepreneurship is essential to re-engineering public education

Rashon K. Hasan

The fate of public education in America rests on our ability to help students develop critical skills that will transcend to innovation. 

Innovation has long been the cornerstone for reshaping communities and society. Leaders in the public education space often cite global competition as a reason to improve the quality of public education. 

I agree with this reasoning but can only take these statements at face value because education leaders continue to remix subject matters such as reading and math and fail to address the need to develop critical thinking skills.

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It’s hard to believe that scoring well on standardized tests increases a person’s chances of being competitive on the global stage, especially when students in other nations are being taught different subjects than students in America. 

Standardized testing is the easiest measure that can be used to gauge student proficiency on subject matters, but it does not assess a student’s ability to think creatively and solve for large-scale issues. 

To put it plainly, we are being lazy and uncreative about what we teach children in public schools. America is a capitalist society that thrives off entrepreneurship yet we have not made it a priority to develop entrepreneurial skills in students.

Entrepreneurs harness the lessons they acquire through failure and find ways to transform those failures into success.

The basis of the current public education system is to push students to obtain short-term success and causes them to forego failure, thereby missing opportunities to attain greater success in the long term. 

Some may argue that short-term success is best for students. I respectfully disagree and push back on that notion because standardized test scores measure short-term success and those scores do not paint the complete picture of a student’s ability to be successful in life.

As a quote from Haki R. Madhubuti states “many people have serious academic degrees but cannot find a job, and sadly their degrees are so limited that they cannot even think about how to create a job for themselves.” 

This quote is an arrow pointing directly at the issue plaguing many urban communities – we lack jobs and our public schools never taught us the skills we need to create our own. 

Education is the key to stabilizing communities and entrepreneurship is the key to re-engineering education. 

We can no longer accept schools as factories with assembly lines pumping out students who are trained to accept the status quo. We need students to possess critical thinking skills that will allow them to assess and critique their local environments with the intent to improve and rebuild existing systems.

Anyone who says entrepreneurship cannot be taught is dishonest. The skills required to be a successful entrepreneur are innate to our existence. We are born with different patterns of thought and ideation but our school system trains us to think like the rest of our classmates. 

Exposing students to entrepreneurship can be a simple task. We need only tap into existing skills and inspire students to use their imagination and creativity. 

Remember these are the tools that God gave us at birth but somewhere along the way our education system stopped feeding our imaginations. And as the saying goes "if you don't use it, you lose it!"

Education reform debates start and end with the same buzzwords and propaganda like "children in low-income communities need access to great schools." 

I don't believe that any school can be great without developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students. Without implementing entrepreneurship as a core competency we are only providing students greater access to a school system that stifles creativity and imagination.  

If we are serious about transforming public education we have to reject the idea that an appropriate education is one that solely focuses on absoluteness such as 1+1=2. 

We must consider that in the real world we find ourselves faced with problems that can be resolved by using multiple solutions. It's imperative that we re-engineer public education in America, particularly in urban communities by making entrepreneurship a focal point in the blue print for public schools.

Rashon K. Hasan is a former member of the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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