27 September 2012

Why the US Engine of Economic Prosperity is Grinding to a Halt

...last year, 1 out of 2 bachelor's degree holders under 25 were jobless or unemployed. Since the recession, we've lost millions of high- and mid-wage jobs -- and replaced a handful of those with lower-wage ones. No wonder some young people are giving up entirely -- a 16.8 percent unemployment rate plus soaring student loan debt is more than a little discouraging. Yet old-guard academic leaders are still clinging to the status quo... _Atlantic
US economic growth has been almost flat for the past several years. Economists in governments, academia, think tanks, and non-governmental / inter-governmental agencies have debated the reasons for for economic slowdowns in the US, Europe, and other advanced nations -- without reaching a firm consensus.

But for the US, the reason for economic stagnation seems more than clear: In general, Americans have forgotten how to be innovative entrepreneurs, and rather than facilitating private sector entrepreneurship and innovation, the US government has become the greatest obstacle to private business and markets. Even the schools in the US have largely turned away from teaching entrepreneurial skills, choosing to enact policies of politically correct, collectivist indoctrination instead.

But there are exceptions:
Look no further than institutions like Babson College, consistently ranked #1 for entrepreneurship. Since current president Len Schlesigner signed on -- in the midst of the Great Recession, no less -- Babson's faculty has pioneered its own teaching method, applying entrepreneurial thinking and hands-on learning to every aspect of campus life. Unlike other collegiate leaders, Schlesinger saw the recession as an opportunity to expand. With Babson faculty on board, he ambitiously coordinated stakeholders on and off campus, and formed departmental task forces to review curricula.

Today, every freshman who walks into Babson goes immediately to work with a team to create, develop, launch and manage a new business (and they donate their profits to nonprofits). Students spend just 14 hours a week in class -- the other 154 are spent elsewhere, in special interest housing or working on student-led initiatives. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a course.

Programs like Babson's are worth emulating not merely because they create the next generation of business owners and freelancers (independent workers are an especially fast-growing category). These programs enable students to think entrepreneurially -- to seize opportunity, take risks and create wealth. Simply put, entrepreneurship education gives young people a toolkit to apply their field of study to the real world.

It also makes them more employable. A recent report from Junior Achievement Innovation Initiative and Gallup found that both employers and employees believe America's workforce must become more entrepreneurial if the U.S. is to remain competitive -- 95 and 96 percent, respectively. Only one in 10 believed entrepreneurship was an innate skill. _Atlantic
Entrepreneurship and innovation need to be taught from the earliest ages, in order to make them second nature. Once, that was true for large cross sections of American youth. It is no longer the case.

Part of The Dangerous Child approach to education, is teaching the child at least three ways of supporting himself economically by the age of 18. Entrepreneurial skills come in handy for just about any occupation, from the sciences & professions all the way to vocational occupations and manual labour jobs. Many people have become millionaires by running janitorial companies, for a mundane example . . . . But the same principle applies from the top to the bottom of occupations.

Many of the world's richest and most powerful people dropped out of high school or college, using knowledge and skills obtained and developed in the real world.

And who can blame them, when so many schools are failing students so badly these days?

Ultimate Resource -- Why innovation is so important

Economic prosperity comes from human energy, human innovation, and the human ability to create networks of exchange and trade.

But according to modern media, academia, and politicians, such practical skills should be secondary to enlightened political leadership -- as personified by Obama, for example.

It is okay for the dull segment of society to hold such beliefs, but if everyone feels that way, the society is on the fast road to third world status. Perhaps that is the intent of the leaders of modern government, media, and academia.

But that is their problem. Our problem is how to generate prosperity in spite of government, popular culture and media, and academia.

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