Acolytes of the Possible

10/08/2015 21:04

In a recent email to the COB, Curt DeBerg brought our attention to an article in Forbes on the topic of teaching entrepreneurship. Its author was concerned that perhaps instructors were inclined to gloss over the harsh realities of entrepreneurship. Curt listed several benefits related to the courses that are relevant to all who teach business. One point in particular caught my eye:

To teach e-ship is to teach about the overall operations of a business, from the ground up. It also means teaching the notion of risk and return, and that 3 out of 5 new businesses fail. Also, teaching e-ship means that some students who want to become entrepreneurs are better served by FIRST working for someone else.

When I was young, I sometimes worked for my father. He was quite a mystery. People proclaimed his genius, and yet he could neither cope with, nor control, the myriad details of running his own business. He worked obsessively until the day he died. Many wondered how such an intelligent person could fail to launch, but even as a kid, I knew. He’d chosen an entrepreneurial path because of his difficulties working a “regular job.”

He considered his bosses unfit, and so he went off on his own with only his innate skills as a guide. He failed to realize that enterprise requires deep understanding of context. Ideas are one thing; execution another. Add perennial frustration and arrogance and it’s a recipe for failure.

Without good role models and advice, we sink or survive depending on our ability to self-monitor and control. What I derived from my childhood learning was expressed in an extended discussion of “teaching” vs. “promoting” entrepreneurship in the aforementioned Forbes article. A contributor stated:

“Solving critical problems and creating beautiful things must be encouraged.” (Emphasis mine.) Sounds like a goal to which anyone may aspire.

Others weighed in.  We could do far worse than promote such ideas to students in the framework of any business model. Whether or not students eventually make their livelihood from their own businesses, they can take business knowledge and mental agility anywhere.  Lessons from entrepreneur-educators provide a framework to students (and like-minded colleagues) about how one goes about accomplishing interesting, even great things.  Here is a "master teacher's" take on the benefits of a fast track to learning entrepreneurship.

Curt suggested forming a Brown Bag Lunch Series on teaching entrepreneurship. Contact him if you too are an acolyte of the possible and would like to engage in discussion

“I Can’t Believe I Just Said That”

Zach Justus writes in Tuesday’s Tip from CELT:

Last week I shared with you some of what I have learned from when things go sideways in the classroom, when mistakes are made and you have the opportunity to be a role model in working through a problem. Today we deal with the 2nd part, a more sensitive issue, what happens when someone, even you, says something terrible. Maybe a student referred to another student by a sexist name under his/her breath. Maybe a slip of the tongue resulted in you saying something racist. Maybe you realized what you thought was good natured candor, turned out to a pattern of homophobic harassment directed at another student. Maybe you realize a student does not speak up because they are being bullied away from the classroom.

Since I started teaching, I’ve learned through surprising experience that bullying doesn’t end in high school classrooms.  I must have known, but to see it unfold is something else.

In another situation, a very likeable student made a strong, contributory observation, but used a word in a potentially offensive context that I knew could hurt at least one other student.  I took a direct approach: “Well, your politically incorrect language notwithstanding,” I said, “it’s clear that your work this semester led to a positive result…”

The class, and the student in question, actually chuckled. No one appeared to be hurt or offended. But I’m inspired now to do some investigation, including the time-honored method of asking colleagues to see how they have handled such incidents. I’d like a few responses in my back pocket should situations arise in the future. We may be an increasingly diverse community, but we are not always as tolerant as our ideals would have us be.

Free Speech at the University

As we consider the challenges of setting our students’ speech free while managing civil discussion, we are reminded of our own free speech as faculty. There have been recent incidents, a couple from University of Illinois and Northwestern University that have fueled discussion across the nation. You can review what’s new and read about how some universities are addressing the matter by clicking here.