The Education Teens Really Need

The only valid path into adulthood in this uncertain time is as a freelancer with real skills that solve problems and create value.

I’ve been creating education programs and alternative schools for the past 12 years. In 2013, I won $500,000 in federal startup grants for two charter schools, and had to refuse the money. I deeply understand the difference between schooling and learning.

I don’t want my kids sitting in overpriced college classes listening to a professor drone on and on as a verbal textbook and hope that when they graduate they’ve learned something of value. So, I’m designing a better alternative.

As my oldest daughter enters the high school years, I asked myself the following questions.

  • What does she need to learn to successfully enter adulthood?
  • Is college the best path for her?
  • How can she navigate a complex world and an uncertain economic system where 70% of adults are not engaged at work?
  • Do I really want her to be chasing the carrot of “get a good job” when most jobs suck and people get laid off without any warning?

To design a life of purpose, meaning and financial security, teens need self-awareness, resiliency, emotional intelligence, economic literacy and conscious entrepreneurship skills. Do kids learn any of this in college? No. Not really. Maybe if they are super rare and lucky.

I’m in the start-up phase of creating a program for kids who want work that is meaningful, makes the world a better place and supports them financially.

Why invest the time and energy in this project?

  1. Conscious entrepreneurs are the only ones who can solve the complex problems facing our world today. Problems won’t be solved by people who have been trained to think by the people who created these problems.
  2. I want to provide young people with the freedom, skills & support to do meaningful work and create purpose-driven income streams that lead to self-employment and/or college funding. Life is short and precious. Most people on their death beds regret the things they didn’t do and spending too much time at work away from family and friends doing work that wasn’t meaningful to them.
  3. I’d like to empower the next generation of parents to have flexible schedules so that they can make parenting choices that don’t revolve around needing day care for their kids. And I’d like them to be able to choose an education path beyond school if it fits their children.

A New Approach to Entrepreneurship Education

Most entrepreneurship programs are academic. They teach kids business basics from a book and then have them do a little project and present their idea to a group of adults.  Then they go back to class and focus on academics again.

There are a plethora of low-cost and free online courses that can teach teens real skills like lean startup, customer discovery, digital marketing, brand management, coding, and sales.

What teens also need are the soft skills that CEOs keep saying college grads are missing, including collaboration, problem solving, self-agency, and resourcefulness. These skills can be taught if the program includes mentoring and coaching.

 

I am seeking entrepreneurs who want to share their stories with our young people and offer them a life-changing challenge. If you want to invest 2 hours of your time as an Entrepreneur-Mentor or in another capacity, let me know.

I want to help!

Do My Kids Need College?

Do my daughters need to jump through all of the academic hoops of high school and then college to ensure a productive and successful life?

In the U.S., the only socially acceptable path into adulthood is still college. And the better the college, the brighter the prospects. Many parents live in fear that their children won’t get into a “top” university and therefore never have a good chance at success and riches.

From this fear, they reverse engineer all their education decisions. They focus on grades and often over-schedule their children with extracurricular activities to make sure that their kids can get into a prestigious college.

Let’s take a moment to examine this.

I’m not Anti-Higher Education

I’m not opposed to higher education. I got a BA at University of Virginia and and MBA in finance from Carnegie Mellon University. And I believe that college is best approached as part of a larger plan. It is an expensive proposition to hope that a person will discover her gifts and talents at university. A few do. Most don’t.

College Doesn’t Offer Everyone a Positive ROI

First of all, there is a lot of conflicting data around this hot topic. The belief that getting into a good college will guarantee you a job and financial security is misguided. 25% of recent college graduates are unemployed and have an average of $27,000 in college loan debt.

Student loan debt will only be forgiven if they work for 5 years for the government, a non-profit, or an education institution. What a scam! Really? Why would a bankruptcy court forgive the credit card debt that you used to buy a flat-screen TV but not the Fannie Mae loan you got to pay for your college education? College and university tuition rates have skyrocketed in correlation to the ease of getting student loans.

In my initial research on ROI, I have found that 40% of liberal arts majors are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. It’s not necessarily true that STEM careers are the way to go. On average, those who pursue TEM (technology, engineering, maths) education and careers have a positive ROI on their college tuition. S degrees (biology, zoology, geology, etc.) do worse than some social science and English majors. Social science majors often fare well in the long-term because they get advanced degrees. However, I have many friends with mounds of debt from this strategy.

The 20th Century School-Job-Happiness Myth is deeply flawed and destructive to many generations.

Even if education does lead you to a high-paying job… Who says that you will be happy? In my work as an executive coach, many of my clients have been adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were well paid in the corporate world and struggling to find meaning, purpose and joy in their lives.

I also don’t think that most people want to work only 4 hours a week and lounge on the beach. This might be cool for a few months, but then our natural desire to be connected to a higher purpose kicks in.

High School is Failing many Kids

In the 2015 Gallup Student Poll of students in grades 5-12:

  • 50% are not engaged or actively disengaged in school.
  • 52% feel stuck or discouraged.
  • Only 25% of high school students are learning how to start a business.

I was extremely bored and found most of what I learned in school to be irrelevant. And I am not alone. Elon Musk hated school and called it torture. I had to ignore my inner knowing to survive school. Regaining a connection to my soul and inner purpose has been a long and challenging road.

And there is a parallel in corporate American today. In Gallup’s State of the American Workplace:

  • 70% of adult workers are not engaged at work:

Do They Really Need Algebra and Calculus?

By now you might be thinking, “OK – Caprice, it’s fine if you want to risk your daughters’ futures by telling them that they don’t need to go to college. But, I’m certainly not that stupid.” Here is what I say to my daughters, “If on your chosen path, it makes sense for you to go to college, I will support you and help make it happen.”

And my youngest daughter might choose university. At the age of 5 she declared herself to be a scientist and LOVES all things science. So, how could she possible become a scientist if we are outside of the school system? Well, not only are schools and their teacher-centered instruction methods detrimental to the innate curiosity and love of learning, their is a strong bias against women in science in academia, even if they choose this path.

From a NY Times article: “Researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts.”

Ok, fine Caprice, what if your child were a boy? Would you think the STEM education path were solid for him? Well, my 10 year old daughter has many role models and two of her favorites are Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

Einstein and Edison are two famous examples of people who succeeded wildly in life and failed at school. Edison was called “addled” by his school master, Mr. Crawford, and Edison begged not to have to go back to school. He then was taught at home by his mother, but hated maths instruction so avoided it.

“I can always hire a mathematician,” Edison once remarked, “[but] they can’t hire me.”

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam.  – Einstein and the Poet (1983)

When my oldest daughter is at dance class, I sometimes park myself and laptop at Barnes & Noble to do some work. Almost every table at the connected Starbucks has a high school student getting math tutoring. Irrespective of your thoughts on kids struggling, sweating and crying over their maths homework, it’s good to know that many famous scientists and inventors struggled with maths the way it is taught in school.

The main reason that kids drop out of high school isn’t because they are failing. It is because they are bored and find what they are learning to be irrelevant.

Who is this program for?

Zonetropy will empower people to earn money to fund college if that is what they choose. I like this approach better than coming out of college with a mountain of student loan debt and having to take the highest paying job to pay it off.

Zonetropy is a new conscious entrepreneurship cooperative network for ages 14+ that provides young people with the freedom, skills & support to do meaningful work and create purpose-driven income streams that lead to self-employment and/or college funding.

The program will be virtual so location is not an issue. We will begin by offering a guided program of two online workshops a week, plus personal challenges, group check-ins and coaching. This best for young people ages 14+ who want guidance on their entrepreneurial path and a community of friendship and mentoring

Our aim is to then offer a self-paced program with a la carte pricing. This is best suited for gap year learners; young adults who are seeking a path other than college; and high school learners whose schedules conflict with the online workshop times.

Contact me if want to join our network of Entrepreneur-Mentors.

 

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