Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

April 11, 2014

Entrepreneurship is critical to American success, yet only a small portion of the U.S. population is actually seeking venture opportunities, says William Damon, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

  • Between 2007 and 2009, Sweden, Israel, Romania, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Estonia, Finland, New Zealand, Austria and Brazil all had faster start-up rates of new companies than did the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  • The Global Economic Monitor estimates than just 11 percent of the U.S. population is engaged in venture opportunities.
  • The number of start-up jobs in the United States was only 2 percent of all jobs in 2008, down from 3 percent in 2005, according to the Kauffman Foundation.

There is no shortage of information from commentators as to what types of qualities are essential to entrepreneurial success.

  • Risk-taking is, unsurprisingly, at the top of many lists, as are discipline, perseverance and creativity.
  • There is no evidence that there exist entrepreneurial genes; anyone can demonstrate these qualities.

As such, can the characteristics necessary for successful entrepreneurship be taught and cultivated in schools?

That question is difficult to answer, because so few schools are looking at the issue and teaching the associated skills. There have been some attempts to teach classes in entrepreneurship in higher education, but such classes have generally focused on theory, not on cultivating the skills necessary for successful ventures.

Damon suggests that schools -- whether secondary schools or colleges -- make efforts to foster the skills and habits that are associated with entrepreneurship, and provide students with opportunities to gain actual, practical experience that builds on these skills.

Source: William Damon, "A Nation of Entrepreneurs?" Hoover Institution, March 25, 2014.

 

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