Friday, February 23 , 2018, 3:07 pm | Fair 60º


Paul Burri: Academia Should Refrain from Teaching Entrepreneurship

It's a nice idea, but the practical applications are lacking

I value the teaching profession very highly. I still remember some of the great teachers I’ve had over the years and how they motivated me to read and study more physics, science, literature and, yes, even poetry. Some of those teachers opened my mind to ideas that I otherwise would never have discovered.

And, I have personally learned some of the rewards of teaching. In my later years I have had the privilege of teaching some of the things I learned through experience over the years. I know the strange satisfaction that a teacher gets after having a class of eager, interested students. There is nothing that beats the feeling of, “Yes! They got it!”

As some of you may know, I think of myself as an “incurable” entrepreneur. I still don’t know whether entrepreneurs are made or born, but I think I was born with the innate desire to change and improve things — and to make money doing it. Sometimes I wonder whether I got more pleasure out of creating a business or making money by doing so. (There are some who say that how much money you make is simply the way you keep score in the business world.)

I heard a commentator say recently that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford didn’t do it for the money but for the challenge that was there. The money that came from their efforts was simply another less important benefit. I can understand that thinking.

So it was with pleasure that I welcome the new interest that academia has in beginning to teach entrepreneurship in our universities and high schools. Other entrepreneurs like me will probably be thinking, “Well, it’s about time.” Because we have also been thinking for a long time that the people graduating from our universities may know all the theory and “book learning” there is to know about engineering, business, dentistry, photography and (fill in the blank), but know practically nothing about how to actually start or run the business.

But there is a problem — and I speak from experience. Most of academia may know all about the techniques of teaching, but they know nothing about entrepreneurship. They have never started a business, have never run a business, have never met a payroll and have never missed taking home a salary for themselves because they needed it to make that same payroll. I have.

So here’s my proposal to academia: If you stop trying to teach entrepreneurship, I will refrain from teaching education.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He has been a counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for the past eight years. SCORE offers free business counseling to local businesses. He is also the membership director of the Channel City Camera Club. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

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