Imagine an artist whose work was completely governed by a set of rules created by a committee, which met periodically to change those rules. Sometimes the artist would be allowed to paint with oils, other times she would be required to use water colors. If the committee did not like a particular painting or series of paintings, the artist might be required to use paint-by-number kits. Sometimes the members of the committee had agendas, such that the artist was required to use materials from a particular company, or was only allowed to paint images of people if certain American presidents were portrayed well, or if five (no, now seven) different racial groups were represented in every painting. Etc.
This is not art.
Image an entrepreneur whose funding was provided based on a formula relating to how many people lived near him. His stores would be required to be open certain hours, required to carry certain products, and to measure retail progress according to metrics set by a committee of local citizens. He would only be allowed to hire employees that a different, state-level committee allowed him to select from, and yet a different federal level committee specified how some of this customers must be treated – for those customers he would need to maintain detailed paperwork that specified exactly what customer service they received for each minute they spent in the store. Worse yet, each of these committees were constantly changing due to “elections” such that each committee was constantly changing the allowed hours for business, the allowed products, the measures of progress, the training and background of the employees that were allowed to work at the store, as well as how the special customers were to be treated, what paperwork was required, and what the legal penalties would be for not maintaining the paperwork properly.
This is not entrepreneurship.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, now the most successful company on earth, taught in public schools for several years after leaving Apple. Business Week interviewed him in 2006:
Are there larger lessons that you have drawn about creativity and innovation?
That schools close us off from creative development. They do it because education has to be provided to everyone, and that means that government has to provide it, and that’s the problem. Also, we’ve trained kids in schools to only do things in certain ways, not to get out of line, not to go off into other topics.
Wozniak has no axe to grind; he is simply speaking the truth. Schools close us off from creative development. While here he is talking about the impact on students, the same is true for the educators. As long as government “provides” most education, enforcing a de facto monopoly standard, artistry and entrepreneurship, creativity and continuous innovation, will never take place in the realm of education.
But education could be as brilliantly creative as any realm of art, as dazzingly innovative as any field open to entrepreneurship.