10.24.2011 0

Rural Missouri town’s real life lesson in business

By Robert Romano — Recently ABC News highlighted the story of Leeton, Missouri, a town so small — a population less than 700 — and hard-hit by the lackluster economy that it lost its only grocery store. Residents were forced to travel to the next town just to get milk and eggs.

Seeing a need, local school teachers Bonnie Seymour and Marijayne Manley decided it would be a good idea to have their agricultural business and entrepreneurship students start their very own grocery store.

Now, entirely operated by the students themselves, the Bulldog Express — named for Leeton’s high school mascot — is a hit with residents. And while ABC focused on how student-run businesses could be a way to improve a local economy, perhaps another angle is how such enterprises could improve our education system.

“This is what education should be: learning how a business is run,” Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson commented. “Instead of just theory, students would be well served to also learn what it takes to own and operate a business in a local community.”

With over 109 million Americans are privately employed — compared to 21.9 million government workers — an important lesson, after all, is what it takes to operate a small business. Over 55 million of the privately employed work for small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration.

Instead, because of an outdated curriculum, schools still teach the theoretical basics: English, math, science, art, and music. Very little practical experience useful in employment is gleaned, and a high school education being practically universal, offers graduating students no edge whatsoever in the workforce.

It’s not that the core subjects everyone learned are not worth knowing, but perhaps there is a little bit more schools could be doing to acquaint students the with real world.

Colleges may not do much better at preparing students for the jobs that are actually available in the workforce, and unless the students major in business, again are missing out on the critical lessons of what it takes to create wealth and opportunity in this nation.

So, what we wind up with is a workforce, despite nearly 20 years of being educated, having absolutely no experience by virtue of that education.

Leeton may be offering a different approach that should be considered in communities across the nation, in particular in inner cities, where youth unemployment is reaching catastrophic levels.

But whether in rural or urban America, fears of a lost generation of opportunity are very real — and may require innovative solutions in our nation’s schools. Small businesses, after all, are major job creators. Why shouldn’t students be required to learn as part of their education what it takes to run one?

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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