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New School

The current education system does entrepreneurs no favors.

For nearly 40 years, Alvin and Heidi Toffler have been writing books forecasting major advents like the digital revolution and the increasing importance of communication. Business and world leaders have taken cues from the Tofflers' ideas since their first book, Future Shock. Their latest, Revolutionary Wealth: How It Will Be Created and How It Will Change Our Lives, delves into myriad topics, including the problems with the $400 billion a year U.S. education system. Alvin explains that business can have a tremendous impact on fixing the broken school system; otherwise, entrepreneurs will undoubtedly feel the effects.

Unskilled Labor: Alvin says that the U.S. education system was designed to introduce children to "industrial discipline," grooming them with rigid schedules and repetitive work for life in a factory. But he warns that the jobs of tomorrow will be even more technologically advanced than today's. "We need a completely different set of skills for kids to operate well in what we call a 'Third Wave,' or knowledge-based, economy. We must therefore radically redesign our conception [of schools]." Alvin says many imagi-native proposals are possible, a modest one being three days a week of conventional school with two days of community service and another activity.

The Cost of Doing Business: Businesses have to do something about educa-tion, Alvin says. "They'll find [that] the failure to do so creates a lot of young people who are incapable of working in the new economy, and causes more social problems. It will cost businesses in the form of taxes, social welfare costs and so forth. Simultaneously, it will reduce the capacity of [U.S.] businesses to compete in the world."

Leading the Charge: Alvin says entrepreneurs need to "bang on the doors of the schools" and start a dialogue. "There are a zillion business organizations, but I'm not sure education is a high enough priority [on] their agendas," says Alvin. Good teachers want change, he says, but they are hamstrung by bureaucratic regulations imposed from above by unions, government, politicians, etc. "There are a lot of people who will join business in this movement," says Alvin. "But without business taking the lead, it ain't going to happen."

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This article was originally published in the October 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: New School.

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