Tag Archives: Education

When Life Gives You Lemons…Teach Children

One of the major programs that is integral to the George Washington University School of Business is Lemonade Day.  The program is designed to immerse first year business students (myself) in an environment with elementary school children where we literally teach them the proper tools necessary to make a lemonade stand.  The idea is that by learning about budgeting, accounting, profit and marketing, these fourth through eight graders will acquire the necessary tools to create and run a successful stand for the official Lemonade Day D.C.  This program, which was actually introduced to the metropolitan area by a current School of Business student, is exactly the type of development I was referring to in my Dare to Dream post where I stressed the importance of programs that foster out nation’s young entrepreneurial minds.  This past month, I was fortunate enough to try my hand at teaching these very principles.

I traveled to Roots Public Charter School, which educates first through eighth graders. The trek was about thirty to forty-five minutes in which I recognized absolutely nothing; this is either a testament to how insular GW is or to how little I get out. I expected to have children anxiously waiting for our arrival. I can remember how enamored I was with older kids at that age, so I was sure these children would be similar. I thought the students would be eager to learn about the primary business principles necessary to run a successful lemonade stand, and I certainly believed they would be willing to let me teach them.  I was wrong, no doubt.

For starters, Roots is a tiny little school off the corner of a busy street. As I walked in, my immediate thought was how little funding the school must have. Not to say the school could not provide for its students, but the classroom seemed to double as a cafeteria/ recreational space and it was cramped.  Furthermore, the primarily African American students appeared to have no real interests in the fact that several college students were standing before them.  They continued to giggle and play around like any elementary school kids would do, and realistically, I should have expected this.  Knowing myself, a reserved and shy character, I knew handling these kids and keeping them on task would be a bit difficult.

When we were introduced to the array of students, it was not clear whether they had known we were coming or had prepared for our arrival. About six tables were set up throughout the room.  We helped the students grab chairs from the closet and we proceeded to form small groups so each of us could teach the lessons to a more intimate audience.  Fortunately, I sat down with two students, Jalaw and Nikai, both fourth graders who were very much interested in the project.

Jalaw and Nikai were great. Like any fourth grader, when I mentioned the idea of a lemonade stand, their imaginations went one thousand miles per hour thinking of creative themes and designs for their storefront (Nikai wanted to make the lemon on their poster look like a diamond). Their eagerness and excitement definitely helped me because it made my job of asking them questions a lot easier. It was not hard to get them thinking about logistics, supplies, budgeting, etc. because I made the ideas tangible and relevant.

For example, when talking about logistics, Nikai wanted to know how much their lemonade should cost. I didn’t answer, I asked the question right back.  He said, “Well, last time I had a lemonade stand we charged people three dollars and I made a lot of money.” While I tried to remain encouraging and positive, I attempted to steer him away from that price, as it was clearly too high given the amount of cups they were trying to sell. Instead, because they had been talking about playing music at their lemonade stand, I told them this, “Let’s put it like this: Who do you plan to sell to? Probably every day people like you and me, right? Especially if you’re going to be selling lemonade outside of a library, do you think normal people are going to pay such a high price for lemonade? If Jay Z came walking down the street, then I’d be with you guys…we could probably charge him $100,000 for lemonade!” By relating a business principle to something they could easily grasp and easily resonate with, they were able to laugh and understand that their price would most likely be too high. This made my time maneuvering in and out of topics much easier and a lot more entertaining.

The best part about Lemonade Day, though, was how I could see the light bulbs turning on in their heads. This was evident with Jalaw. As I continued to teach the two, the way Jalaw was picking up on things that I was saying and then responding back with relevant questions of his own suggested that the wheels in his head were turning. When we reached the point to talk about profit, I did not have to go through it with them step-by-step because Jalaw was working through it by himself with the information we created together. This was reward enough for my Lemonade Day experience. I realized (A) that any person can grasp these principles given the right opportunities, and (B) my skill of being a developer is real. As I taught Jalaw and Nikai, I realized that I do enjoy bringing out the potential in others. I created a stimulating and challenging environment for someone and I saw him improve because of it. If I received nothing else from Lemonade Day, at least I know I want to have more gratifying feelings similar to that.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this program.  While it was definitely a foreign experience for me and the rest of the students, I believe it had a greater, more lasting effect on the children.  I can remember back to my middle school days in which I attended a private school.  We didn’t have any programs that gave us a hands-on experience with any real-life scenarios, like business.  Honestly, I had no idea what budgeting was, but clearly, how hard could it have been to learn?  Jalaw and Nikai now have a head start on thousands of kids across the United States.  They had the opportunity to practice these important aspects of the business world early on and now their wildest aspirations of making a soda company and t-shirt line are more real than when I was ten years old and dreaming of creating a newspaper.  Imagination is a powerful tool that should always be accessible no matter what age, but when it is paired with knowledge the combination is creatively destructive.  Kids like Jalaw and Nikai, who can dream while remaining pragmatic, are the future of our nation’s innovation and financial prosperity.

By the way, the two surpassed their financial goal by making $149.

Maxwell

 

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Quick Digestibles: Rival and Excludable Goods

Welcome back to another installment of Young Economics.  Today, I break down the differences between rivalrous and excludable goods with perhaps the savior of online education, Khan Academy.

Rivalry occurs in an economy when one person’s consumption of one unit of a good or service means no one else is able to consume it. Contrastingly, nonrival suggests that one person’s consumption of a good does not interfere with another’s consumption.

Excludability is defined as the inability to a consume a good so long as it is not paid for.  Therefore, a nonexcludable good constitutes as something that is consumed whether the good is paid for, as it is impossible to be prevented.

There are many scenarios in which a good may be any combination of both rival and excludable, rival and non excludable, non rival and non excludable, etc.  For example, private goods, such as my Oreos, which I refuse to share with anyone, are both rival and excludable.  My consumption of America’s favorite cookie directly inhibits my roommate or brother from coming along and trying to consume my delectable cookies.  Moreover, there is no legal way for me to eat Oreos unless I pay for them…I wonder how much money I spend a year on this Kryptonite.  Other private goods include, clothing (attention sneakerheads), haircuts, and even the laundry at college.

Then there are public goods, or non rival and non excludable goods, enter Khan Academy.  In a lot of cases, public goods are supplied by the government, like national defense and public schooling, but in this situation a public good, such as education, is being supplied by the super teacher, Salman Khan.  Khan Academy is a non-profit educational website that was created to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”  My use of Khan Academy on their website or on YouTube, while I’m cramming for finals has no baring on the eighth grader in Texas trying to learn pre-Algebra.  You see, Khan Academy is so innovative and revolutionary because it has completely altered the perception of public education.  We all know that the public educational system in the United States needs reform, but with this website everyone of all ages can receive a free, world-class education without even leaving their home.  I guess that’s why Google and the Gates Foundation have each donated over $1 million dollars to the organization.  Avail yourself to the website , don’t you have some studying to do?

Maxwell

WTF is a Bitcoin?

Over the past several months, following the discovery of Silk Road, I’ve been hearing a lot about Bitcoins, the online cryptocurrency.  For those of you who don’t know what Silk Road is, long story short, an inconspicuous man named, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested by the FBI in early October for allegedly running an illegal online marketplace which housed everything from hitmen to illegal drugs.  According to reports, the marketplace is responsible for over $28 million in consumer transactions, the catch though, it’s all anonymous.  If you are interested in this former underground cyber network, I encourage you to check out this synopsis by USA Today .

Having been a pretty obscure and widespread news story, I feel as though a lot of people, including myself, don’t exactly know what a Bitcoin is.  I did some research so I could make this digestible post for you all.

A Bitcoin is not physical currency.  It was created in 2009 by pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto, as an online and anonymous currency.  It is not monitored or controlled by any federal entities, like the US Federal Reserve or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which means money invested in Bitcoin is at risk of being lost pending any major crashes in the volatile market.

Since Bitcoins are only online, they are created or found, through a process called “mining” in which computer users attempt to solve mathematical algorithms related to the current number of Bitcoins.  The actual number of Bitcoins to be in circulation is fixed.  The Bitcoin Foundation claims that there can only be 21 million Bitcoins at a time; in circulation right now are about 12.3 million.  Don’t take this post and run with this whole idea of mining for Bitcoins, though.  The process takes up a large amount of space on a computer and special programs are utilized to complete the mining.

Currently, Bitcoin is a legal monetary system. It is a viable alternative for some because of its privacy, much like cash, and because it is unregulated by the government, those cynics and independent ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ hipster types can truly be autonomous with their finances.

CoinYe
Kanye West inspired Bitcoin

Right now, Bitcoin is hot.  Just last month a new Bitcoin company created their form of crypto-currency around rapper, Kanye West, calling it CoinYe.  Unfortunately, due to an ensuing legal battle with the rapper, Coinye has abandoned their project.  As a bullish investor or as someone who is looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, I can see the allure of Bitcoin.  According to BlockChain , the market for Bitcoins was soaring over $900 USD until it took a tumble to a little over $500 earlier this month.  These fluctuations are not unfamiliar in this market.  You can see the graph how many spikes and dips occurred over the past couple of months.  For now, Bitcoin is a mysterious novelty that continues to grow in popularity and infamy each and every day.  As a young and prospective investor myself, I am wary of its volatility.  Perhaps one day it can become a stable and consistently profitable market.

Maxwell

Dare to Dream

Unemployment fell to 6.7% in December from 7% in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This was an unexpected drop since the current model anticipated unemployment to remain steady around 7%.  This major (I’m considering .3% to be major when you think about the thousands of people who are now employed) reduction created roughly 74,000 new jobs; however, it is still below the 200,000 mark which economists had forecasted for this period.

On the other hand, Gallup Inc. has measured the current employment rate at 42.9% with their simplified Payroll-to-Population statistic, which measures the unemployment rate as a percent of adults in full-time jobs as a percentage of the total U.S. adult population.   This number dropped from November’s percentage of 43.7%, making it the lowest number Gallup has measured since March of 2011.

Is this cause for concern?  According to the Bureau, the improvement is good, but I feel as though our nation is lacking something, some je ne sais quoi, to propel our industries and businesses further.  We owe it to the millions of people who have stopped searching for jobs, to keep pushing for economic development.  Do you know what people all across the United States are concerned about?  According to Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup Inc., its having a good job.

About three weeks ago, the freshmen in The George Washington University School of Business’s First Year Development Program had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Clifton speak about the importance of entrepreneurship.  According to his blog post, which he posted the following day, 400,000 small businesses and start-ups are being created annually, while 470,000 are failing annually.  Up until 2008, start-ups outpaced business failures by about 100,000 per year, but within the past six years that number has turned negative.  Due to the volatile market and foggy future of businesses, I think entrepreneurs are wary and more reluctant than ever to try their hand at owning their own businesses.  This is unfortunate because 50% of all jobs are in the small business sector, and according to the Small Business Administration, 65% of all new good jobs are created by them.

Despite these disappointing statistics, I would agree with Mr. Clifton in that now is the time to be taking chances on small businesses.  President Obama in his State of the Union address said, “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.”  While I agree with this sentiment, what’s innovation without a sound business plan and business leader?

This is where entrepreneurs and business students come in to play; we need you.  The United States needs not only the Steve Wozniaks, but the Steve Jobs of the world to take innovative ideas and sculpt strong strategies and team members around them, so that they can be successfully integrated into our households.  And moreover, this will push our bounds as a society and also serve as a catalyst for our economic activity to spark employment growth.  Business is no longer purely about the bottom-line, this is how entrepreneurs and students can directly affect the wellbeing of others.

My message to you young and talented business hopefuls: do not be afraid to imagine.  Think about how many silly ideas you had as a child.  I remember one specific, crazy invention that I had when I was little, it was called the Triple Tasker.  What was made out of cardboard was a contraption (really just three square openings) that would allow the user to carry three different items in one awkward, compartmentalized big box.  While this was clearly not a practical idea, I wasn’t afraid to let my mind wander and think of obscure things.  Dream big.  If you want to create the next Nike, set out and do it.  Create a strategy, go to school, gather the proper people to help you and keep fighting for your goals.  It is you people who are creative and have a strong passion for turning products and services into money machines that will propel our economy to a $17 trillion GDP to a $30 trillion GDP.

To the policy makers and current business leaders: help our young entrepreneurs and business leaders accomplish their goals.  Target these young hopefuls early and develop their strengths and skills at an early age so that their potential can be maximized.  I implore you, for our future and economic health is dependent on the youth who dream and learn the biggest.

Maxwell