Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Montessori in Chile — interview with Bernardita Jensen

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Entrepreneurship and Montessori Education

Berna 1Bernardita Jensen is founder and rectora of the Pucalán Montessori School in Colina, Chile. Before founding Pucalán Montessori, Jensen studied at the Houston Montessori Center and founded three other Montessori Schools in Chile. We met with Jensen to discuss her passion for education and the Montessori method.

Kaizen: Where in Chile were you born?

Jensen: In Santiago, but I lived in southern Chile in my childhood and adolescence in Temuco. It’s beautiful and similar to western Canada.

Kaizen: Chilean Patagonia.

Jensen: Yes, near Patagonia. As a young child, I lived on a farm in a beautiful place with trees, volcanoes, and lakes. It was marvelous.

Kaizen: What was your education like?

Jensen: My schooling was traditional. Nevertheless, for me the farm environment was very important, and my mother had a significant role in my education. She gave me more confidence. She was a very creative woman. In my childhood I played a lot, read a lot, imagined a lot, and dreamed a lot.

Kaizen: Was it a small town or big town?

Jensen: It was a small town.

Kaizen: And so your formal education was traditional Chilean schooling?

Jensen: Yes, it was a typical traditional education; with very little space for personal initiative. However, in high school I had a very fantastic teacher who was Japanese. His name is Josuke Kuramochi. My life changed with this teacher.

Kaizen: What did he teach?

Jensen: Spanish literature.

Kaizen: And you were reading a lot, so you were the right student for that class and that teacher?

Jensen: Exactly.

Kaizen: You say it was life-changing. In what way? When you were a girl, were you thinking that you would become a teacher or go to university?

Jensen: My life was changed because he was a teacher who truly knew me and helped me to develop a deep sensitivity. He helped me learn to love reading and also brought out in me leadership skills. I learned from him to love what I do. I also learned diversity from him, being the open and accepting person he is.

When I was a girl, I liked education and psychology. I’m not sure, but I think I studied education because of the influence that my teacher had on my life.

Kaizen: And what age were you when you took the course with him?

Jensen: I was seventeen.

Kaizen: In that time, were you thinking about becoming a teacher?

Jensen: Though I wasn’t sure I would be a teacher, I had by that point begun thinking about teaching. My passion was always to work with people, even better with children or adolescents.

Kaizen: Did you go to university immediately?

Jensen: Yes, in Santiago at the Catholic University. I studied psychology for two years and studied education for four years.

Kaizen: And you graduated with a diploma that enabled you to become a teacher?

Jensen: Yes.

Montessori-School (16)Kaizen: Did you at this point have any work experience other than on the farm?

Jensen: I had, as a young adult, some experience working as a volunteer in areas of social work.

Kaizen: Did you immediately become a teacher after finishing university in Santiago?

Jensen: Yes, and I also began to study Montessori education in Santiago and then in Mexico. I was simultaneously working and studying: both in the field of education.

Kaizen: How did you first hear about Montessori?

Jensen: At the university. In a methodology course, I had to study a current pedagogy and, by happenstance, the topic that chose me was Montessori education. I had been intuitively drawn to Montessori studies and had even found a book by Maria Montessori in the library and had resonated with it.

Kaizen: Completely independently?

Jensen: Yes. I found that book and read it—and then I read all Montessori books in the library every day.

Kaizen: Were the ideas in Montessori similar or different to your formal education for teaching?

Jensen: Completely different. Despite amazing and sincere professors, my university courses on pedagogy weren’t true for me but Montessori changed all that.

Kaizen: So you wanted to be a teacher, but you didn’t like what you were being taught and you were looking for other alternatives.

Jensen: Yes. I loved the kids but not the curriculum in university.

Kaizen: You said you got some formal Montessori training in Santiago. Where?

Jensen: Exactly, I studied in Centro de Estudios Montessori Chile with Mexican or North American teachers who came to Chile to teach us. This would have been in the early ‘90s.

Kaizen: And then you went to Mexico for further training?

Jensen: That’s right.

Kaizen: There is a formal certification process for Montessori?

Jensen: Yes. In the United States I studied for three years. I travelled during my vacations in the summer program to the Houston Montessori Center. I studied in the middle- and high-school program there.

Kaizen: Your interest as a teacher was at the high-school level primarily?

Jensen: Somewhat. I did study the Montessori Method for elementary and middle school as well as high school students. My interest, more than a specific age, was to see the complete development of the child. I understood from this that Montessori is not just a method but an educational philosophy.

Kaizen: So you were working in Santiago and self-studying Montessori and then going for formal training as well. How many years altogether did this take from

university to the time you finished your training in Houston?

Jensen: I studied at university from 1984 to 1990. From 1990 to 1995 I worked and studied Montessori. I studied in Houston from 1999 to 2003.

Kaizen: That’s a long time. During all of that time when you were working were you teaching in a high school in Santiago?

Jensen: No, first I taught upper elementary, ages nine to twelve. And then I studied the adolescent program and worked with adolescents. Before the current Puculan School, I co-established three other Montessori schools in Santiago.

Kaizen: When did you start your first Montessori school?

Jensen: In 1991.

Kaizen: Soon after finishing university. Who were your partners?

Jensen: Elena Young. She had a solid background in Montessori for young children, after having studied in the United States. She was an important woman in Chile promoting Montessori education. Elena and I formed one of the first Montessori school in Santiago: Huelquen Montessori School.

Kaizen: Were other people involved?

Jensen: Yes, there were three other teachers. It was very small. There were only twenty students in a little house with no back yard for play, so we would go to the town square for recess and the children would climb the trees, play hide-and-seek and other games.

Kaizen: You said you founded three schools. Did the first one fail?

Jensen: No, it’s still operating. I took time off because I had my first child. And then I formed the other schools with other people: the second was formed in conjunction with the Boy Scouts. Are you familiar with Boy Scouts? Montessori and Boy Scouts—they have ideas that work quite well together.

Kaizen: Starting chapters and different troops?

21Jensen: Yes, with the Chilean Association of Boy Scouts.

Kaizen: So you started one in Santiago, and that was successful. Then you had your child and took a year off before starting your second one.

Jensen: Yes, exactly. I was also always studying and deepening my understanding of Montessori education.

Kaizen: Who were your partners for your second one?

Jensen: I started the second school with Paola Bianchi. She was another Montessori teacher, who had studied Montessori for elementary age children with the AMI in the United States.

Kaizen: Was this school similar to the first with just a few teachers?

Jensen: Yes, it was the same.

Kaizen: And how long before you started the third one?

Jensen: Three years.

Kaizen: Same story? The second school was also successful so you started a third one?

Jensen: Yes, pretty much. I moved from Santiago to a more rural area outside of the city. And there the parents knew me and asked me to start a new Montessori school there.

Kaizen: Did you have any special challenges with attracting students?

Jensen: Not really. Young families found Montessori attractive: connection with nature, an interest in healthy lifestyles, etc. Apart from this, most of these young families in this small rural area knew each other and were interested in keeping their community tightly knit.

Kaizen: Yet you were starting the first Montessori schools in Chile—what did they know about Montessori?

Jensen: Montessori is new in Chile. However, traditional education has been in crisis for some time and it has been a great moment to encourage and speak about the benefits of Montessori. Families are interested in holistic development, individual development, emotional development, in diversity and respect toward the environment: the fundamentals of Montessori, even if the name “Montessori” is new. The parents listened to me speaking passionately about this new model of education and, as they were also looking for something new, the response was overwhelming.

Kaizen: So you are a credible person and you are passionate about it and you speak about it well.

Parents also look at the expense. Traditional schooling is “free” because it is covered by tax money, and at your school they pay tuition?

Jensen: Yes, and it is not cheap. However, the system in Chile is such that, even traditional schools are not free. The public schools are the only ones covered by tax money and they are considered very low-level.

Kaizen: For young families starting out, it likely looks expensive. So you attract parents who are very committed to their children’s education, and if they think it’s good they will find a way to pay for it.

Jensen: Yes. We have even seen some families that choose the school and then decide to move here due to it being the right choice for their children.

Kaizen: So you now have started two schools in Santiago and one in Colina?

Jensen: I have actually started two schools in Colina. The name of the first school in Colina is Rayen Mahuida. I started this school with the other people for profit. It’s a beautiful school which we designed with an architect.

Kaizen: You designed it from the ground up? So you are not starting in a house now?

Jensen: That’s right. This was the first school where we bought the land, and worked with a team to design and build it. It was a fabulous project: the school was specifically designed for Montessori education. For three years I worked with these people, but then I broke away from this group because my vision was different from theirs. For me, education should be non-profit, and the school was for profit and, due to this, our relationship was broken.

Kaizen: Was the divide was solely about mission and money issues?

Jensen: Yes, exactly. I broke away from this organization, and the parents told me to start a new school again.

Kaizen: How would you describe the business organization of the new one? Is it a cooperative or a non-profit trust or foundation?

Jensen: Yes, that’s how Pucalan was founded; it is a private non-profit foundation. The board is made up of parents, and my work is with the parents, and sometimes it’s not easy.

Kaizen: As the rectora?

Jensen: That’s correct.

Montessori-School (13)Kaizen: The new school is called Pucalán and is north of Santiago. What year did you start it?

Jensen: Yes, it started in 2000 in a lovely building we rented in the area which had been a horse stable that we remodeled and used for 12 years.

Kaizen: You still have expenses to pay and a new facility. Is everything paid for out of tuition or did you have to do financing with banks?

Jensen: The operation of the school is financed by tuition. Three years ago, we bought a new space and built a new building, which was financed by a bank but is thankfully no longer a rented space.

Kaizen: How many students?

Jensen: 550.

Kaizen: How many teachers?

Jensen: 95.

Kaizen: About one teacher per every five students. How many administrative staff?

Jensen: 12.

Kaizen: You are the rectora, and your board is made up of parents??

Jensen: Yes, mostly parents.

Kaizen: Do you have other people on the board of other expertise?

Jensen: Different expertises but not in education. We have architects, lawyers, psychologists, and so on.

Kaizen: What is the cost of tuition for parents?

Jensen: 300,000 Chilean pesos per month, which is about $430.00 US Dollars.

Kaizen: And a school year is how many months?

Jensen: Ten.

Kaizen: So the cost for a year would be 3,600,000 Chilean pesos. What is the current exchange rate for U.S. dollars?

Jensen: Right now, the exchange rate is about 690 pesos per dollar. The annual tuition in dollars would be about $5,200.00 per year.

Kaizen: Did you have any problems with regulations starting a private school?

Jensen: Yes, especially in the beginning. The national curriculum is required for any new school. It’s a very strict and linear curriculum based on cognitive skills based on memorizing information, which is quite different from Montessori. Montessori is a holistic structure which is more concerned about learning processes rather than just information. The emphasis is not only cognitive in the Montessori model, but also social and emotional integration of the child. Breaking away from a very traditional system, we have had a great deal of success and have, over time, gained more respect from the community. In fact, many Schools of Education have requested to come and observe our school, as this new system is becoming more attractive.

Kaizen: You’ve done this several times. Did it get easier each time?

Jensen: No, it didn’t get easier. Of course, I had more experience but the conditions were still such that it was, each time, quite challenging. I learned to develop more confidence each time and understand the system better but the system hasn’t radically changed.

Kaizen: What challenges stand out aside from the amount of paperwork?

Jensen: One of the most interesting challenges of Montessori is that it is not only an educational system; Montessori requires a certain ethic, community involvement, a radically different paradigm than the individualistic society we’re used to. This can be difficult to sustain over time, as each member must commit fully to this paradigm in order for the project to work. Overall, this is the greatest challenge and beauty of Montessori: it is a way of life.

Kaizen: So when you are applying for the permits, it doesn’t translate well to what the education establishment is looking for. How do you get past the hurdles?

Jensen: To a certain degree, we haven’t fully overcome all the hurdles. We submit to the most essential regulations imposed by the educational establishment, but these regulations don’t necessarily impede our work as Montessori educators. In a way, we are still running risks by doing what we do, yet ultimately, the results speak for themselves.

Kaizen: So after you’ve done the Montessori schools and you have a track record and can show that it is working, then it becomes easier. But at the beginning you would have to be convincing government officials.

Jensen: Yes. The results we’ve had have been very positive. This is primarily because many of our students that we have by the time they are in high school have strong leadership skills, a critical awareness of their environment, and many of our graduates have gone on to entrepreneurial pursuits in the areas of their interest.

Kaizen: Are there any other kinds of regulatory challenges that you face?

Jensen: No, because the standard is higher in Montessori schools. Furthermore, we have generally had great results on the standardized tests that dictate the regulatory requirements, which is typically all that the government officials look at.

Montessori-School (8)Kaizen: When you are talking to parents, what do you tell them about why you believe Montessori is right for their child?

Jensen: I talk about freedom and educating the whole person—emotional, personality, spirituality, and the social aspect—not only cognition. This is an important point for parents. Education involves thought process and emotion, as well as spirituality, and our spirituality program is very significant in the school; not a religion program exclusively but a spirituality program. I also speak to them about the parallels between the Montessori Method and today’s scientific discoveries about how we learn as humans.

Kaizen: So you emphasize the freedom element—the uniqueness of each child—and being well-rounded. You grew up on a farm, and Montessori herself liked agricultural education. Do you incorporate that into your schooling?

Jensen: Yes, there is a lot of hands-on experience. We have a tree nursery which the children look after and will then plant those same trees around the school. We also have gardens cared for by the children which were designed by a permaculture team. Do you know permaculture?

Kaizen: Yes, that you can do anywhere. That must have been a challenge in Santiago, a large urban area, earlier.

The other issues about responsibility—learning household things, cleaning up after yourself, and these kinds of things—how do you teach that in your school?

Jensen: It is very important to teach responsibility for their actions. The students clean the school and put the materials in order. This is the first step to responsibility. And this idea is also very important to the parents. This is a revolutionary idea in the school because it seems a waste of time to let the child labor over cleaning up their space, but lost time is not lost time. They can learn a lot. When the children learn these skills and responsibilities, they feel more involved in the community – they feel a stronger sense of belonging. In fact, some of our high school students, in a community service program, will build a playground on our school grounds for use by the younger students.

Kaizen: I visited your new campus for Pucalán school in Colina last year. It was built in 2013?

Jensen: Yes.

Kaizen: It is huge and impressive. When did you decide to build the new campus?

Jensen: In 2008 I started thinking about it, because the rented campus was old and very expensive. I had the experience of seeing many beautiful Montessori schools in the United States, Mexico, Italy, Spain, and New Zealand which inspired me to consider designing our own school here.

Kaizen: So you chose the best of everything that you liked?

Jensen: Yes, I was inspired by the best parts of all that I saw and we then had to adapt to our reality. We chose a spiral form, relating to the cyclical development of the individual. This is comprised of 8 large modules. Each module is a space for each stage of development as described by Montessori as well as an additional module for Music and Art.

Kaizen: And with a successful school running and a supportive board you were able to build your ideal school?

Jensen: Yes, but it was not easy.

Kaizen: So you had more financing to do and an architect to work with?

Jensen: Yes, I worked with an architect from Sweden. The design of the school was very important. The students and the parents and teachers had input in the design of the school. It was a community project, really.

Kaizen: How did you choose this architect from Sweden?

Jensen: He is a Swedish architect but he has lived in Chile for some time. He is well-versed in indoor and outdoor space design as well as sustainable design. This was what we found most attractive about working with him.

Kaizen: The school’s land has several acres.

Jensen: Yes, five hectares, which is 50,000m². This translates, I believe, to just over 10 acres.

Kaizen: That’s substantial, and you have about eight pod-like buildings built in a nautilus-like spiral shape. It is very organic and flowing, and with a large central courtyard area.

Jensen: Yes, it is a peace garden, still under construction.

Kaizen: And then in the outlying areas you have a gymnasium and play fields.

Jensen: That’s right.

Kaizen: You had the idea in 2008. When did you start building?

Jensen: 2011, and the construction lasted two years.

Kaizen: When I saw it in September of 2014, everything was operational but you still had some landscaping to do. And you said over 500 students?

Jensen: Yes, well, 550.

Kaizen: You are still young, so what do you have planned for the future?

Jensen: I want to start a school of education to prepare Montessori teachers in Chile. If there is no preparation for Montessori teachers here, the whole Montessori system will be very vulnerable.

Kaizen: Will that be in Colina?

Jensen: Right, the idea is to be centered in Colina, as it’s absolutely necessary to teach by doing; to use Pucalan as a “living laboratory” of education. To be centered in Colina doesn’t necessarily mean disconnected from the rest of the world—we also want to link with other schools for Montessori teachers around the world.

Kaizen: Will this require new buildings and a new location?

Jensen: Not necessarily. This could possibly be an addition on the same school grounds.

Kaizen: You will bring them to your campus for on-site training?

Jensen: That’s exactly the idea. It is fundamental for teachers to experiment in different environments. They need to be trained by experience and not only theory.

Kaizen: Do you have relationships with the formal Montessori organizations internationally?

22Jensen: Yes, with the American Montessori Society. This is because my training was in the United States in a Montessori school for teachers founded by the AMS. Our school is not accredited by the AMS, yet we do have the connection to them due to my background.

Kaizen: I understand there is a split between different camps of Montessori.

Jensen: Yes, there is AMS and AMI. AMI is European, while the AMS is American. There are some differences between the two but I see these differences more in execution than principle.

Kaizen: You have been a serial entrepreneur, as we say, in the field of education. What has been the most rewarding thing to you about being an entrepreneur in education?

Jensen: I love creating jobs for other people—and significant jobs. It is very important. The people respond very well when working with big ideas. I love creating work for other people, not just for me. I also love creating a community, as I believe wholeheartedly in community work. Ultimately, though, the reward is watching children grow into confident, compassionate and peace-making adults.

Kaizen: Over the years what has been the most frustrating thing for you?

Jensen: It is not easy to work with the parents. Working with the children is very easy. The problem with the adults is because they are focused on results and not the process. Also, as I stated earlier, Montessori requires a lot of commitment. There are occasions where some teachers don’t want to spend the time doing inner work that will make them good Montessori guides. The commitment in doing this inner work is not a very popular idea in our culture and there can be conflicts on account of this.

Kaizen: So that is many conversations?

Jensen: Of course, there is much conflict-resolution every day, but it is vital. It is part of the community building. This involves the teachers and the parents, really the whole community, and it is important to sustain these conversations with everyone.

Kaizen: When people talk about entrepreneurship, there is often difficulty even if you are passionate about what you do. There are frustrating problems, you have to be able to visualize new things and have good communication skills to make your vision real to others. Also, you have to persevere. What character traits seem to you to be the most important to become a successful entrepreneur?

Jensen: There is not just one. There are many characteristics, but perseverance with confidence and balance. You have to believe in the idea and have courage and love. Finally, self-discipline is also very important.

Kaizen: When you say love, is that the same as passion?

Jensen: Yes, I use them synonymously and this requires an inner burning energy.

Kaizen: You have to master yourself.

Jensen: Yes. I must learn before I can begin to teach anyone else. I practice meditation and sometimes fight with my ego.

Kaizen: To return to your own education: In many cases, traditional education is rote-learning and uniform, and the students are disengaged. That doesn’t help them become entrepreneurs, so what made you different? Is there anything that helped you become entrepreneurial when you were a girl?

Jensen: Well, not everything can be explained in a completely rational way. But, things like autonomy are very important and believing in your personal characteristics and making dreams. My family always encouraged a high level of autonomy alongside taking good care of each other. I had a great deal of space to dream, as well. Dreams are not always logical and they are very mysterious. Nevertheless, the most important characteristics I was able to develop were autonomy, confidence, self-discipline and having room for mistakes.

Kaizen: Suppose you were to give advice to other teachers who are young and perhaps dissatisfied with their teacher training. Or perhaps they are working at schools and don’t find it fulfilling, and they are thinking of starting their own schools. What advice would you give to them?

Jensen: Create a community. Don’t work alone, work together. Develop empathy and listen. Again, most importantly, create community. It is not possible alone.

Kaizen: If you’re a teacher, does create community mean having relationships with people who have financing or parents or other teachers and people who will form a network and will help you start the school of your dreams?

Jensen: Right, any project like this, needs to be founded in community. Everyone is learning by growing together and working together. This must be interdependent work—everyone is contributing to the original dream.

Kaizen: Thank you, what a good story your career is.

Jensen: Thank you.

This interview was conducted for Kaizen by Stephen Hicks.

Read more Kaizen interviews with leading entrepreneurs.

© 2015 Stephen R. C. Hicks. All rights reserved.

E-Sophia Review: 6 research-backed benefits of learning a foreign language | Classical education, and more

Monday, April 4th, 2016

News and Opinion

math_number6 Research-Backed Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language.

How a teacher gets all his students to pass the AP Calculus exam. Los Angeles Times.

Creativity and “editing”. Facebook.

The spectacular life of Google founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page. Business Insider.

What’s the largest number you can represent with 3 digits? Nope. It’s not 999. Linkedin.

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English. Quartz.

Video: Two teenagers started a street school to educate poor and homeless children in Pakistan.

How Classical Education Can Make America Great Again. The Federalist.


dewey-johnCall for papers: Centennial of John Dewey’s Democracy & Education. The occasion of this text’s centennial anniversary provides an exciting opportunity to reexamine the ways this book attempted to address the challenges of democracy in his time, and, in a Deweyan spirit, think through its possible uses in our own time. The editors of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Robert Johnston and Ben Johnson) are putting together a special issue dedicated to exploring these different thematic veins of Dewey’s legacy, each using Democracy & Education as a jumping off point. Contributions of short essays of 3,000-8,000 words are welcome on any aspect of Democracy & Education, or one the following suggested themes: democratic theory, social and economic reform, academia and the public sphere, or pedagogy. Submissions are due by August 1, 2016. Please send all submissions and direct any inquiries to guest editor, Cristina Groeger, at



“Curiosity is a delicate little plant that, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.” – Albert Einstein

E-Sophia Review: Entrepreneurial Education conference | The Uberificaton of learning, and more

Monday, March 7th, 2016


The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, Illinois, on March 14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education featuring speakers from Silicon Valley, Texas, Poland, Guatemala, and Chile. Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge. Register for the conference here. For more information, contact Jennifer Harrolle at

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News and Opinion

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Getting Personal: The Uberification of Learning. The Synapse.

Learning Is Not Linear: How Unschooled Children Learn.

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An experimental program in Guatemala: Is this the future in higher education?

China’s education system leaves students woefully unprepared for the real world. Quartz.


‘Of course schools are made for the average. The holes are all round, and whatever shape the pegs are they must wedge in somehow. One hasn’t time to bother about anything but the average.’
W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage




E-Sophia Review: The joyful, illiterate kindergarteners of Finland | Japanese students’ high suicide rate, and more

Monday, February 15th, 2016

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News and Opinion

kindergartenerCollective thinking and Japanese students’ high suicide rate. CNN.

Has the decline of play led to more mental disorders in children? Psychology Today.

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland. The Atlantic.

Virginia Postrel: Don’t ban kids from roughhousing.

The techies who are hacking education by homeschooling their kids. Wired.

The Silicon Valley Suicides: Why are so many kids with bright prospects killing themselves in Palo Alto? The Atlantic.

Teacher Uses LEGOs to Explain Math to Schoolchildren. Bored Panda.

Dr. Yong Zhao on public education in China. Vimeo.


appleThe Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, Illinois, on March 14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education featuring speakers from Silicon Valley, Texas, Poland, Guatemala, Senegal, and Chile. Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge. Register for the conference here. For more information, contact Jennifer Harrolle at


parents-silhouettejpgMy power as parent or teacher:
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
Haim G. Ginott, in his book Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers

Entrepreneurial Education conference at Rockford University, March 14

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

[JPEG] E Conference Poster
The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, March 14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education.

Invited speakers include: Stephen Hicks (Illinois), Bernardita Jensen (Santiago, Chile), Michael Strong (Austin, Texas), Albert Loan (Guatemala), Magatte Wade (Dakar, Senegal), Jed Hopkins (Madison, Wisconsin), Piotr Kostylo (Poland), Khalil Habib (Providence, Rhode Island), and keynote speaker John Chisholm (San Francisco, California) on “An Entrepreneur’s Perspective on Entrepreneurial Education.”

Free Registration here. (Lunch and refreshments included.)


On the Entrepreneurial side of the phrase: We live in entrepreneurial times. From the work demand side, there is increasing proportion of employment within entrepreneurial firms and a slow upward trend in the number of startups. From the work-supply side, younger people of this generation express higher levels of aspiration to start their own businesses or to work within entrepreneurial firms. Increasing globalization and liberalization also mean that the entrepreneurial trends are not only regional or national.

On the Education side: How can we best help younger people become entrepreneurial—either to prepare them for creating their own businesses, or to be entrepreneurial within existing firms, or as freelancing artists, writers, and musicians? If the traditional model of education—students sitting in straight rows of desks and all doing the same work at the same time following the directions of an authority figure—does not prepare students for entrepreneurism, then what should we replace it with?

We also live in a time of dissatisfaction with the dominant forms of education, with many complaints about stagnant or declining outcomes, bureaucratization, demoralization and worse, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

And we live in times of disruptive education technologies—from simple email and online chat to pre-packaged podcasts and video series to robust online MOOCs and more.

apple-176x100Putting all of the above together, how do we answer this question: What should entrepreneurial education look like?

Free Registration here. (Lunch and refreshments included.)

Here is a PDF of the Conference Poster.

This conference is made possible in part by support from the John Templeton Foundation.


E-Sophia Review: What do “future ready” students look like? | Four-day school weeks, and more

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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News and Opinion

baby-readingNeuroscience and brains from baby to age three. The Urban Child Institute.

What Do “Future Ready” Students Look Like? Edutopia.

Touching video short: Why it’s important to let your children learn by doing things themselves. Dubai’s Khaleej Times.

Kirsten Olson: How school wounds. Psychology Today.

Philosophy and math literacy. Britain’s The Guardian.

Education-writingFrom Argentina, Stephen Hicks speaks to: “What Is a Real Education?”

Low-Cost Private Schools Are Leaping Ahead in the Developing World. Alex Tabarrok.

Daniel Starkey: Piracy gave me a future. Boing Boing.

Bill Gates blogs: “Teaching Is About Relationships”.

Do students perform better with a four-day school week? Science Alert.


appleThe Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, Illinois, on March 14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education featuring speakers from Silicon Valley, Texas, Poland, Guatemala, Senegal, and Chile. Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge. Register for the conference here. For more information, contact Jennifer Harrolle at


Trend: “65 percent of today’s grade school kids will end up doing work that has yet to be invented.”
Yet: “The contemporary American classroom is still functioning much like the classroom of the industrial era — a system created as a training ground for future factory workers to teach tasks, obedience, hierarchy and schedules.” Read more at Singularity Hub.

Entrepreneurial Education conference — Call for Papers

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Entrepreneurial Education conference

apple-176x100Sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship
Rockford University, Illinois

Call for Papers

The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, March 13-14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education.

On the Entrepreneurial side of the phrase: We live in entrepreneurial times. From the work demand side, there is increasing proportion of employment within entrepreneurial firms and a slow upward trend in the number of startups. From the work-supply side, younger people of this generation express higher levels of aspiration to start their own businesses or to work within entrepreneurial firms. Increasing globalization and liberalization also mean that the entrepreneurial trends are not only regional or national.

On the Education side: How can we best help younger people become entrepreneurial—either to prepare them for creating their own businesses, or to be entrepreneurial within existing firms, or as freelancing artists, writers, and musicians? If the traditional model of education—students sitting in straight rows of desks and all doing the same work at the same time following the directions of an authority figure—does not prepare students for entrepreneurism, then what should we replace it with?

We also live in a time of dissatisfaction with the dominant forms of education, with many complaints about stagnant or declining outcomes, bureaucratization, demoralization and worse, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

And we live in times of disruptive education technologies—from simple email and online chat to pre-packaged podcasts and video series to robust online MOOCs and more.

Putting all of the above together, how do we answer this question: What should entrepreneurial education look like?


Please send 200-word proposals to, attention Stephen Hicks and Jennifer Harrolle, by January 20, 2016.

Acceptances will be made by January 25, 2016.


This conference will be made possible in part by support from the John Templeton Foundation.

“Educating for Entrepreneurship” — Stephen Hicks working paper

Friday, June 13th, 2014

The text is below and in PDF format. The essay is also forthcoming in Polish in the education journal Przegląd Pedagogiczny. Comments welcome.


Educating for Entrepreneurship (Working Paper, June 2014)

Stephen R.C. Hicks
Department of Philosophy and Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship
Rockford University
Rockford, Illinois, USA

Introduction: Japanese visitors to American schools

Recently a team of Japanese investigators come to the United States to study its school system. Japan is a successful nation — it is prosperous and dynamic in many areas. But the team had a question: Why does our country have so few innovators?

They looked to the United States with its many centers of innovation: Silicon Valley technology, Hollywood movies, New York finance, Broadway theatre, and others. In the business world, they noted the many entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Mark Zuckerberg.

So the Japanese investigators had a question: What are American schools doing so well to generate so many creative, innovative, entrepreneurs? What is their “secret ingredient”?

The question is important, because we live in an era that, for the first time in history, is taking entrepreneurism seriously.

The Business-Employment environment is different in the early twenty-first century. Business professor Steven Rogers has pointed out: “In the 1960s, 1 out of every 4 persons in the United States worked for a Fortune 500 company. Today, only 1 out of every 14 people works for these companies. Employment at Fortune 500 companies peaked at 16.5 million people in 1979 and has steadily declined every year to approximately 10.5 million people today” (Rogers 2002, p. 42). The employment market has shifted from a relatively few large corporations to many smaller entrepreneurial firms.

The Economics literature has been transforming itself into what economists Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz (2011) call “Economics 2.0.” For many generations, economics ignored or downplayed the unpredictable and idiosyncratic entrepreneur and focused on abstracted, impersonal models. Contrarians such as Joseph Schumpeter (1950) and Israel Kirzner (1973) argued the importance of entrepreneurship, but they were lonely voices in economics through most of the twentieth century. Only in the last twenty years has mainstream economics begun the project of recasting itself on the basis of entrepreneurship.

In the Psychology and Ethics literature, we see a movement toward understanding entrepreneurism’s importance as a vehicle for a flourishing life. Not only in one’s work life but in one’s overall life, more psychologists are stressing autonomy, self-directedness, and creative exploration as foundationally positive ingredients in a healthy life (Seligman 2012). And moral philosophers are increasingly making the connections between entrepreneurial character traits and moral virtues in the context of making one’s career an integral part of an overall flourishing life (Hicks 2009).

So in this new, entrepreneurial century, the question for us as educators is: How do we help students prepare for an entrepreneurial economy and an entrepreneurial life?

To return to the Japanese investigators’ question: I think it is important but mis-focused. The “secret ingredient” of entrepreneurism is not in the schools. Most U.S. formal school is government schooling, and most government schools are not good at teaching entrepreneurism. Some schools in prosperous neighborhoods are solid, but most schools are weak, some are poor, and many are terrible.

Consider the common phenomenon of kids who start school when they are five years old — they are full of energy and curiosity and excitement — but after a few years they come to dislike or even hate school. They are bored. They don’t like science and they don’t even like art. If you ask them, as parents do, what their favorite subject is, they will say that it is lunch and recess when they are allowed to go outside and play. And for several decades we have seen a decline in basic-competency test scores and an increase in students graduating with weak reading and math skills, minimal scientific and historical knowledge, and so on.

Yet the U.S. does produce a large number of creative individuals. How is this possible?

In my view, what American culture does well is what is does outside of school. After-school hours are busy with extracurricular activities such as drama and chess clubs and sport and debate teams (Petrelli, 2012). American culture is also characterized by significant parental involvement in music lessons, trips to museums and galleries, sports leagues, summer camps, and travel. And, of course, American culture is prosperous, which means it has much wealth to support all of these informal learning opportunities.

Music education in the U.S. is a good example. Everyone loves music, and American culture has much creativity in music — rock bands, jazz clubs, Broadway musical theatre, symphonies in most cities, and so on. But that musical activity did not come out of music education in schools. Kids naturally love music, but they typically tolerate or dislike their music classes in schools. When it is an elective, most students choose not to take it. Instead, those who become musicians and music enthusiasts are inspired from popular culture, by learning from their friends and families, or by extra-curricular lessons paid for by their parents.

All of this points to a challenge for formal educational reform. Schooling is currently characterized by two problems: (1) It wastes much of its students’ time, as measured by the students’ self-reports of how bored and otherwise disengaged from school they are; and (2) it misses the opportunity to use its considerable resources to develop young adults prepared for entrepreneurial careers and entrepreneurial living.

steve_jobs_by_februarymoonSteve Jobs — who as a young man disliked school and dropped out of university — perhaps put the entrepreneurial aspiration best: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” (Jobs 2005)

So how can we re-focus the schools to enable students to take on that great life challenge? One element must be educating for entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurial process

Let us start by articulating explicitly the nature of entrepreneurship. Consider the stereotypical entrepreneurial process.

The entrepreneurial process begins with an informed and creative idea for a new product or service. The entrepreneur is ambitious and gutsy and takes the initiative in developing the idea into a new enterprise. Through much perseverance and trial and error, the entrepreneur produces something of value. He or she takes on a leadership role in showing consumers the value of the new product and in showing new employees how to make it. The entrepreneur trades with those customers and employees to win-win results. He or she thus achieves success and then enjoys the fruits of his or her accomplishment.

To expand upon each italicized element in that description:

Entrepreneurs generate business ideas and decide which ones are worth pursuing. In the process of coming up with informed, creative ideas, entrepreneurs speak of vision, “thinking outside the box,” imagination, active-ness of mind, and “light-bulb moments.” Having generated ideas, they speak of exercising judgment: Which ideas are actually good ones? Can the product or service be developed technically? Will it sell? What does the market research show? Entrepreneurs exhibit a commitment to cognitive achievement—intellectual playfulness, research, experimentation, analysis, and judgment. As one venture capitalist put it, “Money does not get the ideas flowing. It is ideas that get the money flowing.”

Ambition is the drive to achieve one’s goals, to be successful, to improve oneself, to be better off, to be the best than one can be. Entrepreneurs feel more than the often-abstracted and idle wishing — “Wouldn’t it be nice if I were rich and independent?” — that many people experience. Ambitious individuals feel strongly the need to achieve their goals.

Entrepreneurship requires initiative. It is one thing to have a good business plan; it is another to turn the plan into reality. Entrepreneurs are self-starters who make the commitment to bring their good ideas into existence.

Yet a new enterprise involves venturing into the unknown, a willingness to take on obstacles — including the possibility of disapproval and mockery — and the possibility of failure. Consequently, entrepreneurial activity takes courage — the willingness to take calculated risks, to be aware of possible downsides while not letting the fear of failure or disapproval dominate one’s decision-making.

Entrepreneurial success is almost never easy and overnight, so it requires sticking with it through the difficulties and over the longer term. That is to say, perseverance is essential. Entrepreneurs must persevere through the technical obstacles in product development, in the face of the naysayers who say that it cannot be done or who are otherwise obstructionist, and in the face of their own self-doubts. Entrepreneurs must be good at short-term discipline and at keeping their long-term motivations present in their thinking.

The development process is almost always a trial and error process, requiring that the entrepreneur make adjustments based on experience. Successful entrepreneurs adjust to real-world feedback, which means being able to admit mistakes and to incorporate newly-discovered facts, rather than pig-headedly ignoring anything that is a threat to their pet ideas.

Productivity: The development process hopefully culminates in a working product. If so, the entrepreneur has added value to the world by creating a new good or service, making it work consistently, producing it in quantity, and continuing to improve the quality.

Those who transact with the entrepreneur, whether as customers or as employees, engage in win-win trade, exchanging value for value. Socially, trade is a process of dealing with others on a peaceful basis according to productive merit. It requires protecting one’s own interests and respecting the other party’s doing the same, exercising one’s skills of negotiation, diplomacy, and, when necessary, toughness in order to achieve a mutually beneficial result.

Entrepreneurs also add value by bringing leadership to the trade. Entrepreneurs are creating something new, so they are the first to go down a new path. Those who go first set an example for others to follow and, especially in the case of a new product or service, they must show new customers the value of the new product and service and they must teach new employees how to produce the new product or service. Accordingly, entrepreneurs must exhibit leadership in showing others the new way, encouraging them through the learning process, and in marketing the new. Part of the trade, then, is that the customer or employee is shown a new opportunity and is enabled to take advantage of it, and in turn the entrepreneur receives compensation for doing so.

Finally, the entrepreneur experiences success and the enjoyment of success. Entrepreneurial success yields both material and psychic rewards—both the goods that financial success can bring and the experience of financial independence and security that go with it. And of course there is the psychological reward of achievement: experiencing enhanced self-respect and the sense of accomplishment in what one has created.

If we put those traits in a table, we get the following:

Implications for Education

Now let us turn to education. If entrepreneurship involves the successful exercise of certain traits, where do those traits come from in the first place? Can formal schooling instill, develop, or at least enhance those characteristics in younger students? If we take entrepreneurism as lens for education, then can we teach creative exploration, courage, initiative, and so on?

If we contrast much of traditional and current schooling, what do we see? We do not see much uniqueness, activity, or experimentalism. Instead, students sit in straight rows of desks. Students do what the teacher and textbook say. Every student does the same thing at the same time in the same way and takes the same standardized tests. That is, we see uniformity, obedience, passivity, and rote learning. This stereotype is perhaps often softened in practice, but it has been the default model for teachers with classes of thirty students and standardized, state-established curricula. So while there is useful knowledge in the curriculum, the embedded lessons students also learn are: Do what the authorities say, Do what everyone else is doing, and The correct answers are pre-set and already known. (And we sometimes wonder why we have so many unmotivated, dependent, and timid students — or students who, out of sheer boredom and the chaotic need to be themselves, rebel in destructive ways.)

So if an explicit goal of education is to cultivate the exploration mindset of entrepreneurship, as a first step let us consider getting the students out of the rows of seats and letting them interact with prepared materials on their own.

I have three suggestions in this direction.

1. Develop formal, age-appropriate exercises in entrepreneurial character-trait development

As educators, we fill in the following table with exercises appropriate for children of different ages.


To develop one example further, let me focus on courage.

Courage is the virtue of acting as one judges best despite fear. Fear comes in many forms — fear of pain, fear of disapproval, fear of feeling like a failure, fear of loss of love, money, and so on. Life involves many risks, and risk is the potential for failure, so having the character resources to be able to handle risk is an important part of success in life. One direct connection to entrepreneurship is the many people who do not attempt it due to fear.

So one thread within entrepreneurial education is to develop formal exercises that embody risk and help the child learn to manage it.

For example, younger children learn skills that involve physical risks: going down a slide, jumping into a swimming pool, learning to ride a bicycle. Such activities and dozens more can be formally identified and introduced in schools as exercises. They can also be scaled up as children age and mature in their skill and character. Eventually, they will be able to handle mixing chemicals, climbing rock-walls, doing bungee-jumps, and driving cars.

Other risks are more psychological. For younger children, these can include greeting and conversing with new adults whom one’s parents have invited for dinner, raising one’s hand to ask the teacher a question in class, or expressing an opinion that differs from one’s classmates’. Again, exercises to model these can be introduced in schools and scaled up as children mature so that eventually they will be able to handle comfortably giving a speech before a large audience, asking someone for a date, and arguing civilly with their teachers about political and religious differences.

Courses in acting and public speaking are natural homes for some of the exercises for developing psychological courage, just as courses in physical education are natural homes for developing physical courage. So building consciously and systematically upon activities already present in those courses and extending them across the curriculum is a good starting point.

And what holds for developing courage also holds for developing initiative, experimentalism, perseverance, and the rest of the success traits.

2. Learn from the Montessori method

My second suggestion is, if one is not already aware of it, to explore the Montessori approach to education. Maria Montessori opened her first school in Rome in 1907, and for over a century her method has spread, mostly as a grassroots phenomenon, all over the world.

The scholarly literature is beginning to study Montessori’s results systematically and to pronounce upon them positively (e.g., Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi 2005 and Lillard 2007), but for now let me just give two indicators.

Anecdotally, Montessori advocates point out that four of the leading entrepreneurs of our generation — Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia — were all Montessori educated (Brin and Page 2004).

More formally, Hal Gregersen reports a striking statistic about the proportionately large number of innovative entrepreneurs who were Montessori-educated. After interviewing a large number of entrepreneurs, identifying their shared characteristics, and investigating how they became innovative, Gregersen notes: “It’s fascinating when we interview these famous entrepreneurs to realise that they grew up in worlds where adults paid attention to these innovation skills. Most often these adults were parents and grandparents, but in about one-third of the cases they were master teachers at Montessori or Montessori-like schools” (Gregersen 2011, italics added).

3. Emulate the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Junior Achievement

A third option is to incorporate methods from currently-supplemental education programs that explicitly tie education to preparation for entrepreneurship. Two examples are the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) or Junior Achievement (JA), both of which have chapters all over the U.S. and in many other countries.

The methods they use can apply to all children, but as often as not NFTE and JA work with students in failing schools, perhaps because the administrators of such schools are more desperate and so willing to experiment.

Steve Mariotti (2009), the founder of NFTE, began his teaching career at one of the worst of New York City’s public schools. He began by using traditional methods but found that they failed to teach the students anything. Then he realized that children, especially poor kids, are often fascinated with money but know nothing about it or how to make it. So, drawing upon his own entrepreneurial experience, Mariotti changed his methods and explicitly began teaching his students how to start their own businesses. The students’ attitudes toward him and their education altered dramatically. Their profit motive kicked in, and they began to see a realistic potential for independence and a better life. Thinking about business led them to see the need for other skills — reading, writing, math, organizational, and social — and then they also became motivated to learn from their textbooks and their other teachers in math, writing composition, and computers. Students in Junior Achievement programs have achieved similar results (see e.g., Marty 2011).

Closing anecdote: dirt bikes and dads

In the above comments, I have focused on formal education and argued for an increased place for entrepreneurism within it. I would like to conclude, though, by not overlooking the important role that parents play in their children’s education by giving one, hopefully inspiring, example from my own neighborhood. It is an anecdote that I think captures the essence of education.

On my drive home from work I passed regularly some vacant land upon which kids with their bikes had created paths and piles of dirt to jump over. Over time, the kids’ efforts had become more elaborate. They had built some crude ramps with wood (likely stolen from nearby construction sites), dug shallow pits and let them fill with water, and they had extended the criss-crossing network of paths to ride upon. I confess to some envy at the sight of so much fun — being a middle-aged man who wanted again to be a kid out there riding my bike up the ramps and jumping the puddles.

But what really caught my attention was an evening when there was suddenly much more activity at the dirt bike site. The fathers had gotten involved. So I stopped and got out of my truck and went to watch. The ramps were now sturdier and safer, and the activity was organized. Kids with their bikes were lined up at the end of one long stretch of path, and each one would ride his or her bike fast up and over the ramp and fly through the air as far as possible.

That wasn’t all. One of the dads had a radar speed gun that measured how fast each kid’s bike was going when it hit the ramp. Another dad, working with one of the kids, measured the distance of each jump and recorded it in a notebook. And all of the kids were now wearing helmets. But each kid wanted to know how far he had jumped, how to improve his distance, and as the kids waited their turns they were all discussing the best air pressures for the tires, bike speeds and ramp angles, lubrication for their bike’s gears, and so on.

The point for entrepreneurial education is that the kids first showed initiative and pursued their interests. The adults got involved and both encouraged that initiative and facilitated a more structured activity. The kids were learning math and engineering, cooperation and competition, being creative and getting exercise — and they were having a whole lot of fun themselves and with their dads.
That is only one anecdote, though it points to a path for entrepreneurial educators to pursue. What some kids and their dads can do with a vacant lot and some creativity — we professional educators with our training and resources should be able to do even better.


Brin, Sergei and Page, Larry. 2004. “Google Founders Talk Montessori.”
Gregersen, Hal. 2011. The Innovator’s DNA. Harvard Business Review Press.
Hicks, Stephen. 2009. “What Business Ethics Can Learn from Entrepreneurship.” Journal of Private Enterprise, 24(2), 49-57.
Jobs, Steve. 2005. “Commencement Address.” Stanford University.
Kirzner, Israel. 1973. Competition and Entrepreneurship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kling, Arnold, and Schulz, Nick. 2011. Invisible Wealth: The Hidden Story of How Markets Work. Encounter Books.
Lillard, Angeline. 2007. Montessori: The Science behind the Genius. Oxford University Press.
Marty, Eduardo. 2011. “Entrepreneurship in Argentina.” Kaizen 15.
Mariotti, Steve. 2009. “Entrepreneurship and Education.” Kaizen 9.
Petrelli, Michael J. 2012 (February 23). “Memo to the world: America’s secret sauce isn’t made in our classrooms.”
Rathunde, Kevin and Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 2005 (May). “Middle School Students’ Motivation and Quality of Experience: A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional School Environments.” American Journal of Education 111, 341-371.
Rogers, Steven. 2002. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Finance and Business. McGraw Hill.
Schumpeter, Joseph. 1950. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. 3rd ed. New York: Harper & Brothers. See especially Chapter VII.
Seligman, Martin E.P. 2012. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Atria Books.

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Go to the CEE Working Papers in Entrepreneurship and Ethics.

Dey on why entrepreneurship should start at school

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

In “Why entrepreneurship should start at school”, Rajeeb Dey argues that “The childish joy of learning for learning’s sake cannot be underestimated. But why stop there? After education comes the world of work – and it’s about time we channelled that joy into the rest of our lives.”

Lifehack’s seven thing smart learners do and don’t do

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

What smart learners do and don’t do.