My husband, my oldest son and my brother are entrepreneurs. They are a breed apart from the rest of us.
As I live with these three family members, it occurs to me that although they are unusually bright and competent people, and they all did quite well in school, there is a hidden brilliance in their lives that was never acknowledged by their teachers and professors.Wilson L. Harrell says in his article, "Born Or Made" (Success, June 1994): "There's the unexplained truth that entrepreneurs' personalities are different from other people's."
He quotes Thomas Hartmann in his book, "Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception," as saying: "At one time, the whole human race consisted of hunters. Throughout ancient history, all our ancestors hunted to live. Then came the invention of agriculture, and people took up farming.
"But there's still a lot of hunter left in our genes and in our hearts. In a world dominated by farmers and corporate types, there are plenty of full-blooded hunters trying to hunt for a living. Those, my friends, are the entrepreneurs."
And those are my husband, my son and my brother - people who constantly monitor their environment, who are able to throw themselves into the chase at a moment's notice.
They are tireless, capable of sustained drive, but only when hot on the trail of some goal. Visual thinkers, clearly seeing a goal even if there are no words for it . . . independent . . . bored by mundane tasks, enjoying new ideas, excitement . . . willing and able to take risks and face danger.
These are not the traits of a farmer personality. They are, in fact, exactly the opposite.
It is astonishing to read that hunter traits are comparable with those of people who, by our educational assessment standards, suffer from a "learning disorder" that educational psychologists call attention deficit disorder (ADD).
(I recall when my son was in the fifth grade, I was told by a counselor that he had a "learning disability that had been adequately compensated for.")
Our society needs entrepreneurs. They are the people who take the chances, move the mountains and thrust our civilization forward with their vision, their courage and their willingness to risk and face danger.
And yet, our educational system does not support them. Our standardized tests focus on "farmer traits."
They not only ignore "hunter traits" but categorize many hunter traits as "learning disorders." How unfair to my husband, son and brother, and to their fellow entrepreneurs - and to our society that needs the primordial traits that they bring to us.
It is plain to me that hunter children need hunter-based classrooms, with smaller classes, more visual aids, more experience-based curriculum and fewer distractions.
(A view that is shared by one expert who says that such a setting "might reveal hidden brilliance in children whose potential is now being stunted.")
In addition to this, we need appropriate assessment - assessment that will "document the work children do and how they do it, as a basis for a variety of educational decisions that affect the child." (Reaching Potentials Through Appropriate Assessment, Tynette W. Hills).
Our standardized tests, it is true, are readily available and inexpensive, and are relatively quick to administer. However, they have become the "fast food of assessment," and they simply do not meet all of the nutritional or "nurturing" needs of our children - particularly of those who are not farmers.
I would like to suggest that the purpose of our assessment of children should be (1) instructional planning and communicating with parents; (2) identifying children with special needs, and (3) program evaluation and accountability rather than to tell a parent that "the tests show that your child suffers from a learning disorder."
I would like to see assessment focus on the whole child - physical, social, emotional and intellectual; and I would like to see assessment plans that include gathering information on a broad range of children's activities and functioning as they develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions.
I would like to see a plan that brings the person who is assessing into the child's world to observe, keep track and document the child's performance in a real-life context.
Entrepreneurs do much better with real-life challenges than they do sitting in a cubicle answering yes and no questions.
You say it can't be done? It is too big of a challenge for our educators? My entrepreneur family members would tell you that no challenge is too big if you have the vision. That is how "hunters" approach life.
And as a matter of fact, it is being done. Our early childhood educators (birth through third grade) are presently focusing on teaching with developmentally appropriate practices (DAP), which includes smaller classes, more visual aids and a more experience-based curriculum.
If we value the diversity of our society and the individuals who dare to press us forward, perhaps we should look at what is emerging from those who work with our very youngest citizens.
The small but significant things they are doing may become the most important entrepreneurial effort of our generation.