The Loose Reins on U.S. Teenagers Can Produce Trouble or Entrepreneurs

Today’s New York Times (Thursday) has a piece by economist Tyler Cowen titled, The Loose Reins on U.S. Teenagers Can Produce Trouble or Entrepreneurs.

Cowen discusses some of the cultural influences responsible for America’s unusually high rate of youth entrepreneurship. I am quoted and My Start-Up Life is referenced. Excerpt:

America’s culture of marketing provided inspiration. Ben Casnocha surveyed his future customers and asked them what services they needed and how much they were willing to pay. He also had to persuade people to do business with a teenager. He had no formal education in marketing but, as a suburban American youth, he was exposed to intense commercial marketing every day. He decided to become an entrepreneur at the age of 12, he says, after being struck by the Apple “Think Different” ad. Critics contend that corporate selling and advertising are dumbing down America’s young. But marketing often motivates or instructs young people. In addition, it can teach them how to think about marketing messages more critically.

The fact that American schooling is less disciplined than that in other countries gives young creators the time and the energy to accomplish something outside their formal education. Despite his intellectual talents, Ben, in his book, admits that he received indifferent grades and had little emotional attachment to most of his formal schooling. Whenever he could, he used sick days to set up meetings for his business.

The longstanding criticism of the American school system is that even in the better schools, too many students just “get by” rather than engage in a rigorous curriculum. This academic leniency is bad for many average or subpar students, but it also allows some students to flourish. Relatively loose family structures have similar effects; American children are especially likely to be working on their own projects, rather than being directed by parents and elders.

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