Let Children Explore Life and Learning

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, May 9, 2016

The Wall Street Journal has pushed my button. Rant on!

On May 2, the Small Business section had the following headline: “How to raise a tech entrepreneur,” written by Alexandra Samuel. Are you kidding me? Have we come to this, where the only thing that matters in this whole world is another “tech entrepreneur”? Is there even room (perhaps just a small Airbnb room, just a closet or a tent, maybe) for someone who might, possibly, have an interest in something other than tech – maybe, for example, theater, art, film, science, medicine, geology, health – or is the only thing that could possibly have any value in America ever

again another tech entrepreneur?

And God forbid that you don’t teach your child early. Because Harvard be damned, after all, you are going to drop out in your freshman year anyway. But if you miss out on becoming a tech entrepreneur, you will be a failure and spend a lifetime living in poverty on the streets in a homeless shelter, using food stamps and regretting that you deleted Instagram from your phone when you were 5.

The lead paragraph of the article begins, “Everybody wants to give their children the tools to be a success in life … but think big for a moment, how could you prepare a child to start the next billion-dollar tech company?”

I did not make that sentence up. It is the lead. My question is, who would want to? Has the entire human existence and its future value (Excel will calculate the net present value) on this planet come down to starting another unicorn (many of which lately have been a bit “de-horned” in valuation)?

Here are her words. “Have them embrace computers and social media as early as possible.” Of course, after all, there is no future in sports, music, architecture or wandering in the woods (Thoreau). When I was 7, I built a ham radio set and as many of you know, I am still talking to aliens.

Samuel encourages your child to build a website (today all you have to do is add water), and she goes on to say, “Here are the strategies to raise children with a shot at the next rags-to-tech-riches story.” As you all know, that is the main purpose of having children. Happiness is vastly overrated.

So her strategies are: “Raise problem solvers.” Every complaint is a learning opportunity. You don’t like dinner, well darling son of mine, what kind of food would you like to invent? “What would your dream restaurant look like?” Maybe she is prepping the little tyke for celebrity che.

Samuel goes on to say parents should teach the child to “identify serendipitous opportunities,” but of course that assumes that the kid got his nose out of the computer screen long enough to learn what serendipitous even means.

“Get them social media savvy – before they turn 13. They have to grow up inside the social networking universe.” (Snapchat meets Bubble Boy). Samuel wants children to begin using project management software – to track homework and family tasks. But caution here – big data will know that your son cannot hit the curve ball, and unfortunately he will still be picked last by his peers on the field. But all is well, because there is a therapy app for low self-esteem.

She goes on to say, “Teach children to work like a start-up.” I assume that means either 90 hours at your desk (take out the trash yourself, mom, I am competing in a coding hackathon) or free organic lunches followed by yoga and a beer bong Friday blow-out.

“You’re much more likely to produce the next Mark Zuckerberg if you get your children to start their own ventures at a young age.” I am sensing that dinner at the Samuel house would include a PowerPoint presentation and then a short discussion revolving around either liquidation preferences, selecting an investment banker for your IPO, or eat your damn green beans, darling.

She proudly states, “My daughter started her own Etsy store at 7.” I am inclined to call child protective services and have this woman committed. Listen, I love the entrepreneurial spirit – I went around the neighborhood sharpening knives at 10. But please, let’s stop the madness. A child’s life should allow him to look at a cloud, not to be stored in one.

Rule No. 467

There is no app for the meaning of life.

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