Our country is in an education crisis! Students are graduating without jobs and owing punishing amounts of debt. Tuition continues to spiral out of control. Colleges are finding it more difficult to attract good students in light of the rising cost of education. Many experts believe that we are heading towards a catastrophic bubble.
Relax people. I believe this problem is not as disastrous as some may claim. It all has to do with the curriculum. If our students emerged from their universities better prepared for life in the business world, there would be more opportunities awaiting them.
What type of a curriculum? A syllabus of classes that will teach our young people what it's truly like to be a small business owner. A program designed not in theory, but in practice. So that graduates entering the work world would be fully prepared for... well... work.
So to that end, here are just a few courses I believe every fine business school should offer.
Psychology 101: Dealing With the Mentally Challenged (3 credits)
This class explores the key issues facing the typical small business owner faces every day: People issues. Topics covered include: how to listen serenely to the outrageous stories customers will tell in order to avoid payment. Ways to cajole and comfort employees through all of the minutia of their days in order to get them focused on the work they need to do. How not to roll your eyes when a customer complains about your pricing and then attempts to explain to you how to do business the "right" way. Other parts of this course will address negotiating with unreasonable and slightly off-balanced suppliers and how to avoid phone calls from personal financial planners. Instructors will offer their students special techniques to minimize stress, violent reactions and abusive profanity, which are all common responses from business owners to those mentally challenged people they must work with every day.
Engineering 897: How to Talk to an Engineer (3 credits)
Engineers are quirky people. They are extremely detailed, fussy, and oftentimes emotionally unstable. But unfortunately engineers can be key to the entrepreneur's research and product development. That's because it's the engineers who come up with all the new and cool tech products that venture capitalists are so anxious to fund. In this course, business students will learn how to talk to engineers. In order to bring the business student fully into the world of the engineer a varied array of topics engineers lov will be discussed in the classroom such as whether the Wrath of Khan was truly better than Star Trek: First Contact, or in a melee battle between Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Cat Woman, The Hulk, Solid Snake, The Vampire Lestat, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Flash, Mario, the $6 Million Man, Wonder Woman, and Captain America, and other superheroes, who would win. Business students will participate in field trips to the engineer's dorm rooms and teach them necessary social skills so that they too, can emerge into the world, drink beers and converse with members of the opposite sex. The course will promote a better relationship between members of both the business and science communities through shared experiences such as baseball outings, frat parties and co-ed ultimate Frisbee games.
History 635: The History of Small Business (3 credits)
Small business people have never had it easy. From the days of Caesar to the current Obama administration shopkeepers and light manufacturers have been forced to pay exorbitant taxes, undergo excessive regulation and search for that right peasant who will show up to work on time or hasn't been drafted to fight the Gauls (or Taliban). In this course, students will delve into the oftentimes repetitive and frustrating story of what it's like to run a small business since the beginning of time. Students will learn how the business people of ancient Athens profited by outsourcing production to the hard working Carthaginians, the high cost of health care during the bubonic plague and the innovative ways French shopkeepers avoided taxes during Napoleon's reign (hint... even back then cash was really the king). The course strives to teach that true business people are the ones who understand that history does indeed repeat itself.
Economics 833: Working at the Dry Cleaners (3 credits)
Students who take this required class will be assigned to dry cleaners across our University's city to spend an entire semester doing what the typical small business owner does: working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., folding the laundry, operating the machines, sweeping the floor, manning the cash register, being nice to customers even when they complain or barely notice your existence, triple checking your supplier's invoice to make sure he's not cheating you (again), dealing with that leaky pipe in the basement and making nice with the landlord even though you can't stand him but you're afraid he's going to raise your rent next year. An apple and half a cheese sandwich will be provided each day for lunch. Those that show up on time, get all their work done and complain bitterly about how much they hate what they do all day long will receive the highest grades.
CompSci 344: Fixing Printers (4 credits)
This is a four credit class due to the time required to cover this subject matter. To efficiently run a small business, students will need to learn how to configure a printer. This is because studies have shown that office printers represent the single largest contributing factor towards unproductivity in business. Our team of specially trained professors will teach the students how to get a printer recognized on their network and then, ten minutes later, how to do it again when the network stops recognizing it. Other topics will include troubleshooting paper jams, replacing ink jet cartridges well after the printer says it's "out of ink" and relaxation techniques for when one's on the phone with tech support personnel in India. At the end of the semester, remaining students will be rewarded with a visit to the local park where, like the last scene in Office Space, they will be allowed to crush their printers with baseball bats generously provided by the University's Athletic Department.
English 447: The Great Business Books (3 credits)
This class will focus on those business books that provide students with insights on the realities of running a small business. The reading list will include The Godfather by Mario Puzo (so that students can understand how real men ran their businesses back in the day), A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (to give students a romantic look back at the good old days before labor unions and employees' rights) and Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkeyto (so that students can better understand how to speak to their customers on the same level). Of course the Bible will also be covered because students will likely one day throw up their hands and wonder why in God's name they chose to be a small business owner.
Art 121: Avoiding Taxes (3 credits)
Offered as an elective in years past, this class has proven to be one of the most popular on our campus among business students. Those among the 99 percent are also welcome to enroll. Here they will learn the creative art of not paying taxes on their business income. The understated beauty of cash transactions. The lovely eloquence of deferring payment to the next tax year. The magnificent splendor of maintaining a second set of books. The sad and pithy practice of making estimated payments. Other topics covered will include how to romance your accountant, inspired methods of hiding personal expenses and the ancient practice of burying your family's travel and entertainment costs within your company's books.
Language 872 and 873: Intermediate and Advanced Mandarin (6 credits)
To prepare our business students for the inevitable, this year long class will teach them how to speak and write in Mandarin. Most importantly, students will learn the translation skills necessary to convert all of our written materials to the Chinese language so that future generations of American business students will be able to understand them.
World Cultures 646: The People of India and The Czech Republic (3 credits)
Like most business owners in a slow economy, our students will be taught how to avoid the excessive costs of hiring full time employees and instead learn how to outsource their work to lower cost workers in countries such as India and the Czech Republic. To that end, this course will provide a full history and language background for both countries including a discussion of favorite foods, American movies from the 1980's which are just being released over there and the finer points of cricket. Students who are concentrating more on the culture of the Czech Republic will receive additional instruction via the latest YouTube videos of Czech Republic citizens doing their typical drunken stunts.
These are just a few of the business courses our universities should be offering to better prepare our kids for the future. People: this is not an education crisis. It's an opportunity!
Another version of this post appears on The Philly Post.
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