TIDES At Francis Parker

Last evening, my wife and I went to 1871 to see a presentation on a new program. Our kids went to Francis Parker School, and we remain connected to the school. Parker is an independent private school.  It’s in Lincoln Park near the zoo.   The kind of kids that Francis Parker has churned out over the years are perfect for entrepreneurship.

Marc Pincus ($ZNGA) is a Parker grad. So is David Mamet and a lot of other people that you might have heard of. They teach kids to critically think. The school is always critically thinking about itself as well. They aren’t afraid to try things. Sometimes it fails. Sometimes it’s successful.

The administration and faculty at Parker are reimagining the experience again.  I think other schools both private and public schools ought to pay attention.  Parker’s taking their entire academic program and making it applicable to the skills needed to become an independent thinking entrepreneur. From first grade on, kids are going to learn how to code. They are going to rethink how areas of their school are structured. Instead of standard fare, they will look more like co-working spaces. A school with a Nextspace inside!  Parker is going to bust some new ground and I think other institutions can learn from them. Parker is going to emphasize social entrepreneurship. In Chicago, we have been doing that the past couple of years with Impact Engine.

The only caution I have about committed social entrepreneurship is you never know where startups will go. Who knew that Twitter could be a powerful social entrepreneurship platform? But, I agree that it is much better to think about solving problems that seem to be unsolvable through an entrepreneurial venture. Bill Gates has lifted more lives up through Microsoft than through his foundation.  If people part with something valuable to get what you are giving them, then there is social entrepreneurship intertwined in it.

But, this program is much more than just going through the motions. It’s a total 360 degree commitment that builds on the culture they already have at the school. Every single class will incorporate the ideas behind what it takes to be an entrepreneur. This is the new reality in America and they are going to try and meet the challenge.  Is there a better place for children to experience the basics of entrepreneurship than the safety of a school?  Only in the family home.

Children will grapple with ideas, try things, fail, and start again.  They will learn how to collaborate, the merit of synergy, and develop essential characteristics to help them lead more fulfilling lives.  This is really exciting, and at the presentation last night you could sense the excitement within the Parker community.

They had some stuff on display. A group of kids used a CAD program to design 3D printed items. The robotics group at the school is growing. But, one senior learned how to code and then created an algorithm to help the teachers and staff park in the parking lot better. That’s cool and what entrepreneurship is all about. See or discover a problem, try and solve it.

If you think about it, Martin Luther King was like an entrepreneur running a startup. So was Picasso. So was George Washington. What Parker is doing is bold, timely, and extremely exciting.  It’s going to be great for the entrepreneurship community in Chicago.  I can’t wait for the day when a Parker kid pitches me and we fund their idea.

As they said, almost every school says they will train leaders for the future. But, there is no reason that schools can’t train leaders for today. Parker is going to be in the moment, and I think it’s great.

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