It used to be Norman Rockwell Americana to see kids setting up lemonade stands and learning how to attract customers. Now every week there are stories of the nanny state rising up to protect America by treating a kid’s lemonade stand like a restaurant. Police Chief Kelly Morningstar, of Midway, Ga., is typical of this trend. He swooped in on three little girls operating a lemonade stand and charged them with operating a food-vending operation without a peddler’s or food permit.
What if some pinhead public official in our area had tried to shut down Alex Scott’s first lemonade stand? I shudder to think what might have happened to her dream to raise money to help other kids with cancer. By the way, it’s lemonade season for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, so if you see one of those familiar stands, be sure to be extra thirsty and extra generous with the kids and volunteers selling lemonade to battle childhood cancer.
Of course, the bake sale is under fire in many places like Massachusetts and New York City. These bake sales can’t be replaced by other less calorie-challenging sales because they represent one of the first rules of free enterprise: please the customer.
While all this regulating has been going on, I see a disturbing trend of kids replacing fundraising bake sales and car washes with standing at Wawa or even in the middle of City Line Avenue and begging for money. We’ve all seen these beggars with thrown-together signs begging for money for track, football or basketball teams with adults sometimes there oblivious to how wrong (and even dangerous) this is.
Maybe these kids who are not learning about capitalism will follow a great career path and graduate into becoming Occupiers. I’ve interviewed and debated multiple Occupiers and their knowledge of our free-enterprise system and their overall fuzzy thinking is very disturbing. They’re driven by a sense of entitlement and delusion, blaming the 1 percent for their choices to go to overpriced colleges that did not give them marketable skills.
I see some of these attitudes developing because our schools are doing very little to help kids understand the free-enterprise system. We should celebrate the system that has produced the greatest standard of living and opportunity in history. We should also talk about the fact that not everyone wins in capitalism, but that the system has been proven to beat all others.
Junior Achievement is a great program that has been diminished in many schools. It has helped students understand business and provide them with a clear direction for their careers. The Junior Achievement mission statement is “to educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, understand business and economics, and be workforce-ready.”
DECA is another program that teaches high-school students about entrepreneurship and the free-enterprise system. These are the types of organizations that should be more prominent in schools, because they can educate and prepare kids for the world of business.
Sadly, though, many schools are not doing enough to encourage these instincts, so, parents, it’s up to you to use this summer to help your child. One way is to get material on the life story of our greatest entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs, Jay-Z or Mark Zuckerberg. They are just three real-world examples of entrepreneurs that kids can relate to.
Another is to be a model yourself. If you’ve ever run anything yourself or raised money, share those experiences. My sons have seen me over the years run my own camp, and my wife run her own tutoring service. I’d told them many times that there are few pleasures as great as the ability to be able to hire someone and help them better their life.
Since small-business owners are the ones that create most of the jobs in this country, shouldn’t we be doing more to teach and prepare students about entrepreneurship? Small businesses did not receive billions in government bailouts because “they’re too big to fail.” Small business owners play a big role in our economy, and we need to do more to teach students about business and encourage them to discover their “inner entrepreneur.”
Our country has drifted into “the entitlement economy,” and it is unsustainable. Capitalism and the free enterprise system are still part of the DNA of America. There are still lawns to be mowed, cookies to be baked and cute kids making us pull over to buy their lemonade. n
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard on WPHT (1210 AM) Radio weekdays 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Dom at email@example.com