One of the great treats at Christmas time is holiday reading. Added to this, I am very fortunate so many of my friends and family know that books are the ideal gift for me, and you can expect that over the next few months I will likely punctuate some of my more regular posts with perspectives from some of my most recent holiday readings.
The first of these is W. Brett Wilson’s Redefining Success – Still Making Mistakes. For someone who is usually immersed in books by and/or for educators, it is great to do some reading outside of my comfort zone. Prior to his book, my knowledge of Wilson was his three years as a panelist on Dragon’s Den — a show that I regularly PVR. I have always appreciated his humanity and compassion (particularly in comparison to others on the show), but I knew very little about the complex process of philanthropy, and even less about investment banking – two areas that have dominated much of Wilson’s life (and book).
Wilson’s story lines up with some told by prominent Americans, including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who are all committed to giving away much of their money during their life rather than leaving it as a legacy. Wilson writes, “If you think you’re going to do your children a favour by leaving them a big inheritance, think again. Inter-generational wealth transfer is one of the most serious issues of our time.”
Wilson also reveals that philanthropy in business is a very strategic exercise, from finding the right projects, the right partners and the right opportunities to benefit important causes, to engaging the community and highlighting/profiling the company.
Beyond all of this, is a very powerful, personal story of refocusing life around family and friends, as well as his view on what we need in education – which obviously stood out with me.
Wilson argues for the importance of “teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy beginning in elementary schools and continuing into all higher learning, either academic or in the trades.” Given the excitement and engagement with Me to We, and similar movements often done as an “add-on” to curriculum, he makes a persuasive argument that these areas should actually be part of core schooling – a course, he suggests, in changing the world. Wilson says that the ways in which anyone can make an impact on, or in, the world comes down to offering their time, money or leadership. He states:
We as a society need to think more clearly about what each student needs to have at the end of the journey. Every student needs a bundle of knowledge, skills and experiences. The first group of students who graduate with my three subjects – marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy – as part of their core curriculum will be a dramatically different caliber of student. But until everyone speaks the same vernacular we’re not going to change the quality of student we produce. Until it has become core curriculum, it’s just another elective, and the impact will be negligible.
These core subjects will develop students’ leadership skills. And if we’re going to drive innovation and productivity, it’s as important to fill the bus with leaders as it have leaders driving the bus. As University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon eloquently stated during our discussion on the subject, “We need to develop our students as whole people, being able to work across disciplines and across sectors. That’s how we are going to make great citizens.”
While the language may not be the same, Wilson’s list reminds me of a talk by UBC’s former President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Martha Piper, where she also highlighted global citizenship and community service learning, among other key areas (Dr. Martha Piper And the Way Forward blog post here).
My challenge to Wilson would be one I offer to others suggesting what we need to add to schooling, is to also make the argument about what needs to come out of schooling. One of our greater challenges in an era full of wonderful ideas about what additions to make to schooling, is in an era when many are suggesting creating more “white space” and flexibility in schooling, at a time we are also considering limiting the hours of schooling.
So, I read the book to find out about the ‘truth’ behind the Dragon’s Den deals, and although interesting, it was the human story of lifelong learning that stood out for me, as well as a wonderful book for those interested in leadership.
Thanks to Pieter Dorsman, a parent in our community committed to making education better for everyone, for the gift of the book — a great way to grow ideas.