Why Are We Lying to the Kids?: The Weekly Mentor


by Oliver DeMille

 lemonade-standThe subtitle to our book A Thomas Jefferson Education is: “Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century.”

I really believe in this. It matters. The leaders of the 21st Century live in our homes. And we can truly help them live up to their great potential.

So I’m going to say something some people won’t like, but this is really important.

There is one big problem that is stopping so many of the rising generation from getting an education that truly matches their potential.

This big problem is surprising for modern people, because we have been convinced that getting a job is the ultimate goal of education.

But it isn’t.

There is a higher goal, which is greatness. Another higher goal is goodness.

And another is wisdom, as Allan Bloom argued.

Next to these, there is a higher economic goal, which isn’t about jobs at all.

The Higher Economic Goal: Freedom

Only nations where free enterprise flourishes remain free. No other kind of nation allows the majority of people to live in prosperity.

History is predominated by other forms and models, from feudalism to socialism to communism, etc. – which is why freedom is rare in all of human history.

The few have had most of the wealth while the masses have struggled just to make ends meet.

Yet TV, Hollywood, the media and the government seem committed to portraying entrepreneurship as villainous and greedy; and nearly all educational institutions perpetuate the idea that the primary goal of schooling is to prepare for a job (not to start and build businesses).

But free nations are always built on entrepreneurship – that is, the vocation of creating value, producing products or services using vision, initiative, and wise risk, providing opportunities for employment and advancement to those who cooperate in the venture.

This was part of the original “American Dream”, and it benefited everyone with a strong economy, a self-reliant populace, abundance enough to care for the needy and aged, and citizens who lived and thought like leaders.

Plentiful jobs are just the natural by-product of having lots of successful businesses.

And yet, too many parents are swayed by the prevailing cultural attitude.

Indeed, very few parents teach their kids that entrepreneurship is even more important to the future of freedom than most other jobs; they don’t even go as far as to promote it as an honorable choice–as good as any other career.

But consider: If there are no entrepreneurs, the only employment is in government jobs.

And too many of these are like those found in socialistic and communist nations—bereft of opportunity for creativity, advancement or significant personal development, being bureaucratic, dead-end, soul- and dream-stealing drudgeries.

Anyone who likes good jobs and high employment rates either likes entrepreneurship or doesn’t understand where jobs come from.

Moreover, as Orrin Woodward wrote:

“The conveyor belt educational system teaches students to scorn the entrepreneurs it prevents them from becoming.”

This is important in two ways:

  1. Any system that doesn’t teach students the vital role of entrepreneurship in any free society is actually hurting the future of freedom
  2. The conveyor belt system of education is so focused on job training that it frequently trains students in ways that make them virtually incapable of successful initiative, innovation, leadership and other skills necessary to successful entrepreneurship.

Those who overcome these two obstacles usually do so in spite of “education,” not as a natural result of it.

But this is bigger than just education. It has reached the point where it dominates much of our politics. W. Cleon Skousen wrote:

“The highest level of prosperity occurs when there is a free-market economy with a minimum of government regulations.”

In fact, conveyor belt education always goes hand-in-hand with socialistic government.

When we teach our children that success comes from a society of job seekers rather than business builders, we naturally convince them that a good society needs an intrusive government that is closely involved in all facets of controlling the economy. “The more government the better,” this tells them.

It’s “Adam Smith out, Karl Marx in,” as Skousen put it.

That’s where we are.

The generation that tells its children that school is all about getting a job, and actually believes it, will also vote for bigger and bigger government that makes entrepreneurship increasingly difficult.

The Result?

Educational quality will continue to decrease, and the economy will become more and more difficult for regular families.

Jobs and capital will go to nations that encourage entrepreneurship. People will scratch their head and ask, “Why is this happening?”

Then they hope the government will fix it for them, and things get even worse.

The solution is simple: Give freedom a real try.

Tell the children the truth, that the best thing they can do for the future of freedom, and for their own careers and income, is to become a successful entrepreneur.

And really support them in pursuing this goal.

Parents of the world, awake! The future is in your hands, and this one simple thing will make all the difference.

If a new generation of young people chooses entrepreneurship, pretty much every challenge in our modern nation will eventually be fixed.

Whatever your youth’s passion, they can build a business around it and/or adopt entrepreneurial principles and attitudes and do much more to improve the world than most “jobs”.

This isn’t for everyone, but it is for a lot more than the 3-5% who currently choose it.

We are failing many of today’s youth by not helping them realize that for many of them building businesses will help them really excel in their interests and life mission—even more than many jobs.

And only fathers and mothers can make this change. Nobody in Washington can do it, but you can.

It won’t apply to some of your kids, and that’s great. The key to Leadership Education is to personalize.

For some of today’s youth, entrepreneurship is their best future, and their parents are best positioned to help them see this and prepare accordingly.

One thing is for certain; this is the exact message that a whole generation of today’s youth in China are learning.

And if current trends continue, the 21st Century will be the China Century, as many experts predict.

If today’s Chinese youth become the world’s entrepreneurs, while their North American peers only care about jobs, the standard of living will drastically shift in both places.

Today’s parents have all the power in this.


For more of Oliver DeMille’s writings on education and the future of freedom see:

Image Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd. He is the NY Times Bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.


  1. Ellen Adams November 6, 2013 at 5:29 am - Reply

    Wonderful and uplifting article (especially in this horrific political climate). Our 11 year-old daughter, who is educated at home, has quite the business going these days. She makes various products from duct tape and has donated many of them but has sold several hundreds of dollars’ worth as well. She is very creative and more of a work-horse than most adults. our goal now is to make this an entrepreneurial learning experience for her. Regardless of what she chooses to do as an adult (I hope she will stay at home and teach her children), we don’t worry about her ability to produce income and that’s a great feeling!

  2. Natasha November 6, 2013 at 8:07 am - Reply

    This is frighteningly true. Right now my family lives in a country that has had conveyor belt education for too long, and truly, the only real jobs are in government (which in turn works really hard to squash the private sector). Government also works really hard to make sure all schools stay conveyor belt and admits “this helps keep the peace” because it opresses half the population. One hundred years from now America could be just like it…scary thought.

  3. Kristin November 6, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

    We don’t have to be afraid. Faith and fear cannot coexist. Do not fear our government. Just be wise and keep taking care of what we do have control over. Our own education, inspiring our children and our communities, get involved in local politics… etc.

  4. Sherri November 6, 2013 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Thank you for this great article. Wish you had been around when my children were growing up. Let’s spread it around.

  5. Kris November 6, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

    You are spot on! Thanks for this wonderful article!

  6. Cindi November 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I like a lot of your writing and part of me agrees with your vision but i just can’t quite follow your logic in this article.
    I’m interested in a free society for all people and inspiring leaders in all our communities.
    My understanding is that businesses are actually mostly built on the labour of workers – workers who are often on the minimum wage or less in the case of migrant workers or offshore labourers.
    I’m interested to understand how you see the economic paradigm you are proposing benefiting all people and allowing us all to be equally free?

  7. Sherlee November 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    A great book that develops this idea is Personal, Career, and Financial Security, by Richard J. Maybury (Placerville, CA: Bluestocking Press), 2004. It’s the first book in a series written especially for young teens but great for adults, too.

  8. Oliver DeMille November 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Cindi, I like a society with wealth and job opportunities, as long as everyone is free to start their own businesses and obtain their own wealth. And this is the key. If the governmental/societal/economic forms do not allow equal opportunity for men and women to engage in “the pursuit of happiness”, if businesses and corporations have special treatment under the law, if cronyism, nepotism or socialism forcibly redistribute wealth and give advantages to elites, I decidedly do not consider this the answer. True free enterprise does not admit these elements. True free enterprise affords everyone the same opportunity to prosper, according to his ingenuity, tenacity, and understanding of human nature. And those who choose the course of entrepreneurship are the foundation of a free society. History is littered with the remains of societies that failed because they interfered with the free exercise of conscience, association, expression and trade. And the most tragic of these demises are those who had freedom, but lost it due to inattention and neglect. The U.S. is sadly on that course. We are losing ground in the effort to educate the ingenuity, tenacity and wisdom of the rising generation. And yet, this generation of parents has a significant cohort who are owning their role as self-educators and self-starters, who are reclaiming their responsibility to produce rather than consume, to employ rather than to depend. Our future depends on these.

    “My” logic is freedom — where workers can choose from plentiful jobs, can leave any job as they choose, and can start their own business without undue burdens, regulations or taxation from government.

  9. Jennifer November 15, 2013 at 4:05 am - Reply


    Your article is exactly right! Thank you for the courage to zero in on the problem and say it like it is. I've been studying economics for the last year, and what has stood out to me the most is that ALL prosperous things in life come from free market economies = political freedom, religious freedom, and a higher standard of living for the masses. The suffering of the poor has only happened after the government interfered. I get amazingly frustrated because anyone who is basically honest and willing to read a few classics in economics would understand this, I feel. Right now my favorites are Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell (his student). After a person reads these and has a handle on basic economic thought, they can go for Adam Smith, Karl Marx and others.

    Well said, and Thank You!

  10. Justin May 8, 2014 at 7:26 am - Reply

    You say that entrepreneurship should be pursued more, without undue burdens, regulations or taxation from government. I would love to start my own business, but growing up poor, I don’t have anyone I can approach for start-up capital. No financial institution would loan me money as I have nothing of value to back it, and no real capital beyond the few thousand dollars I have saved up for a while. If the government shouldn’t tax, why should they give a loan? So it seems like the only way to get things started is to come from affluence already. Additionally, if you don’t come from a family who understands the process, by being a part of affluent who have already done this, then how can you reasonably be expected to succeed. I do agree that entrepreneurship is important, but without the right set of circumstances it is virtually impossible, especially in the utopia you envision. What can be done utilizing the current framework? How can an entrepreneurial society exist and compete with the handful of large companies that control the modern world? In the retail side, we all know the Wal-Mart effect, forcing out small businesses. On the manufacturing side, there are really only a handful of companies as well. Nestle, P&G, etc, control a very large part of the daily products we buy, whether the consumer realizes it or not. Even in farming, there are realistically less than a dozen farms that the vast majority of consumers can purchase products from. How does the entrepreneur compete in this reality? How could I, as someone with a lot of retail management and operations experience, (I work as a DM with a small company that is growing) obtain the funds necessary to build a business, and compete realizing that buying as an individual store front will mean increased prices for the consumer, reducing the likelihood of consumers choosing me over the Amazon and other online and large specialty marketplaces? Around 30-35 years ago the shift began that helped to create the monopolies that exist today, and this generation can’t compete. Please let me know how to REALISTICALLY overcome this.

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