TITLE: Risks and the Entrepreneurs Who Take Them AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 28, 2013 3:07 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Someone on the SIGCSE mailing list posted a link to an article in the Atlantic, that explores a correlation between entrepreneurship, teenaged delinquency, and white male privilege. The article starts with
It does not strike me as a coincidence that a career path best suited for mild high school delinquents ends up full of white men.
and concludes with
To be successful at running your own company, you need a personality type that society is a lot more forgiving of if you're white.
The sender of the link was curious what educational implications these findings have, if any, for how we treat academic integrity in the classroom. That's an interesting question, though my personal tendency to follow rules and not rock the boat has always made me more sensitive to the behavior of students who employ the aphorism "ask for forgiveness, not permission" a little too cavalierly for my taste. My first reaction to the claims of this article was tied to how I think about the kinds of risks that entrepreneurs take. When most people in the start-up world talk about taking risks, they are talking about the risk of failure and, to a lesser extent, the risk of being unconventional, not the risk of being caught doing something wrong. In my personal experience, the only delinquent behavior our entrepreneurial former students could be accused of is not doing their homework as regularly as they should. Time spent learning for their business is time not spent on my course. But that's not delinquent behavior; it's curiosity focused somewhere other than my classroom. It's not surprising, though, that teens who were willing take legal risks are more likely willing to take business risk, and (sadly) legal risks in their businesses. Maybe I've simply been lucky to have worked with students and other entrepreneurs of high character. Of course, there is almost certainly a white male privilege associated with the risk of failure, too. White males are often better positioned financially and socially than women or minorities to start over when a company fails. It's also easier to be unconventional and stand out from the crowd when you don't already stand out from the crowd due to your race or gender. That probably accounts for the preponderance of highly-educated white men in start-ups better than a greater willingness to partake in "aggressive, illicit, risk-taking activities". -----