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Entrepreneurship in American Higher Education

The Introduction of the Report:

Higher education is basic to the future of American life. The nation’s ability to prosper and to thrive in an increasingly knowledge-based global society and economy depends on our having a progressively well-educated population. The values and practices of pure research—discovery, originality, innovation—shape and motivate American university learning. The American bachelor’s degree has other objectives as well. Among the most frequently stated are critical thinking, scientific and quantitative reasoning, preparation for citizenship, moral reflection, readiness for work, respect for diversity, broad intellectual knowledge, the transmission of culture, and appreciation of our national values. At the root of all these legitimate and important goals is an even more fundamental purpose of learning: intelligibility. We cannot improve a world we do not understand, and we cannot advance if we do not comprehend ourselves, our strengths, limitations, and motivations. By making the world and ourselves increasingly comprehensible and thereby manageable, education establishes a foundation for human growth, creativity, fulfillment, and progress.

If intelligibility is a fundamental goal of learning, then American higher education must reflect the experience and conditions of contemporary life. Higher education cannot make intelligible a world from which it is removed or does not address. College learning must teach students how to make sense of and how to affect the reality in which they will actually live. Education cannot succeed if it becomes insular and static. To be sure, studying great works of the past and the persisting questions of human nature is basic to becoming an educated person. But a distinctive strength of American higher education also should be dynamism and adaptability, a capacity to address urgent, current questions of nature, society, and human experience as well as classic ones.

Entrepreneurship is a dominant force in contemporary America. It generates ongoing innovation and improvement of our goods, services, and institutions. It makes them more efficient, affordable, and, thus, effective. Entrepreneurship enhances the quality of our collective and individual lives. It changes the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we live. Innovation and improvement depend on intelligibility. In the final analysis, we cannot devise or enhance the incomprehensible. We cannot repair what is mysterious to us. Because intelligibility is a fundamental purpose of higher education, and generating new knowledge is the highest expression of American learning, entrepreneurship and college education are inextricably bound to one another. Each has an ineluctable interest in the success of the other. Against this background, entrepreneurship should be both a legitimate subject in American undergraduate education and a pervasive approach to learning and the management of universities.