Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmm

WeWork has a dubious plan to turn kindergarteners into entrepreneurs

Co-working space startup WeWork is launching its first school next fall, with the mildly terrifying ambition of educating students "from birth to death," Bloomberg reports.

Launched in 2010, the $20 billion startup co-founded by Adam and Rebekah Neumann is best known for its trendy rentable desks and beer on tap. Education, though, is something entirely new: "In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," explained Rebekah Neumann in what has to be one of the year's most easily-answerable questions (because they're 5).

The inaugural "pilot" class of seven students range from 5 to 8 years old, although WeWork eventually wants to run classes featuring students as young as 3 and all the way up to 12th-graders:

The students […] spend one day at a 60-acre farm and the rest of the week in a classroom near the company's Manhattan headquarters, where they get lessons in business from both employees and entrepreneur-customers of WeWork. Neumann, who attended the elite New York City prep school Horace Mann and Cornell University, studying Buddhism and business, said she's "rethinking the whole idea of what an education means" but is "non-compromising" on academic standards. [Bloomberg]

Still, critics have suggested that the WeWork school model for "conscious entrepreneurship" more or less ruins childhood. The "very instrumental approach [to learning], essentially encouraging kids to monetize their ideas, at that age, is damaging," said Samuel Abrams, the director of Columbia University's National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. "You're sucking the joy out of education at a time when kids should just be thinking about things like how plants grow and why there are so many species."

The Neumanns eventually want to expand the schools into a global network called WeGrow (not to be confused with the "Wal-Mart of Weed"). Read more about WeWork's education ambitions at Bloomberg.