Answering Back: Teaching Kids the “Art of the Deal”

Answering Back” is an irregular column on North Shore, responding to local newspapers and websites across the region. Got a story that needs a response? Get in touch by email or in the comments.
Do you ever read your local paper and wonder why there aren’t more articles favourably comparing school children to Donald Trump? Well, the Waterloo Region Record’s got you covered. Yesterday, May 13, they ran an article called “Waterloo Region Youth Learn the Art of the Deal”; so lying, bravado, and sexual harassment, right? It described children as young as 4 gathering to highlight their businesses and sell each other stuff at the Children’s Business Fair: “They hope it will help children learn about the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age — something they don’t get in most classrooms.”
Are we actually expected to believe that a lack of “entrepreneurial spirit” is a problem with schools? And that we should be grateful that Catalyst 137, a space for venture capitalists and developers of the creepy “Internet of Things”, has stepped in to fill the gap? There are a lot of things that kids don’t get in most classrooms that would actually be beneficial, like time in nature, accurate sex education, or conflict resolution. Or (why not?) anti-capitalism. “[These kids] aren’t even 12 years old yet, but they know how to close” — I’m sure that’s exactly what we all need.
They describe two teenagers with a business called MangoCat that sells “T-shirts, ball caps and hoodies with phrases that encourage wearers to be humble, to work hard, and to believe in themselves.” Rather than values that are cultivated together and encourages kids to do and be what they want, we’re instead left with the humility, effort, and confidence turned into branding and marketed back to other kids for profit. The teens behind MangoCat have made over a thousand dollar so far, and each one is certainly helping their peers “be themselves.
Encouraging 4-year-olds to sell shit — what kind of world are they anticipating? Groups like Catalyst 137 have fully embraced total automation and surveillance as opportunities for profit, leaving the rest of us competing to be the first to tie the handcrafted, lifestyle bracelet onto the customer’s wrist. And if we hype ourselves hard enough and compete ruthlessly enough, maybe we’ll get to be one of the ever-fewer winners. Maybe we’ll even get to be president.