An entrepreneur and educator recounts how he built a business-centric model of pedagogy.
In this memoir, written with Devi (The Language of the Blues, 2006, etc.), high school math teacher Mariotti (co-author: Entrepreneurship, 4th Ed., 2019, etc.) traces his path towards teaching after he left the business world. In the mid-1970s, he was a recent MBA graduate when he was fired from his job as a financial analyst at Ford Motor Company in Michigan. He moved to New York City to find a new path for himself; soon, he started his own importing business and found that it gave him a sense of control. After he was mugged in 1981, however, Mariotti turned to teaching in the city’s high schools to get over his PTSD, and he was placed in a school in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Without any previous teaching experience, he had to quickly learn how to teach math in a way that interested his students, as well as bring discipline to a disorderly classroom. He noticed that kids paid more attention to his lessons when their practical benefits were clear—such as how to make change, or how to judge value and profits. The school system didn’t appreciate that Mariotti brought entrepreneurship concepts into the math curriculum, he writes, but he felt that it gave his students an avenue toward successful employment. He developed his approach in other schools in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in the Bronx, and eventually founded an organization to promote entrepreneurial education in American schools. Mariotti presents his experiences in a light and engaging manner throughout this memoir. However, the work can feel overly optimistic at times, particularly when Mariotti waxes philosophical about the power of education: “The idea that entrepreneurship education can fight poverty, crime, unemployment, and violence, while spreading free-market and democratic ideals, is steadily gaining momentum.” The book is strongest when it offers in the details of classroom dialogue with his students over the years. It also provides the author’s engaging internal monologue as he worked out his next steps: “What choice did I have? It was either accept this crazy assignment or lose my job.”
An earnest account that sometimes comes off a bit too sunny.