”The period of schooling should be shortened, education should be revolutionized, and the domination of our schools by bourgeois intellectuals should by no means be allowed to continue.” - Mao Tse-Tsung, "The Whole Country Should Become a Great School of Mao Tse-Tung's Thought", Editorial, Renmin Ribao August 1966
It is rare and unusual for your startup scene correspondent to report a failure – largely because I have succeeded in turning so many conventional yardsticks of success on their head, and then breaking them in two. Just look around you. Losing a lot of money in business has lost its stigma – it’s now a measure of your success.
Copying someone else is innovation. Chasing down a Community Investment Catapult is risk-taking. Getting up at 4pm, spending the rest of the day bobbing between Shoreditch tech meetups and then the evening doing lines and getting shit-faced? That’s the Protestant work ethic, baby. Yet I am sorry to report a failure that will affect generations to come.
At first I was thrilled to help revise the National Curriculum. Education is going the way of all the other dinosaur entertainment industries and before too long we’ll be soaking up the latest quirky discoveries in neuroscience and behavioural economics via a TED Talk delivered through a Mooc.
Less chalk, less talk, more immersive virtual gamification. Shortly after that our children will form an enormous, digitally connected Hive Mind. And then – bang! – it’s the Singularity.
Personally, I’m leaving nothing to chance. The next generation of genetically modified entrepreneur has already been hatched – meet Baby Bong, aka #businessmodel.
For the Bongster himself, “education” was an expensive Montessori nursery, a Swiss boarding school and Harrow - but even after all that, I could barely read or write. It’s the real world that made me the success I am, or as Michael Gove told me at our first un-meeting, “You are a graduate of the Free School of Life.”
At first, the signs were promising. A core working group was formed including innovation champion Mike Butcher of TechCrunch, Ambassador Benjamin Hammersley, and Baroness Fox of Soho. There was also a Brummie guy whose name I forget but who looked like the cop in Terminator, half man half machine, and who electrocuted himself every time he touched his iPad [Kevin Warwick? – ed].
But after months I knew we were making little headway, and so I regretfully withdrew from the project. I am not surprised to discover, now that the curriculum has been published, that the Bong Vision has been watered down. Watered down so much, in fact, it qualifies as a homeopathic cure.
Nevertheless here are some of my working notes, faithfully preserved by my assistant มาลัย (which means "Garland of Flowers" in Thai) - so you can imagine what might have been.
MathematicsGenerally unnecessary except for M&A specialists. No need to clog up kids' precious RAM with numbers. Let’s run a defragger on this! - sb
HistoryDon’t look back. Scrap entirely. Replace with Nextification Classes - sb
EnglishLet’s get real here. The whole point of language is to convince somebody to do something they didn’t want to do. It’s just a means to an end. You can’t read old books and study language and expect these techniques to pop out at you. Let’s pivot, and replace grammar and reading with an intense study of the PowerPoint techniques of Lawrence Lessig, Masayoshi Takahashi, Seth Godin and Steve Jobs. Augment with NLP. - sb
PhysicsBlank looks right round the table for this one. Whatever it is, take it out the back and shoot it through the head. - sb
BiologySurely this means ‘ecosystems’???? – sb
InfographicsAbsolutely vital. Can’t believe this isn’t on the curriculum. Otto Neurath is one of my biggest inspirations after His Holiness the D.Lama and A.Rand. Needs to go in along with Data Journalism and Snowfalling. - sb
ChemistryMany of my most successful achievements – with women, and in business – have been achieved with the help of chemicals. Let’s make this a beacon subject. Also, we could preserve and "recycle" the output. Just imagine: British schools as one giant meth lab! A 20-year distribution franchise for BongVentures! Only the Bongster finds these kinds of synergies - sb
Digital CitizenshipDefinitely the most important skill of all. But we need to go back to basics: MLF to draw up on-the-spot Meme Tests, return to teaching Emoticons by rote, with all children to present work by Storify. Every school must post its Klout score in a national league table. - sb
Climate ChangeI feel obliged to leave the planet in a far worse state than I found it, so I’m not sure why this is here at all. We really should be colonising new planets. On the other hand, it’s very useful training for hunting down subsidies. On balance, leave it in. - sb
ComputingIf we are to achieve Key Stage One (Hive Mind) and Stage Two (Singularity) programming should be compulsory from the age of two. Ideally, this should start at the antenatal stage, with key programming language texts read out at the very moment of conception. My great uncle Aleister Crowley had the right idea: this is a kind of magic. Need to clear out some dead wood, though: the old guard of teachers who expect the code to work. – sb
Now compare that to the wishy-washy formal National Curriculum as published. Yes, you’ll see a whiff of Hammersley in there, and maybe even a light drizzling of Butcher, if you look closely. But it has lost its radical edge.
As I said, education is not fit for purpose and is slowly dying out, And we should rejoice. Why? Today, our youngsters are burdened for life by vast amounts of debt from taking out student loans. In the future, they’ll be liberated by vast amounts debt assigned to them by the BongVentures Young Leaders Fund.
So I’ll see you in the future, kids. It’s going to be one giant incubator. ®
Steve Bong (official title: Lord Bong of #businessmodel) is the founder of Bong Ventures, an early stage investor and incubator focussing on innovative new technology start-ups based in Shoreditch, London. When he's not helping rear the next generation of business models, Steve enjoys parties, foreign travel, extreme cuisine, Open Data and draws his inspiration from Ayn Rand and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He advised (then hired) No.10 policy guru Rohan Silva on mindfulness and innovation, Mark Zuckerberg on the Perfect IPO, the Republic of Kazakhstan on emergent social media strategies, LOCOG on brand enforcement, and imagineered the Olympic Opening Ceremony with Danny Boyle, Shoreditch's #guardian coffee coffee shop with Jemima Kiss, and was the social media consultant for Edward Snowden and Lady Thatcher’s Funeral. At the personal invitation of Kim Jong Un, he is a strategic consultant on the Nextification of North Korea. Steve wants to pivot the BBC into the 22nd Century, blue-skying its hugely successful Digital Media Initiative, and advises the UK Government on icon design. He favours Small Government but Large Catapults.
Follow @BongVentures on Twitter for antenatal programming instruction [LADIES ONLY]