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WeWork’s kindergarten is a social disaster

Ok kids, first nap time. Then Jayden is going to build a for-profit API to disrupt the Nicaraguan wool industry.

Rebekah Neumann, the co-founder of $20 billion shared-office firm WeWork, wants to encourage kids to be “conscious” entrepreneurs. “There’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” she told Bloomberg last month, placing her among the tech industry’s growing clique of self-satirists.

WeGrow will open next year at WeWork’s Manhattan office, enrolling 65 children from preschool though fourth grade. Regular school, Neumann thinks, kills creative spirit. She can have this view and not be ridiculed, because she’s rich.

These are things Neumann will have in common with WeGrow’s first students. The school will be for-profit, with yearly tuition running at $36,000: impossible for those living on anything near New York City’s median income of $50,711.

CityLab has written excellently on how WeGrow’s language of altruism veils an insidious and damaging philosophy that deems public good a byproduct of profit.

It also degrades entrepreneurialism as a function of a meritocratic society, placing it out of the reach of ordinary schmucks who must toil away at un-entrepreneurial — and by extension worthless — careers.

Neumann won’t mind. She comes from the same entitled band of Silicon Valley pseudo-libertarians who revel in “hacking” everything from food intake to sleep deprivation.

Don’t like your job in construction? It’s because you’re not doing what you love, stupid.

What is more worrying is how Neumann, and her husband and WeWork co-founder Adam, do not get, or do not care, about the yawning income gap WeGrow will help to widen.

Choosing a career you love is a privilege of the rich (and often white). Growing a business depends on who you know and which school you went to.

The VC landscape is not a kibbutz of innovation. It is a white-collar, cigar-smoking old boys’ club.

I’ve met thousands of entrepreneurs in my career. I can count the number of those with whom I’ve connected over working class roots on one hand. The myth of the modern entrepreneur is just that. It is, for the most part, a fiction.

WeGrow is a failed concept before it has even begun. It will teach rich children how to become richer, while charging their rich parents $36,000 to make the founders of a $20bn company richer.

If altruism is the Neumanns’ ultimate goal, why not lobby for greater public schooling, or equipment for underprivileged children, or for greater state investment in education, or for adjustments to the national curriculum?

Because this is altruism for the rich. For if WeGrow’s alumni never study with those less fortunate than themselves, how will they ever even know poor kids exist?

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