The Buck Starts Here

A Utah charter school is growing the next generation of capitalists

Like you I was forced to learn many things at school that I have absolutely no use for in the 21st century—like speling. And I literaly cannot count the number of times that I have not had to use math. That’s why I was so excited to learn about a boldly innovative new school in Utah which is teaching kids to be makers, not takers. Students as young as kindergarten are learning to become the bosses of tomorrow today by mastering business skills and practices including sales, marketing—even PowerPoint. They can even get a jump on the exciting world of work that lies ahead by working in the school store.

All aboard the choice mobile
It’s time for another “free ride” in the choice mobile, dear reader. Today our destination is suburban Salt Lake City, home to the new HighMark Charter School, where the entrepreneurial spirit is being fostered even as I type. Unlike traditional union-stifled public schools which equip choiceless young consumers with nothing but excuses and mediocrity, HighMark is incubating the next generation of young learners to become tomorrow’s earners. Students here earn play money for turning in their homework, doing chores and making “goods” which they then “sell” to other young consumers. But a day at baby b school isn’t all fun and games—for that, there is an after-school Hunger Games club. Once students reach 6th grade, they can apply for a job at the HighMark store, where play money can be used to purchase KitKats, Cheetos, fruity sports drinks or even individual letters spelling out BYU, where these minipreneurs-in-training may someday attend the Marriott School of Business.

And choice begat choice
At the very heart of the HighMark enterprise lies the concept of choice. But do you even know what choice means, reader???

Choice, according to the dictionary, consists of the mental process of thinking involved with the process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them for action. HighMark Charter School will not only provide a choice for parents when selecting an educational setting for their families, but increased learning opportunities for children by providing them with the skills to “judge the merits of multiple options.” Integrating practical business applications into the core curriculum will allow for increased learning opportunities utilizing higher order thinking skills.

Integrate this
HighMark administrators are quick to point out that the school is not a pint-sized business school. Instead, key business concepts and principles are integrated into every aspect of the K-8 charter. For example, “a student wanting to become a dentist will learn about the marketing aspect of dentistry, the pros and cons of opening their own office, entrepreneurship, and what leadership qualities are necessary to hire and supervise a staff.” (Note: HighMark’s full course catalog begins on page 80 of the school’s charter application.) Well, that makes a lot of sense. But how do you operationalize the integrated business approach in an otherwise useless area of study like Language Arts?

Example Integrated Business Lesson/Activity: Students will design a marketing brochure.

High marks for creativity, HighMark! How about science?

Example Integrated Business Lesson/Activity: Students will learn about using natural resources in business.


Example Integrated Business Lesson/Activity: Students will be able to identify business components in a particular sport.

Is there any subject that can’t be given a cool new 21st century entrepreneurial-style makeover? I know—HighMark can’t possibly have figured out how to monetize art…

Example Integrated Business Lesson/Activity: Students will hold a silent auction selling student produced school art pieces.

And it only gets better, reader. We haven’t even gotten to the electives like “enrichment reading,” where students read and report on articles from business periodicals. Or “enrichment keyboarding” where they prepare sample PowerPoint resumes.

Never 2 young
Located in one of Utah’s richest counties, HighMark is ideally situated to begin producing tomorrow’s bosses today. But there’s good news for kids on the other side of the excellence gap too. HighMark uses a curriculum provided by the Council for Economic Education, an effort by major corporations to teach K-12 students about the real world economy. You see reader, “[n]ow more than ever, policy makers, business leaders, media figures, educators and parents are demanding that their children graduate from school with an understanding of basic economic and financial concepts.”

In this sample lesson for K-5 students brought to us by ING Financial Services and used in CEE’s after school program, kids receive ECONObucks for providing correct answers to questions like why they can’t have everything they want. (Note: answers may vary). They also read stories like “Nicholas Has Many Wants,” and even sing songs about “decisions concerning spending and saving.” Did I mention that it’s also a lot of fun? Watch the faces of these students light up as they learn the meaning of the word “scarcity.”

Send tips, comments and sample PowerPoint resumes to


  1. I teach at the public school that High Mark drew a lot of its students from. I have no idea how NPR came up with 580 students–they barely had 250, enough to open.

    And the district that this schools takes students from isn’t particularly wealthy. However, the town where this charter school is IS fairly wealthy. I have had parents tell me that “their” children (from this town) wouldn’t do the things that “those” children (from the two other towns that have many more kids of color and in poverty) would do. Our school lost two teachers last year because of this school opening, but we have had several return to us throughout the year. After the money went to the charter school, of course! Plenty of reformy goodness for all.

    Same everywhere, I know, but since I know the school and worship Eduschyster, I had to respond.

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