Student interest revives business course

September 9, 2019 — by Megan Chen and Anna Novoselov

For the first time in 12 years, the school is offering an Introduction to Business course because of overwhelming student interest.

The class, comprised of mainly upperclassmen, gives students a general overview of investments, macroeconomics and entrepreneurship and also teaches them personal finance and communication skills. This year, 99 students are enrolled in the class, with more than 30 students on the waitlist.

Senior Brian Zhu, who helped lead the effort to reinstitute the class, said the school was at a disadvantage compared to nearby schools that offer a business courses.  He said that since business involves countless interactions in various relationships, it teaches people useful skills, which are essential for negotiating deals or establishing partnerships in the workforce.

“Public speaking and leadership can be used by every person in the ‘adult’ world when they work, no matter what field they work in,” Zhu said.

In hopes of convincing the school administration to add a business class to the course offerings, he created and began circulating a petition in fall of 2018, which accumulated a total of 144 signatures. 

He then approached physics teacher Kirk Davis, who had taught the original Introduction to Business course and asked whether Davis was interested in teaching the class again. Davis was willing since he would get a lot of flexibility in designing the curriculum due to the absence of state standards for the course. He planned to provide a broad overview of the business world as well as incorporate current events and topics the students were interested in covering. 

Zhu then went to assistant principal Brian Safine, who coordinated the logistics of getting the class approved and scheduled for the upcoming year.

“The key to being able to offer a course is three things: student interest, teacher interest and approval from others in the district,” Safine said. “If we had a game design course the students would love that, but there wouldn’t be a teacher with the necessary teaching credentials.”

In this case, Introduction to Business had already been previously offered at the school and is currently being offered at Los Gatos as well. Since it had already been approved by the school board, the administration simply had to propose it to the department chair team and then notify the district office.

The course was offered in preregistration last February, and there was sufficient interest to fill more than four sections of classes. The school had budgeted for only two sections, so they asked the district to fund one more section and received approval.

Although the class currently allows sophomores and up to register, Davis thinks it should be limited to juniors and seniors.

“I strongly suggested they only let juniors and seniors take it, because of the level of discussion we have,” Davis said. “They read at a slightly higher level, and may have taken classes like AP Lang, where they’re thinking a little more freely.”

He said that sophomores will have time to take the course as upperclassmen and learn budgetary and financial responsibilities that are integral in college and in adult life.

Safine said that there are many benefits from taking a business course that aren’t strictly related to students going into business themselves.

“Understanding business is also understanding American politics and American financial systems,” he said. “It's also about interpreting data, drawing conclusions and making a plan, being flexible, being able to make an argument and being able to make a proposal.”

He also said that business helps build “21st century thinking skills, global awareness and analysis skills.”

As a resident in Silicon Valley, Zhu knows that these business and entrepreneurship skills are essential to the success of any company, and believes that students should be able to learn these skills in school. For him, this class is an important step in his business journey until college.

“I’ve been in love with business for as long as I can remember,” Zhu said. “This class is a good intro, a good jumping point into business; It gives me a better understanding of the world I want to be part of.”