Jason Scott Earl

BYU-I College of Business and Communication Documentary

Courses Taught

Why I teach at BYU-Idaho

My Favorite Things

I have been a faculty member at Brigham Young University-Idaho for three years now. During this time, I have been surprised to find that one of the greatest tools my students have for learning deals with asking the right question at the right time and for the right reason. This is why I have become such a strong supporter of the Socratic method. I love learning, and there’s no better way to learn how to learn than in a simulated environment where an individual can attempt to make a decision that leads to effective action. This environment can be a case discussion, writing a business plan or the midst of a realistic simulation. Asking the right questions, listening intently to answers, cherishing a student comment and holding it up as if it were fine crystal for the class to see its complexity and faults. These are a few of my favorite things.

Case teaching is more of an art than a science. That is funny to note from a guy who spent six years studying science in college and another 6 years of practicing science in the field. However, unlike science, good case teaching requires assembling a roomful of bright, hungry minds, immersing them in an environment that is paradoxically both safe and challenging, and ever so gently leading the discussion. It is much like mixing the perfect batch of concrete with just the right amount of cement, sand, gravel and silica dust. The ingredients appear common and are relatively inexpensive, but when mixed in the right proportion and cast in the right mold – the end result is infinitely stronger than all of the individual components and creates a foundation that can support a tremendous force for years and years to come.

The Most Common Question

Students often ask “Brother Earl, why teach at BYU-Idaho?” This seems like a polite way of saying “What’s in it for you?” It’s a fair question. In today’s world, it pays to be leery of free lunches and ask what others want in return. I must admit that when I first attended Ricks College twenty years ago, I was inspired and fundamentally changed by my own professors. Professors like Jack Weyland from the Physics department, George Stone from Chemistry and Chuck Cartmill from Engineering. These mentors believed in me and helped me to recognize my potential to change the world. I would like to think (and often tell others) that I simply wanted to repay a debt or give back in some small way. However, this would not be a completely true statement. When I was the President of a technology start-up company in Santa Barbara, California I came to an amazing realization one day that most of my investors and share holders would probably not take the time to attend my own funeral. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that very many of my current students would either.

But here is the difference. I honestly believe that when we leave this life and “go towards the light” - there is a large room full of people waiting for us. Surprisingly, most of these people we do not know. However, these same individuals have been watching us. They know what we were really about in this life and they know which of their posterity we have impacted for good or evil. These are not people who have owned stock in our company. These are people that know what we have done with their personal stock – their children and their children’s children. I am absolutely convinced that one man or one woman can change hundreds and thousands of lives by making a difference in the life of one child or one teenager or one confused college student. I may be wrong. This may simply be the worst career move of my life and it will cost me dearly. However, I am ready to gamble my life on this belief. The impression from the Spirit to move here and make this change in life and lifestyle was one of the strongest that I have ever felt. As I have learned more about this University and the promises that have been made by the Lord to the students – I cannot help but feel with all of my heart that these students are literally going to change the world.

It is funny to reflect on it all now as a 37 year old man with a beautiful wife and four small children. I honestly believe that I have simply been a small tool in the hands of the Lord to accomplish his great work. This rising generation is more powerful than they realize and they are capable of learning how to learn so that when the time comes to rise up and act – they will know exactly what to do and how to do it.

To Change the World

One of my great personal heroes in business and life is Jeff Sandefer, Founder of the Acton Foundation. Jeff shares my belief that each of us want to leave a mark on this earth, so that others know that we have passed. Margaret Thatcher often reminded her audiences that “free markets” mean nothing without freedom. The Founding Fathers created something special when they set out to build a “shining city upon a hill” – something far more important than a vibrant economy. I feel that I owe a debt to the generations who came before me – the individuals who struggled to build a moral civil society and those who fought and died on far away beaches to defend it.

My task now is to help each of my students understand their own ability to change the world and make a difference for good. To help each feel the power of asking the right question and the reward of creating something valued by their peers. If I can do this – and this is a big “IF” – they will be far less likely to be led astray by the siren song of a tyrant or the emotions of a democratic mob. Someone who has truly learned (1) how to create value, (2) how to align people with value and (3) how to deliver value, never has the need to compromise their beliefs.

As Jeff Sandefer has shared many times before, the Dow Jones Industrial will not stay at record levels forever, and the wind that blows at the back of freedom may suddenly change direction. If I can encourage even a few students to find their own quests, to engage in the battle of life, and stand up when they are needed most, then I will have passed on the torch of Ricks College to better hands – even those graduates of Brigham Young University-Idaho.

That is why I teach here.