Charles Handy told the North of England education conference in Sunderland that teachers who connived at rule-breaking might be encouraging the entrepreneurs of the future. He described how a 13-year-old boy who was allowed to sell pirate videos at school became a highly successful businessman.
Mr Handy, conference president and author of business management books, said: "Schools are protected proving zones and should let pupils get away with a bit of naughtiness ... Thinking outside the box in adult life is often the equivalent of a little naughtiness in a child."
Mr Handy said non-conformity would help people survive in the confusing world of market capitalism, and good grades should be only part of education.
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, accused Mr Handy of inciting riots in the classroom. "Heaven protect the education service from nonsense like this," he said.