Economics Education Provides Long-Term Benefits
May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Strengthening economics education in Oklahoma's public schools soon could produce a more literate group of voters and citizens who can make better consumer choices.
That is the consensus of a small group of respected Oklahoma economists.
While none of those interviewed during an informal telephone survey would advocate mandatory economics education, all said such courses would provide a long-lasting benefit to the state.
Although all were contacted separately, they were almost unanimous in their belief that economic education should be integrated into the core curriculum, adapting history, civics, social sciences and even mathematics courses to include some study of economics.
They also were nearly unanimous in condemning "the appalling lack of knowledge about economics" among adults. This lack of knowledge has led Americans into some "not smart" political decisions which could have been averted by a more economically literate citizenship, they said.
Among the recommendations were:
Start children in early grades with some "fun type" projects, such as learning about the banking system and writing checks.
Teaching economic theory such as how prices are determined in a free-market society and the need for profit.
Develop specific economics courses for interested students while at the same time adapting economics theory and problems into other courses.
Courses teaching simple economic theory, such as the laws of supply and demand, should be offered in the junior high school level.
Develop a two-pronged approach so that there is an integrated, graduated study of economics covering several years, letting students have a better understanding of how economics affects history, especially warfare.
Economics education should become a capstone upon which to build other educational programs.
"Economic education can provide a way in which people can make more reasonable decisions for the rest of their lives," said Dr. Jean Caldwell, director of the Center for Economics Education at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
"People who are college bound need to know something about economics before they get there. If they don't, they're in trouble. But people who are not going to college also need this information. This will provide them with the knowledge of how to analyze where the jobs are.
"Many people have no understanding of how to increase productivity and how increased productivity improves the economy. The mission of education should be to provide tools for getting and holding adequate jobs. Knowledge is one of those tools and knowledge of economics and how the market-system works is one of the most important," she said.
Many political decisions are based upon a false knowledge, or lack of understanding of economics, decisions which the general public accepts without protest, Caldwell said. If the electorate understood more about economics, they could better understand the reason for political decisions and make their thoughts known to lawmakers.
Economic education should start in early years with more emphasis on more difficult subjects on the junior high school level, said Dr. Larkin Warner, regents professor of economics at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. …