Macroeconomic Indicators

EconEdLink has a great list of current major macroeconomic indexes. Here's a snap shot for today (right):

EconEdLink is a self-described 'premier source of classroom tested, Internet-based economic lesson materials for K-12 teachers and their students'. For example, Today in History tells us that today --January 7, 1782-- "The nation's first private, commercial bank, called the Bank of North America, opened in Philadelphia."

Can you imagine
Kindergartners learning how the money supply works or how unemployment effects cycle through the economy? It paints a humorous picture alongside those finger-paintings. But economics is quite easy to grasp if presented as an ecosystem, in the same way the water system is taught to middle-school science students, for example. I've never understood why economics isn't taught more regularly in elementary through high school, when as soon as you graduate the real world expects you to understand some things about handling money and perhaps entering the job market. Isn't understanding that thing that makes the world go round considered an unspoken right of passage for young adults? Why withhold the information? Is it really better for kids to mimic the behavior of their parents and elders, to merge into the herd of thought by whatever haphazard scurrying time and environment allow? From the results, it seems too easy to enter the world without ever glimpsing a trace outline of the larger economic picture in which one lives.

I think some would argue that teaching economics to kids is crass-- sort of like capitalist inculcation. The subordination of young minds to the invisible hand? Feh. They are expected to live in that world, so regardless of normative judgments, knowing how that world system operates will help them live in it, even if they seek to change it. Perhaps some would argue that kids aren't academically prepared yet. Actually, a solid conceptual understanding of economics can be gained without doing any math. Further, most social studies and history classes would make much more sense with some preexisting familiarity of economics. It wasn't simply that the North was more moral, but rather they also had competing economic interests with the South. It was not only that Hitler had a created a new symbol and infused the country with nationalistic propaganda; it was also that he had overseen a triumphant economic renewal after the great war. Or maybe there are those who think kids minds, their brains, just aren't developed enough? To rule out that concern, it should be sufficient to take a moment to think back to what you remember understanding from grownup conversations that was meant to be beyond your comprehension. Better yet, take a look at today's lesson plans, each tailored for the audience's age. It's reasonable.

Wouldn't it be useful to understand what those major economic indicators---those numbers that rule the financial and political world we live in-- meant?


JAE said...

Again, Melanie, you are right on to propose moral accountability by addressing the intersections of capitalism, politics, and civic education! Indeed, teachers continue to face a lack of congruity with the world outside of the classroom towards promotion of the necessary skills and knowledge that is needed to master personal finance. The amply-funded machinery of mass marketing that promotes consumption beyond ones means better serves the financial interests of capitalism for CEO’s and shareholders. While I do know teachers who expose the relationship between economics and national/international politics, schools continue to fail students by not implementing a hard-core curriculum that gives future adult citizens a real grasp of personal finance and an understanding of how the individual consumer contributes towards the financial success of corporations, often at the expense of the individual’s financial demise. This type of curriculum is especially urgent for students who are raised in households where adults are ignorant of personal economics. Would that mastery of personal finance and economics be a measure of the “No Child Left Behind” act!

Alex m thomas said...

Insightful post.

Came here via DeLongs' journal.

Jay said...

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