Monday, May 02, 2005

American Students Receive an F in Economic Literacy

The linked 82-page report What Americans Know About Economics follows the old "good news, bad news" routine.

The good news is that almost all Americans believe a knowledge of economics is important and a majority are interested in economics. The bad news is that on a short quiz over key economic ideas adults received a grade of C, while high school students received an F. All 24 quiz questions are provided in the report. I think you'll agree that none of them require much in the way of thinking or knowledge. Why then, the dismal results?

Either a significant number of students are escaping economics instruction or that instruction needs to be improved. The report suggests that many high school economics courses are senior level. Can younger students understand basic economic concepts? I think so. Maybe that would help. Can economics instruction be improved? I've seen the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) materials used to teach economics and they are outstanding. From what I understand, though, many high school economics teachers teach the course as a sideline rather than as their main assignment. Maybe that'a problem, too.

A knowledge of economics is empowering. Lots of students must feel pretty disenfranchised these days.



At 4:52 PM, Blogger Dr. Tammy said...

I can relate to this topic...

The first time I took an economics class in college...I failed miserably.

The second time around, I earned a C.

The third time with an economics course, I was up in the A/B range.

Why did I feel it was so difficult? Your answer: I couldn't grasp the concepts and theories because I couldn't relate the concepts to any personal, meaingful experience. The lectures were just concepts with no real meaning to me. I couldn't relate to "widgets" or other conceptual examples that had no meaning.

Thinking about it...I would have to say the learning experience would have been meaningful if provided assignments that were not just "text book problems" or "text book cases" which I didn't feel any type of ownership or connection with.

I believe educators need to re-think "How can I teach this material and have it be a personally meaningful experience?

How can I design homework and papers, which allow the learner to relate to the material?"

In my daughter's 5th grade class, they earn "monopoly-type" money by working in the classroom and investing in their bank (the teacher) with interest. At the end of every 6 weeks, they can spend the money at the school "mini-mall". At this fair, the students buy and sell all sorts of products/crafts (made by the children)...or they can trade products/crafts (ie. beaded braclets) /services (ie. hair braiding) (barder)...or they can save the money...or loan to a friend...with interest, if they want. It's a great introduction to basic economics. They can also earn money during the semester with positive behaviors, good grades on assignments, etc.

Maybe Economics Professors need to start "re-thinking" how to use this type of concept in their classes!


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