Understanding economics helps society

Quick quiz. It is a single question, fill in the blank: Economics is the study of _________.

Go ahead and think about it. It is a one word answer, and at the end of this paragraph I will give it to you. After you hear the answer, please don’t feel bad; everyone gets it wrong. A lot of people will guess “money”, while others will say “business.” Both are wrong.

Later today or tomorrow, go out and ask others the question. It might make you feel better when they will get it wrong, too. Some very logical thinkers might even come up with “resources,” which is a great answer, also wrong. This piece is about encouraging more people to take a course in economics. Everyone should take a class because economics is the study of something we all love. Economics is the study of choices.

Economics gets a bad rap being referred to as the dismal science and a sad truth is that most Americans will never take a standalone course. In most schools, economics is optional, while others don’t even offer it. Schools defend this practice by telling you that economic concepts are taught via “integration” into other courses, woven into “standards” taught at every grade level. This is true. Ohio standards include economic concepts at all grade levels; but they are rarely taught by well trained teachers. Taking a course in economics is not required for teachers either.

When I was a high school principal, I had responsibility to oversee teachers as they mapped curriculum to passing the social studies portion of the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT). In studying the test, we quickly determined that our students would pass even without getting any of the economics questions correct. We found it was much easier to teach geography, and teachers are far more prepared to teach history over economics. Now, Ohio is getting rid of the OGT in favor of end of course exams. Given that economics is not a required course, one could guess that even less will be taught.

All of society suffers from our ignorance of basic economics. Economics is where we study our choices and learn to better understand options. We learn supply and demand concepts, use of resources, the impact of trade, relationships to business and income. We study, learn and then we choose the best option.

How many school principals who oversee teaching economics and who have responsibility for multimillion dollar budgets have taken an economics course? How many elected officials who control our tax dollars have taken a course? Knowing that economics is not being taught, is it any wonder why everyday families and government cannot balance budgets and consistently run up debt?

Do you think we might have a higher functioning society if everyone took an economics course? If so, start a trend by taking an economics course at the local college. Call your local high school and see if they require economics for all students. When they say no, after completing your class, run for school board and change that policy.

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One of our regular community contributors, John Morris holds masters’ degrees in economics, entrepreneurship and education. He serves as the president of the Ohio Valley Construction Education Foundation.

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