Fritzie -


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Should basic economics now be a required subject in high school and/or college?

For at least a couple of generations, high school students in the United States have been required to take a course in Government. Universities often require a course in American History and Institutions as well.
Part of the justification for this requirement is that one role of education is to prepare all young people to engage in civic life in an educated and active way.
Economics, however, has not been a requirement thus far at any level.
Has the time come for economic literacy to become a priority and requirement either in high school or at university or both?
I come to this question because there are so many issues that concerned citizens can understand and assist constructively in solving if they have an understanding of basic economics and would have much less leverage to contribute productively if they don't.

  • Aug 2 2012: YES! I am a high school student currently taking economics thanks to the IB programme. Now,I have a much broader understanding of what is going on today and the way societies and the whole world work. It has helped me to take decisions concerning my own carrier choice, and even to understand why the cinema is more expensive in certain days! Depite history helps to take people to engage civil life in an educated way, I think it is more important that people understand what are interest rates, supply and demand, price discrimination, types of markets etc. because in part, people's economic ignorance is to blame for the current crisis.
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      Aug 2 2012: Juan, do you discuss issues with your friends and your relatives on the basis of the economics you now understand?
      • Aug 2 2012: YEAH! I discuss with my friends if Hayek's or Keynes' theories are better and if Europe should focus on austerity or growth. I actually influenced my mom's vote on the past local elections because the guy i supported (he lost though) had a much more realistic plan on how to manage local budget. I knew all this stuff because my teacher taught us how markets behaved when governments intervene. Just simple microeconomics.
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          Aug 2 2012: Wonderful!
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          Aug 3 2012: Hoorah, and that is how you change a culture!
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          Aug 5 2012: Wow, I missed out on all that good stuff?! =(

          Good for those who have those programs now. =)
      • Aug 2 2012: Fritzie are you an economist?
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          Aug 2 2012: I have that education and have worked as one, but not the "macro" type.
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      Aug 2 2012: hooray
    • Aug 4 2012: What is the "IB programme"?
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        Aug 4 2012: Barry, IB stands for International Baccalaureate. It's a curriculum that usually runs two years (the last two of high school) and is popular at international schools, many European schools, and a variety of public and private schools in the United States.

        If you are interested in education, it is worth it for you to search for the IB curriculum, because it has an interesting focus on critical thinking across fields as well as analytical writing.

        In the United States most college preparatory high schools use an alternate curriculum called AP, which involves college level classes taught in high school.

        Both IB and AP involve examinations that are scored centrally, so that performance on mastery examinations cannot be manipulated somehow at the school level.
  • Aug 2 2012: In the first world: yes.
    In the third world: ¡YES!

    The young are restless and want to change the world. Unfortunately they often apply simple answers to complex problems, sometimes doing harm to very causes they wish to help. If they understood basic economics, their effort would be so much better harnessed for the good of society. With knowledge in basic economics, they would not only want to change the world, but would know what parts of the world need changing, and which we should let time iron out.

    Most of our waking time is dedicated to making a living. If you do not understand economics you will have a very limited understanding of the world. The same principles studied in economics can explain, or at least help explain, situations found in many other areas that have nothing to do with money. Economics and Biology have a very crossover of concepts. In biology it can help explain the development of ecosystems, the need for stable weather, the food chain balance, the importance of microbes, Without at least basic economics, these issues are hard to grasp.
    Economics will make better citizens, more able and willing to defend our basic rights. Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. There have been abuses of the system and people are right to be upset. However, their movement was wasted by being spread out against the system itself. I believe that if economic literacy had permeated, those people would have focused their efforts on the few companies, or specific rules that have led to abuse. This would have had a positive effect. What a great loss. An entire social movement of rightful indignation was wasted!
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      Aug 3 2012: "I believe that if economic literacy had permeated, those people would have focused their efforts on the few companies, or specific rules that have led to abuse. "

      Felipe do you see that there was favoritism between the goverment and some companies like Solyndra or GM where as companies owned by the Koch brothers use very little favoritism yet were protested against by OWS?
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    Aug 5 2012: Yes, definitely. If a student takes nothing from school, I think he or she should at the very least be equipped with a rundown on how to make choices in life. Economics after all isn't about the stock markets or money. It's about making choices in life that will give you the best advantage for yourself and for others.
  • Aug 3 2012: I don’t have any information about the behaviour of the Koch brothers and their companies So I can neither defend them or protest against them. What I found sad is that theese people were protesting against as a system and asking for government interventios, when government intervention was what caused most of the abuse on the first place.

    As they were calling for intervention in order to fight abuse, they were helping to set up the laywork for future greater abuses. They had no basic knowledge about free market, about setting the right incentives. Their efforts were then counter productive. Capitalism has many flaws. It is not a perfect system. It can be argued that it is not even a good system. It is “only” the best one we have found, by far.

    As mexican, the images of the movement reminded me of little kids in a piñata party, swinging their sticks into mid air wilie blindfolded. If they had a little economics education they would have gone stright to the piñata and, with a few bolows, released the candy for all of us.

    The energy of the young…wasted! Pity!
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      Aug 3 2012: Hoorah, you get it, thank you.
  • Aug 2 2012: I absolutely think that it should be required. Business is everywhere you look today and having a basic foundation of economics will not only help the aspiring businessmen and women of future generations but it will let the student get a taste of how the world really works.
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    Aug 2 2012: I think that right now teaching children both economics, and government, at the same time... might make their head explode : p
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      Aug 2 2012: It probably wouldn't, but there is no particular need to do them at the same time.
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        Aug 2 2012: "We live in a capitalist democracy"

        "How do they decide how much money to print?"

        "Well first the Fed gives 0% interest loans to the banks, then the banks give .5% interest loans to the corporations... and then... Capitalism"

  • Aug 6 2012: Terrific question.

    My answer would be yes. However, I would frame the requirement differently. I would suggest that the study of economics with an emphasis on financial literacy would be of enormous benefit to high school students. In late 2008, the Principal of the high school my daughters attended told me that "she had never seen" the students so upset. They did not have the tools to understand what was happening in the world, their parents seemed terrified, and they were suddenly being told that college costs (even where parents had saved diligently) were a far greater concern.

    I told her that I believed in one hour I could go all the way from what a stock is (not a piece of paper you trade but part ownership of a company) and bonds to the housing crisis to credit derivatives and what had happened. This talk was late 2008, and many of the dynamics I discussed then are now well understood--but at the time were not.

    In any case, they had an all school assembly, decided to invite middle schoolers as well, and I gave a one hour presentation. I subsequently posted the slides and video at In the following year, I received notes from many high school and community college teachers who indicated they were using these materials in their classes. A link at the Business Week Exchange US Economy section also led to about 12,000 visitors --- and I suspect most were adults who were also seeking to understand the crisis.

    In short, I believe a central problem the nation faces today--both among teens and many adults is the lack of clear explanations to complex issues and problems. How many people really understand health care reform? Unfortunately, the explanations of facts have become mixed with rhetoric and dogma by our politics. We have more access to information -- as a society as a whole -- but the cacophony is drowning the basic understanding that we need to have meaningful discussions.
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      Aug 6 2012: You have to be kidding me you think that discussion is helping people to understand the confusion?

      Seriously did I miss something? You explain the housing meltdown yet do not mention Barny, Chris, the CRA, Carter, Clinton, Freddie, Fanny, or Greenspan. Again am I missing something?

      How are you associated with the WSJ?

      And to top it off you endorse Obama's and FDR's actions?

      Do me a favor and don't go to any more schools. I'm giving you a failing grade!
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      Aug 6 2012: teaching economics can be teaching surreal postmodernist babbling to oppress thinking, or can be teaching thinking to oppress surreal postmodernist babbling. your writing falls in which category? with these quotes:

      "As Home Prices Start Their Huge Rise, Everyone Assumes Home Prices Will Never Go Down"

      only a fool thinks that because something goes up, it will always go up

      "are worth much less than anyone thought"

      anyone? there was a lot of people warning about the housing market being a hype and not a real growth. they were ridiculed and ignored. prominent "economists" recommended real estate as investment strategy as late as 2006, 2007. many did not realize the collapse *after* it happened. who to side with?

      "But, no one knows which financial firms are effectively bankrupt because they have invested in toxic mortgage bonds."

      it is in the books. behold, many people still can't evaluate a paper, and still in the dark. i give you a hint: good money makes money. just look at the yield, and you are fine. how much a house yields? the rental. do we have people who wants to rent? how much they pay? that is the value of a house. aint no rocket science.

      "People are also going to spend less since they feel less wealthy as home prices go down"

      the ARE less wealthy. they spent too much! now they spend the correct amount, and it is presented as some bad thing.

      "Consumer spending (people) is 70% of our economic activity"

      it does not need a degree to see that spending is not activity. actually, it takes a degree to make you believe that it is.

      "Franklin Roosevelt was experimenting when he created New Deal programs"

      and none worked. good example you have there.

      "Now is the time to focus on solutions not blame"

      no kidding! let us just not dwell on who caused that mess. jeez.
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        Aug 6 2012: 'only a fool thinks that because something goes up, it will always go up'

        And what about the given acceptence and believe in our global economy for continuous growth? Doesn't also this seems foolish as well on a planet with limited resources and the given use of it? And aren't those who are warning on that not also ridiculed and ignored today? And didn't you side with those who still believe in this continuous growth?

        And does it really surprise you that 'fools' are participating on the market? And would it really surprise you that those 'fools' are especially liked by many companys and banks to tell and sell them rubbish? And would it really surprise you that rising 'false expectations' is a well established tool in marketing strategies? So on a broader perspective, who is the bigger fool? The one who get's fooled once or the one who makes 'fools' on conveyor belts and in its very own interest?

        So teaching basic economics in high school would help not to get fooled as easy as it seems today and it would also help to cast shame on those who are about to fool 'once' and at least to leave it that way.

        Could you please elaborate on your understanding that 'spending is not activity' in economics? Even though I have a degree I don't understand what you mean by that.
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          Aug 6 2012: as i told, nothing goes up because it went up so far. the global economy grows if we make it grow. if we discover new things, like scientific research, resources or just new ways to organize things. there is no telling if we always can. we might get to a point when nobody is smart enough to come up with anything new. but it surely won't happen anytime soon.

          the market is a place of trial and error. some people on the market makes bad decisions, and fail. others make good decisions and succeed. that's how we know what is good and what is bad. if the entire market starts to make bad decisions, we know that there is something else in the background. like, as pat said, government policies. like the FED tampering with the money supply. like the government encouraging subprime mortgages. like taking away the risk with the FDIC and promise of bailouts.

          the economy is about production. we have limited amount of resources, including manpower and time. we need to arrange and distribute these resources in the most effective way to maximize production. consumption is the result of it. if we produce more, we can consume more. consumption does not help the economy. it is its goal. and in fact consumption hurts the economy. if we don't consume now, we can consume more in the future. that is saving, which is the real engine, and should be praised like god in capitalism.
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    Aug 5 2012: Another thing I wanted to add to this conversation is the subject of student superficiality. Economics is a subject that lend itself to being infinitely perfunctory which why we see economists like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren and worst of all Noam Chomsky ( who's formal training is grammar).

    The reason students find economics boring is the distinct removal from reality of Keynesian type economics.

    Any education has to be toward something that is real not agreed upon but the kind of reality you can put your arms around and put your back into.
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    Aug 5 2012: Ok i live in germany and i go to a school which has set its focus on economics (you basically go to highschool, however you got classes in economics which are treated like the "major classes" (maths ect.)

    What i must say about this is the following: It may be good to have a slight idea how economy works, but dont do the same mistakes we did here, for example we "learn" that workers are to be threated as costs from a entrepreneurs point of view however with no word is there mentioned that it doesnt have to be this way and that this is just the "immoral" (my perspective) way todays economy works. And theres plenty of stuff like this!

    Please america go ahead and do it but do it wisely capitalism or "social" market economy (as we have it in germany) are not the end of the line, make it clear to students that the system is created by man and can be changed at will tell them not just about how economy works within the united states but also tell them how it works in diffrent parts of the world or how it COULD work in the future!

    As it is here in germany, we are basically told "its like that!" no thought is spent on what could be.

    Dont make the same mistake america (even though i doubt youll listen to me), dont turn classes in economy into a subject which is closer related to religion (in teaching style) then it is related to science (where theories change once a better version has been found).
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      Aug 5 2012: Thanks for your contribution, Max. In the US we don't have religion as a subject in school. But your point that a comparative perspective is useful is well taken. There are different types of economies worth understanding and different schools of thought.
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    Aug 5 2012: I feel that implementing some sort of general education requirement for understanding the basics of economics/human exchange would be especially wise considering the prevalence of economic discussion within American 21st century politics. Economic education is now, more than ever, a requisite for an informed electorate if for no reason other than many contemporary politicians focus on fiscal matters more than any other. With two years of high school government and civics classes as my only evidence, I feel like government and the economy are inexorably intertwined. A perfect example being politicians like senator Ron Johnson and governor Scott Walker (I'm from Wisconsin), each selling their positions to the Wisconsin electorate as relatively inexperienced politicians seeking to run government like a business, with profit being a primary concern.
  • Aug 5 2012: I think your choices are inclusive within those I mentioned. I find far to many individuals in daily walks of life as well as in positions of power and authority who have no concept, no grasp, of a comprehensive view of the world in which we attempt to operate and live, nor little ability to acquire the necessary tools to live a full and contributing life.
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      Aug 5 2012: You are certainly right that few people tend to have a comprehensive view of the world in which we attempt to operate and live. And those who think they do may be kidding themselves.
  • Aug 5 2012: Sorry to be joining this conversation so close to it's end, but I just discovered it and the topic is important. Beginning with my favorite para-quotes, "Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it" (Santayana), "People get the form of government they deserve" (Sam Clemens), and "We have met the enemy and they are us." (Pogo), I would espouse the teaching of economics, critical thinking, political science and social science in elementary school and build on that throughout K12 and on into college. I believe the aforementioned quotes give sufficient reason for doing so. It's the only way we are going to elect representatives all all levels of government that are responsible and cooperative. It is the only way we are going to grow responsible and ethical business people. It is the only way we are going to begin to grow up as a society and as a species.
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      Aug 5 2012: In my thinking, I was less focused on how an understanding of economics would allow someone to make judgments among electoral candidates than on how understanding economics provides a tool for evaluating policies and actions in which one might be able to participate directly. This includes voting on ballot measures, expressing views to elected officials, participating in local and neighborhood planning, initiating entrepreneurial ventures, planning for the future, and so forth.
      • Aug 5 2012: I suppose that depends on what form of economics to which you refer. I'm self-educated in macro-economics, having little taste for statistics, formulae, and number crunching. Studying capitalist free-market economics on the large scale reveals trends and societal realities. Micro-economics gets one lost in the trees for want of a higher perch in order to see the forest. I'm grateful for micro-economists. They are needed, but my perspective of needs, requires a broader scope in order to see where the world is heading. Global economics is a wonderful thing, especially being capitalist and free-market based.

        We are in those times referred to in that ancient Asian curse, "May you live in times of great change." We are perhaps living in the times of the greatest changes human society has ever seen. I find encouraging that our worst enemies of the 20th century are now our biggest trading partners. That we survived the 20th century is a huge advance in civilization.

        Since the dawn of our civilization there have been the harridans of doom, but in the 20th century we achieved, for the first time, the ability to truly destroy ourselves and the planet with us. And regardless how close we came (Cuban missile crisis), we survived. Our species is on the verge of the greatest creation of wealth in our history and it is highly likely that we will have achieved world peace and eliminated global poverty and famine before the end of the 21st century.

        Being atheist I believe in people, in my species, because I have no god. We are wondrous creatures and I believe are destined to spread throughout the stars and achieve spectacular greatness. Look at what we have achieved in our span so far.
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          Aug 5 2012: Microeconomics is about underlying behaviors and mechanisms that drive systems. I don't think it leads to getting lost in the trees so much as it allows a look inside the black box of what drives the whole thing.
      • Aug 5 2012: Perhaps my judgment of micro-economics was too hasty. I see what you're saying and agree.
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    Aug 2 2012: once i set myself the task to design economics lessons for 8-10 years olds. but i'd need an expert to make it right.
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      Aug 2 2012: That's a little young, I think. You need to catch kids when they are most likely to take interest and to be cognitively ready.
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        Aug 2 2012: i planned to develop games that teach one aspect of economics. concepts like: how complex and intertwined the economy is, what is the role of money, what is the division of labor and why it is good. and such things.
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          Aug 2 2012: That sounds fun. I could absolutely see that.

          If you ever proceed with it, I would be happy to give you feedback on your games or lesson plans.
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          Aug 2 2012: Monopoly has already been developed, Krisztián!

          Just kidding, sort of... ;o)

          But keep in mind, that todays kids have trouble to focus on text longer than the cover text of a book if you aim to educate them as well.

          Good and catchy titles could be 'Melt down, again!' or 'Bail out!' What do you think?
          And because it is me, you can use those titles and my intellectual property even royalty free!

  • Aug 2 2012: It would be wonderful if we all had a good understanding of economics and could make informed decisions about national and local economic issues. Is that possible?

    I see two serious issues with respect to required economics education.

    1) Which economics? There are a number of schools of thought about economics, and they disagree with each other. Economists can't even agree on the effects of past decisions, much less predictions of the future. I suppose you could provide an overview of the different schools, but that gets into the next issue.

    2) How much economics? A little knowledge can be dangerous. I took just one college course in economics, and to this day I think it was useless for the purpose of understanding national issues. For every economist that says spend more there is another that says spend less, and these guys have a PhD. I get the impression that even if I had a PhD, I might not know what to do. Alan Greenspan thought he knew the answer, until the Great Recession taught him otherwise.

    My impression of economics is that it is less scientific than psychotherapy, if that is possible.

    I can't agree with requiring economics at the high school level. There are other courses that I would give a higher priority, an example would be a course in personal money management. Requiring economics as part of a college degree might make sense, but I think it would need at least two full semesters to be useful.
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      Aug 2 2012: I think microeconomics is more important as a start than macroeconomics. I don't think it is a problem that people in a discipline disagree. The areas of agreement and disagreement are not that complicated to represent.

      There are fundamental ideas that belong in anyone's cognitive toolkit. Examples are the idea of marginal cost, or even that decisions need to be considered at the margin. Another is the concept of opportunity cost. Even concepts like allocative efficiency and productive efficiency are fundamental to economics, regardless of whether the economist is "Chicago school or not. Ideas like externalities, market failures, and public goods are part of any economists conceptual tool kit. The significance of information and transaction costs is a point of contention but the relevance to the functioning of markets is understood. The concept of "rents" is universal, regardless of school of thought.

      It doesn't seem impossible to me to get such ideas across.
      • Aug 2 2012: Fritzie, You have me convinced. But do you think that this kind of economics course should now be at the top of the priority list for high school? I still think that practical courses like personal money management would be a better place to start. After I graduated high school, I wished that I had a course on useful skills like job hunting, time management, negotiation, conflict resolution, resume writing. In addition to economics, I could probably name a dozen courses that seem to be necessary to function in our very complex society. I just don't see economics at the top of the list. Logic, maybe.
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          Aug 2 2012: Fortunately, kids do not take one course but rather many. My argument was not that economics should become the single most important class in the curriculum.

          Every secondary school teacher, in addition to teaching her/his subject, ought to be working with students on time management and conflict resolution. I think advising on job hunting, resume writing, college applications, and so forth can be, and is, handled better through school counseling offices rather than in dedicated courses.
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      Aug 2 2012: You are an example of why this course needs to be taught and understood and used.

      The politicians use Keynesian economics to gain votes. Free market economics were really only used by Reagan and Coolidge/Harding somewhat by Clinton in the entire past 100 years so you could hardly say that much of anything besides Keynesian economics has been practiced. One of the core tests to something is to determine if it works or not. When you understand economics this becomes abundantly clear. Worthy of note is that after Coolidge we enjoyed the roaring 20's , after Reagan we enjoyed 25 years of prosperity. Please note 2 staunch free market presidents 2 booms in 100 years. This stuff is not rocket science.

      Greenspan was probably most responsible for the current economics woes. This points out that the fed is a very dubious organization that should be replaced by a free market mechanism. Along with an overhaul of fractional banking. But that is above my pay grade maybe Krisztián has some ideas on this?

      It would help to just know the definition of economics/; The study of scarce resources that have alternative uses.


      The essence of government is force, whereas
      The essence of society is voluntary cooperation.

      The only course that I can think of that we more important to teach is logic.
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      Aug 2 2012: This article is apt to your questions:
    • Aug 2 2012: When teaching economics the curriculum must be completely unbiased, as happens with history and other social sciences. The IB economics syllabus for instance, is designed in such a way that we (high school students) recieve an approach to both Keynsian and Austrian theories and it is up to us to decide which one we like the most.
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        Aug 3 2012: Juan your teacher is awesome, before I say that what was the consensus of the class?

        I really like that he got you to think about this and hopefully reach conceptual understanding of this subject.

        Is there an age limit at your school? Could Barry attend?
        • Aug 3 2012: The consesus of the class was Keynes but I agree the most with Hayek.

          The age limit is 18, but I am 100% sure that if anyone attended he/she would be convinced that economics should be a compulsory subject in high schools.
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        Aug 3 2012: Ok your teacher is less awesome. But in all fairness the culture has indoctrinated people and especially politicians to Keynes and his 1.5 multiplier which is an obvious canard to you and me but it is hard to show people this even here on TED where people are supposed to be smart but they sure don't get what you understand. Which just goes to show you the importance of Looking for yourself and not to get sucked into the group think.
        • Aug 3 2012: Well, my teacher never took sides, it was just what the class (students) thought. You are right. In fact, my fellow class mates thought I was "cruel" when I told them I was more into the Austrian school. But I am not going to change my mind, I just think they dont fully understand the concept nor do they look beyond the helping people and stuff. I am glad to finally find someone who thinks as I do!
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        Aug 3 2012: Yup there are a few of us around but not many which is the problem. As you say too many are stuck on the emotional aspect and don't arrive at conceptual understanding which I think is the fault of the culture and your teacher.

        That is not to say the teacher should tell people what to think but it is to say that he should make sure they fully understand the concepts.
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    Aug 2 2012: Another thing I would like to add is that a large portion of this comes from the culture. In Germany their culture is based on saving and a culture based on money that is stable due to the Wiemar inflation. In the U.S. the opposite is true due to the deflation CAUSED by the Fed in the 30's. This encourages saving in Germany as the money does not loose value through inflation and Germans have less debt. In the U.S. the opposite is true and there is a tendency to take on debt and pay it back with inflated dollars.

    In the case of the U.S. the Great Depression was traumatic and shaped the culture In Germany the inflation of the Weimar Republic was traumatic. These axioms are a part of the "Group Think".

    The way to change a culture is education E.G. one of the few things the local public school system does well is to teach the kids that smoking is bad. An example that is not pejorative is the culture of Toyota which teaches their workers the Scientific Method which then permeates the culture that has created imo the most kick ass company in the world.
  • Aug 2 2012: Yes, Fritzie. It seems to me many people have little idea of how to manage personal funds and many are deeply in debt with credit card spending. There is no guarantee parents will teach economics. I believe wise parents sacrifice variously for their children and the kids may sense and appreciate good parental economics.

    People should have a good basic education of the effects of cash flow and this should include insurance premiums for health and medical, house, vehicles and general liability. In other words, what is the size of their economic impact due to their life style. By that I mean, what is the cost to the population from poor or no management of these aspects of life. A good understanding of what is a good price for what is purchased or offered is tantamount to wise financial management.

    Good management from clear understanding of the basics could mean better savings for future needs; we all should have a rainy day fund.

    I agree with Pat Gilbert; people need to understand government spending basics before voting. Otherwise, are we able to detect when we are getting hosed?

    We need only observe those nations today experiencing severe financial issues. Is it fair to say many of the problems are due to people spending more than income, personally and nationally for services and benefits?

    We need to work for a more healthy balance for living and for government. Your suggestion would add to the wisdom of people doing what is best for all. We cannot avoid being deeply into individualism without negative effects on other people. The three most important persons for many, it seems, are: me, myself and I. Live a balanced life and minimize negative effects on others.
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      Aug 2 2012: I think understanding personal finance is useful, but I would distinguish that from understanding economics. When I ask about economics, I mean how economies work rather than how to make good personal financial decisions, comparison shop, or balance a checkbook.
      Many people who know how to make sound personal financial decisions know little about economics and many who know about economics know less about how to budget for themselves.
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    Aug 1 2012: I believe that's an excellent idea. I think that the misunderstanding of economics, and the capitalist system in particular, is the source for much of the political disagreement and class envy within the United States. Whenever I see news recordings of Occupy Wall Street, I think to myself, "Now, there's a group of people that don't understand economics."
  • Aug 7 2012: I am not sure. Some PhD's have sold out so much that it is hard to keep the basics in your head.
  • Aug 7 2012: The dirtbags in Congress debating what kind of education our kids need is exactly the problem. Parents should decide their kids education and parents should pay for it. The current system forces us to send money to Washington where we get pennies on the dollar back along with their forced proscription for how the money has to be spent. The system is corrupt and broken. For better and for worse, people should be free. That's why I was sensitive to the term "required."
  • Aug 7 2012: Everything has a cost. What will be the cost of this economics course?

    The required curriculum is already full, so when economics becomes required, which course will no longer be required? I mentioned this to my son and he said that some people want to drop algebra and chemistry.

    Any thoughts on which course or courses should no longer be required?

    Another approach would be to reduce the number of optional courses.
    A third approach would be to increase the amount of time in school. IMO, this is the way to go.

    Your thoughts?.
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      Aug 7 2012: There are a number of ways of fitting in extra content. Some content is taught repeatedly in social studies and could be made more compact to open room. There are courses taught for 250 minutes per week in my local public high school that are taught for 180 minutes in the best local private school with no reduction in coverage. Class time is used differently. Students at the private school take more courses, though their days are not longer.
      Schools often have something like a vocational education requirement of several courses. It is reasonable to ask whether economics could be traded off with one of those courses.
      • Aug 7 2012: You have me convinced. Thanks for a very good discussion.

        I'm going to talk to my children about getting economics into the curriculum for my grandchildren.
  • Aug 7 2012: Economic literacy is important but I have an issue with the word "required." People shouldn't be "required" to take any class or do anything. They should be free to choose what works best for them and their families and should not be treated like cogs in a machine. With that said, I'd encourage any and all to learn about Austrian Economics (aka economics) if you'd like a better understanding on how and why the economy works the way it does.
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      Aug 7 2012: Spencer, are you thinking a high school should award its diploma, then, based on "seat time," as long as the student took the courses of his/her choice? That that is all a high school diploma should mean now?
      • Aug 7 2012: I don't think that diplomas should be awarded based on "seat time." I think that education is a market like any other. Schools that provide the education that people value the most will be the most successful and schools that provide poor education will not. Degrees from schools that have higher standards are valued more than degrees from lesser institutions. None of this, however, should be "required," (i.e., forced), it is simply desired. You should eat fruits and veggies but it shouldn't be a "requirement." I know I'm getting into semantics but I get sensitive when people talk about using Govt./force to push their social agenda. Govt. is violent and even the best intended programs often have horrible consequences that are worse than the initial problem.
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          Aug 7 2012: Indeed there has been something of a debate in Congress, as I rememvber, about whether rigorous academic coursework should be required for all students. There isn't much controversy, though, about what these decisionmakers expect or want for their own children.
  • Aug 6 2012: I agree. Let's not look to much at political economy in high school, but moreso at basic economics. The role of opportunity cost is essential for the young of today with technology so important in their lives.
    The market mechanism provides 'answers' to much as to what has occurred in recent years; mainly that it is imperfect.
    Adolescents require the skills to make rational choices in a market where advertising drives much of the social media in which they are major players.
    By empowering the young, in their role in economy, whilst at high school they will gain (hopefully) the skills for them to succeed in the demands put on them consumers.

    Globalisation, the 'free' market and the need for intervention need to be looked at in college as it is drawing in the developing world. Political economy which is global, not US, Europe or Asian centric is a no-brainer no one sector can now operate in isolation.
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    Aug 5 2012: You are right, Pat, that the study of economics provides an exceptional opportunity to cultivate critical thinking precisely because of its obvious connection to everyday reality. But too broad brush an approach can go entirely awry.

    I thought Noam Chomsky was an MIT linguist. Somehow I have missed his role in discourse about matters economic.
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    Aug 5 2012: Frtzie, I agree. The problem is that we offer courses like history and it is all about the date and not the significance of the event. I took three different history courses and they all tested when it happened not why. When I took econ I was dependent upon newsweek for charts and graphs and did not do a lot of creative thinking or in depth analysis. To just offer the course is not enough. MBAs develop models and we need to understand how that works.

    If I were king (LOL) I would like to see a econ class combined with a math statistics class then the student could model and run the math through it as a effective exercise in cause and effect.

    Part of the problem, in my view, is that each disclipline is very protective of their rice bowl. We need these areas to complement each other so that the student can extrapulate from one area to another. When this is done a practicum would be in order to show application.

    Sorry to join this so late as I can see many up sides of this idea.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Aug 5 2012: Excellent point. How a subject is taught is as important as the subject itself. My history teachers in grade school and high school were dull to the point of stultifying. I never developed an interest in history until in my mid 20s I stumbled across a book called "My First Two Thousand Years," which was a fictional story of a Roman centurion who was stationed on Calvary as Christ was dragging the cross to the top. He cursed and spit at Christ, who returned the curse, "Thou shalt tarry until I return." The book is the story of this Roman's next two thousand years on earth. In it he became very wealthy and was many famous men in history. He even had an ongoing love affair with Salome, the eternal woman. The book is based on The Wandering Jew and I couldn't put it down until I was done. Since then I've read it a couple more times.

      All that aside, the story was set in factual history and sparked an interest in our past that till this day burns brightly. I'm a firm believer in the words of historian-philosopher, Santayana, when he said that we must know our history or be doomed to repeat it. Over and over again, until we learn. I hope I may be on my last 'over again.'

      But this is how history or any subject should be taught. Engage the student in a story that stirs interest and the subject lesson will be learned almost without the student realizing it. Assignments could include something like assigning the students to write a story about an everyday person living at the time of X or solving a practical problem using Y. It would bring out much creativity and encourage students to research and think as well as learn the subject itself. There are countless variations.
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      Aug 5 2012: Bob, I am trying to remember whether you are a high school teacher. I happen to think that quantitative literacy of a statistical nature also now has an important place in high school and certainly college curriculum. I do not think being able to do statistical research or make statistical computations is the fundamental skill. Rather, I think understanding what empirical (typically statistical) studies say and the conclusions that cannot legitimately be drawn from the study at hand is another skill we can begin to address in high school and certainly at university.
      As Pat flagged with respect to economics, the study of statistics, or the failure to think ones way through study of statistics, can be too superficial to be useful. For example, many people with little training falsely believe that the fact that any statistical study will have limitations means statistical evidence is useless.
      I would not combine the two subjects.
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        Aug 5 2012: If Econ is a social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services then I see math statistics as being complementary and necessary in the modeling required. Another marriage at the 6,7,and 8 grades scoial sciences classes which introduce both micro and macro economics but refer to them as major indusrties / crops / imports / exports, etc ...

        This would be the right time to start addressing these areas as (political) economocs.

        My point was in the first response and in this is that there is a interrelationship and to show how they complement each other and using skills from one could enhance the other.

        I have enjoyed this conversation. All the best. Bob.
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    Aug 5 2012: Agreed. One of my buddies recently told me that economics is awesome and I said, but all those numbers....he tells me that economics is the study of trends and how those trends impact people. I was like, hmm...I see, that gives it a more tangible feel for me now, Thanks! =)

    Ps: I'm sure I missed something he said, but I remember the ghist of the conversation for sure. =)

    Wish I took economics in high school or paid more attention to my academics.
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      Aug 5 2012: There is still time for a course or study! I would not have called economics the study of trends or a subject bogged down in numbers. I would have said more that economics as a field consists first of models of the behavior of individuals and firms and how the interactions of their decisions in the context of resurces, information, and systems of exchange affects the well-being of individuals in the system.
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        Aug 6 2012: I do repeat myself, I'm sure I missed something he said, but you do fill in some other points in that field. =)

        Thanks for the encouragement Fritzie! =)
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          Aug 6 2012: In 2013 Coursera will offer a basic econ course (for free) for 6-8 weeks taught by a prof from University of Illinois at Urbana/Champagne. He is a many time teaching award winner.
          They have an earlier course in Econ taught by a prof at Caltech, but that is the quantitative version- in fact identical to the actual Caltech course. This sounds like it isn't your cup of tea, Derek, and I would also say not the right approach for someone pursuing the course for the big ideas.
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        Aug 6 2012: You mean "big ideas" as in the basic concepts of econ right? Maybe I know some of these basic concepts? I read in this conversation about supply and demand/costs and benefits. I believe I know some of these concepts, but not for sure. Is this the type of "big ideas" you refer to or were you refering to my disposition with numbers? =P
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          Aug 6 2012: When I said "big ideas" I meant ideas at the level of models and mechanisms rather than solving equations to find, for example, optimal prices at equilibrium under specific condtions.
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        Aug 6 2012: Ah, okie dokie. Thanks for the clarification.
    • Aug 5 2012: Derek, let me recommend a book I used to give myself a solid foundation in macro-economics. "The Worldly Philosophers" by Robert Heilbroner. It was written a number of years ago, but Heilbroner has written an understandable and interesting guide or overview of all the great economists upon which our current thinking is based, from Adam Smith through Schumpeter. The subtitle is "The lives, times and ideas of the great economic thinkers." You can find it on Amazon for next to nothing, which makes it one of the greatest bargains you'll ever find. It is also of note that Adam Smith wrote his famous treatise on capitalist economics in the same year that our nation was founded: 1776.
  • Aug 5 2012: And some of those who do may not be kidding themselves. I don't claim to "know it all" but I do have a pretty fair grasp of the global situation and manage to hold a pretty positive view of it all.
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    Aug 5 2012: I don't understand why it's not. Financial Illiteracy is rampant in every society and it underlies the faulty foundations of our faulty economic system. But it's beyond a grasp of numbers and graphs. We need a philosophy of what wealth and social well being means. Every grade needs to tutor students in their self-esteem vs. what outer shell money can buy them. Until then, according to Leonard Cohen:

    "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded. But everybody rolls, with their fingers crossed."
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      Aug 5 2012: Self-esteem often has over the years gotten a great deal of attention in schools. Some think too much, in fact.
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        Aug 5 2012: Not teach self-esteem, period. Apparently North American kids are #1 in self-confidence! But I mean teach how the culture of consumerism, celebrity and what-money-can-buy over-informs them of what their self-image should be. I think even as adults, we rely too heavily on material trappings to reassure ourselves that life is ok. When it's no real indicator at all and we are in debt because we've bought into it.

        The fact that shopping is the default cultural activity these days is bad. We participate in an economy insofar as we think it might make us happy, or well off.
    • Aug 5 2012: More than financial illiteracy, Genevieve. All forms of illiteracy. Especially here in the U.S. For the wealthiest nation on earth, it is obscene that the electorate should be so ignorant of all aspects of our society. Were we not so steeped in religious fervor, we might be able to elect politicians that could actually do somsthing other than simply defy each other and ignore the problems of the nation. Across the board, states and the Federal government are cutting funds for education. If I wasn't such a positive person and didn't have so much faith in my species, I'd be depressed as hell.
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        Aug 5 2012: Along the lines of the advantages of a basic optimism, I think the title of Melinda Gates' most recent initiative is well chosen:"Impatient Optimists." Those who are realistic optimists grounded in fundamental understandings of key systems, an interest in learning, and the disposition to try and sometimes fail in messy situations and yet persist are valuable players in constructive problem solving.
  • Aug 5 2012: Every citizen needs to be educated as how their country is being run & how can they contribute. Education is an important step towards creating responsible citizens. Do note: it is important how it's being taught. No point in teaching if the students are simply cramming things.
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      Aug 5 2012: In any subject, how it is taught is important. This goes without saying.

      Economics is not a subject in which names, dates, and places need to be memorized. It is a framework for organizing thought rather than a collection of facts. In that sense it is more like learning to write.
  • Aug 3 2012: Yes!
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      Aug 3 2012: Thoughts?
      • Aug 3 2012: Hey Fritzie, cheers. Bedding down I'll comment tomorrow. Have a good one!
  • Aug 2 2012: YES
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      Aug 2 2012: Thoughts on that?
      • Aug 3 2012: Mayer Amschel Rothschild (23 February 1744 – 19 September 1812) was a German banker. He was the founder of the Rothschild family international banking dynasty that became the most successful business family in history. In 2005, he was ranked 7th on the Forbes magazine list of "The Twenty Most Influential Businessmen Of All Time". The business magazine referred to him as a "founding father of international finance".[1]

        Amschel is famous for stating that he did not care who was the official government, King, President or tyrant. If he had control of the money supply he would determine the future of the county.

        A democracy is no better than the intelligence and education of its population. A population which does not understand economics cannot demand intelligent policy because they cannot comprehend intelligent policy.
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    Aug 2 2012: I think this is really necessary especially at this time in history when there are few adults who are credible at home or away from a school environment.
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      Aug 2 2012: Could you elaborate? What do you mean when you say few adults are credible at home or away from a school environment?
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        Aug 2 2012: Hi Fritzie, thank you for another important question that we need to examine in our world today.

        I had no intension of being cryptic, what i mean is that we all stood by and watched as many of our economies went into the toliet. Canada was lucky that we tend to be stodgy. In my MBA I found a video (wish I could find it again) of a conference in Britian that had 4 people who represented banking indluding a minister of finance) They said that even though Canadian bankers were as boring as watching paint dry (my words) that our stodgy (my word) banking laws led the world in common sense and that is why our economy did not tank.
        I see it as part of the answer and I see the concpet that has been promoted by academics everywhere that Tomorrow's money is worth less than today's and easy credit was promoted as an economic policy to support capitalism whose basic premise is that economies must continuously grow is ERONIUOUS and impossilbe and what ultimately leads to another deadly economic policy - to WAR to bail out those economies.
        So my point is simply- that none of us should claim credibility - our kids are too smart to buy that we deserve to be respected - and they are right..
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          Aug 2 2012: I understand now. Let me pull from what you write an idea that happened just to be on my mind as well.

          I think it was Barry who posed the question here of whether a little knowledge isn't dangerous.

          What I think is a problem is not having only a fundamental basis in a subject but rather having poor judgment as to the limits of what we understand. We should not think we are experts on the basis of some very basic knowledge. One aspect of popular culture is a widespread propensity to believe that all questions and answers are simple and that those who know little about a subject likely understand the most.

          What earns a person credibility is when she understands the boundaries of what she knows and qualifies statements that go beyond that.

          I think it is also useful for the general public to understand why some questions are much harder to understand and answer than they may appear to the layperson.
        • Aug 3 2012: WOW Fritzie! That was strong "What earns a person credibility is when she understands the boundaries of what she knows and qualifies statements that go beyond that." If people knew this, we would live in a better world. Beautiful statement!
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        Aug 2 2012: So good Fritzie! I live in a sort of disquiet that no matter how much i have learned that I might always be missing the most important pieces- that is why I love TEd so much and appreciate all those people who question and wonder and try to understand. I have yet to learn how to properly qualify things but I have not given up on myself.
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          Aug 2 2012: I didn't mean anything fancy! In normal conversation, I meant something like distinguishing claims you can support from your expertise from hypotheses that make sense based on reasoning but which you cannot support from evidence. An example is that often someone may pose a question about "most people" or "today's youth," or some large aggregate category. I typically have no evidence in many areas of what most people in large aggregate categories believe or do, but I may have reasonable hypotheses based on my experience and what evidence I have seen. I would then put forward a hypothesis and express it as such rather than make a claim as if I have solid evidence.
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        Aug 2 2012: I would have emailed this but you do not have one on your profile. I utterly admire you Fritzie and I would only ever learn good things from you!
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    Aug 2 2012: Yes it should. But also, economics shouldn't be a hard class at all. Only thing you really need to know is Supply and Demand; Loans and Investment; Cost and Benefits.

    I also think Computer Science should be a core subject as well.
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    Aug 2 2012: NO QUESTION it should be required in high school and imo should be required before you can vote. The other area imo would be in logic, interesting how the two go hand in hand, violations in both also go hand in hand.
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    Aug 1 2012: Being an outsider it sounds a great question!! However as I understand from the post that everyone studying now about government, my follow up question is after studying that how many of such population are taking an informed decision when they are at least voting to select the next government?
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      Aug 2 2012: I would say they are making a more informed decision than if they had no idea what sorts of decisions fall into the hands of those in government or what, for example, judges and juries are supposed to do.
      Of course high school government classes are not focused on how to evaluate whether a person's specific life and career experiences would make him a good port commissioner or to assess whether he is lying about what he will do once elected.
      People are unlikely to remember or even totally understand everything that was presented to them about, say, the Constitution or how a bill becomes a law. But if you have ever been called for jury duty, no one there seems like they have parachuted in from another planet. People basically understand the context.
      It's possible that some of what people understand about the setting comes from television also. Economic ideas, in contrast, are much less likey to come through sensibly in evening television dramas.
      When people go to the polling place- say a woman on foot, if a person stops her and says, "You can't vote unless you are married and drive a domestic car," anyone who has gone to high school in this country would know that sounds wrong. It is harder to take advantage of people who know basically what their rights are.
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        Aug 2 2012: Ofcourse you are better positioned to judge what works in US.

        Overall my feeling is that in current schooling system almost everywhere, students study in the school whatever the subject is doesn't matter, they do it to score certain marks not to learn.......

        My country belongs to 3rd world countries with low literacy rate where mass is easily deceived by the politicians not only on economic issue but also on every isse........I have the same feeling about population of US whom I consider to be much advanced in terms of all human development indicators.......I hope I am wrong.

        Moreover world Economy or a country economy is seldom controlled by economists rather that is being controlled / influenced by politics.
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          Aug 2 2012: I know many people believe students are not interested in learning. I believe this is mainly cynical rather than accurate. I say this having taught thousands of students from maybe ten years old through doctoral students at university, professional school students, and post graduates.

          I think that regardless of the relative influence of the economic and political environments, both are extremeley important in people's quality of life and in understanding both policy problems and the viability of different proposed solutions.
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        Aug 2 2012: Let me clarify my intension a bit what I wanted write in my above post......
        It's the system that pushes students for scoring or achieving certain grade instead of learning.

        However, you might have different experience than mine about oppotunity or encouragement for learning instead of scoring in most education system......but that's it anyone can have different perspective while observing / experencing the same thing....isn't it ?
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          Aug 2 2012: Yes, different observations and different biases too that influence what we see and how we interpret what we see.