Louis DeBx

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Should economics be a mandatory class since elementary school?

In the most (maybe all) societies economics is one of the key logic that shapes social relationships, should we share the understanding of how the world works with them?

Since our youngest age, we are full of questions of how and why things work in a certain way. The economic system is a reality in which we live; should children given tools to understand it?

I believe that the fundamentals knowledge can be understood by young children. Supply and demand, market, risk understanding are finally very simple if they are introduce properly. Children hear of economics situation in math problems, geography, history, in literature readings and so o, without any formal class. Lack of understanding creates stress and lack of confidence in society.

Is elementary school to early?

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    Dec 17 2011: i'm all for that. i even started to create classroom games to introduce certain concepts. topics i have covered:

    1. the scope of economics
    2. social cooperation, division of labor
    3. money
    4. interest
    5. saving and capital

    all lessons are designed to be classroom games, with or without a "debriefing".

    unfortunately it is almost impossible to create a subset of economics that everyone agrees with. every power group will want to put their agenda in.
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    wen yu

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    Dec 18 2011: I think that it is economy, rather than economics the key logic that shapes our society, affects our living standards and reshapes our connection with other people. It's true that anyone without a clear idea on how the economy runs might be confused hindered and even be manipulated.
    If you look closely, economic is more a deductive discipline other than a inductive science. It is not that clear whether the kinds will understand the economy by learning economics. However, there're many easy-to-deal assumptions which have terrible ethic implication.
    We shall know that although Adams Smiths advocates labor diversion (a kind of cooperation) in the Wealth of Nations, the mainstream economics focuses much more on the "fantastic insight": selfish egoists are directed by the "invisible hand" and can achieve social optima by follow the voice of their greed.
    Nowadays most of the traditional models we can see are derived from the dismal assumptions like: everyone concerns only about their self-interest and working causes dis-utility. It is true that more and more economist turn their focus on human side, they are introducing trust, altruism and cooperation in their works. Yet, as there is a great inertia and those new models are much more complex, many are too complex to have any definition result, the assumption that man are selfish is in the mainstream.
    Although Friedman argues that assumption does not matter, if it delivers a right result, yet, I am not that sure, whether teaching economics in elementary level will cause ethic problems.
    There is very interesting paper to share with you: "Do Economists Make Bad Citizens" in The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 1996.
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    Dec 18 2011: Hi Kristian,

    I would like to start by congratulation on your work, creating games instead of formal classes is a lot more work but leads to amazing results from what I have seen when I was a student (in additional to formal class not instead :) )

    Regarding the content, is it possible that you teach first simple observation of the reality (existence of different type of markets for example is hardly contestable) than introduce prudently models. Spending time on explaining what a model is essential anyway for the understanding of a lot of social sciences.

    As a someone who is not a teacher I am glad to have your feedback and it is great to hear about this type of initiative 
  • Dec 17 2011: Given the shape of economics today I would rather not see it taught to anyone much less innocent children.
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      Dec 18 2011: Hello Gordon,

      Thank you for your comment. Having a different opinion is always leading to more thinking :)

      I would like to start by ask you precision about your comments.
      When you talk about the current shape of economy, do you mean North America, Western countries or worldwide?

      If you are talking at a global scales living standard are constantly and globally increasing. Children can learn it with tools such as DHI from the United Nations Development Program. I do not see why teaching it may be problematic.

      Even if you are talking only about a specific part of the world that is in crisis, it is worse studying. In economics, crises are view as part of a normal long term cycle. If crisis are apprehend properly they should lead to change in the fundamental structures in the local economy towards activity where one can be competitive. Protectionism creates a temporary illusion that leads to a greater disaster when the barrier is failing. Reactivity can be therefore taught to children in order to give them the state of mind to adapt to any future situation they might encounter.
      I would love to have your feedback.
      • Dec 18 2011: The problem with economics is, I believe, worldwide.
        I see no problem in teaching kids the concepts that Krisztian refers to, knowing full well that most of them represent a fiction rather than reality.
        Economics, even as it is taught in first year university is a stylized fiction that has no relation to reality.
        It is at best a pseudo science on par with astrology or alchemy. Theories don't seem to advance with experience, are unrelated to real world situations and if pressed, contain more assumptions than intelligent design theories.