Economic Issues for Teachers

This residential seminar presents four of the FTE “Economic Issues” curriculum units in a concentrated four day setting.  Each of the four units is comprised of  5-7 lessons that include background content outline, student activities and simulations, and source lists.  In a pleasant, long weekend break, Issues participants are introduced to the curriculum units through involvement in lessons and simulations from each of the units.    (Ample time is provided on the afternoons of the second and third days to explore and enjoy the seminar location.)

(Click title to view curriculum.)

The Economic Demise of the Soviet Union

What happened is surely one of the great events of modern history, an upheaval that will continue to have monumental impact on global politics and trade.

Soviet history is the vehicle for teaching fundamental skills and principles of economic reasoning, which are then used to analyze the complexities of the intertwined economic, political-legal and moral-cultural components of Soviet society.

The lessons not only explain why the Soviet economy collapsed, but also provide insights into our own economy.

Program Topics

  • Opportunity Cost:  A Journey of Choices
  • Missing Markets and Missing Prices
  • Incentives Matter
  • Property Rights
  • Transaction Costs – Life in a Soviet Household
  • Applying the Lessons of the Soviet Union

Issues of International Trade

Trade issues occasionally dominate and are a continuing theme of the international scene: the global market, sweatshops, child labor, trade deficits, the euro, sanctions, tariffs, embargoes, and the EU, NAFTA, WTO – the seemingly endless alphabet of interest groups, treaties, organizations, and trade agreements. As a classroom topic, international trade has the great advantage of providing ready-made material for teachers wanting to engage student interest in current events. On the other hand, the complexity of the issues surrounding trade is daunting. While economic reasoning doesn’t guarantee resolution of the issues, it is a powerful tool of critical thinking that brings clarity to the discussion of current events. The ability to determine comparative advantage through opportunity cost, the ability to identify incentives and predict resulting behavior, and the ability to use supply and demand analysis of particular labor and resource markets, help students to set aside the emotion of international trade issues and cut through the rhetoric of media reports. This workshop will offer examples and classroom activities that help students build a foundation for their opinions on the news of the day.

Is Capitalism Good for the Poor?

With a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the FTE has created a high-school unit that uses economic reasoning to analyze the impact of capitalist institutions on the well-being of the world’s poor. Lesson topics addressed include:

  • What is poverty and who are the poor?
  • What is capitalism?
  • Degrees of market competition
  • Property rights and the rule of law
  • Incentives that generate invention and innovation
  • Incentives that promote social cooperation

Economics of Water Use and the Environment

Lurking beneath our natural desire to ensure that water will always be avail­able to perform its many life-supporting functions is the fear that it will run out.  Our thinking (in truth, our feeling) about water tends to be dominated by myth and misunderstanding. We believe that our “need” for water is exponentially greater than other wants and needs; we also believe that this intense “need” confers special status, making water a unique resource. We mistrust the ability of people to recognize water’s special sta­tus, and we assert that only through common or public ownership can we preserve water for future generations. Paradoxically, while our conviction that water is unique derives from our knowledge of its many important uses, we have trouble acknowledging the value of water in anything other than pris­tine form. We tend to assume that, when it comes to water, there’s no such thing as “too clean.” Unfortunately, in acquiescing to these myths, we make things worse; we create for ourselves an intellectual box that constrains our ability to conserve the resource we value so highly.

These lessons challenge the myths and use economic reasoning to suggest a new way to think about our use of this vital resource. In brief, the lessons assert: (1) that in economic terms, water is not fundamentally different from any other resource, good, or service; and (2) that many of the answers to our concerns about water conservation and water quality can be found in markets, the same institution that provides us bread, shoes, underwear, tractors, flowers, computers, charities, flu shots, bubblegum,  the collectible craze of the moment, and the myriad other products we find “essential” to the way we wish to live