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Economic Forces in American History Online

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FTE’s Economic Forces in American History Online (EFIAHO) courses are designed for history teachers who want to incorporate the economic perspective or to address economics content standards in their American History courses. The lessons and materials are drawn from the FTE’s popular Economic Forces in American History summer programs for teachers and students.  The course introduces and applies the “economic way of thinking.”

Paul Heyne, originator of the phrase and author of a widely used textbook bearing that title, defined the “economic way of thinking” as:

” . . .  a perspective on human decisions and social transactions . . . that emerges from the presupposition that all social phenomena result from interactions among the choices that individuals make after calculating the expected benefits and costs to themselves”.

 (http://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-8-number-4/limitations-economic-way-thinking)

In simpler terms, Heyne contends that people choose and that social phenomena emerge from their choices. With this insight, he takes us outside our stereotypical conception of the dismal science as the study of money, banking, and complicated graphs, and invites us to consider that the “economic way of thinking” is valuable in a larger sense – as a set of critical thinking skills. In this course, we’ll take our economics reasoning tool kit just next door – to the U.S. History classroom.  “Social phenomena” is the focus of historical study, and it’s reasonable to consider that the study and teaching of history might benefit by adding the economic way of thinking to the multiple lenses through which historians examine the record of human action and interaction.

Indeed, the FTE believes that the economic way of thinking, like all critical thinking skills, is useful in a variety of disciplines and contexts. In our flagship Economics for Leaders curriculum, we apply economic reasoning to contemporary issues. In Economic Forces in American History (and the EFIAHO courses) we’ve changed the focus from the present to the past, in order to examine the processes by which individuals, groups, and nations have changed through time.

History textbooks often present social change abstractly, as the result of mysterious “forces” that shape lives and civilizations, fostering students’ sense that things had to turn out the way they did and that people and nations are relatively powerless to shape their destinies. The economic way of thinking suggests otherwise.  It offers us a mental tool kit for analyzing how history is shaped by people and the choices they make.

EFIAHO examines a selection of social phenomena from American history, adopting as its operative hypothesis the proposition that:

All social phenomena emerge from the choices that individuals make in response to expected costs and benefits to themselves.

Each lesson will demonstrate the use of one or more of the 5 ERPs (economic reasoning propositions) within the context of a particular episode or era, ranging from populating the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, through westward movement in the 19th century, to social upheaval in the 20th.

The EFIAHO courses, formerly known as Economic History Online for Teachers, Parts 1 and 2 (EHOFT-1 and EHOFT-2), were renamed to clarify the course topics, since they do not have to be taken sequentially.  The courses contain the same content as in the past.

The EFIAHO: Colonialism – Early 20th Century topics include:

  • Indentured Servitude and pre-WWI immigration (Choice and Opportunity Cost: ERPs 1 & 2)
  • The Frontier, Settling the West and Cattle Drives (Incentives: ERP 3)
  • The Great Migration and Civil Rights (Institutions: ERP 4)
  • Economic Reasoning as a tool of historical inquiry (the Economic Way of Thinking: ERPs 1 – 5)
      • Purchase or rental of 2 textbooks required

The EFIAHO: Early 20th Century – Present topics include:

  • The Rules of the Game (Opportunity Cost, Incentives and Institutions: ERPs  2, 3, 4)
  • Innovation, Inventions and Education (Incentives and Institutions: ERPS 3 & 4)
  • War and the American Economy (Choice, Opportunity Cost and Knowledge and Evidence: ERPs 1, 2, 5)
  • The Great Depression (Choice, Opportunity Cost, Incentives, Institutions and Knowledge and Evidence: ERPs 1 – 5)
  • Economic Reasoning as a tool of historical inquiry (the Economic Way of Thinking: ERPs 1 – 5)
      •   purchase or rental of 1 textbook required

 

Note: The EFIAHO courses do not have to be taken in order.  

 

EFIAHO: Colonialism – Early 20th Century – $175 FTE registration fee.  Two semester hours of optional graduate credit, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs ($244, payable directly to UCCS online after the course start)

EFIAHO: Early 20th Century – Present – $225 FTE registration fee.  Three semester hours of optional graduate credit, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs ($366, payable directly to UCCS online after course start)