To Learn Basic Economic Institutions or River Society Rulers?

An economics teacher at a good San Diego private high school emails about his students’ illiteracy on basic economic matters:

The thing that’s most remarkable to me is students’ lack of knowledge of organizations and basic economic institutions (as opposed to theories, which they can swallow quite readily).

The students did not know that private schools did not need to hire credentialed teachers.

We’ve covered Social Security. They didn’t know what a payroll tax was, what % it is for SSI, what % for Medicare, that there’s an earnings cap for the tax, when SS started, how it works, why there’s a crisis and what might be done to bring it back in balance.

They didn’t know what Prop 13 (CA) was. They didn’t know that laws are made by ballot and by legislature. Nor the structure of courts, from district to appelate to supreme. Federal v state laws/courts.

They didn’t know how a city’s school lottery works, nor how much $$ is spent per student in public schools versus private.

I have nothing against ancient Mesopotamia. But when kids know the names of river society rulers of 3000 BC but don’t know whether you can foreclose on a house without taking personal bankruptcy–indeed have no idea what the issue even is–it’s a weird world.

And if the conversation turned to personal financial matters — checking accounts, stocks, bonds, etc — I’m sure the picture wouldn’t be any prettier.

This teacher claims to teach at one of the best high schools in the country. He adds:

I continue to be fascinated that perhaps the two major groups of subjects in today’s world–law/economics/government/administration/finance and engineering/design/architecture–have essentially not made their way into school curricula. Even at the best private schools, which ought to have the flexibility, and ought to seek a market niche. Instead, schools all do almost exactly the same thing.

3 comments on “To Learn Basic Economic Institutions or River Society Rulers?
  • Much of the US economy is based on people buying on credit who shouldn’t be. The education system is obviously complicit in this, as most graduate high school armed with algebra, calculus, etc. but don’t even know what APR means.

    Doesn’t the average US household carry $18k just on credit cards? x120 million households… isn’t that… what, my, good lord, it appears to be $2 trillion. Aw shucks, I know, they still teach French because it “expands your mind”, “reasoning skills”, etc. I used to gnash my teeth in school when someone would ask a teacher the proverbial “why are we learning this?” question and the teacher would spew some endless diatribe… when people start tapdancing around a question you know there’s a problem.

    The day they fix education is the day the US economy REALLY falls apart. Consumers would be armed with actual knowledge, versus the bullshit-ridden “the customer is always right” mantra most yank out of their ass when backed against a wall.

  • “I continue to be fascinated that perhaps the two major groups of subjects in today’s world… have essentially not made their way into school curricula.”

    I’ve wondered that myself. Could it be due to accreditation requirements?

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