The Case for Economic Education

This article was first printed in the Business Times, August 2021 written by Phyllis Hunsinger.

The school bells will ring soon; students will head back to the classrooms. Although certain elements of the curriculum have made headlines during the spring and summer, there has been no mention of the need for economic education. Who needs economic education, right?

On February 3, 2021, using data from Experian’s 2020 Consumer Credit Review, Kim Porter wrote, “As of November, 2020, consumer debt is at $14.2 Trillion, with Americans carrying an average personal debt of $92,727.” Personal debt includes credit card balances, student loans, mortgages, etc. Part of the problem is the ready availability of credit and the ease with which one can live above their means. Do you suppose there is another reason? Could it be that many young people are graduating or have graduated without a critical awareness of the basic principles of economics?

Economics is about earning and spending money; using resources to satisfy needs and wants; growing businesses, savings accounts, interest, credit cards, taxes, insurance; and economic policies that shape our country and other countries around the world. Concepts like free markets, supply and demand, property rights, market competition, voluntary exchange, self-interest, scarcity, choice, innovation, and entrepreneurship are an integral part of economic education.

High school graduates are quickly faced with many, life-shaping questions: Do I go straight to work? Do I attend a Vocational Technical School or a College/University? How much does additional education cost? What is the cost of a student loan? What is the return of investment on the loan? Should I continue to live at home or find my own place? How do I afford a car and pay insurance? Can I balance a checkbook, open a savings account, or understand interest on money? These are basic economic questions that students will need to answer; however, economic education is the only way most students will be prepared to answer them. Students are being cheated if they are allowed to graduate without a strong understanding of economic concepts.

Understanding fundamental economic principles helps citizens make more informed choices not only with their own lives but also as a voting member of society. Citizens with a basic knowledge of economics know that governments have no way of acquiring money except by taking money from its citizens through taxation or printing money in the case of the federal government. Economically savvy citizens recognize the importance of private enterprise and understand a healthy economy requires all able-bodied individuals, not just a few, to work and pay taxes.

Entrepreneurs in the future will come from the graduates of today. All students need economic education. John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel and renowned entrepreneur said, “There is so much at stake in getting the balance right between government regulations and marketplace freedom—and yet our educational system increasingly fails to teach our young people the fundamental workings of the free enterprise system, the system of checks and balances that restrains government from abusing its power, and the crucial role of competition and capital formation to keep our economy healthy.”

Who needs economic education? Everyone! Require students to demonstrate economic proficiency.

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