I like to say that there are state requirements for high school, and then there are Mom’s requirements for high school. One of the requirements of mine, is that the kids must take economics in 9th grade. A full year of economics too–not just a shorter half-credit course. I’ve gotten a few strange looks when I mention taking economics as a high school freshman, but there are three good reasons why I require this.
Economics is connected to all of the history and government theory that they’ll be learning over the next four years.
History is more than just dates, times, and people. Culture, philosophy, politics, religion, science, art, and economics all play into how history unfolded, because they contain the why behind those dates and events. Having an understanding of economics helps you understand some of the reasons why the Articles of Confederation were replaced with the Constitution. Economics also gives better context for things like the Great Depression. And no study of government and politics is complete without understanding the role that economics plays.
Economic study gives context for business math study.
I hadn’t actually considered this reason until my oldest was taking economics during her freshman year and commented on how learning economic concepts had helped her to better understand some of the business math that was being touched on in her algebra course. Because she was studying economics, she understood the terms being used and really grasped the concepts behind the formulas at a deeper level. Learning the math that deals with profit, loss, gross sales, expenses, etc. makes so much more sense when you know what all of those things are.
Economics isn’t too hard for a Freshman to understand!
There are some topics that we tend to think of as too complicated and difficult for most people to understand. While the finer points of many things do require much more study and learning than the average person can devote to the topic, the basics of these subjects are not as far out of our reach as we think. The basics of economic theory are well within the grasp of the average student. I’ve had individuals protest that economics is an advanced class that is too hard for a high school freshman. When we tell students that certain topics are just “too complicated” for them, we are putting unnecessary limits on them. A one-credit high school course isn’t going to turn a teen into an economic expert overnight, but it will give them a foundation that lets them understand the broader concepts. As a bonus, tackling a “difficult” subject like economics in their Freshman year gives them a boost of confidence that they can learn and understand things that are labeled “hard”.
You’ve convinced me! What curriculum should I use?
There are a number of options available for economics curriculum, but one of my favorites is Lessons for the Young Economist by Robert P. Murphy. You can purchase a print copy of the book, or download a free digital copy. A teacher’s manual is also available and includes quiz questions for each chapter. I supplemented this book with additional reading and discussion to round it out into what I felt qualified as a full credit course. You might also require an essay, research paper, or other project to be presented at the end of the year. Suggestions for extra reading include Free Market Economics: A Basic Reader compiled by Bettina Bien Greaves and The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin. If your student is feeling ambitious, then they could also read The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. There are plenty of documentaries on various economic topics that you can watch on Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming services. Regardless of what point of view they address the subject from, these can be good jumping off points for discussion. Of course, don’t neglect current events in your study. Discuss the news headlines and how economics relates to them. You might be surprised by some of your teen’s insights!
I know that economics gets a reputation for being a difficult and boring subject, but it’s really not. Once you understand the basic concepts and how they apply to the real world, it’s fascinating how much it enhances your understanding of history, politics, and business. You’re never too old to learn about economics, but I still think that 9th grade is the ideal time to introduce your teen to the topic.