When did you first learn about supply and demand? If the answer is “never”, then maybe it’s time that you learn. For the next generation, however, some basic training in Economics is happening as early as middle school, educating students in a very useful and intriguing lens into how the world works.
A Wall Street Journal Article discusses the rising trend of mandatory economics education following the wake of the Great Recession. Middle school’s as good a time as any; I was in middle school when the Great Recession hit, and the consequences that followed led to my discovery and love of economics. In Delaware, WSJ profiles a school where students grasp the idea of economic scarcity through multiple mediums. One of the pedagogically interesting ones I noticed was connecting economics to ancient history by having students trade goods between the Mesopotamian city-states they were assigned to. As kids trade toothpicks for scissors and paper for glue, they learn about the benefits of trade and the hard decisions of trade-offs, both of which are valuable life lessons.
Although the number of states that require economics education has risen, that number is still only 23 out of the 50 states we have. As Professor Bernheim (chairman of the Stanford Economics department) remarks, “‘most people go through life terrified of economics.'” That irrational fear, driven by a lack of compulsory economics education, unfortunately explains why so many people suffered in the wake of the last recession; people who failed to understand basic economic principles assumed that their house prices would keep going up forever, and that they wouldn’t need to save to offset potential risk in the future.
In my entire K-12 education, we touched on supply and demand once in 5th grade when reading “The Sign of the Beaver”, and officially took an economics class in 12th grade. This is why I believe that at Stanford, ECON1 is a course you need to take before graduating. Whether you’re the fuzziest of Classics majors, the most techie of Electrical Engineering majors, or somewhere in between, some basic knowledge of economics goes a long way in being a well-informed and financially solvent citizen.