There’s no doubt, after the crash of 2007-08, students—including those in middle schools—could use more economics education.
Unfortunately, they’re not getting it. They’re just being exposed to propaganda.
“What is the basic economic problem all societies face?” April Higgins asks her sixth-grade class.
Ava Watson, raises her hand: “Scarcity.”
The teacher asks for a definition and the class responds, in unison: “People have unlimited wants but limited resources.”
Not bad for a bunch of sixth-graders.
What April Higgins is engaged in is not economics education. It’s just neoclassical economics.
You see, there is no single “economic problem.” It all depends on which theory we’re looking at. According to neoclassical economists, all societies in all places and times have faced the same problem: scarcity. And, of course, private property and markets are their proposed solution.
But that’s not the economic problem as defined by Keynesians (how to analyze and use the visible hand of government to get out of less-than-full-employment equilibria) or Marxists (how is the surplus produced, appropriated, and distributed and how can exploitation be eliminated) or many other schools of thought.
The fact is, middle-school economics education (like high-school, undergraduate, and graduate economics education) is dominated by one school of thought, one approach among many, that is presented as “economics.” In the singular.
And that’s because it’s run by the Council for Economic Education and stipulated, in some instances, by government decree:
The Texas education code states that economics must be taught with an emphasis on the free market system and its benefits.
Economics education, at any level, means exposing students to and having them grapple with the assumptions and consequences of different economic theories and systems. Focusing only on one approach and system—neoclassical economic theory and capitalism—is just propaganda.