High School Curriculum
By Arnold Kling
This is easy for Greg Mankiw to say.
I have long thought that a year of economics should be standard in high school, much as American history is now. I even have a good textbook to recommend.
I think that a whole year of economics in high school would be a bad idea. I would rather have students learn a few things well than a lot things not so well.
As someone who actually teaches in high school, I am somewhat impatient with people who come up with things to add to the high school curriculum. We need things to subtract. Since I was in high school,
–U.S. and world history have expanded by 35 years
–foreign languages and cultures are more relevant
–biology has advanced dramatically
–computer skills have become more important
–statistics has become much more important
In addition, over the past 35 years there has been a lot of “feature creep” in high school. Science courses try to teach more modern theories. Math tries to include more data analysis, use of graphing calculators, and so on.
So where can we cut back?
–I think that there ought to be a “trigonometry-free” track in mathematics. You could shave two semesters of math by taking the trig out of pre-calculus and calculus.
–Most students have not been convicted of any crimes, so they should not be forced to do community service.
–Limit high school sports to no more than one match per week. Limit practices to no more than 4 hours per week. Stop demanding professional-quality yearbooks from student editors.
With all that said, here is what I wish every high school student would learn about economics:
–the concept of opportunity cost
–how economic incentives affect behavior
–the gains from trade
–how prices allocate resources
–how entrepreneurs introduce innovation
If every citizen understood those things, the level of debate over economic policy could be much higher.