Friday, August 19, 2005

California Council for Economic Education Workshop

As I stated in my adventure before, I attended the California Council for Economic Education's Workshop on the California Standards in San Francisco last week. This is for Social Science teachers, particularly Economics teachers, all around the country. Even if they are standards that are for California only, it seems to be assumed that our standards are quite rigorous. And this is the group that created the Econ Standards for the State of California, so the clout is there. If you aren't one of the above, you can take a look at what is going on regarding Economics in the classroom, and as always, enjoy my writing.
Here are the highlights.

1) First of all, these guys get it. There are workshops that make a person want to scream in pain and wonder just how worthless it can possibly get. This is the exact opposite of that kind of workshop. I left excited to try the ideas and address the Standards in a different method. We like those type of conferences. No snoozer here, just an excellent experience. Did I mention the materials? Massive amount of good resources including books, lessons, workbooks, cd-roms, power points for just about EVERY STANDARD, aprons......yes aprons. See the next one.

2) This is not for teachers looking to enhance their A.P. classes. The subject matter is for both a Standard Economics class AND a class with English Language Learners. These guys are very SDAIE with their methods, not exactly preaching the method, just executing it. There examples are amazingly fresh and interesting. For instance, opportunity cost: Barbie is going to the prom. She can chose Harry Potter or Spiderman. The teacher has an apron with about a half dozen pockets labeled Decision Maker, Choice One, Choice Two, Advantages, Disadvantages, Choice, Opportunity Costs. Students break up assessing Barbie's situation, but the figures are constantly moving from pocket to pocket in the teacher's apron. Sounds complex, but it is far from it. It works real well as the kids watch the Cost/Benefit Analysis take place. The whole workshop was like this. Excellent stuff!

3) If you are teaching A.P. Economics in a semester, you are doing a massive disservice to students. In fact, the CCEE pretty much stated that A.P. Econ was a bad idea to start with because almost no students where coming to college with A.P. level Econ knowledge. A.P. Economics is designed to be taught in two semesters; one macro and one micro. Apparently, there has also been a lot of watered down A.P. Econ classes, simply to pump up the validity of school Social Science departments.

4) Stop graphing. Yes, you heard me correctly, stop graphing. What was once the staple of Economics (graphing supply/demand, price floor/ceiling, production possibilities curve) is now becoming the way of the dinosaur. Apparently the reason is that students are moving the graphs correctly, but having no idea why they are moving or what it represents. The CCEE quoted 80% of students still have very little understanding of basic supply and demand, yet maneuver the graphs correctly. The challenge was to create rules that the students use to determine what happens to price and quantity during certain stages of supply/demand, and they reinforce those with examples. However, avoid graphing. It ends up being a waste.

5) Focus on the following: Property Rights, Incentives, Information, Competition, Cost/Benefit Analysis. While meeting the Standards, teachers should centralize on these primary objectives. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Property Rights are the basis for a functional economy. Incentives motivate people to make economic choices. The best economies and governments are ran when the people are fully informed. Competition drives a successful market. And finally, the idea that everything has a cost and/or a benefit.

6) An entire section on International Economics was added to the State Standards. Discuss more on global trade, outsourcing, and the basic ideas that surround global economics. Absolute and comparative Advantage are a must.

7) Skim Macroeconomics and don't spend too much time on it.

8) Finally, don't make economics about politics. Professors are getting students in economics classes that don't have a clear understanding the Economics is not a politically driven entity, although politics do impact it. Two examples he used were the gas prices, and capitalism. In Cal-State economics classes, almost nobody lists "demand for gas" as a reason for the rise in gas prices. The primary answer is "The War in Iraq" or "Problems in the Middle East". Here's a piece of information for all those non-economic people reading this; if you don't think that "demand" is the #1 reason for the high gas prices, you are dead wrong. The second example is capitalism. Many high school teachers are pumping up the benefits of capitalism, but not really hitting the costs. In the CCEE's eyes, capitalism is exactly like democracy, it is a terrible system, but it is the best there is.

Hopefully, this opens a few eyes regarding how Economics is being taught here in California. Once again, the workshop was excellent, and I highly recommend it. There is a link to the right.
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