Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meet the Experts at the FED

I honestly believe that Economics is one of the most feared classes to teach and one of the most wrongly taught.  History teachers fear the class because it really has nothing to do with history, although it has everything to do with how history has progressed.  Thanks to No Child Left Behind, many teachers can’t teach the course because they are not “highly qualified”; a degree in History does not require anything above General Ed Economics.  Many that teach the subject often do it incorrectly.  People see it as an opportunity to flaunt political agendas and go on  mini-crusades while completely ignoring the fundamentals of the subject.  A colleague and I went to an Economics institute a few years ago and found that half of the two dozen teachers didn’t even teach opportunity cost, many not even knowing the definition.  I like teaching Economics.  It is the perfect complement to Government and History while forcing you to look at both subjects much more pragmatically.  My credential is in History-Social Science, meaning about 60% of my upper division was History while 40% was Government, Economics, Anthropology, etc.

I’ve been going to the San Francisco Federal Reserve for years and if you teach Economics, especially in the current economic climate, I don’t know how you can’t attend a teacher focused session.  Last week I attended Meet the Experts, a day long workshop where FED professionals, including the President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve, discussed the role of the institution with high school and college teachers.  Couple of bullet points:

-The Federal Reserve really wants to work with teachers.  I started attending workshops about six years ago and their interest in informing teachers and students has grown ten fold.  They want feedback about what works.  In fact the last hour of the workshop was on focus groups about power points, social media, and a video series, and the teachers were very involved in giving opinions about what does and doesn’t work in the classroom. 

-Don’t ask me about recent FED policy because the President had just been to the Federal Open Market Committee meeting and there was a one day black out on passing out information.  Too bad.

-Speaking of the President, my wife and I got to sit at the head table with Mr. John Williams during lunch.  Here’s the deal, Mr. Williams, along with all the speakers at the conference, seem genuinely interested getting teachers to understand the FED.  And they are well spoken too.  Each presentation was about 15-20 minutes with about the same time for questions.  It was done professionally, but in language that a high school Economics teacher could understand.  And if you didn’t understand it, you didn’t feel ignorant when they explained it. 

-So remember when Ron Paul stated that all the FEDs information was secret?  Yeah, I looked at the FEDs balance sheet and all that other stuff that people don’t know a damn clue about.  Sure, the FED was in the background for many years, but it is very obvious that it wants to be out in the open and transparent.  The information about the FED is on the website if you really want it.  In fact, Economics teachers should be bookmarking the Federal Reserve Research site and downloading the FRED iPhone app from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.  Ron Paul should do that right now.

-It was downright embarrassing to hear about high school teachers not having access to social media at their schools.  Actually it was doubly embarrassing because college teachers grinned and working professionals raised eyebrows at the Internet restrictions placed on secondary education instructors.  When a Los Angeles FED liaison started to shoot off methods to communicate with teachers, from Facebook to Youtube, the answers constantly came up “That’s blocked”, “Nope, filter prevents it”, “We don’t have access to that”.  Wow.  I feel thankful that I have a password that allows me access to those forbidden sites because many teachers are just denied.  And that is truly absurd.

By the way, Rick Perry’s recent comments on the Federal Reserve show him to be one of the dumbest bastards on the planet. 

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