ERIC Identifier: ED412171
Publication Date: 1997-07-00
Author: Nelson, Lynn R.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Recent Trends in Economic Education. ERIC Digest.
Economics, while frequently acknowledged as a vital component of citizenship
education in both the popular and educational press, has been a controversial
and contested component of the school curriculum. Recent trends in economic
education are manifestations of the perennial issues regarding economic
knowledge in the education of citizens and how best to provide teachers with a
fund of economic knowledge and materials.
TREND 1: ECONOMICS AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION
The nature of citizenship education remains a constant topic of debate in the
social studies literature. Given the economic changes accompanying the collapse
of the Soviet Union, as well as the perennial issue of the relationship of
economic understanding and disposition to the education of citizens in a
democracy, it is not surprising that this topic is receiving a lot of attention
(Branson 1991). Interest in economics as a core component of citizenship
education has resurged.
TREND 2: ECONOMIC EDUCATION IN RUSSIA AND EASTERN EUROPE
Interrelated with the education of citizens is the issue of the role of
economic education in Russia and the newly independent states. Democracy and
capitalism require a degree of participatory decision making that was neither
practiced in society nor taught in the schools of former communist countries in
Central and Eastern Europe. The last five years have witnessed a number of
economic education programs involving exchanges between Central and Eastern
Europeans and American economics educators which have promoted teaching and
learning about market-based economic systems and democratic governance.
TREND 3: THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Economic education throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s concentrated on the
application of economic concepts to understanding and analyzing the economy of
the United States. Beginning in the 1970s with the oil embargo, the growth of
the Japanese economy, and more recently the global ecological issues and
political events in Central and Eastern Europe, economic education increasingly
has become concerned with international issues. Recent articles and teaching
materials have focused on the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Latin American
economies, as well as the Central and East European economic situation.
International trade on a global scale is highlighted in recent publications of
the National Council on Economic Education.
TREND 4: CONTENT STANDARDS
Economic education has followed the national trend of creating content
standards. Economic educators at the national and state levels have developed
content standards delineating the knowledge and application skills which
students should possess at various grade levels. "The Voluntary National Content
Standards in Economics," developed and published by the National Council on
Economic Education (NCEE), are written in the form of propositions. They include
the key concepts that have traditionally served as the framework for economic
education materials developed by the National Council on Economic Education. See
"A Framework for Teaching Basic Economic Concepts," which provides an
explanation of key economic concepts and recommendations for sequencing them
within the curriculum (Saunders and Gilliard, 1995).
Each content standard is accompanied by a rationale explaining its
significance, as well as the performances of students required to demonstrate
achievement of this knowledge at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels. The twenty
content standards embody the essential principles of economics and the essential
reasoning and decision-making skills that indicate what students should be able
to do with their knowledge of economics.
TREND 5: USE OF COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY IN ECONOMIC EDUCATION
The efficiency of technology holds out the prospect of improved economic
education as students gain access to almost unlimited sources of data. Teachers
unsure of their economic knowledge are able to almost instantly find answers to
questions. Most important, when time is scarce, teachers will have access to
lesson plans without having to leaf through a number of separate sources of
Economic education has been modified through the Internet access that many
teachers and students now enjoy. Students have instant access to data that was
unimaginable five years ago. Teachers, for example, can type in
access to the "Indiana Council for Economic Education" (ICEE) homepage and from
there link to more information about the World Wide Web.
The Internet is not the sole source of economic education materials. "Virtual
Economics," a CD-ROM program, places the Library of Materials developed by the
National Council on Economic Education at the disposal of the classroom teacher.
The initial program was distributed to more than 50,000 teachers and
administrators in a series of workshops during 1996. Similar to the original
version, the new 2.0 program will operate on Microsoft Windows 3.1, Windows 95,
Windows NT, or Macintosh II, provided the computer has a 13" color monitor, a
sound card and speakers, and a minimum of eight megabytes of RAM.
The updated "Virtual Economics" program will retain the two-fold structure of
the original version: a 3-D Interactive Center for Economics and a Resource
Library. New features in the updated version include advanced placement
economics resources, the national and state content standards in economics, and
materials related to The Stock Market Game. "Virtual Economics" will enable
teachers to instantly access lesson plans by grade level and content.
Furthermore, teachers will be able to print out a majority of these materials
for classroom use. The programs provide teachers with multiple explanations for
concepts they may not understand, or find difficult to teach.
Information about "Virtual Economics" or other materials developed and
disseminated by the National Council on Economic Education, including "The
Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics," may be obtained at the
following Internet address: http://www.economicsamerica.org/%20or%20by%20writing%20or%20
telephoning the NCEE at: 1140 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036;
Telephone: (800) 338-1192; Fax: (212) 730-1793.
Knowledge of economics is an essential
component of citizenship education. There are no panaceas to solve the problems
contributing to ignorance of the subject: secondary teachers who all too
frequently possess the minimum state requirements in economics; elementary
teachers who commonly complete no undergraduate courses in economics; and a
curriculum centered on history, political science, and geography. The recent
trends in economic education, however, give reason for optimism. Not only are
educators stressing the importance of economics for personal and business
decisions, they also appear to be engaging in serious dialog regarding the
relationship among economic systems, democratic governments, and civic
education. This bodes well for the future of economics in the core of democratic
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