ERIC Identifier: ED480419
Publication Date: 2003-09-00
Author: Margaret Stimmann Branson
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science
The Connection Between Civic and Economic Education.
There is a necessary connection between civics and economics in education
for democracy. This connection should be reflected in the curricula
in schools. This ERIC Digest discusses (1) federal legislation and
programs promoting civics and economics, (2) the connections between civics
and economics in the study of the Constitution, (3) the status of economic
education in the schools, and (4) recommendations for strengthening the
connection between civics and economics in the school curriculum.
FEDERAL LEGISLATION AND PROGRAMS IN SUPPORT OF CIVICS AND ECONOMICS
IN THE CORE CURRICULUM OF SCHOOLS
Two pieces of recent legislation by the United States Congress have
spurred the study of civics and economics: "The Goals 2000: Educate
America Act," passed in 1994, and the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001."
One of the most important goals set forth in the Educate America Act
is that "all students will leave grades 4, 8 and 12 having demonstrated
competency over challenging subject matter including civics and government
and economics so that they may be prepared for responsible citizenship,
further learning, and productive employment."
To specify the nature of that "challenging subject matter," professional
organizations have developed content standards. Content standards
are explicit statements of what students should know and be able to do
by the time they complete grades 4, 8 and 12. Content standards indicate
the ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning, and investigating
and delineate the most important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues,
dilemmas, and knowledge essential to the disciplines that should be taught
and learned in school.
The "National Standards for Civics and Government" were developed over
two years by the Center for Civic Education with support from the federal
government and the Pew Charitable Trusts. State-level departments
of education have made use of the national civics standards by adopting,
adapting, and modifying them to meet their own needs.
The "National Content Standards in Economics" were developed by the
National Council on Economic Education in partnership with the National
Association of Economic Educators Foundation for Teaching Economics.
The "National Content Standards in Economics" specify several kinds of
knowledge that students should have gained by the time they finish the
twelfth grade, which demonstrate connections between economics and civics/government
The second significant piece of legislation pertaining to the teaching
and learning of civics and economics is Public Law 107-110 enacted by the
107th Congress and signed by President George W. Bush. It is better
known by its short title, "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001." The
overall purpose of this law is "to close the achievement gap with accountability,
flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind."
Subpart 3 of the "No Child Left Behind Act" deals specifically with
civic education, but it is attentive to the interrelationship of civic
and economic education. Section 2342 of the Act sets forth its legislative
intent in this fashion:
It is the purpose of this subpart ---
(1) to improve the quality of civics and government education by educating
students about the history and principles of the Constitution of
the United States, including the Bill of Rights;
(2) to foster civic competence and responsibility; and
(3) to improve the quality of civic education and economic education through
cooperative civic education and economic education exchange programs
with emerging democracies.
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN CIVICS AND ECONOMICS IN STUDY OF THE CONSTITUTION
For more than 200 years, Americans have looked to their Constitution
and Bill of Rights as the quintessential statements of their nation's values
and of their political rights. They are less accustomed to thinking
of the U.S. Constitution as an economic document. Even so, economists
point out: "Constitutions are economic documents as well as political documents.
This is certainly true of the Constitution of the United States.
Our nation's founders included numerous provisions in
the Constitution that support and encourage the operation of a marketeconomy"
(Dick, Blais, and Moore 1998, 3).
These four specific economic values embedded in the Constitution should
be emphasized in the curricula of schools:
1. Legal protection of the right to private
2. Support for private entrepreneurial
3. Support for a large common market
among the states inherent in the "commence clause" of Article 1, Section
4. The rule of law, which provides security
for order and stability in which economic activity can flourish.
If students are to become "constitutionally literate," then they must
understand the interrelated political and economic aspects of the U.S.
THE CURRENT STATUS OF ECONOMIC EDUCATION
Given the necessity of economic literacy for informed, effective, and
responsible citizenship, it is appropriate to consider the current status
of economic education in the United States. Presently we know that:
* Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have standards
* Twenty-two states now test the economic knowledge and skills
of students. Economic items, however, are often
embedded in more comprehensive social studies assessments. Nine more
states are now preparing to test in economics.
* Thirteen states require an economics course for graduation.
That course tends to be a one-semester twelfth grade
requirement paired with a one-semester course in American government.
* Only 47 percent of high school seniors have taken an economics
course before graduation. An additional 10 percent of high school
students take courses such as American government and economics, which
may include substantial civics as well as economics (National Center for
Education Statistics 2001).
* Teacher background in economics is often limited. Only
11 states require economics for teacher certification. The average
social studies teacher takes only four hours of economics in college and
those are the teachers most likely to teach separate economics courses
A better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of economics
education is in the offing. A National Assessment of Educational
Progress in Economics (NAEP) is scheduled for 2006. This measure
of twelfth graders' knowledge and skills in economics is a first.
Never before has there been a national assessment of economics. Preparation
of the assessment has been contracted to the National Council on Economic
Education, The Council of Chief State School Officers, and the American
Institute of Research. Some 10,000 students in 400 public and private
schools will be tested and their teachers and school administrators will
be interviewed to obtain additional insights into the status of economic
There is ample evidence of the importance of both civic and economic
literacy on the part of all citizens. Unfortunately, both civics
and economics are given insufficient attention today in many, if not most,
schools. This situation needs to be corrected. Systematic attention
to civics and government and economics needs to occur in every grade from
kindergarten through high school. Students should be helped to understand
why and how the two disciplines are connected. And the connections
between economics and civics need to be emphasized in the preservice
education and professional development of social studies teachers.
WORLD WIDE WEB SITES
The National Council on Economic Education's Web site <ncee.net>
includes information about various resources in economic education.
The Web site of the Center for Civic Education features position papers
and information about educational resources in civic education:
The reference list for this ERIC Digest is currently missing.
This page will be updated when it is available.