High School Economic Knowledge and Their Opinion on Economic Issues Term Paper

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High School Economic Knowledge and Their Opinion on Economic Issues

An Analysis of American High School Economic Knowledge and Student Opinions Concerning Economic Issues

Economics is a required course of study for high school students who attend public schools in Georgia. By requiring students to take a certain course the state is sending a message to its citizens that Economics is important; however, a 1993 study by William Walstad showed that there were significant deficiencies in the publics' knowledge and there Their awareness of basic economic concepts. The question educators can ask today is whether economic education is an effective means of advocating economic knowledge? Therefore, the purpose of this research is to determine if U.S. high school students' opinions on economics issues will change as their knowledge of the subject improves. The rationale for this study is that as young people begin to grasp fundamental concepts of economics, their opinion on how economic issues should be solved might change. To this end, this study will examine students' knowledge and attitudes before and after students take the required economic course. The results will show that students will have improved their knowledge of economics and change their opinions on why they should understand and be able to solve economic issues. A summary of the research and salient findings will be presented in the conclusion.

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Term Paper on High School Economic Knowledge and Their Opinion on Economic Issues Assignment

Over the past few decades, there has been an increasing amount of attention paid to how best to teach economics in the nation's high schools; for example, the National Council on Economic Education has produced and distributed a wide variety of curriculum materials that encourage active learning of economics in the high school classroom (Bellisimo, Maxwell & Mergendollar, 2001). "In many of the activities," the authors advise, "students participate in active learning but are not necessarily expected to make independent, critical, evaluative judgments and reasoned choices" (Bellisimo et al., 2001, p. 73). Despite this growing interest, there remains much to consider when introducing a course in high school economics today, such as the decision whether to teach micro- or macro-economics separately or as a continuum, for example. According to Zevin (2000), a number of critics of the conventional micro-to-macro model of economics maintain that these classes invariable invest an inordinate amount of resources and time on micro economic issues; such opponents of this traditional approach to teaching economics suggest that as the nations of the world become increasingly integrated as a result of globalization where a decision in one nation or region can affect less powerful nations all over the globe is the way to go. "A high school economics course, they argue, should begin and end with worldwide issues. In such a course, the world is seen as a single economic entity in which the various national economies compete, cooperate, or ignore one another to produce a global market structure" (Zevin, 2000, p. 294).

Like studying Shakespeare, though, still other authorities suggest that high school students are too young to understand or appreciate the complexities and intricacies involved in contemporary economic issues. For instance, Brasfield, Harrison, and McCoy (1993) report that, "The effect of high school economics courses on learning and performance in college economics has been previously investigated, but the results of these studies have been inconclusive and often contradictory" (p. 99). These authors add that two separate but related issues concerning high school economics have been examined in the scholarly literature:

The extent to which learning of economics takes place in high school economics courses; and,

The effect that high school economics has on students' learning and performance in college economics (Brasfield et al., 1993).

Not surprisingly, there has been a growing amount of interest among researchers concerning why some high school students become better students of economic study in college than others; in this regard, a significant body of evidence has accumulated in an effort to explain these differences among high school students in the attainment of economic knowledge (Peterson, 1992). The majority of these studies have speculated that economic understanding is somehow created as a function of: (a) personal characteristics (i.e., grade-point average, gender, race); (b) teacher and class characteristics (i.e., training in economics, type of course offered) -;, and - school characteristics (i.e., location, program participation) (Peterson, 1992). According to a study by Bellisimo, Maxwell, and Mergendollar (2000), teacher perceptions of the economic curriculum tend to play a particularly important role in the American high school classroom.

The results of a regression analysis of high school student test scores on these measures has typically shown that students who receive economics instruction in an economics class perform better on standardized exams than their counterparts who do not receive any economics instruction at all or that are exposed to economics as part of a social studies class (Peterson, 1992). For example, Peterson cites research by Walstad and Soper (1989) that showed American high school students who had completed an economics course scored 1.63 points higher on the 46-question Test of Economic Literacy than did students in a social studies class with an economics component. Based on these findings, Peterson suggests that, "It is tempting to conclude that economic understanding can be improved by requiring students to take economics courses" (p. 5). Unfortunately, the analysis is not that straightforward and there is much more to consider than an early regression analysis in this scenario.

Indeed, the growing body of research to date has shown mixed results in this regard, with some studies even suggesting that taking economics in high school may be detrimental to future studies of the topic. For example, according to Lopus (1997), a great deal of research has been devoted in recent years concerning whether taking a high school economics class affects initial knowledge and learning in college macro or micro principles classes. "The results of several studies," Lopus advises, "indicate that high school economics helps students in their college principles classes, whereas the results of other studies suggest that high school economics either has no effect or even puts students at a disadvantage in their college principles class" (p. 143).

There are also differences in how the economic curriculum is taught in different states that may affect the academic outcomes in these cases. This author adds that differences in the focus of state mandates influence the curricular differences among high school economics courses, with some state requiring that economics be taught in conjunction with government, while others require a course with a basic business emphasis; furthermore, some states have mandated an emphasis on free enterprise emphasis while still others require a consumer-education emphasis, and a significant amount of variation will typically occur within classes that follow these state guidelines (Lopus, 1997).

The results of a study by Lopus and Maxwell (1994) found that high school students' ability to translate high school economics into college-level economics is primarily determined by the curriculum of the high school course; not surprisingly, these fundamental differences in curricula have a profound impact on how these high school students view the subject matter and will likely influence their interests later in life. According to these authors:

If the high school economics course concentrates on consumer issues, economic institutions, current events, or high school-level economic history instead of microeconomic or macroeconomic concepts, neither the stock nor acquisition of college-level economics would increase. Conversely, students whose high school economics course has a more theoretical microeconomic or macroeconomic focus may find it easier to translate their knowledge into college-level subject matter. (Lopus & Maxwell, 1994, p. 62).

Because of the above-mentioned diversity in how the several states administer their high school economics curricula, making across-the-board comparisons becomes problematic; however, these researchers compared comparable high schools across the country in a before-and-after analysis to address this constraint (Lopus & Maxwell, 1994). The results of the study by Lopus and Maxwell (1994) and Brasfield et al. (1993) were not entirely positive concerning the effectiveness of high school economics courses in communicating the requisite knowledge of principles of economics that is required of these students today.

On the one hand, studies have shown that, after adjusting for other factors, American high school students who had taken economics in high school did not begin their college-level economics principles courses with significantly more knowledge, nor did they learn significantly more than their non-high school economics counterparts; in addition, studies have also shown that high school students who had completed high school economics courses received significantly lower grades in the college course than did students who had not taken high school economics (Brasfield et al., 1993). Likewise, citing research by Becker, Greene, and Rosen (1990, in Brasfield et al., 1993 at p. 1000), Brasfield and his colleagues emphasize that while high school courses in economics increase the economic understanding of students during pre- and post-testing, the impact is not long-term and remains unclear; Becker et al. (cited in Brasfield et al.), for instance, maintained that high school students who have had an economics course in high school enter their first course in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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