The rationale for teaching economic literacy is echoed in the argument of many economists who agree that economic literacy is an issue of urgency because it is a foundational skill that students should learn because the economy is all around us, and that students will eventually need to make decisions on economic matters. Economists warn that students’ deficiencies in basic understanding about how the economy works can lead to uniformed adverse decisions that may have long-term negative effects that will directly affect their quality of life. Additionally, economists believe economic literacy to be the cornerstone of any democratic society therefore, schools should be the hub of economic education and be an intragale part of both middle and secondary curriculum. But, this is not always the case as economic courses are largely relegated to high school elective courses, is believed to be a topic too complicated for middle school aged students, and are secondary to nation-wide curricular objectives that focus primarily on improving math, science, and technology skills.
So, if the economy is an issue of urgency, shouldn’t it be required in general education? Consider Nobel Laureate George Stigler's argument that “significant gaps in the economic education of youth be closed by giving economics a more central place in the school curriculum.”
How the economy works is important for students to learn because the economy is a lived experience and is vital to their lives. Helping students navigate its intricacies is a valuable skill because income inequality is an issue of urgency. Leading economists conclude that “Americans today live in a starkly unequal society. Inequality is greater now than it has been at any time in the last century, and the gaps in wages, income, and wealth are wider here than they are in any other democratic and developed economy.”
These issues will directly affect my students, and for them who will soon become adult contributors to our society, it is important to know the basics about the economy.
Although the topic of income inequality is not included in the middle school English Language Arts curriculum, as an ELA teacher I have come to appreciate how using economic inequity thematically can help students take deeper critical stances. Therefore, the argument for economic literacy as a means of reinforcing reading comprehension skills is reflected throughout this unit because it places economic literacy at the forefront of the ELA curriculum and serves a resource for middle school teachers who may want to teach literary criticism through the lens of economic inequality.
Learning goals discussed in the objectives section will reflect the enduring understanding that income and opportunity widely differs between different groups of society, and this argument does, in fact, underpin the plot line of many ELA required readings, but is often overlooked as an entry point for student learning. I am excited to develop a unit that approaches student learning about economic literacy through novel analysis, a perspective not considered until participating in the 2018 Yale Teachers Institute seminar on economic inequality. Exposure to economic inequality and its effect on social mobility provides new strategies for novel analysis that the traditional ELA curriculum may otherwise overlook. This unit also presents opportunities for students to curate their own learning as cross curricular connections are infinite. Math and social studies connections for example are applicable to this unit and can be used as a springboard to generate content connections beyond ELA.