Until this year, someone could have asked me for a basic definition of socialism, and I would’ve been unable to respond, even though this should have been something I was taught in school. In Canada, many of our history courses cover our province’s history, as well as general Canadian history. However, we rarely talk about the economic systems that run our nation.
When you boil it down, very few events in history have been triggered for reasons that were not predominantly economic. The American Revolution? The breaking point of an over-taxed population. The Space Race? The result of a competition between communism and capitalism. In the end, it is incredibly difficult to understand the way the world works without a foundation in economics.
So, if it is so essential to education, why isn’t it taught? Why is it necessary to take it as an elective in university, when it can benefit everyone, as early as high school?
While its important to understand how the stock markets function and the state of the world economy, even a simple personal finance course would greatly benefit our youth. It would not only help the economy as a whole, but also put individuals in better positions to make wiser decisions. 36% of Millennials have student loans outstanding, while 55% of them say they may not be able to repay their debts. This is just reinforcing the idea that balancing a check book should be taught alongside physics and literature.
While being able to manage your personal accounts is a skill that will never go out demand, there is more to economics than balancing your bills. Students should be taught the basics of different economic models and their importance in history. For example, while capitalism may dominate many nations’ markets, mercantilism was the primary economic system used in Europe from the 16th century to the Industrial Revolution. Mercantilism, simply put, is a system where wealth is believed to be in limited quantity – measurable by resources. This philosophy not only paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, but was one of the main causes behind the American Revolution. And yet, it barely has any place in the average syllabus.
There is no denying the importance of politics in our day to day lives, especially with the United States’ government dominating headlines. However, we shouldn’t overlook economics or its role in our world. After all, why should something so global and crucial be overlooked by educators? Hopefully, in coming years, more and more schools will opt to teach economics, leaving future generations more aware and more active.