The Science of Choice – Economics

How could you have ever thought that was a good idea? As a parent, I’m often baffled by the choices our children make. From wearing shorts (or having bare legs) when there’s snow outside, to starting research papers late on a Sunday evening, our teens’ choices leave me shaking my head more often than not.

Apart from simply keeping our offspring safe, energized and creatively alive, our job as parents is to help them make better choices. Good news! Here is one suggestion: You can encourage them to take a great economics course! Economics you say? What does that have to do with teenagers? With most economics courses, the answer would be “not very much.” But Common Sense Economics is different.

Common Sense Economics?

While sometimes referred to as the “dismal science,” economics is also called “the science of choice” – so in theory, at least, it could be helpful. Most economics courses are designed to train future economists. Not much fun in that. But economics taught right is different. Common Sense Economics is not some kind of math class. Instead, it focuses on helping students learn how to apply economic reasoning in real life choices they will face as individuals and as citizens.

Making Conscious Decisions

We are constantly faced with a wide range of choices: What do I eat for breakfast? Should I participate in sports? What kind of phone should I buy? Should I insure it? Should I go to a public or a private college? Should I go to a community college? What career do I want? What about a summer job?

Applying Choice to Life

All these are economic choices, because all of them involve tradeoffs. If I have pancakes, I can’t have eggs (except with the farmer’s choice at Bob Evans). If I work at McDonald’s in summer, I can’t go to camp. If I study law, I’ll have to give up my music career. And on and on. Economics can help you think about how to decide. By connecting economic conceptions to everyday life, Common Sense Economics helps teens learn how to make informed choices. It’s fun, too!

Keys to Economic Reasoning 

Everything has a cost. Not necessarily a monetary cost, but a cost in money or time or opportunity. If I go to the concert, I won’t be able to go to the ball game at the same time, even if I have the money.

How do I become successful? By becoming really good at helping others. Steve Jobs became wealthy by creating products that were helpful to lots and lots of people. If you want to become financially successful, do something that helps a lot of people, too.

By learning how to be deliberate about choices, teens can start on the path to success. …and if they want to wear shorts in winter, they ought to consider living in a warmer place!

CSE bug_NO LETTERSFrederic J. Fransen, Ph.D. is the Founder of Common$ense Education

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