Sunday, June 08, 2014

Educating The Kid

As long-time readers of the blog know, we've been home-schooling the kid for the past few years.

It's been great in many ways.  Homeschooling has let the kid direct her own education, so that we could focus heavily on her art and on the subjects she was interested in -- anthropology, for instance, and Latin -- which were not offered in the local public schools.

And we have a great art tutor who's also brilliant at math.  That second bit has been essential, since my math skills are basic.

But we're at the point now where she needs more education that she can do on her own, so this fall she's going back to public high school.  The local high schools here are really good, and she's going to one of the best ones.  That's all fine.

On the other hand, it develops that we missed a few classes.  She should have been studying something called physical science instead of anthropology, and we didn't study civics at all.  (Who knew?)  So now she has to pass "competency" exams in these subjects to enter high school on level.  Also competency exams in Algebra I and English I, but these exams shouldn't be an issue.

Physical Science is a kind of intro to physic and chemistry.  The kid's enjoying it, mostly, and her math tutor is helping her with the sticky bits.

Civics she's complaining about a lot, especially the second half of the book, which she's into now, and which is entirely economics.  "Why do I have to learn this?" she demands.  "What do economics have to do with being an American citizen?"

"Because what is the true religion of America?" I ask.

This is a point I have made before and more than once, so she rolls her eyes.

"Capitalism," I say.  "The job of the book is to explain to you what Capitalism is, and how it works, and why it is the best system ever."

She sighs heavily.

"Just make sure you say that on the exam," I tell her.  "Don't be a socialist on the exam."

"It's explaining about labor unions now," she informed me.


"Why would anyone not want to be in a union?" she demanded.  "That's just stupid."

"Propaganda," I explain.  "Wal-Mart, when you get hired there, Wal-Mart spends a whole day teaching you that unions are evil and destroy jobs and will take your money and give you nothing in return.  And if you don't know the truth -- what's the book saying about unions?"

The book, interestingly, was actually giving good data on unions.  And, so far, from what I can tell, all of the information in her textbooks is accurate and well presented.

The high school is also really well-run, and its counselors and its teachers and its physical plant -- everything I have seen so far seems very promising.  The physics and chemistry labs, for instance, rivaled those at our university.  And the school offers not just three years of Latin, but AP classes in biology, physics, European history, English, and several other classes.

I'm hopeful, is what I'm saying.


Bardiac said...

When I was in the Peace Corps, I read local newspapers talking about the IMF, World Bank, and such, and always wondered why they had the policies they did. When I went back to school, I took a year of econ, and it was GREAT because it helped me understand what those organizations THOUGHT they were doing, at least. (Even though things don't necessarily work, of course.) It's a fascinating subject, and I hope your kid begins to find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

"What do economics have to do with being an American citizen?"

aieee aieee aieee aieee! Economics has to do with being a human person! And everything else under the sun.

Though I bet whatever is in her civics class isn't really economics.

Also the reason someone wouldn't want to be in a union is because they can free-ride on a union if everybody else is paying for the union (they still benefit from collective bargaining etc.). That's why states that don't allow unions to force everybody protected by the union to pay union dues have almost no unions (the "at-will" states). It isn't that unions are illegal there, it's that it's illegal to force people to be in unions, so even though everybody may want to be in a union (compare average salaries for teachers or nurses in union states vs. non-union states) nobody wants to be the only person paying for it.

re: Bardiac's point, I didn't actually learn about why the IMF and world bank did what they did until TAing undergraduate macro economics in college! But in undergrad I had friends getting arrested for protesting them. Many government policies that some subset of people disagree with are difficult and it's hard to say what the best solution really is, even if we agree on what the problem is. (And on top of that, there's politics involved that drive economists batty when we do have a solution that most economists believe to be the right one.)

p.s. Capitalism is only the best system ever in Econ 101. Once you get into public finance, you learn that there's a role for government intervention (so yes, some socialism!). However, communism doesn't work (at least not in large groups) because it really goes against human nature.

delagar said...

Heh, I should have known this post would bring you out, N&M!

The kid's book is actually pretty good on economics, as it turns out. Though it is pro-Capitalism, it's also doing a good job of discussing the problems of the system, and why it needs regulating, and why unions are useful. It covered the problems with Right-to-Work, for instance, quite well.