Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” This quote adequately summarizes a belief that I think most Mississippians would be hard pressed to argue against. While there are many ways to implement this statement into daily life, a method proven to be effective is to create citizens that are economically literate.
It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of education for Mississippi’s future. Good education is essential to developing a skilled and motivated workforce that companies are looking for these days. As our state grows and looks to a prosperous future, the key to that future will depend on how good a job we do in educating our children. One of the most important elements in this process is economic literacy.
Economic literacy begins with the knowledge and practice of the economic way of thinking. In the state of Mississippi we are fortunate that successful completion of a course in economics is required for graduation from high school. At the Mississippi Council on Economic Education, our mission, and our passion, is to provide the training and professional development for the teachers who will to insure that our children are learning the economic way of thinking.
Our children must learn and understand the fundamentals of economic literacy: That people make choices, and that all choices involve costs; that people respond to incentives in predictable ways; that people create economic systems which influence choices and incentives; that people gain when they trade voluntarily; and that choices have consequences for the future.
All choices do involve costs. Sometimes the costs are real costs and at other times they are opportunity costs. This knowledge and practice helps young people develop their critical thinking skills. It helps them start the journey of becoming economically literate citizens. In order to experience the importance of exercising the economic way of thinking, I encourage you to practice it for the next month. For each decision you make, consider the cost. For instance, as we enter the holiday season and you choose to purchase that $200 gift for a loved one, consider that not only is the real cost $200, but the opportunity cost is what you are not doing with that $200, e.g. saving, paying off a credit card bill, tithing, and so on. If you have young people in your life, help them to also practice this way of thinking. When they choose to hang out with friends instead of studying for an important test at school and consequently receiving a bad grade, the opportunity cost of that choice was earning a good grade and all the benefits that come from making good grades. If you need a reason to take the time to reinforce this thought process in our young people, remember that they are your future workforce. They are your future customers. They are your future leaders.
» Selena Swartzfager is president of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.