Texas standards: Students in the dark about “capitalism”

Tony Whitson from Curricublog made the killing observation:

BookTV [C-SPAN] this weekend has Steve Forbes talking about his new book,

“How Capitalism Will Save Us.”

With these new Social Studies TEKS, TX students won’t know what such a
book is about.

Small bit of humor from a truly sad situation.  One of the leaders of the Texas State Soviet of Education defended the evisceration and defenestration of social studies standards saying they didn’t need to listen to liberal college professors.

In economics, the professor was a conservative, well-respected economics professor from Texas A&M University, one of the most conservative state universities in the nation (with a Corps of Cadets numbering in the thousands and tradition deeper than Palo Duro Canyon and broader than the Gulf of Mexico).   Calling these people “liberal” is tantamount to complaining about the communism espoused by Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower — that is, it demonstrates a divorce from reality and rationality.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge problem, but it’s more than a trifle.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fully comprehend market economics in the U.S. without understanding what capitalism is, and how it works.  Teachers will be left to find their own materials to explain “free enterprise” and, if the students ever make it into a real economics course in college, they will discover “free enterprise” is a quaint, political term that is not discussed in serious economics circles.  Texas students will, once again, be pushed to the hindmost by Don McLeroy’s odd views of America and what he doesn’t want Americans to know.

For example, look at the Council for Economic Education — while “capitalism” is not the only word they use for market-based economies, you’ll have a tougher time finding any definition of “free enterprise.”  Or, more telling, look at the Advanced Placement courses, or the International Baccalaureate courses.  AP and IB courses are the most academically rigorous courses offered in American high schools.  The Texas TEKS step away from such rigor, however (while the Texas Education Agency rides Texas schools to add rigor — go figure).  IB courses talk a lot about enterprise, but they don’t censor “capitalism,” nor do they pretend it’s not an important concept.

At the very conservative and very good Library of Economics and Liberty (which every social studies teacher should have bookmarked and should use extensively), a search for “free enterprise” produces 77 entries (today).  “Capitalism” produces almost ten times as much, with more than 750 listings.

Which phrase do you think is more useful in studying American economics, history and politics?

Teachers will deal with it.  It’s one more hurdle to overcome on the path to trying to educate Texas students.  It’s one more roadblock to their learning what they need to keep the freedom in America.

Warren Buffett, Businessweek image

Capitalism - Warren Buffett - BusinessWeek image

Bernie Madoff (photo credit unknown)

Free Enterprise - Bernie Madoff

The real difference?  Literature on capitalism frequently address the issue of moral investments, and the need for some regulation to bolster the Invisible Hand in producing discipline to steer markets from immoral and harmful investments.  The essential history politics economic question of the 20th and 21st centuries is, can economic freedom exist without political freedom, and which one is more crucial to the other?  We know from every period of chaos in history when governments did not function well, but bandits did, that free enterprise can exist without either political freedom or economic freedom.  I think of it like this:


Free Enterprise

Adam Smith Blackbeard the Pirate
Warren Buffett Bernie Madoff
Investing Spending
Building institutions Taking profits
Retail Robbery
Wholesale Extortion
Save for a rainy day debt-equity swap
Antitrust enforcement to keep markets fair Don’t get caught, hope for acquittal
Milton Friedman P. T. Barnum
Ludwig von Mises Charles Ponzi
Friedrich von Hayek Richard Cheney, “deficits  don’t matter”
Paul Krugman Kato Kaelin
Stockholders Victims and suckers

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