Overview: The purpose of this study is to help interested school board members,
administrators, teachers, and parents make better choices in the books they choose to
educate students about economics. Textbooks can and do vary widely, but, to do a good job
of teaching the fundamentals of economics, they must do certain things and do them well.
The role of the price system, competition, capitalism, incentives, government
regulation, private property, taxation, labor unions, trade, money and banking are among
the key issues that should be explored in economics textbooks. In the course of the
discussion of any point, the book should teach students the economic way of
thinkingthat is, equip them with the "mental toolkit" of the economist
so they will be able to do their own thinking about economic questions in the future.
For a text to receive a high rating in this report, it was not necessary for it to
expound an explicitly "market-oriented" or "free market" message. But
it could not ignore the preponderance of evidence that strongly suggests that markets
perform many functions well, including the production and allocation of goods and
services. A text needs improvement if it avoids discussing failures of central planning,
ignores successes of market economies, fails to provide the student with modern
scholarship, judges market performance according to results while judging government
performance according to intentions, uses class warfare rhetoric, or repeats discredited
myths about economic history.
In economics, there are many settled propositions. Some examples: people seek maximum
value for minimum cost; people differ in their evaluations of the same product, service or
other good; changes in prices lead to changes in consumer and producer behavior; scarce
goods must somehow be rationed. There are many others. A good economics text will show the
student how to apply these propositionsthe laws of economicsto any issue or
controversy. There are many issues and controversies in economics, and a good text will
analyze them by using the economic way of thinking. Good textbooks do not propound
particular philosophies, but concentrate on teaching students how to think.
The following section describes the twelve criteria selected for the evaluation of high
school economics textbooks. These are certainly not the only topics that an economics text
should address. But if they are not handled well, the book will fail to give students the
basic understanding they need.