• Mel Jones

Why is That Important? (Ed Cook)

Over the last few years, in the classes I teach, I have started each lesson with a review of current world economic events since the class last met. I just throw the question out “what happened in the world the last week? A couple of hands fly up, the same ones every week, and we cover the events of the past few days. Some classes have more material than others, but we work with what we have. This is a significant part of the class and the student’s get a chance to bolster their grade by participating.

The point here is that while many students are eager to participate (many are not so enthusiastic, but I call on them, so they get to participate) and recognize the opportunity to add to their grade, most do not have the foggiest about how the greater economy affects anything. Political issues here and abroad make for interesting discussion. Brexit, tariffs, the stock market, oil. Someone says Housing starts are down. I ask, “how does that affect the economy?” They look at me with a glazed puppy dog look as if I had just asked them to explain quantum physics. The next thing would be to slump in the seat and look away, as if to say, “for God’s sake call on someone else!!!!”

These are business students in college, either Seniors about to graduate or Graduate students. Yes some of them partly ‘get it,’ some really ‘get it,’ but very few. Many of them, especially the international students, thank me after the semester for introducing how the world economy and the business world intertwine. Many at the end of the semester still don’t get it, but most do. I honestly feel that this is the most important concept I teach in any of the classes I teach. Accounting, OK, Finance, OK, The World, now that is important.

Maybe it was the way, or the people by whom, I was brought up, but we talked about the world, politics, and how they affected us locally, nationally and as a family. I get the impression talking to my father-in-law that nothing more important than that night’s TV line-up was discussed at their house when my wife grew up. I have introduced political and economic topics at my home, and there is precious little interest among my wife and two of my three teenagers. My daughter Meredith majored in business at college and is a dyed in the wool liberal, sometimes to excess. She and I have some good discussions about business and how the world economy affects it. I think that she actually thinks I am pretty sharp in this area, but being 24, she would never say so. It is almost like an “inside joke” between us as my wife is usually wrapped up in that night’s TV line-up. My other daughter is a newly minted history teacher and is very interested in world affairs but not from an economic perspective.

There are so many ways that the events in the world economy affect Main Street, USA or Main Street, Athens Greece.

· Gas prices go up or down because…

· Tariff threats cause the stock market to go down.

· Relenting on trade wars makes the market go up

· Natural disasters in Asia affect the availability of parts for cars and computers.

· The American government is largely in stalemate as both parties have some decent ideas, but neither wants the “other guy” to have credit. It’s all about the “party.” (More on that another day)

And you know what, if you have some time to spend finding out about all the moving parts of the National and International economy it is fascinating, a little scary, but very interesting, and it’s not against the rules to talk to your kids about it. They might even have solutions one day.

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