President's Message: The Importance of Economic Education

July 01, 1998
By  William Poole

This year marks two significant anniversaries in the Eighth District's economic education arena: the 20th anniversary of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the 30th anniversary of the Missouri Council on Economic Education. I congratulate the members of each of these organizations for their tireless efforts in the field of economic education during the last half century.

As a former educator of over 25 years, I have firsthand experience with teaching people—especially young people—about economics. The importance of economic education goes far beyond the goal of improving understanding of the basic principles of supply and demand and the workings of our nation's economy. Economics is the study of how people make sound choices. By studying how markets work, our young people also learn how to make efficient choices in managing their own scarce resources, such as time and money. Along the way, we teach them a decision- and choice-making process that they can apply to all aspects of their lives. These same skills are necessary to make informed choices as citizens—to decide which public policies to support and which to oppose.

As participants in a global economy, the young people of today and tomorrow will face a plethora of possibilities that our generation could only dream about. It is our duty to give them the tools they need to make the best choices among these seemingly infinite possibilities. And, although I am perhaps a bit biased (probably more than a bit!) given my background, I believe that economics can provide such tools unlike any other discipline.

I also believe that the Federal Reserve is in a unique position to help in this educational process, by lending some of these scarce resources I've been talking about. Although the Federal Reserve Act doesn't specifically mention anything about the Fed's obligation in educating the nation's populace in economics, it has been an implicit mission from the start. At the St. Louis Fed, for example, we sponsor roughly 25 economic ed workshops a year for elementary, middle and high school teachers. We also have a speakers' bureau through which economists annually address nearly 50 different business, university and community groups on current economic topics. And we publish a host of educational publications—like the one you're reading now—that are distributed free-of-charge to tens of thousands of subscribers each year. All this, and we're still always eager to hear suggestions—from people like you—on how we can further support these educational efforts.

As a new Reserve Bank president, and longtime economic educator, I cannot stress enough how important economic education is both to the Federal Reserve's success and the nation's success. In my view, it's one of the soundest choices we can make.

(For a list of economic education centers in your area, see the related story.)

Views expressed in Regional Economist are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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