Exploring Economics was written specifically for Christian home educators with a “limited government” political perspective. Intended to be used as a one-semester course, it should work particularly well in conjunction with Ray Notgrass’s Exploring Government course. It is very similar in format and approach to that course.
There are three components: the Exploring Economics textbook, The Stewardship of God’s Riches: Readings in Economics book, and an optional Quiz and Exam Book with a companion answer key. The Quiz and Exam Book is for those who wish to use it for accountability purposes. The text has weekly “Econ Lab” assignments that are research, activity, and writing projects that require students to demonstrate both understanding and application of what they have learned. These activities should provide sufficient accountability for many students, particularly self-motivated learners. Students who need more continual accountability to check on comprehension of assignments as they go through the week should use the Quiz and Exam Book.
This course studies macroeconomics—the elements of an economy, the history of economic systems, the interaction of political systems and economics, and economic principles. This course adds substantial coverage of economics through both the Old Testament and Church History. Christian principles are applied throughout the course. The course covers economic events in the U.S. up through the financial meltdown of 2008. Healthcare, Social Security, and Medicare are included since all three play a critical role in today’s economy. There’s also an entire chapter titled, “So You Want to Start a Business?” that encourages entrepreneurship. While Exploring Economics “fulfills the standards of the National Council for Economic Education” it goes much further in presenting a worldview-based approach that encompasses personal motivation, character, faith, the proper role of faith communities and government, and practical life issues.
This course clearly has a point of view, although Notgrass does present both sides on most debatable topics. For example, he makes a case for free trade while also presenting opposing opinions. To help students form their own opinions, an assignment directs them to write a 200-word paper on the issues involved with U.S. companies moving their production overseas.
The text is supported by supplemental reading from The Stewardship of God’s Riches. Readings were obviously selected to reinforce Notgrass’s personal preference for limited government. It includes selections by Adam Smith, Walter E. Williams, Milton Friedman, Russell Kirk, Ronald H. Nash, the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and George W. Bush among many others. In my opinion, this is a superb collection of articles that most adults would also benefit from reading.
The text is very readable. It’s not as dry as most economic texts, yet it covers complex concepts “marginal rate of substitution” and “diminishing marginal utility.” The text is printed in black-and-white and includes many illustrations. The majority of the illustrations are quite old rather than current; for example, a discussion about “currency” is accompanied by a 1929 photo of women examining currency at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This is a bit quaint, but I find the photos interesting, myself. There are relatively few photos in The Stewardship book.
The Quiz and Exam Book has 10 review questions for each daily lesson. Questions might require one word, sentence, or brief essay responses. These questions also quiz students on material from the assigned readings in The Stewardship book. There is a multiple-choice quiz for each of the fifteen units in the text. Three lengthy exams each cover five units. The companion answer key includes answers to all questions including those requiring lengthy written responses.
Exploring Economics is intended for use by a student doing independent study, although someone needs to assess work done for the Econ Labs and for The Quiz and Exam Book if it is used. It would enhance the course to have discussions about the readings and many of the topics presented, but it isn’t necessary. This feature along with the worldview-based content and limited-government perspective are likely to make it a popular choice for home educators.