The groups that are pushing for economic and business education to be mandatory in schools are corporate-funded and promoting a business view of economics.
The US-based Council for Economic Education (CEE) is at the forefront of this endeavour and operates both in the US and internationally. Organizations such as Procter & Gamble, American Express, the Ford Motor Company Fund, the International Paper Company, the Exxon Educational Foundation, Unilever, Georgia-Pacific, Chrysler, AT&T, 3M, Olin, the Business Roundtable and the US Department of Education are long time contributors. Its Life Directors include Harold Burson, founder of PR giant Burson-Marsteller.
NCEE trains teachers; forms networks and partnerships with like-minded organizations; sets economics curriculum standards for schools; publishes teaching materials including internet-based programs; and has a university-based training program for teachers to keep up to date with changing teaching requirements.
It runs EconomicsAmerica which claims to teach 120,000 teachers how to teach economics to eight million students, through “a vast network of state councils and university-based centers”. NCEE is also working on distance learning and internet technologies to reach thousands more teachers in the US. “More than 2,600 school districts, teaching about 40 percent of the nation’s students, conduct comprehensive programs in economic education with assistance from the network.”
The NCEE’s international program, EconomicsInternational, reaches millions of students in 38 countries. It trains teachers; translates and adapts American instructional materials; and advises on the development of standards, curricula and assessment. It is mainly aimed at the formerly communist countries in Europe “helping our international partners reform their educational systems and educate their citizens for the transition to a market economy”.
The Foundation for Teaching Economics runs workshops for ‘leaders’ and teachers covering topics such as market solutions to environmental problems. Its purpose is to introduce selected high school students “to an economic way of thinking about national and international issues”.
FTE lessons on economic forces in American history teach that the push for regulation of big business in the late 19th Century came from small businesses and their success “in securing protection against competition from big business imposed significant costs on consumers”. Similarly its lesson on the Great Depression diverges quite markedly from the normal scholarly interpretation of history in order to give it the right message:
The Depression itself resulted from disruptions to international trade and faulty government economic policies before and after the downturn came. Curiously, even though government policies had much to do with bringing on the Depression and making it more severe, the economic crisis of the early 1930s became ground for greatly expanding the role of government in American life… Unfortunately, New Deal programs did not fulfil expectations and, indeed, may have delayed recovery as they further disabled market operations.
In 2003 the John Templeton Foundation gave FTE $550,000 to produce a set of class room materials entitled Is Capitalism Good for the Poor? The materials are to help teachers explain the “innate fairness of capitalism” to students. They are endorsed by Milton Friedman.
FTE funding comes mainly from foundations including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Sarah Scaife Foundation as well as individuals such as Doris and Donald Fisher and companies such as HSBC-North America. With this funding the FTE is able to offer its programs free to teachers and cover their accommodation costs for out of town workshops and conferences as well.
The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE), set up in 1974, produces educational resources including teaching kits and student materials – print, video and CD-ROM – on the economy, economics and entrepreneurship. It also holds seminars, workshops, leadership forums for teachers, conferences; provides strategic planning and advisory services; and develops curricula. CFEE claims that its resource materials reach some 300,000 Canadian students each year and that “it works in collaboration with provincial Ministries and Departments of Education” as well as private organizations such as Finance Canada, the Canadian Banker Association, and Investors Group. It is also supported by a number of corporations including Imperial Oil, Shell Canada and Suncor.
Until 2004 Proshare provided teacher resources, case studies, worksheets and lesson plans to help teachers incorporate material about investing and the role of business into a variety of subjects including economics and mathematics. There was a dedicated web site and enough material to provide for “an entire term’s work” or, alternatively, teachers can use the material for individual lessons.
Proshare was founded by HM Treasury, the London Stock Exchange and a consortium of major companies and received funding from over 140 companies. Its aims were to promote wider share ownership and provide financial education. It was taken over by ifs School of Finance in 2005, and still receives corporate sponsorship for its student investor programme.
ifs School of Finance runs a student stock investment competition (see shares and stocks), a Young Business Writer of the Year competition, has a website quiz entitled r u moneywise, and has "finanical capability packages" for 14-19 year olds in schools in colleges along with online teaching and learning materials.
In Australia the Centre for Economic Education (CEE), a “Melbourne-based, national education centre… dedicated to promoting economic literacy within the community and, in particular, supporting economics education in Australian schools”, operated until 2004. It provided teaching and learning resources to teachers, travel awards to the annual US Economics America Conference and student essay competitions. Its board included academics, teachers and business people as well as the General Manger of the Uranium Information Centre, a front organization for the uranium mining industry
CEE’s publications included materials on work and wealth in Australia, as well as the benefits from international trade and the benefits of foreign investment: “As countries compete with each other to become the best at what they do, they drive down the costs of production. This makes the price of their goods and services lower. This improves our standard of living.” It argued that “lower tariffs can lead to increased total sales” with sales for both foreign and local companies increasing, because the increased competition encourages companies to produce the best possible quality goods for the lowest cost, thus reducing prices. As a result “customers are more satisfied, and employment levels rise”.