Effects of pandemic provide economic teaching moments

In the middle of a pandemic, rarely is anything identified as a teaching moment. After this virus crisis is positioned in the rearview mirror, however, there will be an acknowledgment of lessons learned.

Coronavirus has affected every segment of society in the United States and around the world. Schools were as ill-equipped to cope with these challenging times as any other industry. Teachers had to be trained to develop online lessons. Students had to develop habits to facilitate online learning. Administrators had to figure out how to run districts whose requirements were for face-to-face contact with students and staff.

The study of economics isn’t even a graduation requirement in many school districts. Yet some of the greatest lessons to be learned from this pandemic will be economic ones.

Innovation is defined as a new method, idea or product.  To transform education from a brick and mortar mindset to online learning was nothing less than innovative. Throughout the history of the world, innovation has been the key to increased productivity and economic growth. Change comes through innovation, and education has been forced to become more innovative in the face of COVID-19. 

Another basic economic principle in evidence is scarcity exists and doesn’t go away.  Because resources are limited, people must make choices. This principle was on display during the pandemic when shortages of all manner of items occurred almost overnight. The run on basic household goods and food items left grocery store shelves empty and shoppers frustrated. 

Consumers shouldn’t have experienced a scarcity thanks to a free market system where decisions are made at a local level and actions taken quickly to meet consumer needs. But government officials at all levels enacted edicts in the name of protecting citizens from spreading the virus. The result was an upheaval of the free market system. Outside forces making rules and regulations without regard to market structures disrupt the natural ebb and flow of economies capable of responding to demands for and supplies of goods, services and resources. Scarcity always exists.
But in light of the disruption of free market forces, scarcity is on full parade.

There are other economic lessons to be learned not only in education, but also in business, industry and government. Understanding economic principles helps citizens make more informed choices. Economically savvy citizens recognize the importance of private enterprise and understand a healthy economy requires all able-bodied individuals, not just a few, to work and pay taxes.

A good place to start is to teach young people economic principles. Bring economic education back to the classroom. Economic education provides the knowledge and tools to empower students to manage resources.  The leaders of the future must know how a free market economic system works to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

Phyllis Hunsinger is the founder of the Freedom & Responsibility Education Enterprise Foundation in Grand Junction. The foundation provides resources to students and teachers in Western Colorado to promote an understanding of economics, financial literacy, and free enterprise. For more information, visit www.free-dom.us.com. A former teacher, principal, and superintendent, Hunsinger wrote “Down and Dirty: A ‘How To’ Math Book.” Reach Hunsinger by email at phyllis@free-dom.us.com.