Published Online: January 15, 1997

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Teaching such economic concepts as specialization and opportunity costs has left many a Texas teacher struggling to keep students awake as they try to meet state rules for teaching the free enterprise system. To assist them, a San Antonio economics professor has been dispatching enthusiastic college students to enliven the subject for their younger counterparts in five area elementary and secondary schools.

The Economists in the Schools program at Trinity University sends economics majors into high schools to teach and teams them with elementary education majors to teach in grade schools. The goal is to improve the teaching of economics and to balance the subject knowledge with pedagogy. The college students earn course credits for their time in the classroom.

"Economics is difficult to teach because it's a dry subject and hard to make interesting," said Rachel Hays, a teacher at the Health Careers High School in San Antonio. She teaches two economics courses despite having had limited exposure to the subject when she was in college.

Created by Trinity's Richard Butler in 1993, the program builds hands-on group activities into the curriculum.

To explain the efficiency of specialization in mass production, for instance, small groups of students must reproduce a paper design using one stapler and one pair of scissors. The students then calculate how many more designs they made when they produced them as a group, each specializing in one task, as opposed to making them individually.

"We try to teach very important abstract principles with a lot of sugarcoating," Mr. Butler said. "These college students will take some of the dullest topics in the course and make it fun."

Emerging democracies around the globe will have a new resource for guiding their transformation with the planned development of a framework for democracy education.

The Calabasas, Calif.-based Center for Civic Education, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is convening scholars worldwide to write the document during the next two years. The framework will assist nations in crafting their own civic education curricula and standards, said Charles F. Bahmueller, the project director of the center's international civic education exchange program.

The framework will include guidelines for use in schools, adult education courses, and other programs. After scholars review the draft, it will be posted on the World Wide Web at http://www.primenet.com/~cce for comment.

--KATHLEEN KENNEDY MANZO kmanzo@epe.org

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