Textbooks

The Understanding Fiscal Responsibility textbook and supplementary resource team identified frequently used textbooks for teaching economics in secondary and post-secondary classrooms to serve as the basis of this review. We identified twelve (12) secondary and post-secondary economics textbooks to review. They narrowed their attention to the sections of the textbooks relevant to the federal budget, budget deficit and national debt. We also identified non-text sources that are frequently used by secondary teachers in economics.

Textbooks remain a singularly powerful influence over what is and is not taught in public education in the United States. The content of academic courses such as economics is often dictated by textbooks for a variety of reasons. These include: lack of familiarity with economic content among most teachers, lack of detailed curriculum outlines of scope and sequence, isolation and scarcity of economics teachers and the fairly specialized body of knowledge that is economics. It is difficult to overstate the importance of economic textbooks in contributing to popular knowledge about fiscal matters. Textbooks have and will continue to play a pivotal role in what information gets taught in schools.

Our systematic review of these sources leads to two key findings:

(1) Textbooks are similar in how they represent fiscal policy yet treat the federal budget, deficit and debt differently across the sample.

(2) Textbooks treat the federal budget, budget deficit and national debt as theoretical, without an examination of values and systemic electoral and budgetary politics.

These findings lead us  to argue that curriculum is needed that will permit a careful examination of how everyday citizens can gain knowledge, acknowledge values and work towards a reasoned and reality-based view of what is at stake with regard to these issues in the 21st Century.

Marri, A., Gaudelli, W., Cohen, A., Siegel, B., Wylie, S., Crocco, M., & Grolnick, M., (in press). Analyzing content about the federal budget, federal debt, and budget deficit in 12 mostly commonly used high school and college-level economics textbooks. Journal of Social Studies Research.