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LINK: Social Studies in Action Home Image of a high school student in the classroom.
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Classroom Profile | Lesson Background

Read this information to better understand the lesson shown in the video.

Content:
Economics is a social science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods -- in particular, how decisions are made in response to changes in supply and demand. Different economic systems use different methods to address these issues. The free enterprise system, used in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe, emphasizes private ownership of business, consumer demand, decentralization of economic decision making (i.e., economic decisions based on supply and demand, rather than government policy), and a relatively limited role of government.

In this lesson, Mr. Page asked students to research and report on the economic impact of the following dilemmas:

  • Recreational Drug Use: The 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimated that 14.8 million Americans ages 12 and up, or 6.7 percent of the population, had used an illicit drug in the month prior to the interview. The highest rate of use was recorded at approximately 21 percent for 19- to 20-year-olds. Students examined the social, economic, and political fallout associated with illegal drug use.
  • Legal Minimum Age Requirements: Young people are often limited in their actions because of legal age restrictions. For example, there is a minimum age for voting, dropping out of school, driving, purchasing and drinking alcohol, and gambling. Students considered the implications of minimum age requirements on the economy, and whether the requirements should be eliminated or modified.
  • Free Education: In the 1999-2000 school year, 46,540,114 students were enrolled in public schools; the average expenditure per pupil was $6,627; the average teacher's salary was $41,724. Approximately 30 states have districts that hold school all year. Approximately 88 percent of children ages 3 to 5 attended nursery schools in 1999, and between 1980 and 1992, college enrollment increased by about 20 percent. Students discussed the economic impact of extending public education to include preschool and college, and of having schools in session year round.
  • An Illegal Win in the Lottery: After illegally winning $1,000,000 in the lottery, students are ordered by a judge to divide the money fairly among designated needy groups. Students focused on the economic issues related to the distribution of winnings and decided how to ensure that the allocation of funds was fair.
  • Human Cloning: Ever since the first animal was successfully cloned, scientists have been faced with the question of whether humans should be cloned. The debate rages among scientists, ethicists, government officials, and citizens. Students considered the economic impact, legality, and social consequences of human cloning.
  • Poultry Bacteria: An epidemic is sweeping through the poultry industry that either kills the birds outright or makes them unsafe for consumption. Students develop solutions that protect both the health of consumers and the livelihood of the farmers.

Teaching Strategy: Reviewing Content Through Dilemmas
One way to review content is by presenting students with real-life or hypothetical situations. By using engaging scenarios that students are likely to remember, dilemmas reinforce concepts and help students apply and remember what they've learned. Difficult concepts often require a methodical introduction as students grasp new material. By the time students prepare for an exam, they are better equipped to engage with content at a deeper level. Dilemmas provide opportunities to extend students' understanding of the material and to incorporate new learning. Finally, dilemmas provide context for students to understand what they've learned and how it applies to the world beyond the classroom.

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