Friday, December 19, 2008

A Busy Week + The Holidays = Lotsa Stuff

I know your week has been busy, and if you're not already on break, chances are pretty good that this is your last day before break. Mine has been hectic as well, which partially explains the lack of posting. Consequently, I want to get this out before you leave - but even then you may not check blogs.

It may seem pointless to give you lesson plans and ideas when you're just having trouble keeping the students in their seats or in the room. I can appreciate that view. I spend and have spent enough time in classrooms to know the environment - especially during the last few days before break. Nevertheless, there are some ideas here that you may want to use later in the semester - or put them in your file for next year at this time.

The first link is holiday-related. For their last lesson before their break, the web site IZZIT put together an activity based on O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. The story contains some basic economics - decision-making, etc; but it also shows that economic thinking is not necessarily miserly-thinking. It's about making choices based on what you value and coming out ahead - in this case feeling good about giving to others. I recommend the site and the activity.

Second, I must link to the classic essay, I, Pencil. This is the 50th anniversary of the essay. (I can't even do a proper HT to all the other bloggers who picked this up yesterday, but thanks to all of them.) For those of you unfamiliar with the essay, it's a great way to introduce the ideas of trade and interdependence. The basic premise is that no one person in the world can produce one of the cheapest and simplest tools - a pencil. It takes the resources and cooperation of many people around the world to produce this basic item that we all find in our classroom.

The third resource is the last serious one. (HT to Arts & Letter Daily here.) There is an interesting article in The Atlantic which summarizes an interview with Gao Ziqing, president of the China Investment Corporation which manages about $200 b of that nation's foreign assets. The article predates the election in the U.S., but is still timely for the insight offered about how other parts of the world are viewing the U.S. economy. I particularly appreciated his imaginative way of describing the derivative market that has been such significant part of the financial unwinding we are experiencing. I expect you could use his example in the classroom with few problems and the students would get the picture fairly quickly.

Now we can start drifting into the less serious. This cartoon (HT to Greg Mankiw) goes back to the fundamental concept of opportunity costs. We all face trade-offs, as Greg's headline says. But here at the Powell Center, our take on the concept provides a better fit for the cartoon - TANSTAFFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

And finally, a bit of humor. The first ones come from the comic strip Arlo & Janis and are here and here. The third is from The Washington Post editorial cartoonist, Tom Toles. I think they all speak to the confusion some of us face when trying to explain the choice between saving and spending at times like this (there's that opportunity cost, again). I think you'll enjoy them and you should be able to use these in a variety of situations in the New Year.

I hope to blogging sporadically over the next couple of weeks. I hope you keep checking in, but if you don't I hope you'll pick us up again in the New Year. Happy Holidays.

As always, I look forward to your comments

And for those of you looking for new games to play over the holidays, you might want to check out the Credit Crunch board game, courtesy of The Economist magazine. You will need to download the board, the pieces, etc. but it looks like it could be good for a giggle. Enjoy.

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