A colleague and reader of this blog sent in a question. The gist was "How might I integrate more current events (such as some of the stories highlighted here) into the classroom?"
For the record, the course is AP Micro and AP Macro. I gave it some thought and came up with these three ideas.
The first suggestion is to set up a mini-debate. For those of you who don't remember the early days of Saturday Night Live, Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain spoofed what used to be a regular part of 60 minutes. It was a quick debate on a given issue. Each side had one minute to outline their main points.
In a classroom, you could assign an article. After the students are done with the article, either select two students you suspect might have differing views on the topic, or ask who agrees and who disagrees and select one of each. Tell the opposing students they each have one minute to state their case. Start with the student who agrees with the article (they generally have an easier position because they have the article to lean on).
After both have had their opportunity, throw the discussion open to the class, reminding them to keep their criticisms positive and to address the statements made. Hopefully, that keeps them from going off-base. Alternatively, if the article has generated a lot of pro-con, ask the remaining students who has DIFFERENT cases to make on either side, and continue as before. I would think this would help students develop some skills for the “free-response” portion of the test.
Graph secondary effects
The second suggestion is to graph the market effects. Many of the articles discuss the price of an item and talk about policy that might affect or has affected the market. Using the old reliable supply and demand graph set up the original market and ask the students, what the likely initial effect of the policy is.
Does a price change affect the quantity supplied, the quantity demanded? Is there a change in either or in the supply or demand itself? (Does either curve shift right or left?) Once you've done that, ask about secondary effects? How does this new market condition affect other choices? (Do we suspect the item has many substitutes? Compliments? Do we suspect demand is elastic? Inelastic? What is the impact of the policy on supply?) By exploring possible secondary effects, students should see the value of economic thinking. It also helps them get used to graphing a problem for analysis.
My last suggestion arises from something I used to encourage my students to do. And while it can take you off topic, you can still use it to advantage. After reading the article, ask students "what is the next question?" Or, alternatively, "what else do we need to know?" Most stories, regardless of source, have a slant or a bias. Or information is being used selectively. And many stories rely heavily on anecdotes.
Now, I often say anecdotes are not data, but I just learned a counter to that: the plural of anecdote is data. Either way, this encourages students to think about what's missing in a full analysis; or to consider carefully how their desire to look farther afield needs to relate to what is or is not presented.
I'm sure many of you have other ways of using current issues, and I ask you to share. That way we all benefit.