My son did the Life of Fred algebra course, and I thought this curriculum was kind of fun and quirky, and so far my daughter thinks Pre-Algebra part I is pretty good (for someone who dislikes math!). But last week I was very concerned (well, a little outraged) to find that the Economics part presents a very inappropriately biased view of economics and history (Civil War history--a very one-sided, misleading and seemingly politically motivated view of causes of the war--i.e., that tariffs were the primary reason for the war). The author makes value statements on concepts such as capitalism, competition, socialism, etc.--i.e., competition is "good," import taxes are bad, socialism is totalitarian, etc.--when he should simply be presenting the concepts and letting the readers judge for themselves. And since when did the term "socialism" refer solely to a "political" system? I've always learned that, as an economic system, it could used within many forms of government, including democratic; it is widely recognized that the U.S. has a hybrid economic system that includes elements of socialism. (Has the author never heard of Social Security, Medicare, highways, public libraries, national parks, corporate welfare, or government-funded workers such as police and fire fighters?) The author selectively choses to present only evidence that backs up his fringe opinions and leaves out many important points that might counter his arguments, such as claiming that the Civil War was really a tariff war--that Lincoln was not concerned with ending slavery since he abolished it only in the southern states. (I think many historians would say it isn't clear why Lincoln didn’t abolish it in northern states at the time, but he probably felt he could act only against the seceding states. And clearly, as the war progressed, emancipation of slaves became a very central issue, and Lincoln became more and more sympathetic to the slaves, but the author only includes early racist statements by Lincoln and neglects to mention many statements Lincoln later made in support of the rights of black Americans.) Such a biased view, no matter what our politics are, does not belong in a curriculum, IMO. I want my children to be given a broader, more accurate picture and make the judgments themselves; I don't want the writer of a textbook to try to influence their politics with his opinions.
OTOH, my disappointment at this bias led to a rich discussion between my daughter and me. For example, we discussed how local workers and businesses are impacted by competition from overseas companies, many of which might not have minimum wage laws for their workers. We talked about how this could affect the workers themselves, and how in the past the lack of minimum wage laws often led to hard-working people living in dire poverty. And we discussed how taxes imposed on imports could also be viewed by some people as unfair.
Edited by HikeYosemite - 2/21/11 at 4:00pm