Anyone else disappointed by Life of Fred pre-algebra II with economics? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-21-2011, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
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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.


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#2 of 6 Old 02-21-2011, 08:59 PM
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We haven't got that far yet in the LoF series.  But, I must admit, I wasn't planning on getting the pre-algebra with economics anyways.  From what I remember of my economics courses--they ARE highly political.  I just don't see the need to include it with pre-algebra.  I think it goes along better with a social sciences curriculum.  


Is it possible to skip the econ part or is it interwoven?  I imagine the latter.  Maybe you will need to encourage your dd to look up some of the topics and explore it a bit.  



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#3 of 6 Old 02-22-2011, 06:12 AM
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Hm.  My son is in Pre-Algebra I with Biology right now and he loves it, after we loved the Fractions and Decimals books before it.  I was so impressed when we first discovered it that I ordered the full set -- this was before he had Pre-Algebra.  We only recently decided that we would go ahead and get the new Pre-Algebra books.  I'll admit that I haven't read through the Economics one yet.


I know that Stan is on the conservative side of things, there's a definite Christian religious bent in the books but for the most part it's very subtle and not anything problematic for most non-Christians.  But I'll have to read the Economics text to judge... we're not even American, so I don't need American History or much about the Civil War -- sure it's useful to learn about but it's a lower priority at this point in time.  ;)  Economics should be more general, it doesn't have to be country-specific.  


Anyway, thanks for the heads up and I'll check it out for myself and decide what we're going to do...

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#4 of 6 Old 04-05-2011, 10:19 AM
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I've looked at those books and yes, the economics part seems unnecessarily biased and opinionated.  I think you can present basic economic principles--even concepts like capitalism, socialism, etc.--using straight definitions and examples without being so one-sided.  The current political climate (poorly informed people name-calling the president a "socialist," etc.) makes this an even touchier subject right now, but perhaps that was Stan's purpose--to add fuel to the current fear-mongering about health care, socialism, etc.?   I'm only guessing.  Otoh, all I can remember about high school economics was Milton Friedman, and I loved our econ. teacher, lol!  lol.gif

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#5 of 6 Old 04-05-2011, 12:41 PM
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I'm not familiar with the books, but I have a bachelor's degree in economics, and I just wanted to add that the standard, basic economics curriculum taught in the US, which goes back to Adam Smith and his book The Wealth of Nations, that talks about supply and demand, and price theories and consumer behavior, is going to look conservative to someone who has a liberal belief system. Interestingly, Adam Smith also wrote another book first, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that goes into more about ethics and morality. 


And after one learns the basics of micro and macro economics, including the mathematical underpinnings, it is easy to learn about alternatives to capitalism. 


I would assume it's included with the math curriculum because of graphing supply and demand curves, and calculating comparative advantage, and that kind of thing? Because like a previous poster said, it really is a social science, albeit a very quantitative one.

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#6 of 6 Old 01-31-2014, 04:25 AM
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I came searching for exactly this topic - has anyone else found the politics in Life of Fred problematic?


We have invested heavily in this series and it is working well for us so far.  dd is working   on the pre-algebra II with economics book right now (right next to me, in fact).    I myself have strong opinions on politics and economics, probably very similar to the OP and quite opposed to that of the Life of Fred author.  Like the OP, I know this will lead to interesting conversations and I am not worried about "misleading" dd, she is quite an independent thinker herself.  We have differed in our opinions from textbooks before  - usually those were textbooks that did not even "intend" to have a political slant but from our perspective we found that they did.  So it's not an entirely new reaction to a book though I can see why it is "disappointing" in this case because one wants to like the LoF series.


OTOH, I have thought, for this reason, that these books would never be introduced in the public schools, even though they might be useful there, as an additional reference if not as the main textbook. 


What bothers me more than his biased view of politics,etc is something that a friend told me, I haven't come across it myself (we did not use the elementary series) but in talking about sets with only one member, he apparently includes "god" -- that is objectionable in my opinion because you are confusing the very issue you are trying to teach.  What about people who think that the number of god (s) is zero or 82 or 33,000?  DO we want to have a debate about that or do we want to teach the concept of a set?  Which itself has paradoxical aspects - we need not further mystify it by bringing in elements of ontologically uncertain status!

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