An economist remembers his history classes

Bryan Caplan says he enjoyed his 11th grade AP History. It wasn’t until later his outrage arose. The Economic Illiteracy of High School History describes what he found.

Once I started studying economics, however, I was outraged by the economic illiteracy of my history textbooks.  Mainstream historians barely mentioned the unprecedented miracle of sustained economic growth.  Instead, they focused on distribution: How poor workers used labor unions and regulation to pry their fair share from the heartless capitalists who employed them.  These historians never mentioned the negative side effects of unionization and labor market regulation – or even the view that such negative side effects existed.  My historical miseducation eventually inspired my lecture on “Why the Standard History of Labor Is Wrong.”

The Big Picture: Industrialization was the greatest event in human history.  Critics then and now were foolishly looking a gift horse in the mouth.  Until every student knows these truths by heart, history teachers have not done their job.

It is this sort of thing that causes outrage about Common Core and other academic elite biased education goals as well as support for vouchers, charter schools, and home schooling. The focus is on the victim rather than the achievement, ideology trumps reality, historical context is replaced with propaganda. The sad part is that it takes very little examination to see just how off base some of the teaching about the industrial revolution really is.

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