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Teachers Gain the Economic Way of Thinking During FTE Conference


This fall, The Fund for American Studies’ (TFAS) high school division, the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE) hosted “Economic Issues for Teachers” in Alexandria, Virginia. More than 30 middle school and high school teachers from across the country and world gathered together to gain a fresh perspective of economic education. The weekend-long conference covered a variety of applied economic topics, such as the realities of socialism, international trade and the environment. Teachers learned to use activity-based lessons to engage their students and to teach them to use the economic way of thinking when examining complex issues more effectively.

Participants engage in an economics lecture.

Esteemed faculty members Ken Leonard, associate vice president of FTE, and Debbie Henney, FTE director of curriculum, economics professor and director of the honors program at Mesa Community College led the conference, leaving a lasting impact on these educators.

Christina Scott from Portland, Oregon, enjoyed connecting with teachers from around the country and world while learning new skills that she can bring back to her classroom.

Teachers participate in Tic-Tac-Toe Tariff.

“The FTE professional development for teachers has been so wonderful for me because I get to meet teachers from around the country and even international teachers and learn so much hands on,” said Christina. “The activities from Debbie and the lectures from Ken have just been fascinating and super helpful in my classroom.”

Among these activities included a teacher favorite, “Tic-Tac-Toe Tariff” where participants were assigned to be citizens in Country X and Country O. They were given a random bag of Dum-Dum lollipops that they could trade with other teachers to get the flavors they wanted by the end of the activity. In the first round, to make a trade, teachers had to pay a Tic-Tac-Toe Tariff which required the playing of Tic-Tac-Toe and a visit to the customs officer for approval. However, this “tariff” was removed in the second round, resulting in more trades and more participants getting the Dum-Dum favors they liked. This simulation helped teachers experience the gains from trade and understand the impact of tariffs.

Ken Leonard provides a lecture to teachers.

A memorable lecture from the weekend was Leonard’s lesson on “Bridges and Barriers to Trade.” In this session, he highlighted why the urge to establish trade barriers persists, despite the economic logic that restricting trade restricts the creation of wealth.

FTE’s newly launched “Realities of Socialism” curriculum highlighted the conference. Through a special partnership with the Fraser Institute, this new initiative identifies the major themes and issues of socialism, the ideas of what socialism is, how it’s understood today and how it was applied in the past. Using Poland and Estonia as case studies, Leonard and Henney presented informative lectures and interactive activities, including pre and post quizzes on perceptions, definitions and truths behind socialism and other economic concepts. At the end of these sessions, teachers better understood how to teach about the stark differences between the intentions and economic results of socialist policies.

Teachers collaborate during a group activity.

Teachers eagerly engaged in these lessons so that they can bring this knowledge back to their classroom and teach these lessons to their own students.

At the conclusion of the conference, teachers received a certificate of completion and optional graduate level credits through the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Visit FTE.org to view upcoming virtual and in-person multi-day programs, courses, workshops and seminars. To support TFAS and FTE in its efforts to reach thousands of high school students and teachers with the economic way of thinking, please visit TFAS.org/support.


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