A Lesson in Economics by Alan Greenspan
by Lawrence F. Roberge M.S.
A few weeks ago, I directed my Internet connection to the Bloomberg.com site. Using the software Real Player, I was able to connect to an audio file, which contained a talk by Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan. This talk given in January, in San Francisco, was Mr. Greenspan's survey of the present economic health of the United States as well as the variables to an economic recovery. Of course, like the old E. F. Hutton commercial, "When Mr. Greenspan talks, EVERYBODY on Wall Street listens!'" Yet, in addition to its appeal for the financial aficionados, it dawned on me, the education potential of this audio file.
The audio file was a short 45-minute talk, which could easily be cut into smaller talk segments for a classroom period. The audio file could (if the class had an Internet connection to handle it) be listened to using streaming media. Or the audio file could be easily recorded earlier and brought into class for use later. To listen to a Real Audio file, many Internet-ready computers have, or can obtain easily, Real Player as it is free to download from the web (www.real.com).
Bloomberg.com has a site called Fed Watch, that reports on the actions of the Federal Reserve.
It also provides audio file links to various speeches and presentations by the members of the Federal Reserve (go to www.bloomberg.com/bbn/fedwatch.html). I recommend this site for those looking for up-to-date economic information.
ECONOMICS AND EDUCATION
The purpose of using the Greenspan talk can be understood as one listened to the talk itself.
Also, for those looking to bolster their students vocabulary skills, Greenspan's erudite manner reveals a rich vocabulary. Following up his talk with a review of select vocabulary words may prove beneficial for students in need of vocabulary expansion exercises as they prepare for state tests or SAT exams.
Granted, Mr. Greenspan may not have lots of loud sound effects or blaring guitars (he may never grace the stage on MTV!), but what he lacks in special effects, he makes up with facts and clear explanations. (Clear at least, if you have had some instruction in economics-which brings me to the next point.).
After instructing students on the basics and vocabulary of economics, reviewing a talk (or excerpts of the talk) by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve (AKA the "Fed") may prove an enlightening experience for students. During the talk, the Fed Chairman discussed the variables that could affect the US economic recovery. Here is where Greenspan's discussion could elicit a classroom discussion of its own.
For example, Greenspan discussed the effects of manufacturer inventories, energy costs, economic trade, and the effects of our trading partners' own economic conditions on the US economy. He discussed these aspects as rendering either short term or long term effects on the economic recovery. Therefore, after reviewing the talk, the teacher could get the class involved a lesson session that was not merely a review of long term and short term factors. Rather, the teacher could draw the students into an involved analysis of the how each factor could help or hinder the economic recovery.
Furthermore, students could be drawn into playing "Alan Greenspan." That is, if you were the Fed Chairman, what would happen if energy costs went sky high (e.g. OPEC decreased oil production); how would that affect the recovery, and what could be done to counter this threat to economic recovery? The teacher could invent several scenarios, break the class into groups, and have each group discuss and deal with the scenario, each time deciding the effects to the economic recovery. How long could the effects last? What strategy could be used to counter the negative effects on the recovery? Which events could intensify the recession?
After this strategy is implemented, it could be the springboard for further economic discussion and analysis sessions. For example, by exploring how international trade issues play a role in the US economic situation, the teacher could develop a series of world events (e.g. recession in Japan, war in the Middle-East, Oil embargo by OPEC member nations, etc.). Then, the student groups could discuss how these events could affect US economic recovery efforts, how quickly would these effects be felt on the US economy, and finally, what strategies could be used to offset these negative effects on the recovery.
Of course, this strategy of education could be considered part of Bloom's taxonomy for higher learning-analysis, synthesis, etc.
The main point is that by combining a tool of communication (Real Player audio file) with a contemporary issue (Fed Chairman's recent speech), the teacher can combine elements of economic science with a realistic situation presently occurring in society. From this strategy, the student would benefit from enhanced understanding of economics as well as comprehending its effects in their everyday lives.
copyright 2002: lawrence F. Roberge