Calling all Educators: Can the Science of Economic Success be Taught?

This naive* article at WaPo and Megan McArdle’s response have prompted a thought, as to what it would take for even impoverished hard-cases to get themselves out of poverty. For that is the true story of America, the rags to riches story. It’s the story of an orphaned boy who is so poor his shoes have holes in the soles, who starts by selling newspapers and apples on the street corner, becomes a wealthy and successful man, gives generously of time and money to charity when he is among the elite of his city, and opens an orphanage to take care of kids who are just like he was once. America is a place where that has happened and can happen again. It is not a place where people are trapped in poverty by class or legal restrictions; at least not yet.

To those who have taught teens:

Let’s say you were given the opportunity to teach the skills of success to a bunch of teenagers who are mostly aimless without any understanding of how to succeed in life. How would you go about it? Given an assignment to teach the following subject matter, you can use whatever materials or processes you want. What materials and processes and syllabus would you put together?

The solution to poverty is not to try to make life easier in poverty, That only traps people in poverty. Pain is useful. It points to danger of disaster. The solution is for them to take control of their lives and rise from poverty. What it takes to get out of poverty are:


  1. Christian based Morality, Ethics, Manners, and the Principles of Freedom.
  2. Work ethic. A reason and the willingness to work harder then they ever have before.
  3. Recognizing pain. How to tell when you’re in the bottom of a hole and need to stop digging.
  4. Persistence.
  5. Respect for law and order.
  6. Outline of the American founding, Thanksgiving, Declaration, Constitution, rights and duties, and civic responsibilities.
  7. How to save money.
  8. How to get temporary help from charities that will help people get out of poverty.
  9. How they can give back to their community right now, why they should always give back, and why they should honor those who give back.
  10. How depending on the government to do everything turns us all into children.

To those who have taught children in school, at catechism, or in any other situation, how would you go about teaching this course? Would you challenge any of my choices or add new new topics? Is there a curriculum that already covers it? If there isn’t, how would you go about it?

* Note I completely agree that it costs more money to be poor than it does to be middle-class or rich. This is a shame. But the article is naive because it passes on completely uncritically excuses that would be disproved if the reporter even did a little bit of investigation.


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