Economics? Hell! What about basic math?

A tale that I wish was apocryphal...

I read recently with a certain amount of wonder that slightly less than 50% of US high school seniors scored well on a new test designed to assess economic literacy. "Economic literacy?" thought I, "We didn't even have an economics course when I attended high school." And though the questions don't seem to be particularly tough--it doesn't seem like rocket science to answer correctly that "...lower tax revenue and higher spending increase the national debt"--perhaps we shouldn't be too quick to congratulate ourselves. Read on...

Last weekend I was in Peet's Coffee, a Bay Area roaster that gives you a tiny discount on your beans if you recycle one of their bags. So in I come with my empty 12 oz bag, a "pre-pack" that is sold in grocery stores. The girl behind the counter looks at it and remarks, "That's not a full pound, is it?"

"Nope," I responded, "...it's 3/4 of a pound."

"So...how much goes in there?"

At this point I got distracted by something the Frogette said, and the frustrated cashier called over the manager who took charge of the situation. "Just fill the bag. Then when you ring him up charge the lb price and multiply it...by...uh, .8 ...I guess."

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, the cashier looked at me and with a bit of embarrassment said, "At least someone can do math."

I submit to you that teaching economics is great, but this society's got a much bigger problem.

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