Secrets Students Should Know: If You Want To Be Poor, Dropout; If You Want To Be Rich, Study Economics

04/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


You should be very angry. I mean very angry. The adults of your world have let you down and let you down in an incredibly important They didn't mean to do it but they have done it nonetheless. Correct me if I am wrong, but here are some of the things I think many of you don't know. And I want you to notice that I am not even addressing the most basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics, science and history. Even more basic than that, you don't know economics. Many of you don't even know what the word means. The problem with that is that economics teaches the rules of the game. It's difficult to play a game and impossible to win if you don't know the rules. And your adults haven't taught you the rules of the economic game.

How do I know? Because many of you drop out of high school. Now, let me tell you as a friend that dropping out of high school in any economy, but in this one in particular is the absolutely surest most direct path to poverty that exists. So, if you want to be poor, be sure to drop out of high school. Here's where the survival skills of economic reasoning come in and why your adults have failed you. Did you know that you make choices and that every choice you make has a cost? For example, because a high school graduate earns approximately twice as much over a lifetime as a dropout, the decision to drop out of high school is likely to cost you approximately $1 million. You are making a $1 million decision and I'm betting that no one has told you that yet.

Do you know that, as high falutin' as this sounds, prices are not determined by some scheming capitalist pigs in a boardroom; they are determined by the interaction of buyers and sellers. You actually have a role in determining prices. If you and all of your friends buy a bunch of iPods, the price of iPods is likely to go up. Because the producers of iPods know that higher prices tend to turn off buyers, they will attempt to find ways to lower production costs to keep your interest. Producers actually want lower, not higher prices because lower prices and greater volume are likely to lead to higher profits and that is the name of the game. You are not a victim; you are a mover and shaker.

Back to the dropout thing. It's not just about completing high school. That's not enough! After high school, further developing your skills through college, training school, or an apprenticeship will add even more to your lifetime earnings. I'm going to let you in on a secret that many adults won't (or haven't) told you; greater skills through training or education bring greater income. One of the reasons that you want to pay attention to your teacher is because that is how you develop the skills and knowledge to compete effectively in the economic world. You are not competing with the kid down the block; you are competing with the kid in India who works ten hours a day, and then stays up nights to learn the necessary skills to succeed in a global economy. Here's another secret; school is your ticket to success if you use it to develop marketable skills. If you don't, you are sunk.

So get angry. Tell the adults around you that you want to learn the rules of the game; you want to learn economics. It is written into the curriculum beginning in Kindergarten but I'm guessing you haven't had much of it. And that is a crime. If your education hasn't taught you why reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies are crucial to your success, you have been short changed. Go the principal, go to the school board, go to Sacramento. Tell those decision makers that they have failed you. You want to learn how to survive in this economy; you want to learn economics.