Economics textbooks criticized
That sentence appears in an economics textbook for high school students published by Chunjae Education and is one example of the highly judgmental and controversial statements made in school books about economics.
The Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and educators have decided to conduct a review of social studies and economics textbooks used in middle schools and high schools to purge them of such subjective statements.
“The Education Ministry and Korea Economic Education Association are working on the project, and the Finance Ministry will be responsible for final reviews,” said one Finance Ministry official who declined to be named.
The association is a nonprofit organization supported by economy-related government agencies and groups representing economists and business leaders to promote education about the economy.
Korean economics textbooks have often provoked debate among policy makers, economists and business leaders who accused them of promoting biased views on economic development, whether it reflects anti-market sentiment or neoliberal capitalism.
The consensus among most economists is that many local textbooks overrate the government’s role in the economy, while downplaying the importance of free market mechanisms.
The bias appears to reflect the state-guided economic model that was adopted by Park Chung Hee, the Korean president in the 1960s and ’70s, and has remained influential ever since.
“Economics textbooks are full of judgmental statements and subjective expressions,” said Lee Seung-hoon, an economics professor at Seoul National University who reviewed the textbooks at the request of the government.
Lee said many textbooks say that in times of inflation, companies are “obligated” to improve productivity and consumers are also “obligated not to overspend.”
“But companies are bound to improve productivity when doing so will help make a profit and consumers are bound to buy whatever they think is necessary at a reasonable price. These are natural behaviors, not an obligation to be imposed by anyone,” he said.
The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry also reviewed economy-related sections in local textbooks and said some of the statements found in the review lacked objectivity.
It cited such statements as “South Korean companies have started doing business in North Korea and spread decadent lifestyles,” or “PC bang [Internet cafes] are the biggest symbol of economic globalization.”
“Unlike U.S. economics textbooks that only show objective data and factual statements, many portions of our books have highly judgmental statements,” said Park Dong-min, an official at the KCCI.
The new economics textbooks also will include sections on borrowing and personal asset management for the first time to help students learn more about personal finance issues.
By Kwon Ho [email@example.com]