- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2008

By Felix Van der Vaart, age 14

Home-schooled, Annandale

It’s unstoppable. It’s unpredictable. But it’s vital.

We use economic principles for everything we do. The No. 1 economic principle is “incentives matter.” Why would you ever want to clean your room? What is the incentive for you to clean your room? That’s not fun — but the reward of having a clean and organized room is appreciated.

The negative incentive works quite nicely, as well: “If you don’t clean your room, you’re grounded, young man.”

As a 14-year-old, I definitely can understand why some people decide to stay away from studying economics. I hated economics when I first heard about it. An old guy in a suit talking about supply and demand curves for two hours — doesn’t that sound like fun?

Soon, however, unbeknownst to me, I was signed up for an Economic Thinking seminar. (Thanks, Mom.) At that time, two years ago, I was not thrilled. As I sat down, I thought of all the other great things I could be doing — that is, until Greg Rehmke, founder and director of Economic Thinking, started talking.

I was amazed. I actually found myself taking notes and nodding, even coming up with points of my own. Before I knew it, the day was gone, but my mind was full of new knowledge and information.

By the next year, I had joined a debate team, discussing how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should or should not be significantly reformed or abolished. Mr. Rehmke came back to Virginia for another seminar and introduced us to the economic aspects of NATO. He brought in experts in the field to give us perspectives from different sides of the issue.

Mr. Rehmke, who brings speakers from all over the world, including Kenya and Hungary, gave all 60 to 70 debaters great background and inside information we wouldn’t have been able to find elsewhere. Parents are allowed to come for free, so the rooms tend to be full, echoing with the sound of pens writing quickly.

Mr. Rehmke gives both public school students and home-schoolers an opportunity to learn about their debate topics, from Africa to isolationism to immigration, and his Web site (www.EconomicThinking.org) is full of great links and evidence, whether you come to a seminar or not. He also has a blog as well as book reviews and current events on his Web site.

I know this may sound like another “learning experience,” but it’s more than that. I actually enjoy learning about economics now because of the way Mr. Rehmke teaches.

Instead of just giving us his writing and theory on a PowerPoint, he appeals to us by using media clips, animations, real historical events and learning games we can join in playing.

As my fellow debater Matthew Silver said, “Economic Thinking makes abstract economic theory into realistic applicable debate.”

He and I both have an incentive to listen to Mr. Rehmke: We want to win. Whether you’re debating or not, check out the Web site and discover economics.


WHAT: Greg Rehmke’s Economic Thinking: Tools for Economic Education

WHERE: www.EconomicThinking.org

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