If every high school class in economics –basic, college-prep and AP—began their year or semester with first a brisk read and then a chapter-by-chapter study of “Your Teacher Said What?! Defending Our Kids from the Liberal Assault on Capitalism” by Joe Kernen and Blake Kernen, all of the students would be grounded in the basic truths of free markets and dynamic capitalism.
The Kernens are a father-daughter team of writers, and if you every watch CNBC’s Squawk Box, you will have seen cohost Joe interviewing most of the captains of business and finance and doing so with dead-pan wit and a definite free market tilt.
You won’t have seen Blake, since she’s in fifth grade, and her book jacket credit includes being daughter of Penelope and big sister to Scott.
High school students (and yes, almost every adult reader) will greatly benefit from Joe Kernen’s motivation for the book: to open his daughter’s eyes and mind to the truths of how economies work. By book's end all readers will be far better grounded in the basics than when they began.
They will also have laughed a lot and had their eyes widen quite a bit. And the teachers of the student readers would not be happy. At all. For among the economic truths the students would have learned is this set of undeniables:
“Unions are a problem for a free-market economy. Industrial unions are a bigger problem than craft unions. Public-sector unions are a bigger problem than industrial unions. And the biggest problem within the public sector is its single largest component—and the one that matters most to the Kernen family: teachers.”
This chapter on organized labor is worth the price of the whole book but will probably keep it out of the schools where it is most needed. That’s a shame because a country hurtling down the road that Greece has traveled needs a full stop, a complete reorientation of priorities and a recommitment to the creation of wealth so that all people benefit. We especially need our teachers to understand what the problems are and why they are a large part of the problem.
This briskly-written, always self-aware book keeps returning to basic truths and hammering them home in a way that, well, a 10-year old can understand but which the adult reader can savor.
There’s a reason why standards of living and life spans remained relatively fixed (and low) for 6,700 years and have exploded upward in the past two hundred years –dynamic capitalism.
There are reasons why the “slow and local food” movement is nine parts vanity and one part marketing and also quite dangerous to the 850 million undernourished people on the globe, and the Kernens spell it out.
And there are reasons why most Americans don’t appreciate the enormous contributions to their own lives and life spans made by business, and the section on the messaging in the most successful animated films of the past decade is both provocative and entertaining.
Joe Kernen isn’t just another teleprompter reader, which is why you may be addicted to Squawk Box. Before his 10 years as a stock broker and his media career, Kernen got his masters in molecular biology from MIT and spent his early career in some of the great research labs of the country. He knows a few things, including how to push a noun against a verb with style, which is fairly rare both for television people and MIT grads.
This accounts for the occasionally eclectic subjects offered up throughout, like the “Higgs effect,” the origins and significance of the Hartshorn roller shade, and the relevance of the croquet-playing flamingos in Alice in Wonderland to the protections extended workers in Germany.
But it works. Very well, in fact. It worked to school Blake in the basics of how the economy works and how government makes that working harder to maintain, and it will work to educate readers in the intermediate and sometimes advanced realities of the world in which we live, realities which depend for their continuation and thus for the continuation of expanding prosperity and security on certain principles, especially those that celebrate freedom, work, saving, investment and private property.
Get “Your Teacher Said What?!” for your kids and for yourself, and especially for the Democrat at the desk next to yours, in the car pool or your church small group.