What Am I Choosing?

Keystone Principle #1 – We all make Choices

Voluntary National Content Standards: #1, #3


As young people mature in their social and intellectual skills, they begin to move from making choices impulsively to carefully considering their choices.  Help your students grow by encouraging them to look at the choices they make every day – what they eat, who their friends are, how they behave in class, the clothes they wear.  Ask them to consider and to verbalize the rationale behind the choices they make.  Provide opportunities for students to explore and expand the range of available options from which they can choose.  As students consciously consider their choices on a regular basis, they will begin to internally integrate this approach.  It is a process we encourage teachers to emphasize throughout the year during a child’s entire educational experience.

Accountability is an inescapable component of the freedom to choose.  In the law, there is a concept known as contributory negligence.  It is a recognition that although I may not be wholly at fault, my choices may have materially contributed to a particular outcome.  This is an important dimension to any thorough discussion of choice.


I. Understanding

  • Scarcity forces us to choose.
  • We have unlimited wants, but limited resources.
  • Goods/services are considered scarce if people are willing to give up something to attain them.
  • We make rational choices from our own perspective, which depends on our personal value system.
  • We sometimes claim we cannot or need not make a choice. But in refusing to choose, we allow someone or something else to make the choice for us. We still reap the benefits or pay the consequences, but we have taken the choice out of our own hands.
  • Making choices empowers us. It changes our focus from “things are happening to me” to “I am an actor who makes things happen because of my actions.”
  • To carefully consider choices, we need to distinguish between needs and wants. You need clothing. You want a $1000 coat.
  • If you have a goal in mind, align your choices with your goals.
  • The freedom to choose does not guarantee any particular outcome. If we are free to succeed, we are also free to fail.

II. Skills

Students will be able to:

  • define vocabulary words
  • distinguish between needs and wants
  • establish a hierarchy of wants
  • establish goals
  • distinguish between choices that are and are not aligned with their goals


I. Concept Vocabulary

  • Goods –Tangible objects that satisfy economic wants.
  • Needs – (Many economists do not differentiate between wants and needs because the difference between them is not absolute and definable. Those who do recognize a difference traditionally define needs as those few things that are necessary to sustain life.) In economic terms, a want that is totally inelastic (something a person would not give up for any reason) would be considered a need.
  • Resources – The basic kinds of resources used to produce goods and services: land or natural resources, human resources (including labor and entrepreneurship), and capital.
  • Scarcity – The condition that exists because human wants exceed the capacity of available resources to satisfy those wants; also a situation in which a resource has more than one valuable use. The problem of scarcity faces all individuals and organizations, including firms and government agencies.Services – Activities performed by people, firms or government agencies to satisfy economic wants.
  • Services – Activities performed by people, firms or government agencies to satisfy economic wants.
  • Wants – Desires that can be satisfied by consuming or using a good or service.

II. Journals

Initial Prompt (to be done during the introduction of this monthly theme/principle):

  • If I could have anything I want it would be…
  • If I could do anything I want it would be…

General assignment:

Choose one of the quotations below and write a journal entry of at least half a page, incorporating the following elements.

  1. Restate the idea in your own words
  2. Say whether or not you agree with the statement
  3. Explain why you agree or disagree
  4. Discuss how you have seen this expressed in your own life.

III. Quotations:

  1. “Life is the sum of all your choices.” Albert Camus
  2. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankel
  3. “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” William James
  4. “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling
  5. “The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.” Thornton Wilder
  6. As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death.” George Bernard Shaw


A Scarcity Activity (from the Powell Center Lessons)

From Virtual Economics, v.3

  • Capstone: Exemplary Lessons for High School Economics (HS), 1-56183-515-3; Unit 1: Lesson 4 – “To Choose or Not to Choose?  That Is Not the Question”
  • The Wide World of Trade (MS), 1-56183-136-0; Lesson 1: “There’s Never Enough”
  • Choices & Changes: In Life, School, and Work – Grades 7-8 – Teacher’s Resource Manual (MS), 1-56183-590-0; Unit 2: Lesson 8 – “Ways to Make Choices”
  • Choices & Changes: In Life, School, and Work – Grades 9-10 – Teacher’s Resource Manual, 1-56183-592-7; Unit 1: Lesson 1 – “Making Choices”

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