Connor Boyack on Economics

Connor Boyack on Economics

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Economics

Today, I’m really excited for our guest, Connor Boyack, and he is the president of Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. And he’s also the author of over a dozen books on politics, education, and culture.
And I am so excited to have him here today to talk more about his book series called the Tuttle Twins.

Connor Boyack on Teaching Economics

Meg: [00:00:00] I almost failed economics in high school. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The basic understanding of supply and demand was easy, but once we started to move past the simple surface level of economics. It all became mumbo jumbo to me. And it wasn’t until recently when I started homeschooling my kids that I realized why. Tune in today to find out more. 

Hello everyone. And welcome to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty Homeschooling podcast. Today, I’m really excited for our guest, Connor Boyack, and he is the president of Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. And he’s also the author of over a dozen books on politics, education, and culture.

And I am so excited to have him here today to talk more about his book series called the Tuttle Twins.  So, Connor, would you start by telling our listeners a little bit about you and your family and how the Tuttle Twins came to be?

Connor: [00:01:08] So I’m from San Diego originally but live in Utah. I have a wife and two kids. I am what I like to call a full-time freedom fighter. So, I founded and run a what’s called a think tank. So, this is a nonprofit that it does, you know, research and education and advocacy, trying to change laws in favor of, you know, freer markets, property rights, personal freedom- and that’s my day job.

So we’re kind of in the political world, if you will, but our job is laser focused, not on who wins the election, at any given time, but what they do, right. Well, while they’re in office, what are the laws that they’re actually supporting and enforcing? So that’s the full-time job.

The way the Tuttle Twins books came about is that a few years ago, when my kids were younger, I would find myself wanting to talk to them about what I did all day. Right? Like I’ve been gone all day. Hey, how was your day? How do you talk to an eight-year-old about eminent domain?  How do you bring up to a six-year-old, a concept like inflation? And so, I was struggling to kind of articulate to them what it is I do, what I care about, the principles I believe.

So, I turned to Amazon, I’m like, Hey, let’s find some books out there that teach, you know, some of these ideas, there was nothing. And so, I spent a couple of weeks being kind of bummed about that. And then I realized, hey, you idiot, you talk about entrepreneurship all the time, like here’s an opportunity smacking you in the face.

And so, we did the first book, just kind of as a labor of love, you know, as the little fun project, but a bunch of people bought it and they wanted more. And so that was kind of the market demand for us to continue. and you know, we’ve just been pumping out a ton of books ever since.

Meg: [00:02:49] Yes, I stumbled across your curriculum   when I was looking for the same thing, because everything is so, wild right now going on in the world and my kids, they hear, and they see things and they wanted to know more about it. And if I’m completely honest, I am learning along with them.

So, having found these Tuttle win books, they are kind of a broken down, Cliff’s notes version, if you will, of major books that have impacted our country. Is that what you would say?

Connor: [00:03:28] Yeah. You know, your experience is not that different from a lot of other, parents out there as well who want their children to learn, critical thinking. They want them to learn kind of the way the world works. They want them to understand, these classic ideas and freedom and so forth. But oftentimes, the parents were never really educated that well themselves in public school or through their own life experiences.

A lot of our parents feel, and I don’t mean these words in kind of the negative sense, but just the literal sense- they feel ignorant.  They don’t know how to, articulate those ideas to their kids just because they feel like they don’t have enough of a grasp themselves.

This is extremely common in our community where the parents, often the mom, is reading and learning together with the kids we get literally every day. You know, social media posts, emails, whatever, from parents saying, Holy cow, I learned so much or like, you know, why was this never taught to me when I was a kid, et cetera, et cetera.

And so, you know, our whole goal is not to be the source of knowledge on all these things. Our goal is to foster conversations. Our goal is to give parent and child, a little bit of kind of a support or foundation where they can then ask interesting questions. And the next time at the grocery store, they can talk about, you know, spontaneous order or division of labor, you know, why do we have 83 kinds of potato chips? And because they have kind of the background knowledge from the books, just kind of that high level introduction to these ideas, it gives them kind of a reference point so that they can have some amazing conversations with their kids and continue learning more.

Whereas, otherwise, very hard to bring something like that up with a kid or get them interested in it. But now that they’ve read the book, they liked the book. They’re fun. They’re beautifully illustrated, et cetera. They have that foundation where the parent can kind of continue the dialogue from there.

Meg: [00:05:18] Right. And that’s one of the things I love the most is  in the classical model , this really is an awesome introduction in the grammar stage because what we tend to use in the classical realm is living books in the grammar stage that introduce topics and concepts through story format. So when I started reading these books, for those listening, these books have relatable storylines to the kids. So all of the events that happen, happen to the children.

And the children are the ones , experiencing it and explaining it. And, it’s just really great. And then at the back of every book, I love that you put in the reference from where you got the information. So for example, I’m looking right now at Learn About the Law and it talks about Frederick Bastiat. Did I say that right?

Connor: [00:06:16] Yep.

Meg: [00:06:17] And it tells you that this is a simplified version and shows you where you can actually get a copy of  the actual text it came from, helping you bridge that gap, getting into the logic stage and then the rhetoric stage.

So  I’d love to just talk about one or two of the books and how you went through that process of creating them.

Connor: [00:06:40] Sure. So , I’ll start with the first, since that’s what got the whole thing started and,  remains one of my favorites, so The Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law.

When Elijah, my friend and our illustrator, when he and I got together and said, you know, let’s, let’s do this, this sounds like fun, he had young kids at the time and so did I, and this was about five or six years ago. And when we said we want to do a book, I was like, you know, I want to do it based on another book. I don’t want to just come up with a new book. I want to kind of make a children’s version of , an existing book.

And for both of us, The Law by Frederick Bastiat was instrumental in our lives. This was an essay written in the 1850s, I believe 1849 by a Frenchman. He was an economist, a politician, but a big free market guy. And he was combating socialism, and really trying to articulate why the, you know, those who favored big government were wrong.

And so he wrote this little essay called simply, The Law. You can find it online for free, and it is amazing. He’s such an excellent writer and in helping people understand what is law, what is the proper role of government, what are our rights, where do they come from, why are they important? Just these basic foundational issues , that really help people understand very clearly, right from wrong in a political context.

And so years before that essay had made a big impact on my own learning and development. Same with Elijah. It’s very kind of popular within kind of the freedom movement, if you will. A lot of people who kind of work in this space and are very invested in it. I credit that essay in large measure with helping kind of wake them up and help them understand.

And so we said, let’s do this. So we took that essay. We extracted kind of the five to seven core ideas from that book or from that essay, and I wrote a story. around those ideas. So that through the story, the ideas would be introduced and observed. We didn’t want a textbook, right?

Like here is what justice means, you know, blah, blah, blah. You have to tell it through stories, especially for kids. But even for adults, we are, our brains are wired for story. And, and that’s kind of the delivery mechanism into someone else’s brain is when you’re telling something through story. And so we introduce all those ideas throughout the story at the end, as you point out, we say, Hey, here’s the essay we based this on. Here’s where you can find it.

And then here are the definitions of the new words we went over, just so you can kind of understand them again, here’s some discussion questions. And then we created an activity workbook for each book as well. So the kids can do some fun, little, you know, crossword puzzles, word searches, et cetera, that help kind of refresh and reinforce some of those ideas that they learn.

So the whole idea is we want to take these classic books, these very well known texts, these, you know, really informative and inspiring books and essays and make them accessible, not only to kids, but as we talked about, a moment ago, their parents as well, who may never have read the original work, never even heard of it, or maybe didn’t have the time or energy or whatever to get around to reading, let’s say Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, which is a great book. But now, hey, we have a kids version where you can learn the same ideas.

And so that became the pattern that we replicated for all the subsequent books, which we now have 11 in the series.

Meg: [00:10:01] Yes. Yeah. And I’m definitely one of those parents that is learning along with my children because I went to public school and, you know, I, it brought me back to my economics class, but I don’t remember any of it.

I really don’t because it wasn’t presented in a way that was meaningful, and this just creates such a connection, like you said, even for the adults to really understand what it’s saying.

Connor: [00:10:31] Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. And, and I don’t think parents should feel intimidated about that. If anything, like what we’re trying to do is provide a service to parents. Like the parents in our community, we’ve got about a quarter million families now, and these parents want like any good parent, they want what’s best for their kids.

They want their kids to be well rounded. They want their kids to understand and even excel past them and learn these big ideas and be inspired and curious about their world.

And, you know, so the parent goes hunting for curriculum and books and talking to their friends and what do you do? And so our role is, as we see ourselves as kind of like , everyone is the hero in their own journey, right? so think of you and your kids as  the Hobit. You’re Frodo and Samwise Ganja and you have your own adventure.

Right. And, and, and Bilbos leading you and whatever your adventure is, you’re, you’re going to go off. But you know, there’s going to be challenges along the way that you don’t know about. And so we see ourselves kind of as Gandalf, right? Like, Hey, we’ll be the guide. We kinda know a thing or two. We’ll be that wise mentor that when you need us, Hey, here’s this book or, Hey, here’s this, you know, resource or go check this out.

And so we’re just trying to be that guide to every family who’s on their own journey. They have their own goals, whatever that is. That’s awesome. Their the hero in their story, we want to be the guide, right? So we’re, we’re trying to produce all this information. We’ve got kids’ books, we’ve got books for teens, we’ve got economic curriculum.

We’ve got a card game we’re coming out with a cartoon. I mean, we’re just trying to produce all this stuff to just support parents, talking to their kids about ideas that matter.

Meg: [00:12:04] Yes. I did just see that about the cartoon. I am so excited for that. okay, so let’s talk more about that in just a second.

Can I hop over to The Golden Rule book? Okay. So I know you’ve talked about this in the past that the books are not religion specific. Can you talk about that some more? Because I know that was , a topic at one point, and I just want to clarify for the listeners, the stance on religion with the books.

Connor: [00:12:35] For sure. So our first book, the one we were just discussing is the only one that contains any references to God. And part of the reason why I did that, it’s in the context of when a character is explaining where our rights come from. And because we based our book off of Frederick Bastiat’s book written, and there’s essay written in 1849, he argued and I personally believe our rights from God.

Now, not everyone believes in God or believes that, that’s totally fine, but we, since we based our book off of that one, we’re kind of staying faithful to the original author. None of the other books, anywhere in the series have any type of religious reference mention of God, et cetera. So oftentimes when we have secular families, or even, families purchasing our books through like charter schools and they can’t use taxpayer money for any type of religious content, they’ll buy all the books, but then say, Oh, you have to omit,  that first book, since, you know, we don’t want it, or we can’t have it, the golden rules because, the golden rule is really this, this basic societal ethical principle of, of just human decency and good conduct.

What’s interesting though, about it is that the principle of the golden rule is found in basically every major religion. And so whether you are religious and belong to one of those major religions , you know, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, everything else, they all have somewhere in their scripture or faith tradition this principle of, do not harm other people and , they won’t harm you type of thing. And , as we’ve talked to our secular friends, that’s a message that certainly resonates because that’s just kind of like, you know, basic decency and human behavior, kind of a reciprocal, the principle of reciprocity. 

And so that’s, that’s something I like because it’s so broadly appealing to people. And, and that book in particular is one where we’ve heard from so many parents who feel, Who feel very, what’s the word I’m looking for? They’re very, helped or are they, I really appreciated the message in that book because it couched it in.

It’s not just, Hey, being nice to other kids. It’s helping their kids understand this bigger kind of puzzle piece about being good humans, kind to one another, and why it kind of works in broader society.

Meg: [00:14:50] Yes . I think each one of these books is like a puzzle piece to their future and to being competent, contributing members of society. And I am just thankful that you have taken the time to create these. They’re wonderful. And the reason why I wanted to hop over to the golden rule, when I mentioned that is, you know, in our house, we are, we are Christian. and we, we love the golden rule. And even though it doesn’t mention the Christianity aspects of it, it allows me to incorporate that and relate it back, making that integration, into other areas of our lives. And I just think that’s awesome.

Connor: [00:15:35] Yeah. It’s, it’s something again, you know, the, where were the Gandalf, right? Like the, the hero can take whenever the, the mentor or the guide says and do whatever they want with it.

Like, Hey, we’re just over here offering you this, what, you know, nugget of wisdom, make it your own and adapt it and so, very much, we’re trying to cast a wide net and help parents, whatever, you know, circumstance of life they’re in or faith tradition or, you know, whatever that they can find, information in this material that supports them and helps move them along that path of teaching their kids these ideas.

Meg: [00:16:10] Yeah, it’s great. Okay. So we have the 11 Tuttle Twins books, are there more books in the works?

Connor: [00:16:18] So, we have, 11 children’s books. We also have three books for teenagers. So if you go to tuttletwins.com/products you’ll be able to see everything that we’ve done. These three teen, both follow kind of the choose your own adventure model where the reader can kind of pick and choose which path of the story they want to go down. And so this is more for teenage readers.

We’ve also got economic curriculum, so that’s at freemarket.tuddletwins.com, where plays with kids of all ages can learn free market economics bit by bit starting very simple and week by week getting additional content to kind of grow in their knowledge about how free markets work and why economics is so important for all of us to learn whatever your profession is going to be, whatever your interests are, it basically explains how humans interact with one another. It’s not boring charts and graphs and formulas. It’s really just human interaction is the economy. And so, we, we have that curriculum, as I said, we got the card game and we’re hard to work on doing additional books as well.

Meg: [00:17:24] So with the curriculum that you mentioned, is it a book or is it more of an ongoing digital form of curriculum?

Connor: [00:17:33] It’s the latter.  We experimented with a few options. What we landed on is when you go to freemarket.tuttletwins.com and you sign up, you will get an email with the digital content for unit one, lesson one, whether you signed up right when we launched it or sign up today, everyone starts at that first step.

And so they get an email with that content that has five pieces of content. It has kind of some introductory material for the parents to kind of learn like, Hey, here’s the topic, here’s what we’re talking about this week. Here’s what it means. Why it’s important.

We also then have, the kind of lesson or activity we provide two, one for kids that are kind of our traditional Tuttle twins age, you know, the five to 11 or so. And then we have the, content  as well for teenagers. So it’s the same topic. Let’s say unit one, lesson one. I don’t remember what is about off the top of my head, but let’s say it’s about needs. What our needs are, how we satisfy our needs, you know, clothing, shelter, food, et cetera.

And then why our needs change over time. Right? Because that plays into the economy in terms of like, when I’m a kid, I need certain things when I’m an adult, I need other things. So let’s say that first lesson is just about the concept of needs and why it matters. Well, the kids, the younger kids and their activity might get, you know, a fun little exercise or activity or whatever.

And then the teenagers might have something still about that same topic, but more complex, right? Cause they can handle something. And so we have those two activity, lesson, material type things for each child, those are downloadable PDFs.

And then, we also provide the fourth piece of content is what we call dinner conversation starters. So these are basically discussion questions, right? So that as the kids and the parents have all been kind of doing these activities or talking about that concept for that week, we then give some discussion questions where, over dinner, in the car, whatever-  you can all talk about it some more and really kind of get on the same page and share what you learn.

And then the final piece of content every week that we provide is kind of some go deeper material.  Like, if this particular topic was of special interest to you and you want to learn more. Here’s the video to watch. Here’s an essay to read, go check out this article and just pointing people in the direction of deeper learning.

And so then every single week , we send one of these emails with these building blocks, just building upon, okay, last week you learn what needs are. This week, we’re going to talk about how needs change over time and how that matters for the economy. And then next week we can talk about wants what are the difference between needs and wants, and let’s do some exercises and understand how you make decisions between buying something you really need versus buying something you want and what that means for you. Now, if you were to have a business and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So, we lead people progressively through this whole email sequence. And what that allows us to do is not to bombard people with years 43 lessons all at once that you now need to feel overwhelmed with. We want to hold people’s hand. We, we allow people to reply to these emails and ask any question they want, and our curriculum team will respond like if something’s confusing or not making sense. You know, reach out and ask us. And, so we just want to hold people’s hand through that process rather than bombard them with everything. So that’s why we opted for kind of that digital delivery system that kind of goes week by week.

Meg: [00:20:50] That’s really awesome, because so many times when you do have a digital curriculum that you subscribe to, you’re not able to reply. So that is a huge plus I think, especially if you’re learning along with your children, there’s things that can be confusing.

So that’s really a great feature that you’ve added in.  So  my kids are in the grammar stage or, you know, they’re seven and nine, so I haven’t reached the teen stage yet. So would you say that, your curriculum or these books follows a certain philosophy in education?

Connor: [00:21:29] That’s a good question. So, what we’re trying to do is be adaptable to as many families as possible. Some people like, you know, Montessori, a lot of people do The Good and The Beautiful, Classical Conversations, Common Core, you know, half of our audience is public school, the other half is homeschool. And so we don’t want to follow any particular model.

We just want to create kind of the higher level resources that parents can then go adapt if they want, to their particular , style learning preferences, curriculum structure, or whatever. So, no, we are not pigeonholed to any particular method because we want to be as accessible as possible.

Meg: [00:22:07] Yes. And I think that’s so awesome. You know, that’s, the beauty of homeschooling is you can do what works for you and your family, but the principles that you talk about and that you teach impact people, no matter what their educational philosophy is so that that’s really, really awesome.

Well, Connor, this has been such an awesome conversation, and I really appreciate you coming on to talk more about the books. Is there anything else that you can think of that our listeners should know or that you wouldwant them to know about your project?

Connor: [00:22:43] You know, another, thing that our audience really likes is once or twice a week, I send an email out. Typically talking about current events. So our books focus more on principles and time-tested ideas, but a lot of parents are wondering what’s going on in the world and how these ideas specifically relate to today. And so the email newsletter is where I will talk more about current events, problems in our world, solutions, ideas that are, you know, a problem or good ideas, good examples of entrepreneurship, all this kind of stuff, so that there’s a modern reference point for all of this material.

So, you can go to Tuttletwins.com/email to see kind of the archive of everything that we we’ve done there. And if you click on any of the emails, to, to read one of them, when you scroll down to the bottom is where you’ll find a sign up form. And so if anyone’s interested, not quite ready to buy the books yet, but you want to at least join that newsletter, that’s where you can sign up and start getting some of our content.

When you go to Tuttletwins.com, you’ll see that,  we’ve got all the books available. We provide the workbooks for free. When you buy the whole set of books, we offer you a discount. So we’re really trying to sweeten the pot for these families and incentivize them to get these books.

Why? Because I’ve been at this for a few years. I literally daily, get inundated with messages of praise and gratitude from the families who get our books, the, you know, life-changing conversations and all this kind of stuff that they’re having.

And so from my vantage point, when I see how well this material is resonating with and benefiting these families, I know that if only I could reach even more families, they would also benefit. Right. And so I feel like I’m on a mission to be  as active as I can, by marketing and really try and push families like guys, you’re gonna love it, just get these books. I promise you’ll enjoy it.

So we’re trying to make it worth your while with those free activity workbooks, with those discounts to say, just, you know, pull the trigger, you guys get the books because we know you’re going to love them. And so we’d encourage all your listeners to go check out Tuttletwins.com

 Meg: [00:24:51] Yes , I also get the emails and I have to praise you for that, because that has been very helpful. I have not been very political or follow politics very well. So, your breakdown of everything going on and how to discuss it . It’s  been very helpful, with my kids and also with my husband, because we can actually have conversations and then our children see us taking it seriously and it’s become a great thing in our family.

Connor: [00:25:21] Awesome. Well, I’m glad again, to, to be on your show, get the word out. I know a lot of other families, if only they knew about this, they would be, as praiseworthy, as you are. So thanks for helping me get the word out.

Meg: [00:25:33] Yes, I do have one more question, Connor, that I almost forgot to ask you. Are there any plans to make an audio book of the books?

Connor: [00:25:42] We actually do have audio books of all of our kids’ books. So, so they’re on audible. You can find them there if you’re a member of that, or if you go to Tuttle twins.com/products and scroll down a bit, you’ll see the audio books are also listed there. So that’s something that we very happily provide, because I know it’s a format that a lot of kids enjoy, especially when they have the books and audio books, they can kind of read along and listen.

We don’t have audio books for our kids, teen books, because again, the choose your own adventure style kind of like hop and jump around from one page to the next, and so it’s not a linear format, . beginning to end where we can just do the audio. But yeah, for all the kids’ books, we definitely do have have audio books.

Meg: [00:26:28] Oh, that’s awesome. So for any of our listeners, this podcast is sponsored by audible. So if you go to audible trial.com/homeschool, you’ll get a free trial and a free credit. So be sure to check that out. That’s very exciting, Connor, I cannot wait to share and  thank you so much for coming on today.

Connor: [00:26:49] Thanks again.

 Meg: [00:26:51] What a wonderful talk with Connor today on the economic books The Tuttle twins. I really hope you enjoyed it and be sure to check out the show notes for access to all of the things that we talked about on the show today. And thank you again to everyone who’s left a review. It really is helping us get out to more people on homeschooling at home classically. Thank you so much for joining us and until next time happy teaching!

 

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