In my view, Austrian economics is a great place for students to start because it focuses on the logic of economic activity rather than on mathematical modeling or statistical analysis. And most of what goes by the name “Austrian economics” just is economics and is compatible with mainstream economics.
Steven Horwitz has written a short (and free!) book on the subject that would be appropriate for advanced high school students (as well as for adults). (You can also buy the book from Amazon; paid link.) And Horwitz recorded seven short lectures to accompany the book.
Project Gutenberg makes available, at no cost to users, an extraordinary number of out-of-copyright books in various ebook formats. Here I round up links to famous works suitable for young (and older) readers.
I’m a big fan of Jason Crawford’s work for “The Roots of Progress.” Crawford’s main theme is that people have improved their lot dramatically through science, technology, and the underlying causes of those developments. So why not make more of an effort to teach children about human progress? In a July 27 Interintellect discussion that Crawford hosts, several educators weigh in on the topic.
I agree with Lisa VanDamme, founder of VanDamme Academy and one of the presenters, that the project of teaching children about human progress quickly can run into problems. First, she notes, “progress” is not a primary field unto itself, at least in terms of K-12 education, although aspects of it properly integrate with history and science (which are both major fields of study). Second, the proper aim of education is to enable children to ably pursue their own values and live their own lives, not to convince children to embrace certain conclusions (such as “progress is good”). That said, as VanDamme also notes, well-educated children typically will turn out to be the sort of people who do appreciate human progress (among many other things).
Kyle Steele (one of VanDamme’s associates) adds a great point: Properly, children have lots of room to explore their interests outside of their core education. For example (as several speakers discuss), a child keenly interested in music might want to limit time spent learning core subjects and maximize time spent practicing a musical instrument. Similarly, a student keenly interested in science, technology, or entrepreneurship might want to spend disproportionate time in those areas. So, for example, Crawford organized “Progress Studies for Aspiring Young Scholars.” This fits perfectly well as an extension or special-interest program with the sort of core education that VanDamme has in mind.
The entire discussion is fascinating. (Those interested in learning more about Crawford’s project also can check out my podcast discussion with him.)