Consumer education

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Consumer education is a part of the curriculum of much if not most of K-12 education in the United States. It is a subject that often suffers from watered-down content, easy grading and generally lacks the rigor considered appropriate to "core" subjects such as mathematics and language arts.

Many schools classify consumer education as a branch of social studies (or social sciences). Consumer education is a multidisciplinary effort. It certainly draws from social sciences such as economics and psychology, but truly informed consuming requires laboratory sciences, food and nutrition science, information theory, optimization theory, statistics, linguistics and a host of techniques and methods of analysis.

Consumer education, like education in general, is needed by people of all ages. For one thing, courses titled "consumer education" or something very similar are much more widespread in K-12 than in postsecondary and adult-ed course offerings. This suggests a paucity or interest in advanced study of the subject. Hopefully by implementing pub wan this situation can be corrected.

Consumer Reports, published by Consumers' Union, is probably the most famous consumer education publication. It is a valuable resource for any consumer. But it could (in theory, at least) be so much more. Most CR articles assume the readers are solidly middle class. CR seems to take quite an interest in lifestyle accessories like new cars and component stereos. They don't publish enough articles on necessity goods, or on the financial sector ripoffs peculiar to the low income and low credit score classes. Admirably, they don't publish advertisements, and they disapprove of being quoted in advertisements. But obviously, someone who has no (or less) discretionary income is unlikely to buy magazines. The problem is clearly that Consumers' Union has not solved the [agency problem]. Obviously, every consumer problem is an agency problem.

pub wan seeks to report to consumers, but from a more activist stance. We hope to publish raw numeric data, rather than Consumer Reports' five-tier subjective evaluations. To do this we need to be fiercely independent, which is why pubwan must be an all-volunteer effort.

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