As I write this, it’s tax season here in the US! The obvious classroom application is a math lesson about percents, but taxes can lead to an even more interesting discussion within language arts and social studies.
Begin with the simple question:
Why do we pay taxes?
You’ll get all kinds of answers (or just blank stares). To help my kids, I next asked:
What do you get to use in our city for free?
Of course, no one can think of anything at first. Nothing’s free, right? You might need to give an example:
Do you have to pay to drive on the roads?
Some kids will point out toll-roads, but for the most part, we have unlimited road-driving privileges.
This should be enough to get them thinking: what else is free?
Some great situations to bring up include:
- What if the police asked you for money before they’d investigate a crime?
- What if a firefighter refused to start work until you gave him cash up front.
- Can you imagine your teacher turning you away at the door if you didn’t bring her weekly payment?
Obviously, these situations are all paid for in one way or another through taxes. I loved the discussion that this prompted, and it got students thinking a lot about the things we might take for granted.
As students begin to think about a world where they have to personally pay their teachers, police, and firefighters, they might come up with:
- some great (dystopian!) settings for a story
- an argument about why taxes are great
- an idea for a research project on taxes throughout history
Apply To Their Own City
Then, if you’re engaged in a project like Create A Civilization, kids can answer this question:
What ways can your government get the money it needs to function?
Students could research:
- different types of taxes: income, sales, property, etc
- tributes – a forced payment to a foreign ruler
- progressive taxes – more income means being taxed at a higher percentage
Then they can set up an interesting tax-collection system within their own civilization or city.
Let me know how you use Tax Day in your classroom: firstname.lastname@example.org or @IanAByrd