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Economics Taught With Slam-Dunk Lingo

May 19, 1991|LEE HARRIS

Teachers Roger Cannon and Diane Keenan think they have found a way to pump excitement into the subject of economics.

They have written and published a textbook titled "Slamdunk Economics" that uses sports, music and film to hook primarily high school students into learning about economic concepts.

"We have to find ways to wake people up. I don't want to look out there and see people sleeping in my class," said Keenan, 43, an economics teacher at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

The authors use personalities such as singer Michael Jackson and Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser in the book to explain economic theory and entrepreneurship.

In the section about Jackson, for example, the authors describe how the entertainer risks his own money by investing in the production of his concert tours. The Hershiser segment discusses the contract negotiations that resulted in a $7-million, three-year contract for the star pitcher.

The authors also show how a drug scandal that deprived Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson of an Olympic gold medal may have cost Johnson millions of dollars in endorsements.

Students can relate to this world of rock musicians and baseball players and how they make their money, said Cannon, a teacher at Vail High School, the Montebello Unified School District's continuation school for students who fall behind in their studies.

Cannon, 46, began combining economics and sports when he was assigned to teach the subject four years ago at Vail. He played baseball at Cerritos College and Cal State Long Beach, and was in the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system at one point.

Cannon said he had taken a number of courses from Keenan, who also presents seminars on how teachers can do a better job through the use of games, videos and film. He approached her with the idea of collaborating on the book.

The project took more than two years for the research and writing. They spent about $18,000 to publish about 1,000 copies of the 192-page book, which is a loose-leaf binder with cartoons, graphics and work sheets.

Cannon said about 300 copies of the book, which sells for $56.95, have been bought by school districts since it was published last year. The book is being distributed by Social Studies School Service of Culver City.

The book is getting some good reviews from teachers and students.

Henry Mendez, 17, who was transferred to Vail after skipping too many classes at Schurr High School, said the book contains "up-to-date stuff. I don't mind coming to class. Mr. Cannon makes it interesting."

Jo Anne Charmack, an economics teacher in the ABC Unified School District, uses the book in her classroom at Whitney, a high school for high academic achievers. "It is a real effective teaching tool," Charmack said.

This year, the National Education Assn. also nominated the book as one of the finalists for its A + Award for Excellence.

* Gregory R. Woirol, professor of economics and chairman of the Economics Department at Whittier College, has received the Sears Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence Award for 1990-91. Woirol also received the 1991 Harry W. Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award. Woirol was among 700 private college educators to be given the foundation teaching award. He received $1,000 and the school was granted a similar amount. The award was given for teaching excellence and leadership. The Nerhood award is named after Harry Nerhood, who taught history at the college for more than 50 years. The award recognizes outstanding teachers.

* Farid Mellah, food and beverage director at the Long Beach Airport Marriott Hotel, has been chosen the 1990 national food and beverage director for Marriott's franchise division. Mellah won over 27 other Marriott employees. Under his direction, the hotel's restaurant, The Plaza, received the 1990 Silver Award of Merit from the Southern California Restaurant Writer's Assn.

* Jess Arnold, community service manager for the Rockwell International Space Division in Downey, has been honored for his service to the Creative Learning Institute, a nonprofit organization that tutors Compton-area students. Arnold has been a tutor at the institute for more than 22 years.

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