20.3.09

A PROPOSAL I CAN ENDORSE. I've been busy this week with economic education work, including a teacher workshop on the economics of alternative energy and a state championship for the Economics Challenge, which is more precisely the Greater Chicago Economics Challenge championship. I want my high-speed trains downstate.

With that background, consider a Minding the Campus proposal that more economics be in the core curriculum.
Meanwhile, colleges and universities are failing to integrate financial and economic education into their core curricula. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has found that only one of one hundred leading American universities requires students to take an economics course. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks was the outlier, requiring students to take a course on political economy that covers such core topics as "the nature of interaction between markets and governments in the United States, including the nature of economic and political institutions, regulation, fiscal and monetary decision-making, taxation, and welfare policies, foreign trade and finance policy, electoral politics, and campaign financing."
To some extent, personal finance and consumer economics are properly the responsibility of the high schools, or perhaps the parents (the understanding of credit cards and loans the essay claims today's youngsters are deficient in are precisely the deficiencies middle-class parents used to address, in The America That Worked(TM).)

The political economy course appeals to me. I'm not sure why the modal college economics course is a potted dilution of the graduate sequence.

Game theory? Rational expectations? Viner-Wong diagrams?

Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, identifies what's missing.
The ghastly statistics of the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) should therefore come as no surprise: More than half of those surveyed do not understand what it means to say that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased, and nearly two thirds do not know that in times of inflation money loses value.

As for the current mess we’re in, less than half of the respondents can identify what a sub-prime mortgage is, according to a recent survey by the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy.

This failure of our universities to make sure that students grasp the fundamentals of a subject which is now an integral part of modern life is baffling. After all, we trade with the entire world and those representing us in government often get elected on the economic promises they make to voters.

Unfortunately, the dearth of economics requirements is part of a broader sad story, the collapse of the core curriculum. On campus after campus, critical subjects like math, science, and American history have become optional. In fact, most well-known universities don’t even demand that their English majors read Shakespeare.
Although higher education's surrender to the professional protest constituencies and its misguided access-assessment-remediation-retention model are wrong, that students who have had an economics course tend to score no higher on some of those general knowledge tests than their contemporaries who have not suggests the standard course isn't working.

Opportunity costs. Incentives. Specialization. Institutions.

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