6.4.04

REINVENTING THE WHEEL? King at SCSU Scholars wonders why there are no economists on the committee developing economics content standards for Minnesota. I wonder why the Minnesotans are bent on doing from scratch something that has already been done. There is a state council on economic education (with a branch in St. Cloud) and the National Council on Economic Education has developed twenty content standards (that's educationese for "big ideas") that are ready to be adopted and implemented.

There is plenty of work to be done in teaching economics, as this discovers. It's not just the common schools that ought to be thinking of these things. Tyler at Marginal Revolution contemplates economic illiteracy in the adult world, and guest revolutionary Craig offers more, including a tribute to the late Paul Heyne. Professor Heyne had the right idea about exposing students to economics.
We construct introductions to our fields on the assumption that everyone in the class will go on to acquire a Ph.D. in the subject. So there’s no need to arouse their interest in the subject, [or] to persuade them that a knowledge of this subject can provide the zest of life …

I am absolutely convinced that the first course in economics and, I suspect, in every other academic discipline, should be directed almost exclusively toward raising interesting questions and suggesting ways in which the discipline can be used to generate interesting responses.
The approach presented in the second paragraph might solve a problem confronting many professors.
Teaching supply and demand to hormonally-charged 18-year-olds is a thankless task, and one with few professional rewards. In today’s universities, advancement depends on research and publishing. As a result, undergraduate education has become the ugly step-child of the academic world—one that’s increasingly forced on grad students rather than faculty.
The National Council's twenty big ideas can be a great help to a professor who wants to introduce something other than endless formulas and graphs, most of which don't receive the kind of attention they deserve in a survey course anyway.

(More general comments on the teaching enterprise yet to come.)

No comments: