An open letter to economics student groups
from Stuart Birks
Well done, your concerns about the economics curriculum are getting attention. There are also many practicing economists who have concerns about the current emphasis and direction of economics as a discipline.
As in any such situation, the process of change can be crucial in determining the outcome. Often many different initiatives are called for. There is one initiative which may be effective in the short term and also instrumental in shaping developments in the long term. I am referring to the World Economics Association’s Textbook Commentaries Project.
The project involves the development of an online platform containing brief commentaries which can be used right now in existing and new economics courses. This growing collection is designed to increase critical understanding of economics approaches and awareness of alternative perspectives. The commentaries are each short and stand-alone, so can be easily be incorporated into existing courses without greatly increasing the workload. They do generate an awareness of the concerns about various approaches and the diversity of thought that exists, even if no longer included in the standard curriculum. Many commentaries draw directly on alternative literature by recognised experts in the field. It is important that students be made aware of these sources, if only to put their own knowledge in a wider context. Additional pages also highlight other accessible material (books and online teaching resources).
How can you participate?
First, you can use the material yourselves. The commentaries can be helpful discussion points in tutorials or links can be posted in a course discussion forum. Second, you can promote the platform through your networks. Remember, commentaries can be relevant for a wide range of courses, and it only takes one person on a course to make the platform known to many students. Third, you can submit comments on the commentaries. Fourth, you can help us to further develop the material. Among other things, we would welcome suggestions for improvement of existing material and for additional material.
If you wish to provide input or to receive occasional updates on the project, send an email to: Stuart Birks, firstname.lastname@example.org
From: p.2 of World Economics Association Newsletter 5(1), February 2015