The Association for Heterodox Economics welcomes student initiatives for fundamental reform of the economics curriculum, as do our post-Keynesian colleagues (Letters, 19 November). Heterodox economists, drawing on a range of theorists, including Keynes, Marx, Minsky and others, have consistently argued for greater pluralism in both economics curricula and economics research evaluation. We recognise the clear benefits of pluralism in economics: it encourages, by exposing them to alternative perspectives, the development of students’ critical thinking and judgment. Read more…
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?
An international student call for pluralism in economics
It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in. We, over 65 associations of economics students from over 30 different countries, believe it is time to reconsider the way economics is taught. We are dissatisfied with the dramatic narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place over the last couple of decades. This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research. It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century – from financial stability, to food security and climate change. The real world should be brought back into the classroom, as well as debate and a pluralism of theories and methods. Such change will help renew the discipline and ultimately create a space in which solutions to society’s problems can be generated.
United across borders, we call for a change of course. We do not claim to have the perfect answer, but we have no doubt that economics students will profit from exposure to different perspectives and ideas. Pluralism will not only help to enrich teaching and research and reinvigorate the discipline. More than this, pluralism carries the promise of bringing economics back into the service of society. Three forms of pluralism must be at the core of curricula: Read more…
Financial Times, November 17.
University departments must share the blame
Sir, The FT is far from alone in, once again and for the umpteenth time, decrying the “scandal” that a section of the financial sector – this time the foreign exchange market – has “remained immersed in a culture that subordinates everything to making money” (editorial, November 13). University economics departments cannot escape their share of the blame for this, so crucial have they been in recent years in providing academic justification for this “culture”.
Economics is, according to the orthodoxy now almost totally dominant in these departments, a discipline whose very identity is inseparable from the calculus of maximisation and minimisation. This standpoint is not limited to those of a neoliberal orientation; on the contrary, among its most dogmatic adherents is the outspokenly non-neoliberal Paul Krugman, who states quite simply that the economist is a “maximising-minimising kind of guy”.
Krugman is, however, exceptional in his radical views, and the inevitable bias that results from the exclusion from the economics curriculum of alternative approaches is towards turning out students who are ready-primed for incorporation into the “culture” that is revealed with such depressing regularity every time there is a thorough investigation of financial misdemeanours.
Fortunately, an increasing number of economics students are raising their voices against a curriculum which has become, in effect, little more than an indoctrination into that heinous “culture”.
It is about time the managements of economics departments stopped exploiting their freedom to appoint and promote their staff to perpetuate this situation. Let us hope that the demands of their students and of the wider public can begin to force them once more to open their doors to adherents of alternative approaches, and thus to reflect within themselves the debates on economic issues that rage in the world outside.
University College London and University of Westminster, UK
As a follow-up to Rethinking Economics rejects INET’s “Core Curriculum” here is an excerpt from a Rethinking Economics blog post back in August by David Wells.
. . . just before the final keynote address, a short video was played in which Robert Johnson, the President of INET, sent his best wishes to the conference and congratulated the organisers – but also suggested at one point that the students should be ‘guided’ by INET.
This is strange. Why should the students be ‘guided’ by INET? Why not the other way around? After all, it is the students who are the instigators of this revolution and who are at the front line, manning the barricades. INET are very active in their own way – the CORE curriculum project is especially interesting – and they supply invaluable funding, including for this conference*, but they are essentially secondary actors on the stage. The protagonists are the students, not just in the UK but all over the world: the ISIPE now has (at least) 65 member associations in 30 countries.
from John Komlos
Remember the walkout of students from their Principles of Economics class at Harvard a couple of years ago in solidarity with the “Occupy” movement?
They thought that the economics they were being taught was doctrinaire, failed to provide a balanced perspective on the real existing economy, and did not show sufficient empathy for the 45 million people living in poverty. No wonder, the economics being taught on blackboards in almost all classrooms makes it appear as though markets descended straight from heaven while maintaining a conspiracy of silence on the Achilles heals of free markets such as not paying sufficient attention to safety, not caring enough about the environment, and being indifferent to the welfare of future generations.
Now John Cassidy reports in the New Yorker that a group of students in 16 countries are pushing back on the arrogance of mainstream economists and are demanding that a more realistic economics be taught with fewer abstractions, less emphasis on mathematical methods of problem solving, and more attention devoted to the plight of the underclass. Read more…
from Lars Syll
I have just accepted an offer to become Head of the School of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London. I will take up the appointment in time for the Autumn term, which starts on September 23rd.
Kingston will respond positively to calls from students for genuine reform of economics education—like those made by the Post-Crash Economics Society in Manchester, and the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics (which was launched only days ago).
These student calls for genuine reform are timely, because though there are some initiatives for reform, academic economics has, if anything, become more hostile to criticism of the mainstream and to presentation of alternative perspectives than it was before the crisis.
An international student call for pluralism in economics
It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in. We, 42 associations of economics students from 19 different countries, believe it is time to reconsider the way economics is taught. We are dissatisfied with the dramatic narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place over the last couple of decades. This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research. It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century – from financial stability, to food security and climate change. The real world should be brought back into the classroom, as well as debate and a pluralism of theories and methods. This will help renew the discipline and ultimately create a space in which solutions to society’s problems can be generated.
United across borders, we call for a change of course. We do not claim to have the perfect answer, but we have no doubt that economics students will profit from exposure to different perspectives and ideas. Pluralism could not only help to fertilize teaching and research and reinvigorate the discipline. Rather, pluralism carries the promise to bring economics back into the service of society. Three forms of pluralism must be at the core of curricula: theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary.
The Post-Crash Economics Society at the University of Manchester has published a comprehensive, 60-page report on undergraduate teaching of economics at the University. Called ‘Economics, Education and Unlearning’, it can be downloaded at www.post-crasheconomics.com/economics-education-and-unlearning/. Highly recommended to anyone who wants economics to get back in touch with the real world.
from Maria Alejandra Madi and the WEA Pedagogy Blog
In 2001 French economics students petitioned their professors for a more realistic and pluralist teaching of economics. Since then, several books have been written on how to teach pluralist economics, including John Groenewegen’s Teaching Pluralism in Economics (Edward Elgar, 2007); Edward Fullbrook’s Pluralist Economics (Zed, 2009) and Jack Reardon’s Handbook of Pluralist Economics Education (Routledge, 2009). A new journal exclusively devoted to discussing how to implement pluralism in the classroom – the International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education – was founded by Jack Reardon. And several global organizations- the World Economic Association, the Association of Heterodox Economics, besides the International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics, for example – have emphasized the need for changes in economics curriculum.
Considering this background, this blog welcomes all the attempts that emphasize the need for further changes in teaching economics.
The 2014 new title New Developments In Economic Education, edited by Franklin G. Mixon and Richard J. Cebula, offers the opportunity of reflecting on strategies for effectively and efficiently teaching economics at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Among the suggestions . . . read more
from The Guardian
The Post-Crash Economics Society at Manchester University. Photograph: Jon Super for the Guardian
from Peter Radford
Forgive me for my exasperation.
There are too many disparate efforts to rethink economics, conferences on this, and papers on that. I admire each and every one. I support whole heartedly any attempt to shake economics from its irrelevant torpor. But all this fractured effort is achieving nothing. It cannot succeed in the face of the depth of resistance in most university economics departments and the fear that academics seem to have of open action.
I can understand that many sympathetic academics may want to shun action, after all they have livelihoods at stake. But I ask: what is a career in economics worth if that economics is toxic? Those with the greatest stake in the subject are the students who have yet to choose which path to take. It is their action that needs to be facilitated and made secure.
For it is their open action that will change things. Read more…
from Lars Syll
The world has changed, the syllabus hasn’t – is it time to do something about it?
Rethinking Economics is a network of young economics students, thinkers and writers who are organising to create fresh economic narratives to challenge and enrich the predominant neoclassical narrative. Read more…
from David Ruccio
Last week in class, after explaining to students that graduate students in economics no longer study either the history of economic thought or economic history, they asked me if I thought, in the wake of the crash of 2007-08, the training of students in economics—at either the undergraduate or graduate levels—would change.
My answer was, “I don’t know. But, the last time ‘business as usual’ in economics was challenged, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was students in economics—at the University of Michigan and elsewhere—who were the ones to initiate the change.”
Undergraduates at Manchester University propose overhaul of orthodox teachings to embrace alternative theories
from today’s Guardian
Economics students aim to tear up free-market syllabusThe Post-Crash Economics Society at Manchester University. Photograph: Jon Super for the Guardian
Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins.
Economics undergraduates at the University of Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society, which they hope will be copied by universities across the country. The organisers criticise university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs. Read more…
This is a new post from Jack Reardon on the WEA Pedagogy Blog
It is a great privilege and a pleasure to be one of three editors of this pedagogy blog. Reforming economics education is my life’s work and I am honoured to work with committed individuals like Edward, Maria and Asad.
As an undergraduate I started as physics major and then switched to economics. I knew something was wrong with economics, but couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Physics, like most disciplines has its controversies and even ideologues, but I was not ready for the onslaught of fundamentalism mixed in with proselytization. Read more…
Students at the London School of Economics have organized for this coming a weekend a rather large 3-day conference on Rethinking Economics. I am posting below the conference agenda, not with the illusion that this event is within easy geographical reach of most of this blog’s readership, but rather as an example of the sort of initiative that economics students around the world can take and increasingly are taking.
Rethinking Economics: London
Fri 28th June – Sun 30th June, London School of Economics
a conference to demystify, diversify and reinvigorate economics for imaginative citizens, students, academics, and professionals, including those with no previous training in economics to launch a collaborative network of economic rethinkers
Book workshops now to avoid disappointment: http://www.rethinkecon.co.uk/#!tickets/c1tbo
To be opened by Read more…
The economics curriculum: towards a radical reformation
3d May – 31st May
– a World Economics Association Conference
– with Open Discussion Forum – http://curriculumconference2013.worldeconomicsassociation.org/
Papers Read more…
ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
INTRODUCED BY: Nikolovksi SECONDED BY: Goheen
A BILL TO:
ADVOCATE FOR THE DIVERSIFICATION OF THE CURRICULUM WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS
THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY ENACT:
WHEREAS, Since the recent global financial crisis, there has been a heightened debate within academic circles about the varying methods of analyzing economic phenomena. The department of Economics at MSU teaches from a single theoretical framework, widely known as the neoclassical school. This framework is only one perspective among several others which are not taught, and only gives one way of trying to understand our economy; and,
WHEREAS, Economists espousing other theoretical frameworks have given insights into important economic phenomena which have drastic implications for economic policy. Some important analyses include alternative empirical work that consistently explains the process of economic growth and—what is connected—warnings of the global financial crisis prior to its precipitation. These frameworks of thought use completely different methods and assumptions then those that are taught here at MSU; and,
WHEREAS, Students taking Economics within MSU are unlikely to be aware of the debates that go on, because the vast majority of what they do as “economics” is in the form of math problems which takes the assumptions and method of the neoclassical framework as given. Also, because students are often not explicitly made aware of the method and assumptions that underlie the mathematical formalism that they use, there is an appearance of diversity in the topics within the curriculum (e.g. international economics, microeconomics, and macroeconomics). Students should be made aware that there is a basic unity in the methods of neoclassical economics in analyzing these different topics; therefore be it,
RESOLVED, That MSU’s Economics department diversify its curriculum to allow students to engage not only with neoclassical work, but also competing frameworks so that they may be aware of the debates that are going on.
A first recommendation includes giving more explicit recognition of thev underlying method and assumptions of the frameworks that are taught, as well as engaging with the original works of the foundations of the
different schools of economics (e.g. Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman.)
Secondly, working away from using mathematical formalism as an end in itself but recognizing it as a secondary tool, and also allowing for critical and reflective thought through paper writing and in-class debate is also highly recommended.
from David Ruccio
Just this past semester, students in one of my classes wanted to know why they hadn’t been taught anything about economic methodology or the history of economic thought in any of the other courses they’d taken in economics.