The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major
Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick
Michael Watts In fall 2006 the Teagle Foundation awarded $75 000 grants to investigate the role of majors from each of six different academic disciplines in promoting undergraduate liberal education. One of the grants was made to the American Economic Association’s Committee on Economic Education (AEA CEE); the other five grants went to the American Academy of Religion, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Center for Hellenic Studies, the Modern Language Association, and the National History Center. A summary of the six projects, with links to white papers prepared for each of the disciplines, is available at http://www. teaglefoundation.org/grantmaking/grantees/disciplines.aspx (accessed 17 April 2009). Teagle’s request for proposals for this initiative arrived shortly after I began my first term as Chair of the AEA CEE. I knew enough history of the Committee and the AEA to understand how some key institutional features would affect any participation by the AEA CEE in the project. Most important, an explicit objective of the AEA has been, since its founding in the late 1800s and its incorporation in 1923, “The encouragement of perfect freedom of economic discussion. The Association as such will take no partisan attitude, nor will it commit its members to any position on practical economic questions” (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AEA/ gen_info.htm, accessed 17 April 2009). Given that long-standing and, for the most part, scrupulously observed policy, there was never a question of producing an “official” AEA or AEA CEE document on what economics departments should do to provide the...