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Educating Economists

Educating Economists

The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major

Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick

The economics major is a central part of a college education. But is that economics major doing what it is meant to do? And if not, how should it be changed? This book raises a set of provocative questions that encourage readers to look at the economics major in a different light than it is typically considered and provides a series of recommendations for change.

Introduction: A Discussion, Not a Report

David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, methodology of economics, teaching economics, education, economics of education, teaching and learning


David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick When the AEA’s Committee of Economic Education (CEE) was asked to develop a report on the economics major as part of a liberal education, there was a real question of whether the CEE wanted to undertake this endeavor.* While the Committee believed that the issue was both relevant and important, the question was whether a traditional, associationcompiled report would make any difference. Decisions about the major are made at the department level, and unless there are incentives to change at that level, a report is unlikely to make any difference, regardless of what it contains. Economists, probably rightly, don’t pay much attention to reports. Every so often a report comes along that seems to be influential in creating change, but generally, its influence is derived from it being written at the right time and place. In other words, the situation on the ground was already ripe for change. There is a correlation, but no causation between reports and change. When the Committee asked itself whether the economics major was ripe for change, the consensus was no. The economics major is doing quite well, and while there are issues being debated, there is also a balance of views on those issues so that little overall change was expected. Thus, it was probable that a traditional report would only receive a cursory review before being moved to the back shelf. Ultimately the Committee decided to do the report, not because it expected to bring about change in...