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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.

Chapter 21: The Role of Incentives (and Culture) in Rebalancing the Economics Major

Bradley W. Bateman

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


Bradley W. Bateman In many ways, I find David and KimMarie’s essay in Chapter 1 to be both insightful and helpful. For instance, I think they are smart to begin their examination of how we might better integrate the economics major into a liberal education by suggesting that this is actually a problem that faces all disciplines. In doing so they have correctly identified a problem that exists for every discipline on every liberal arts campus I have visited in the last dozen years; from anthropology to zoology, there is no discipline that currently trains its graduate students to come to a school like Denison or Grinnell and to thrive as a liberal educator. I also think that David and KimMarie are wise to include a discussion of incentives in their report. In my comments, however, I would like to frame the need for those incentives a bit differently by rebalancing the relative demands of liberal education against the demands of the discipline of economics. Before going any further, I should note that from 1987 until 2007, I was a faculty member in the Department of Economics at Grinnell College. In July 2007, I became the provost at Denison University, where I also have the privilege of an appointment as a professor of economics, but where I have not taught a class. In writing this response to David and KimMarie’s report, they agreed that I would work from the original framework of the comments I drafted in May 2007, when...

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