Educating Economists
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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.
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Chapter 1: The Teagle Foundation Report: The Economics Major as Part of a Liberal Education

David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick


David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick The goal of this report is to consider the relationship between the goals and objectives of the economics major and the goals and objectives of a liberal education. Is the economics major playing its part in meeting those objectives? Should it be changed? And if it should be changed, how should change be brought about? The report is structured as follows. We first discuss the goals of a liberal education and the complaints that have developed about the major’s role in general (and the economics major’s role in specific) in meeting those broader goals. Second, we discuss the goals of the economics major – what it is meant to do, and what it isn’t, and how those goals relate to a liberal education. Third, we discuss the reasons for differences in goals, and whether those differences should be of concern. Fourth, we discuss some structural changes that might lead to a better fit between the two. Finally, we discuss the role of pedagogy in a liberal education, and some changes that might better promote goals of the economics major within this broader context. THE GOALS OF A LIBERAL EDUCATION According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), a liberal education should involve more breadth and less depth than it currently does. They see a liberal education as one that empowers students with broad knowledge and transferable skills.1 They see it as an education that instills in students a strong sense of values, ethics, and...

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