The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major
Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick
Chapter 6: Teaching Economics Students as if they are Geniuses
James Wible In the comments that follow, I will present a line of thought supporting a broadening of the conceptual framework of the undergraduate economics major in a liberal arts college or university. The argument is that a more broadly focused major would be of great value to the vast majority of students enrolled in economics classes. The current undergraduate curriculum in economics has many strengths, but it also exhibits some inadequacies. Furthermore, some of these deficiencies can be expressed from an economic perspective. The main point is that undergraduates in economics classes should be taught as if they were going to be geniuses in some field or career other than economics. To not do so implies that most of our students are being educated for a career they will never enter. As an economist, my conclusion is that the current pedagogical practices in economics seem to be inefficient and highly wasteful. Before making more specific comments, I would like to comment on the historic relevance of a liberal arts perspective, not just in liberal arts colleges, but also in liberal arts universities. The reason for this is the largely US experience of the large state university. US liberal arts colleges have origins in many respects similar to their European counterparts. US colleges were often started by religious founders or denominations to further the education of those who would become the leaders of society – lawyers, doctors, ministers, and businesspeople. Given this educational mission, good teaching was considered more important than...
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