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 15: The Economics Major at a Crossroads

David Kennett


David Kennett Colander and McGoldrick’s “Teagle Report” has forced us all to think hard about, among other things, liberal education and how traditional disciplines can contribute to that objective. Before I venture to offer my own feelings about the analysis and recommendations laid out in the main report, it might be useful for readers to learn something of my own education because our backgrounds help form our preconceptions about the shape of liberal education and therefore the appropriate policy recommendations. I grew up in the United Kingdom in a system where disciplinary concentration started at an even earlier age than in the United States. I had a very broad education, and I would say a very liberal one up to the age of 16, when I took national examinations in nine subjects. However, I was then required to focus on a much narrower curriculum and forced to choose between an arts and a science concentration. I selected science with some misgivings. My best subjects were probably history and literature but I chose, with half an eye on a career objective (Prime Minister Harold Wilson was then waxing about the “white heat of the technological revolution”) to focus in the sciences for the next two years taking mathematics, physics, chemistry in addition to a course in general studies. The latter covered a wide range of topics, among them literature, drama, philosophy, history and civics, but was broad and not deep. It was not taught by staff trained in general education but...

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