The Teagle Discussion on Re-evaluating the Undergraduate Economics Major
Edited by David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick
Chapter 20: How the Shifting Landscape Affects our Students
David W. Breneman David Colander and KimMarie McGoldrick have written a thoughtful and provocative piece on the relationship of the undergraduate major in economics and the goals of liberal education. The question they raise is whether this increasingly popular major, as currently taught, is contributing positively to the goals and objectives of those colleges and universities that embrace the liberal arts tradition and its corresponding philosophy of education. Sadly, the authors conclude that in far too many ways and on far too many campuses, the economics major is not a positive contributor to the breadth and vision espoused by this educational model. The authors, however, are modest in their hopes for their report, sponsored by the Teagle Foundation as part of a broader project encouraging re-examination of the undergraduate curriculum. They note that the AEA’s Committee on Economic Education, when asked to undertake this task, was reluctant to commission a committee report, in part because the economics major appears to be thriving – as measured by enrollments – and thus is not considered ripe for reform. Instead, we have a co-authored essay, designed to spark discussion that might lead to modest but imaginable improvements. In short, the Colander-McGoldrick report is not a bold educational manifesto, but rather a thoughtful analysis of the forces shaping undergraduate education in economics, together with some ideas and suggestions for change. It is a document that one hopes faculty members, department chairs, deans, provosts, and presidents will read with profit, leading, where conditions are right, to educational...
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