Having taught economics at a number of colleges for a number of years, I especially welcomed a feature article in the June 22nd issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, on how economics courses with the same name can be very different at different colleges. It can also be very different when the course is taught by professors in the same department who have different approaches.
The usefulness of the three approaches described in the article depends on what the introductory course is trying to accomplish.
One professor taught the subject through a steady diet of mathematical models. If the introductory economics course is aimed at those students who are going to major in economics, then that may make some sense. But most students in most introductory economics courses are not going to become economics majors, much less professional economists.
Among those students for whom a one-year introductory course is likely to be their only exposure to economics, mathematical models that they will probably never use in later life, as they try to understand economic activities and policies in the real world, may be of very limited value to them, if any value at all.
If the purpose of the introductory course is to serve as a recruiting source for economics majors, that serves the interest of the economics department, not the students. It may also serve the interests of the professor, because teaching in the fashion familiar in his own research and scholarship is a lot easier than trying to recast economics in terms more accessible to students who are studying the subject for the first time.
Click here to read the entire article.
Thomas Sowell (photo)