Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Archive for September 2008

Pluralism in the classroom

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Readers responding to Economic Woman often describe their first experience with economics – an introductory course in university, generally – with a mixture of disdain and repressed trauma. If only their professor had taught some of this stuff, they suggest,they might have stuck around in the discipline long enough to learn something.

I’ve always been struck at the difference in teaching methods between economics and my other major, international relations. The political science courses associate with international relations present several perspectives on each topic, citing particular theorists throughout, while introductory econ courses cover a subset of our knowledge as a supposedly coherent whole, usually with no references at all. There’s a particular sort of student, who has taken first year economics and accepted all of it as gospel, but hasn’t gone on to later courses, where everything gets more complicated. He or she spends a lot of time proselytizing for the internalizing of externalities, I find.

The realist/liberal/constructivist division in political science courses irritates me sometimes, because it avoids the work figuring out which lens is most useful or correct. But the disconnect between scholarly discourse in economics – where almost everything is up for debate, and many of the models taught in first year are decades out of date – and the single model built in first year courses is just as unrealistic.

All this is a very long lead-up for a link to a new journal that seeks to change all this: the International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education. It’s probably too far outside the mainstream to affect my own dusty department, but I’m glad someone is thinking and writing about this stuff. The description quotes a petition by French university students:

Of all the approaches to economic questions that exist, generally only one is presented to us. This approach is supposed to explain everything by means of a purely axiomatic process, as if this were the economic truth. We do not accept this dogmatism. We want a pluralism of approaches, adapted to the complexity of the objects and to the uncertainty surrounding most of the big questions in economics.

Amen.

Written by Allison

11 September 2008 at 12:02 pm

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