Congrats to Fairfax Media for publishing Dr Tim Thornton’s article on problems with the way we educate economists…the morning after the Coalition’s budget launch! Economics has long been recognised as an ‘inherently precise discipline’ (M A Salinger) and apparently even the Queen ‘felt compelled’ to ask why leading economists in the UK were unable to predict the GFC.
Tim Thornton is a lecturer in the School of Politics and Education at Melbourne’s Swinburne University.
The article tells us that recently 48 associations of economics students from 21 countries (including Australia) formed the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics, calling for deep reforms in the way economics is taught. They point out that:
“the way economics is taught has consequences far beyond the university walls: it shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes how societies respond to the substantial challenges of the 21st century.”
The students are dissatisfied because:
1. “There is generally no required study of economic history or the history of economic thought which produces graduates with dangerous levels of historical amnesia in regard to the world and to the discipline they assume they understand.”
2. “Contemporary economics students will rarely encounter any of the schools that compete with the neoclassical school: institutional, post-Keynesian, behavioural, Marxian, Austrian, feminist or ecological. These economics schools, which come from all points of the intellectual and ideological compass, make crucial contributions to building up our understanding of a complex and ever-changing economic and social world.”
3. “The curriculum fails to incorporate crucial insights offered by other disciplines such as politics, philosophy, history, sociology and psychology.”
At Sydney University, in response to four decades of demands for greater pluralism, a separate department in the social science faculty was created: The Department of Political Economy. We are told that:
“This department has prospered. Its first-year elective subject ‘economics as a social science’ typically has enrolments of 600 to 700 students.”
Here is the link to the open letter written by the protesting students.