How to teach economics
The undergraduate major in economics is generally healthy, but it would be stronger if faculty members had better skills in presenting the discipline to the vast majority of their students who do not want to become academic economists. That is the verdict of a draft report to be discussed here Saturday during the annual meeting of the American Economic Association.
The report was drafted by David C. Colander, a professor of economics at Middlebury College, and KimMarie McGoldrick, a professor of economics at the University of Richmond. It is one of a series of reports supported by the Teagle Foundation in an effort to promote “fresh thinking” about various undergraduate majors.
The good news, according to Mr. Colander and Ms. McGoldrick, is that most undergraduate economics departments continue to offer a broad education that speaks to students who might pursue business, public policy, or academic careers. A new national survey has found that a large majority of economics majors are satisfied with their programs.
But the authors fear that as doctoral education in economics becomes more technical and abstract — a trend Mr. Colander has criticized elsewhere — new faculty members are badly prepared to teach economics to undergraduate students with diverse interests. . . .
Personally, I am not as optimistic as Colander and McGoldrick are about the current state of the field. I have had two sons studying economics in college and their intermediate economics classes are mindless mechanical minimization and maximization problems.