Are we teaching the right stuff to our introductory students? Many complain that the gap between “what economists now know” on the one hand, and what we teach to our incoming students, on the other, has grown over the past decades. The foundational content of most texts differs little from Samuelson 1948 (and aside from Samuelson’s introduction of aggregate demand), even from Marshall 1890). Most intro students will not encounter the idea that important markets – credit and labor for example – may not clear in equilibrium or that ethical and generous motives or human cognitive limitations sometimes help account for economic behavior. New quantitative methods widely used in the profession – natural and laboratory experiments, simulations, for example – are given little attention. Others, noting that economics is itself in flux, lament the disappearance of the history of the discipline from the curriculum and the sidelining of economic history. Finally, students coming to economics from an interest in the financial system and its instability, environmental problems, development and inequality often find that these (at best) “back of the book” topics are not covered in practice.
Should the content of the intro course be reconsidered? If so how can this be done in a way that results in a coherent and cumulative body of conceptual tools, quantitative methods, and ideas accessible to first year students?
Panelists and discussants coming from very different perspectives will address these issues.
London School of Economics and Political Science
E. Glen Weyl
Microsoft Research and Yale University
University College London
Santa Fe Institute
PBS NewsHour, Yale University, and Gateway Community College