Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 4, 2012/ 14 Tamuz, 5772

Teaching Economics

By Thomas Sowell




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | 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.

Having written two textbooks on introductory economics — one full of graphs and equations, and the other with neither — I know from experience that the second way is a lot harder to write, and is more time-consuming. The first book was written in a year; the second took a decade. The first book quickly went out of print. The second book ("Basic Economics") has gone through 4 editions and has been translated into 6 foreign languages.


RECEIVE LIBERTY LOVING COLUMNISTS IN YOUR INBOX … FOR FREE!

Every weekday NewsAndOpinion.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


Both books taught the same principles, but obviously one approach did so more successfully than the other. The same applies in the classroom.

The opposite extreme from teaching economics with mathematical models was described by a professor who uses an approach she characterized as democratizing the classroom, "so that everybody is a co-teacher and co-learner." This has sometimes been called "discovery learning," where the students discover the underlying principles for themselves while groping their way through problems.

Unfortunately, discovery can take a very long time — much longer than a course lasts. It took the leading classical economists a hundred years of wrestling with different concepts of supply and demand — often misunderstanding each other — before finally arriving at mutually understood concepts that can now be taught to students in the first week of introductory economics.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the discovery learning professor sometimes seemed to be the one doing most of the work in the class, "bringing the students' sometimes fumbling answers back to economic principles."

This course's main focus is said to be not on mastering the principles of economics, but being able to "dialog" and discuss "shades of gray." With such mushy goals and criteria, hard evidence is unlikely to rear its ugly head and spoil the pretty vision of discovery learning.

Discovery learning may not serve the interests of the students, but it may well serve the ego of its advocate. Education may be the only field of human endeavor where experiments always seem to succeed — as judged by their advocates.

By contrast, the third method of teaching introductory economics, in lectures by Professor Donald Boudreaux of George Mason University, tests the students with objective questions — which means that it is also producing a test of whether this traditional way of teaching actually works. Apparently it does.

The Chronicle of Higher Education also reported on the students. The feckless behavior of today's students in all three courses makes me glad that I left the classroom long ago, and do my teaching today solely through my writings.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


BUY DR. SOWELL'S LATEST

Click HERE to purchase it at a 42 % discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).



Comment on JWR contributor Thomas Sowell's column by clicking here.

Up

Thomas Sowell Archives



© 2006, Creators Syndicate

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles