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Monday, February 11, 2013

Teaching Your View Versus the Consensus View

What would you do about this? Let us say you hold a minority view in economics: say, you are convinced Marx's theory of the business cycle is correct. How much do you teach Marx's view versus the more standard ones?

I'm not sure, but tentatively I am embracing the following: for lower level courses, a teacher is largely obligated to teach the consensus view, although it is fine to note that you dissent from it, and to explain why. The place to present heterodox views at length is in a graduate seminar or something of the sort, where one can expect students already have learned the "standard model" of whatever is being discussed.

Anyone differ from me on this? Why?

4 comments:

  1. I feel that heterodox views are becoming more commonplace on the Internet, but in the academic world, it doesn't seem to be that way for now. The Internet and YouTube are mainly the reason that more people than previously who have adopted heterodox economic views and have even gone as far as becoming anarcho-capitalists or anarcho-communists.

    From the looks of it, I believe it would be suitable to teach the consensus view first and if there is any time left over during the semester, you could give your students some type of extra credit assignment where they get to write a paper about Marx's theory of the business cycle or something like that.

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  2. My only experience is taking undergraduate and graduate level courses, but my opinion is close to yours. Further, I'd say that the best way to teach a heterodox, or under-taught point of view, is to allow the students to react to it. That way you're not trying to supplant an idea, as much as you're trying to get the student to critically evaluate all the ideas in contention. The best suited environment for this is a graduate level course (especially a seminar). If you think the ideas you want to teach are suitable for undergrads, maybe the best course is to organize a low level grad course that can be opted to as a capstone for an undergrad. (I only needed two capstones -- one for each major --, but I took four because these were far more interesting than undergrad classes.)

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  3. I agreed with your take, Gene, when I was at Hillsdale. I would spend a lot of time teaching business majors how to draw MC and MR curves even though I knew they would never use it again in their lives, because "everybody learns this in micro."

    The problem was that I wasn't passionate about it, and almost defensive, so I think those were bad lectures. In the upper level classes--where I really believed in what I was teaching--kids thought I was a different guy.

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  4. Considering that my college experience can be summed up as a year-long party on Dad's dime, do you really want my opinion?

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