Colleges are teaching economics backwards


…here’s one temporary fix for introductory economics: teach it backwards. Reversing the order in which introductory economic classes are taught today might be the easiest way to respond to the crisis in undergraduate education. Plus, the history of how it gets taught now is more interesting and more political than you might think.

Today, first-year undergraduate students typically start with microeconomics, or the study of individuals and individual markets. This begins with the study of abstract, decontextualized, markets, where supply and demand work perfectly, individuals exist in isolation…

In their second class, students begin to learn macroeconomics, or what happens when you add up all those markets…if there’s time left in the term, the class may turn to short-run issues, particularly the topics of the business cycle, recessions, and involuntary unemployment.

Notice how this orients the casual student, the non-major who will only encounter economics once in this survey course. They start off with an abstract market that always works, versus having to see the messy parts when it doesn’t…

So, what if we just reversed all that?

What if macroeconomics came first, before the study of individual markets? If [we] were to reverse the typical curriculum, the first thing undergraduates would encounter wouldn’t be abstract theories about people optimizing, but instead the idea of involuntary unemployment and the idea that the economy could operate below its potential…

…in the second class, they would get to microeconomics. But that too would be taught backwards…only at the very end, they’d get to the purest abstraction of perfect markets, with a final emphasis on what it means to be the isolated, optimizing Robinson Crusoe at the very end…

via Colleges are teaching economics backwards.

 

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