What is wrong with economics education

Here is the opening paragraph adapted from my recent article “A Radical Reformation of Economics Education: Towards a New Beginning,” published in Real- World Economics Review, (Issue No. 62, December 2012, pp. 2-19.)

Alfred Marshall wrote in his best-selling principles of economics text that “economic conditions are constantly changing, and each generation looks at its own problems in its own way” [Marshall, Principles of Economics, 8th ed., 1920, p. v.]. Our generation is confronted with many problems including climate change, environmental damage, a global financial crisis, a palpable disparity in income and wealth, escalating debt, and a health care crisis. These problems are mutually reinforcing and will only worsen. At the center, however, is the discipline of economics itself and economics education, which obfuscates the interrelationship of our problems, inures its students to human suffering[1] and abnegates thoughtful discussion of the human predicament.

Gone are the days when only one school of thought could be deemed sufficient to educate the public and provide policy makers with a range of solutions. Gone are the days when only one school of thought in economics could claim a monopoly on knowledge while derisively dismissing the legitimacy of all others. To solve the problems of our generation we need educated citizens and economists who understand diversity and are willing to work with each other and with other social scientists.

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[1] Keynes on the completeness of the Ricardian victory, “That it could explain much social injustice and apparent cruelty as an inevitable incident in the scheme of progress, and the attempt to change such things as likely on the whole to do more harm than good, commended it to authority” (Keynes The General Theory 1936, p.33).

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