Rethinking economics pedagogy and textbooks: the new WEA online platform

In 2011, Edward Fullbrook, writing on Toxic Textbooks, pointed out that “No discipline has ever experienced systemic failure on the scale that economics has today”. And added that the global financial crisis revealed that  “..we, the textbooks we use, and the courses that we teach harbour fundamental misconceptions about the way economies, most especially their markets, function” (

Economics pedagogy is a starting point for both an analysis of the roots of the global financial crisis and of the challenges to how it might be made a facilitator of social justice. After the global crisis, Fullbrook suggests to rethink economics pedagogy taking into account “eleven ways to think like a post-crash economist”
1. Don’t try to pass yourself off as a kissing cousin of natural scientists.
2. Don’t speak, except to very small children, of invisible hands and magic.
3. When possible avoid the use of emotive words.
4. Remind yourself every morning that your duty as a teacher is to educate your students, not indoctrinate them.
5. Try to look at economic phenomena from different points of view and teach your students to do the same.
6. Encourage diversity of conceptual frameworks in economic research.
7. Don’t be condescending to your students.
8. Keep your eye on real-world economies rather than imaginary ones.
9. Don’t try to hide the troubled but fascinating history and contemporary diversity of economics from your students and the general public.
10. Avoid cranks and try to avoid becoming one yourself.
11. Never try to pass off ideology as objective truth.

Indeed, the importance of economics teaching is at the center of the new World Economics Association online platform for commentaries and discussion of standard introductory level textbooks, plus links to related resources. It can be accessed via:

In otther words, the World Economics Association’s Textbook Commentaries Project seeks to provide a platform for independent, inclusive, participatory enrichment of economics courses. The project certainly  aims to increase the influence of alternative and critical material to promote radical changes in economics education.
More project background details
Download WEA newsletter Volume 4, Issue No. 5, October 2014

  1. Stuart Birks said:

    Thanks, Maria, for publicising the Textbook Commentaries Project. We are working to get sufficient input and support to enable the platform to become a valuable and well-used resource.

    For readers who are currently teaching economics, you may already have, in your own course notes or published work, short pieces which could be of use to others. These could be critical points, alternative perspectives, or descriptions of specific country perspectives or policy experiences, to suggest a few possibilities. Not only will you be identified in your commentaries, but also you could be drawing people’s attention to your wider work. You may also get useful feedback through comments that people may add.

    You may also find that you can benefit from resources made available by others.

    We are now working hard to also get active support from the numerous student groups around the world which are wanting to influence the curriculum. This project is a way that that might be done. It can make useful material available in an easily understood, concise way that is suitable for inclusion in course sessions or through links on on course web pages and discussion forums.

    I would welcome feedback or further discussion on the project. Of course, this blog may be useful for that.


  2. Macrocompassion said:

    For a long while the experts in economics have been complaining that the subject is insufficiently scientific. Yet for all their writings, the somewhat vague way of providing explanations persists and very few can state using scientific language what is going on. Even this is not enough and what is needed by our students is some logical thinking about not only of what our social system consists but HOW IT WORKS. I believe that I have hit on a way to achieve this in the use of a particular model which covers the whole system (big picture) in the least complicated way without the over-simplification that past models have done (as Prof Einstein claimed is necessary for successful scientific theories). Neither is my model so involved (unlike the computer programmers approach) that it is too difficult to see what is happening.

    So I would like this model to provide some basic information for the revised curriculum of the kind you mention above. The model can be found on the internet as: DiagFuncMacroSyst.pdf and it is in Wikimedia, commons, macroeconomics as well as in Google images.

    A lot of careful logical thought went into this model which has many stages of development. Some explanations I hope to provide in my book, to be published shortly, if you wish and can show me your good intent, I can send you a pre-view.

  3. The first thing that we need to face when discussing economics is that an instructor in economics has one need. Students of economics another. Those living in the real world, attempting to make sense out of it, so as to be able to better protect themselves and their families from economic oppression, have yet another. With regard to immediacy, there is little doubt that the latter has far greater legitimacy, and that the rest of these pursuits constitute little more than a temporary diversion from reality.

    Regardless of what theorists would have us believe, this thing called economics is anything but cut and dried; so, those who have attached themselves to any particular persuasion are clearly delusional if they think so. You have only to check out the “Mainstream macroeconomics distorts our understanding of economic reality” thread on the Real World Economics Review Blog to understand the many convoluted opinions that attend a discussion of economics. There are currently 160 posts on this thread. Those “experts” seeking to disguise their impotence, for the purposes of continuing participation, are quick to claim that “theoretical economics” is a whole different animal from “political economics.” By doing so, they have created a smoke screen behind which they can continue to conduct business as usual — or, expound ad-infinitum (in the most abstruse terms) upon the eternally confused process of trying to understand the evolution of economic theory. In case none are aware of it, Rome is burning people; and, no amount of fiddling is going to change that fact. (see: And, as it viability goes, so too will any and all discussions about economics. For, you can’t discuss anything when you are dead.

    With a little sobriety in hand, let’s try and focus upon what the needs of immediacy are. At this point in time, it’s more than evident that no one has a theory capable of encompassing the many variables by which “money” influences circumstance in the real world. And, no amount of theory extolled by anyone is about to change that. The reason is because human nature is not predictable. As a result, when wealth collects in the hands of the few, it winds up skewing any natural law that would otherwise buffer the well being of the whole. Currently, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control 35.6 percent of the total wealth of the country — more than a third. Even more incredible is that the richest 10 percent of Americans control 75 percent of the wealth, leaving only 25 percent to the other 90 percent of Americans. This problem is not unique to the United States, but basically exists in all countries of the world. The 85 Richest People in the World have as much Wealth as the 3.5 Billion Poorest. Given current policy rulings by the Supreme Court (US) regarding contributions to political campaigns, the influence of the rich has been magnified many times over. In an environment such as this, the idea of democracy is strictly a farce. Instead, democracy inadvertently reverts to capitalism with all its bias.

    If anything is going to be done to try and turn this situation around we need to understand the underlying problem that haunts human behavior. “The core concept of moral/ethical behavior and the responsibility it promotes is rightly contained in the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This theme ideologically pervades almost all cultures. Unfortunately, its meaning has somehow got corrupted in the translation. In many quarters, it has come to mean “do unto others whatever you can, so you can better provide for those you love.” In the eyes of the ignorant the “self” has come to top the list of those who one loves. In doing so, it successfully defeats the initial premise and allows greed and avarice to run free. Since it is not education but the ability to experience empathy that is essential to any turn around, a wholly new approach to resolving existing problem needs to be implemented.

    Consistent with that, the next thing I hope will be given appropriate consideration here, is what can be done to try and turn our current situation around — not just more idle chatter over whose interpretation of what is more valid to the greater audience. At this point in time, only the combined influence of those who are NOT rich and affluent can still impact upon global dynamics. The rest are bought and sold. And, the Internet, while it is still basically uncensored, can serve to consolidate them. How to reach them and encourage their participation now becomes the central issue that needs resolution. I hope that the intellectual brain trust that frequents this site will put there current pursuit of the impossible temporarily on hold and contribute to the saving of themselves and those they claim to love. If you can’t do that, then you don’t deserve being qualified as a human being.

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