There is a great deal of movement around the world in search of change, in many areas. One of these is among economics students.
Lars P. Syll is an economist at the Faculty of Education and Society at Malmö, Sweden
Cross-posted from Syll’s blog
The master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts … He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular, in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must be entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood, as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near to earth as a politician.
Economics students today are complaining more and more about the way economics is taught. The lack of fundamental diversity — not just path-dependent elaborations of the mainstream canon — and narrowing of the curriculum, dissatisfy econ students all over the world. The frustrating lack of real-world relevance has led many of them to demand the discipline to start developing a more open and pluralistic theoretical and methodological attitude.
There are many things about the way economics is taught today that worry yours truly. Today’s students are force-fed with mainstream neoclassical theories and models. That lack of pluralism is cause for serious concern.
However, I find the most salient deficiency in ‘modern’ economics education in the total absence of courses in the history of economic thought and economic methodology. That is deeply worrying since a science that doesn’t self-reflect and asks important methodological and science-theoretical questions about the own activity, is a science in dire straits.
Methodology is about how we do economics, how we evaluate theories, models and arguments. To know and think about methodology is important for every economist. Without methodological awareness it’s really impossible to understand what you are doing and why you’re doing it. Dismissing methodology is dismissing a necessary and vital part of science.
For someone who has spent forty years in economics academia, it’s hopeful to see all these young economics students that want to see a real change in economics and the way it’s taught. Never give up. Never give in.
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