Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Reinventing Economics

Joanne Jacobs has an excellent column at TechCentral Station on teachers who do not understand economics who then teach kids anti-economics.

It's a challenge to reach teachers who are ideologically unprepared to appreciate the market. Teachers do not work in enterprises where it's necessary to satisfy the customer or go out of business. They belong to a powerful union, which sees for-profit as synonymous with for-evil. Every business is Enron. Like biblical literalists who want to teach creationism in biology class, liberal teachers want to teach social justice in lieu of supply and demand.

"What if I don't believe in GDP?" a teacher asked.

Taylor sighs at the memory. "That's a toughie. I can discuss why GDP is a partial measure of social welfare. A lot of teachers at a gut level just don't believe this."

When he introduced the idea that a high minimum wage creates unemployment, a teacher said: "I just don't like to think of it that way."

"Well, OK, says Taylor. "It's a free country. But if you¹re going to teach economics, you have to think about it."

The question is whether teachers will teach economics. "There's a real danger of anti-economics," says Taylor. An unprepared physics teacher may not teach very well, but she's not trying to change physics to fit her preferences. "She doesn't say, 'We're going to invent perpetual motion today'."

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