Sunday, November 20, 2011

mankiw's bias revealed

Greg Mankiw recently woke up extra early to do an interview with the Fox News morning show Fox and Friends and posted the interview on his blog. The interview focused on the recent walkout that took place during his EC 10: Principles of Economics class. Both the show's host and Mankiw disputed the claims that the class was biased by indicating that the class was "mainstream", not "too conservative", and resembles the principles of economics classes that are taught at most college classes nation wide.

But those claims are precisely what makes Mankiw's class and textbooks biased: namely, the refusal to step out of the mainstream and look critically at what is being taught. Those who claim that Mankiw's approach is bias aren't simply saying that what is being said is too conservative and that it needs to be more liberal. The problem with Mankiw's approach lies in the limitations of the assumptions in the theory being discussed, methodological issues, and in the failure to recognize that there are alternative approaches to neoclassical economics. To refuse to do so is a refusal to provide his students with the education that they expect and deserve.

The purpose of a liberal education is to expose students to a plurality of ideas and modes of thought, and from the interview it seems like the Fox News anchor and Greg Mankiw would agree. But, Mankiw's supposed dedication to liberal education contradicts his approach to teaching economics. By teaching an exclusively mainstream approach to economics he fails to provide his students with a wide ranging and critical account of economics failing the students the education they were promised when they entered into academia.

It is not simply that he is failing to provide his students with the liberal education that they are promised, but that by doing so he is failing the broader project that is the development of economic thought. Throughout the history of economic thought most if not all advancement in theory came from people drawing from a plurality of ideas -- not by simply staying within the mainstream framework. By limiting the ideological scope of his class he is limiting the potential advancement of his field.

5 comments:

  1. and failing a basic tenet of education, that a teacher should open her/his students' minds, not close them!

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  2. I'm always reminded of Milton Friedman's quote:

    "Truly important and significant hypotheses will be found to have assumptions that are wildly inaccurate descriptive representations of reality, and, in general, the more significant the theory, the more unrealistic the assumptions (in this sense)."

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  3. Very interesting! says Karin, teacher in Sweden (not in economics though). Very good point, Julia!

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  4. This gave me a laugh:

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-14/harvard-s-walkout-students-misunderstand-economics-amity-shlaes.html

    I've posted a pretty long response so don't waste too much time on it. Just need to wait for it to be moderated.

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  5. Hah! This is pretty bad. Thanks for the tip though, and for fighting the good fight :)

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