Breaking Down the Walls, Opening Up the Field: Situating the Economics Classroom in the Site of Social Action

By Lewis, Margaret | Journal of Economic Issues, June 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Breaking Down the Walls, Opening Up the Field: Situating the Economics Classroom in the Site of Social Action


Lewis, Margaret, Journal of Economic Issues


The curtain rises on a scene: an introductory economics classroom, where students are sitting in neat rows. The professor begins the class by reminding students that "economics is the study of how scarce resources are allocated among unlimited wants" and proceeds to draw on the board a graph examining bow the price and quantity of good X are affected by an increase in demand. In order to explain how the market achieves its new equilibrium, the professor then goes through, in a linear, logical fashion, exactly how inventory shortages lead the sellers of good X to raise its price, which causes buyers to purchase fewer units while simultaneously causing the sellers to increase the number of units they offer on the market. Sellers continue to raise prices until they eliminate their shortages, at which point supply equals demand, and the market achieves equilibrium. Enthusiastically, the professor concludes that due to the workings of the market, our scarce resources can be shown to be allocated efficiently and all is right with the world--a point missed by most students who are at best disengaged or at worst asleep--because the professor's explanation neither reflects the complex world in which those students live nor does his or her analysis seem terribly relevant to the contemporary economic issues facing these students.

As a feminist-institutionalist economist, I find this scene disturbing for, several reasons: first because of the abstract reductionism of the neoclassical paradigm and its limitations in addressing contemporary social issues, and the lack of connection between the simplistic economics of the classroom and the complex economic activity in the world. In addition, I am disturbed because the above scenario captures the flavor of the economics classroom that, until recently, I taught in--a classroom where the professor, as authority, disciplines the students in bow economists think by showing them the abstract theoretical models of neoclassical economics, models emphasizing linear, logical, and rational analysis premised on the scarcity definition of economics. In that classroom of the past, I quickly learned that my students would not sit with rapt attention, marvelling at the elegance of these abstract models, and that they were more than a little disturbed by the model's apparent lack of applicability to contemporary economic issues, as well as by many of the underlying assumptions and limited scope of analysis. In addition, in that classroom of the past, I was increasingly concerned that my students did not fully appreciate how helpful economics could be in understanding today's complex world and that my classes also did little to prepare them to be engaged, critical citizens in the world; that is, I found that my classroom was not serving as a site of social action in which my students learned to use economics to engage the world. These observations and concerns led me to believe that significant changes were needed to break down the four walls enclosing the stereotypical economics classroom and to transform that room into a site of action. Today, I wish to identify the four walls that I believe have fostered the above scenario and to explore how a feminist-institutionalist economics can be instrumental in making the changes necessary for creating a more effective educational environment. These four walls are, in brief, pedagogy, content, methodology, and definition.

The First Wall-Pedagogy

The first wall that must be tumbled is the pedagogical wall. Active and critical engagement that encourages "doing" is one of the primary goals of both feminist and active learning pedagogical practices, both of which have evolved, in part, from John Dewey's progressive education tradition [Maher and Tetreault 1994, 9; Bonwell and Eisen 1994, 1]. Thus, these pedagogical practices are rooted in the same pragmatic philosophical tradition as institutional economics itself, and, as I have argued elsewhere, share the goal of creating environments that foster social action [Lewis 1994,6-9].

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Breaking Down the Walls, Opening Up the Field: Situating the Economics Classroom in the Site of Social Action
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.