Teaching Economics Historically
Oslington, Paul, History of Economics Review
A common morning tea discussion topic at History of Economic Thought Society conferences is the declining possibilities for teaching history of thought courses in Australian universities. Similar trends overseas have been discussed by Cardoso (1995) and Blaug (2001). Typically in Australia the subject has been taught at third-year level as an option, and the number of universities offering such courses has been declining steadily. Sometimes courses have been kept going by dedicated teachers who undertake them in addition to their normal load. Contributing to the decline has been the reluctance of economics departments to hire young specialist historians of economic thought, and the retirement of older specialists is often the trigger for removal of the course from the degree program.
Not unrelated to the decline of teaching of history of economic thought is the falling interest in economics itself among Australian undergraduates (e.g. Lewis and Norris 1997, Alvey and Smith 2000, Lodewijks 2001). Explanations include the technical difficulty of economics courses, the bad reputation of economics after the controversies over economic rationalism in the 1980s, and competition from newer courses such as management, marketing, public policy etc. A common thread in all these explanations is the narrowness and irrelevance of economics courses. Narrowness feeds technique for its own sake, narrowness was a large part of the economic rationalism debates, and much of the attraction of newer courses is their breadth and perceived relevance.
The purpose of this paper is to describe an experiment at ADFA/UNSW in teaching first year economics historically. It is a response to both the decline of history of thought teaching and falling interest in economics. Most of the paper will be devoted to describing the content and teaching methods of the history of thought component of first year economics at ADFA/UNSW as well as student response. The concluding section will consider whether this approach to teaching first year can be generalised.
1 First-Year Economics at ADFA/UNSW …
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Publication information: Article title: Teaching Economics Historically. Contributors: Oslington, Paul - Author. Journal title: History of Economics Review. Volume: 36. Publication date: Summer 2002. Page number: 160+. © 2008 History of Economic Thought Society of Australia. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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