A few weeks ago I had a brief exchange on Twitter with @unlearningecon about the possibility of introductory economics instruction going beyond teaching the neoclassical model of perfect competition and exploring alternatives. If I remember correctly our exchange didn’t get much beyond me saying that to do so is quite a challenge. Students can find it difficult enough to grasp the standard model, let alone alternatives to it. The challenge is compounded because some of the alternatives, at micro-level at least, are not as well worked through as the standard model. @unlearningecon didn’t feel it was so difficult.
Of course, I’ve no idea upon what @unlearningecon is basing his/her view. Our exchange was no more extensive than that. We didn’t pursue the issue. The view might be underpinned by plenty of experience. All I can say is that, in that case, the experience is different from mine.
For quite a while I have been thinking about what students should be introduced to when they are introduced to economics. The issue has become somewhat more high profile following the global financial crisis and the questioning of established economic paradigms.
Lasn’s recent book Meme Wars: the creative destruction of neoclassical economics is a direct call for economics students to challenge the bodies of knowledge they are presented with. It sees the student walkout from one of Greg Mankiw’s lectures a few years ago as inspirational. If instruction sticks to conventional models and makes no concession to real world relevance or fails to engage seriously with pressing social issues such as increased inequality or environmental sustainability then it should be contested. The book is a popularised version of many of the arguments presented somewhat more conventionally in books such as Hill and Myatt’s The economics anti-textbook, published in 2010.
After my exchange with @unlearningecon I felt the urge to jot down some further thoughts. Putting them here would have meant this ending up as a very long blogpost. So instead those thoughts have become a short paper, which I’ve bunged on to Scribd. You can access it below.