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October 11, 2004

I second Arnold Kling's opinion on introductory economics.

I am really dissatisfied with the AP economics curriculum and with first-year economics content in general. Too much emphasis on the graphical apparatus, and not enough emphasis on getting students to overcome their biases against markets, against trade with strangers, etc.

I think that the best that can be said for the current curriculum is that it helps prepare somebody for more advanced economics courses. Of course, I think that the advanced courses are too mathematical, so I am not ready to concede that this is a plus.

But for someone who is not going on in economics, it is easy to focus on cramming into short-term memory the ability to do tricks with supply-demand diagrams or production possibility curves or average and marginal cost curves. Instead, what I would hope to do is have students get into their long-term memory some core ideas of economics.

For example, I was gratified that at the end of the first unit in my course, where I asked each student to write a one paragraph on what was for that student the highlight of the unit. One student wrote that she understood, but was not sure that she believed, the economic argument that low-skilled workers would be better off with more Wal-Marts than with fewer Wal-Marts.

I would add that the AP course--at least the micro half--seems to me to be especially offensive in this regard. They've sucked nearly all the excitement out of micro and replaced it with definitions and dull formalisms.

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PEmberton

Arnold Kling is right on the money.
Prof Buchanan identified where the rot started: Robbins definition of economics as the science of scarcity. Its not a science and its about EXCHANGE not scarcity.
Students are being fed scientistic pap. We should tear up the texts and use fascinating insights into markets such as can be found in MCMillan's excellent book "Reinventing the
Bazaar"

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