I Teach Economics

I have taught bits of economics, on and off, for more than 10 years now. Originally, I tried to avoid the standard micro and macro courses because, frankly, I was embarrassed to teach such a lot of quite obvious nonsense. Students could immediately see the flaws and I could not honestly defend the content and I ended up feeling unprofessional. I soon moved into teaching statistics and/or research methods which felt safer because they were empty of content.

Bluebell Woods near AberystwythBut that really was not good enough and I am pleased to say that there is now a whole movement seeking to challenge the hegemonic nature of the neoclassical discourse within academic education. Economics appears to be the only discipline where this treatment of a subject as a form of catechism is permitted (what Hazel Henderson referred to as the ‘snake-oil priesthood’). It achieves the benefit that those who study only a year of economics, like many of our politicians, swallow the holy writ but learn nothing of the counterexamples. They then repeat what they have learned as a series of mantras throughout their working lives, blocking the possibility of change. How else could climate change have been designated an example of market failure, rather than evidence that the market system as an entirety had failed both the planet and the human race?

If you haven’t already found it you may enjoy The Economics Anti-textbook, which offers a way of unpicking the orthodox economics textbook, but also illustrates how economics as followed by academics economists is actually considerably more nuanced than what is taught to students. You can also try the resources made available by the Association of Heterodox Economists including its teaching resources.

I teach short courses on Green Economics (loosely based around my book on the subject and have made various resources available to students. I also teach a course called Economics for a Small Planet, which covers the approaches taken to the environment-economy link by a range of different economics schools. It includes content that will be published in a book by Routledge in January 2011. I will be making teaching resources available on the small planet page as I prepare them this autumn.

I have also recently spent some time thinking about how we might teach about sustainability. I have made available presentations that I used when I was teaching two modules as part of an MBA in Social Entrepreneurship available on a page called Teaching about Co-operatives

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