“More Effective Economics Training Would Yield Enormous Dividends”


Economics101cartoon.jpg   Source of the cartoon:  online version of the NYT commentary cited below.


I agree with Franks, in the commentary excerpted below, that there is much room for improvement in the teaching of principles of economics.  But I doubt that economics is alone in the dismal performance of students, six months after having completed the course.

My own views on improving the principles course, by including more content related to innovation and entrepreneurship, can be found in my article referenced at the end of this entry. 


WHEN I began teaching economics in the 1970s, I noticed that people were generally disappointed when they learned what I did for a living. When I began asking why, many said something like this: “I took Econ 101 years ago, and there were all those horrible equations and graphs.”

Their unpleasant memories were apparently justified. Studies have shown that when students are tested about their knowledge of basic economic principles six months after completing an introductory economics course, they score no better, on average, than those who never took the course.

In other sectors of the economy, such dismal performance might provoke malpractice suits. But in the university system, students and their parents put up with this situation year after year.

. . .

Given the importance of the economic choices we confront, both as individuals and as a society, more effective economics training would yield enormous dividends. And in light of the low bar established by traditional courses, there seems little risk in trying something different.  


For the full commentary, see: 

ROBERT H. FRANK.  "Economic View; The Dismal Science, Dismally Taught."  The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section  (Sun., August 12, 2007):  4.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)


For my article on how to improve the principles course, see:

"The Neglect of Creative Destruction in Micro-principles Texts."  History of Economic Ideas 15, no. 1 (2007):  197-210.


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