Suggestions to effectuate a multiparadigmatic approach to the teaching of principles of economics.

Author:Reardon, Jack
Position:Notes and Communications - Teaching of economics

In an important article in this journal, Janet Knoedler and Daniel Underwood (2003) attributed the declining number of economics majors to a rigid adherence to mainstream dogma, which students find irrelevant and divorced from the real world. To reverse this trend, the authors recommended a "multiparadigmatic" approach based on the tenets of institutional economics and grounded in the visionary economics of Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, Friedrich Hayek, and Karl Marx. This approach would enable students to understand the pressing issues of our day and furthermore, by encouraging critical thinking, fulfill a general education objective, something that neoclassical dogma fails to do.

Readers of this journal, however, already endorse institutionalist tenets and most of us enthusiastically incorporate the ideas of the worldly philosophers into our courses. So in a sense Knoedler and Underwood are preaching to the converted. Our task then is to convince the rest of the economics profession, which seems to be hermetically sealed within the dogma of neoclassical economics. This is daunting, for as Knoedler and Underwood acknowledge, economics professors under the age of forty-five are highly technical and comfortable with the existing situation (2003, 700).

The purpose of this article is to extend Knoedler and Underwood's analysis by offering suggestions to effectuate the adoption of a multiparadigmatic approach. Such suggestions are necessary because it is unlikely that the majority of neoclassical professors will suddenly become enlightened and embrace this approach on their own. On the contrary, they would ardently defend their dogma while concomitantly offering solutions that are a "recombination of inputs within the existing production function" (Knoedler and Underwood 2003, 701). Thus, efficacious solutions must be initiated from outside the cabal of neoclassical professors. The suggestions offered in this paper are designed to find such entry points from which to implement a multiparadigmatic approach.

The first entry point is the deans, provosts, chancellors. Rather than inculcating students with a myopic way of thinking, they are more concerned with graduating students who are critical thinkers and well-equipped intellectually. In addition, these administrators, along with the faculty senate, set the guidelines and requirements for general education, making them amenable to at least listening to the merits of a multiparadigmatic approach...

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