08 September 2010

The Political Action of Teaching

As always when starting a semester of teaching "introduction to macroeconomics" I am wondering how much Marx I should include, how critical I should be of the material in the text book that I am using, and how much emphasis to place on the idea that what I am presenting are theories and not "facts".

From the epistemological view that I favor all theories contain their own set of facts and there is no external truth.
The reality of course is that I will not get into this level of subtlety in an introduction to economics course.

The question then is should I be honest in that what I present are only possible theories (which runs the risk of confusing students who are seeing their first ever economics material)? or pertaining to my last post is it the "right" thing to do to present the conclusions of theories that I favor as "economics".

The latter is what the hegemonic neoclassical school has been doing for generations in economics education in this country, but is resorting to their tactics a useful way to combat their ideology?

I have not decided how overtly political my teaching process will be this semester, but anyone who claims they can teach a-politically is either self deluded or a liar.
The very action of presenting some material and skimming over other is a political process and the question that seems important to me is to what level do we owe it to our intro students to make them aware of this process? And how much more success will I have in teaching for example that all profit comes from exploitation rather than the MPK if I present it as fact rather than a competing theory?

1 comment:

Daniel MacDonald said...

Really interesting post! Intro to macro is at least a more interesting question than intro to micro. I think you should frame methodologies at the start and then present the Marxian view as the primary view, with references to how other traditions such as neoclassical view explain things.

The point, though, is to do this latter task in a way that does not dilute the neoclassical theory so as to make it a "straw man". Unfortunately, the neoclassical view is not very deep to begin with!