Neoclassical Economics in the Classroom.
Many of us economists, whom are not bourgeois economists, will be called upon over the course of our careers to teach neoclassical economic theories. In fact we are often called upon to teach entire courses based upon said theories. There is no argument that these theories, their ideological underpinnings, and the politics and culture they support are the dominant theories and processes of modern American society. The following arguments are especially pertinent to those of us in what are traditionally considered introductory economics, where neoclassical theories remain hegemonic in most presentations more so than “upper level” undergraduate courses where a brief survey suggests that slightly more pluralism exists. This does not mean that the following is not relevant in all economics classrooms, just that it is the author’s opinion that there exists slightly more pluralism in the more advanced material. In this essay I will argue that those of us who do not subscribe to the dominant views of society, and may wish to change said views, have not only an interest in, but an obligation to inform our students of the political processes that are taking place in the classroom.
In my experience the teaching of radical economics is often constrained by the need find balance between favored (by the instructor) heterodox ideas and the need to do justice to students who will continue in mainstream economics educations. Often even the most radical of economics educators will accept some mainstream institutions (such as textbooks that frame economics as apolitical) as given. It is important that radical economics educators are self-aware of the political nature of our choice of the level of engagement with mainstream economics in the class room.
The dialectical relationship between what is practiced in the classroom and what students accept as the field of economics during and after their education is something that many economics educators choose to ignore. As radical economists we need to be aware that our choice of level of (dis)engagement with the mainstream in economics education has consequences both within, and outside of the future of our profession. This essay is an attempt to bring to light some of these consequences by examining the institutions that we question, and the institutions that we take as given, both implicitly and explicitly when teaching economics.
The essay has three main points. The first section provides a critique of both accepted practice in mainstream teaching, and some of the perceived consequences when we fail as radical educators to engage against bourgeois society in the classroom, that is, pretend that teaching can be apolitical. The second section discusses the teaching of bourgeois economics by asking the question; when called upon to do so, can we teach these theories, and acknowledge how important they have been in our society (both historically and presently) in a way that is clear, does the theory justice, and leaves the student open to critique? The third section of this essay discusses choice around both content and pedagogy in the classroom for economics educators who are aware that there is a political aspect to the process of classroom teaching.