The academic revolution: we’re getting there

Mon 23rd February 2015 | Blog

FAZarticleGerman business newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) last week singled out CORE as the bright spot in the international response of the economics profession to how to teach economics after the crisis.

The article, titled “We haven’t learned anything from the financial crisis” (“Nichts gelernt aus der Finanzkrise” in the original) quotes many other authors on the failure of universities to adapt their courses to respond to this challenge from the real world. It quotes Dennis Snower, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, who laments that “Everything moves in one direction: upholding conservatism.“

Or Princeton economist Markus Brunnermeier, who says, “The academic revolution is yet to come.“

Or, representing the voice of students, Bijan Kaffenberger from the Goethe University in Frankfurt: “How should we do it better in the future, when we’re still being taught the models that got us into this crisis?“

On the other hand FAZ interviews Wendy Carlin as an example of a teacher who is “on the side” of students like Kaffenberger, noting that “traditional macroeconomic courses rarely deal with financial markets, irrationality, or economic history. In Carlin’s curriculum they play a central role very early on.”

That means, in Wendy Carlin’s words, that CORE turns economics teaching back to front: “First you learn about the economic problems. Then you develop the models that are needed for them.” As the article explains, this means financial markets, irrationality and economic history are a fundamental part of the course.

We don’t believe that everyone is dedicated to upholding the status quo. As the article says, CORE is being taught at UCL at the moment. Already it is being used, in a French translation, at Sciences Po in Paris. We are translating into Italian and Spanish. The University of Cape Town has begun teaching the course, and very soon the University of Sydney will start to teach CORE too.

We are also working to remove a practical obstacle to change. Anyone who has taught a course knows how long it takes to prepare new teaching materials, especially if they have to be developed without textbook support. That’s why we make free support materials available to any teachers who want to use CORE. For example, there will be PowerPoint slides of our models and additional tests: use as much or as little as you want. We’re still creating this material, but if you plan to teach any of the CORE units and would like access, contact us.