November 3 2011
This just in from the Groves of Academe: Brave and courageous Harvard students have staged a walkout from the economics class taught by Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Romney adviser, and super-duper blogger.
Well, I reckon we’ve all cut some classes in our lives, but these brats issued what amounts to a manifesto:
Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.
As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.
A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.
In other words, the students don’t want to be exposed to ideas with which they disagree. The want a professor who parrots the same ideological mush they usually ingest. And the “justification” for presenting whatever ideas are presented in class? It is that it's the professor's class. He can teach what he wants. You are there to learn, not to teach. You certainly should not accept whatever the professor puts out there (!), but it defeats the purpose of going to college to insist you are taught only what you already think.
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, who says he hopes Mankiw flunks ‘em all, has this to say:
This Harvard stunt just childish and stupid. I’m all for these privileged students coming to realize their own responsibilities to the broader society, especially given what’s happening now with Wall Street and the recklessness of financial elites (many of them Ivy grads). But walking out of a class to protest the way the professor teaches it is tantrummy silliness (I doubt very much they would be complaining about the lack of intellectual diversity in the class if the teacher were a doctrinaire Marxist who followed an exclusivist pedagogy instead of a former Bush administration official).
Kudos to Ec 10 alum Jeremy Patashnik, "a self-identifying liberal (on most issues),” for defending the course in a piece in the Harvard Political Review. Glad to see a liberal-minded liberal!