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Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 3:00pm to 4:00pm
Rockefeller Hall, 231
Mike Urbancic - University of Oregon
Knowing What We Don't Know: Striving Toward a More Authentic Introduction to Economics
Abstract: Fair or not, economics has a reputation for serving up dry, oversimplified models in a way that both exaggerates any real-world relevance and exudes a bracing degree of arrogance. It’s not a great look. That’s not the impression of economics we should want to leave with our students. When presenting models, we should be careful to point out their assumptions and limitations. Also, we ought to take the time to highlight any underlying ambiguities—positive or normative. There is always so much that isn’t objectively true or that we simply *don’t* know, and it’s important for our students to know that. Although it's tempting to wait until later in the curriculum to introduce nuance, a great many of our students will take only one economics course--ever. We need to start tackling these issues early on. For their part, students find this intellectual humility enormously refreshing, and it brings several benefits: enhancing the credibility of the instructor and discipline alike; humanizing both the course material and the instructor; piquing curiosity; inspiring inquiry, training students to examine assumptions critically; underscoring that economics is not a memorized list of facts or algorithms, but rather a method for learning about the world; and exposing students to nuance and ambiguity, which they initially find uncomfortable. The goal is to give students a more authentic understanding of the practice, insights, and contributions of economics.