THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 7, Spring 1994

William A. McEachern, Editor

A Teaching "Magna Carta"

In case you missed it, a remarkable advertisement entitled "Petition to Reform Graduate Education" appeared in the December 1993 issue of the American Economic Review (pp. ii-iii). The petition, which was signed by 463 economics instructors at undergraduate institutions, was directed at economics graduate programs, stating that "many of your graduates are not receiving as part of their total graduate education the training that we believe is necessary to be good teachers of undergraduates." The petition goes on to list the preparation desired, including

"A background in the economic debates and literature of the past 20 years and how those debates have shaped what we as a profession believe; a solid training in the models which they will be beaching to undergraduates; a knowledge of economic institutions and the role institutions play in the economy; an ability to communicate the central ideas conveyed in introductory and intermediate micro and macro [courses]; knowledge of the alternative approaches in economics and an ability to compare and contrast different approaches; and a knowledge of econometrics, and limits of econometric testing."

The petitioners warn they will structure their "hiring practices to favor students who have trained in those areas and skills that are most useful in teaching undergraduates." The signers, some who have contributed teaching ideas to "The Grapevine," are from a cross section of undergraduate colleges including some of the best--Amherst, Bates, Davidson, Middlebury, Smith, Washington and Lee, Wesleyan, and Wellesley. Whether this "Magna Carta" has any effect on graduate instruction remains to be seen, but it's an interesting development and one to follow.

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