Working Paper

Narrative in Teaching Economics

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Economics has advanced an enormous distance from the Walrasian paradigm and the Neoclassical synthesis. However, undergraduate curriculums continue to heavily favour these views of what economics is and what tools it provides for understanding contemporary
public problems.

Amazingly, students continue to be taught that any deviation from these paradigms is a “market failure”, an “anomaly”, a “special case” that must be addressed in advanced or elective courses. Since most undergrads (a.k.a. business majors) only have introductory courses; this means that an overwhelming majority of university students that are treated to economics teaching are treated to a naive and outdated version of economics.

It is no wonder that during the turmoil of the Sub Prime Mortgage Crisis and the Year of the Protester one issue that came up around economics campuses all over the world was the failure of economics to properly address financial behaviour, inequality, environmental issues, non market or contractual forms of collective organization and a whole range of issues. Basically students around the world manifested their dissatisfaction with what was being taught to them because they felt the questions they had were not being answered. This dissatisfaction is not surprising when you recognize that in practice, the bulk of modern economics is almost being hidden from them.