Revolucija v poučevanju ekonomije, ki je ni bilo

Se še spomnite Post-Crash Economics Society, gibanja za prenovo študija ekonomije? Dogajalo se je predvsem v letih 2012-13, ko je skupina dodiplomskih študentov ekonomije, najprej na univerzi v Manchestru in kasneje še v deseterici drugih držav, zahtevala prenovo študija ekonomije. Želeli so manj ortodoksne ekonomije z abstraktnimi modeli na nerealističnih predpostavkah in več kritične analize stanja v gospodarstvu in družbi ter samih ortodoksnih modelov. Tudi sam sem na tem blogu objavil več postov na to temo. Trije študentje, ki so začeli s tem študentskim uporom, so pravkar izdali knjigo na to temo “The Econocracy” (glejte spodaj nekaj odlomkov iz recenzije v The Guardianu), kjer opisujejo svoje izkušnje in nekako izvenijo, kot da je bil celoten projekt zelo uspešen.

Takrat, 3-4 leta nazaj, se je zdelo, da bo res prišlo do spremembe. Zastavljen je bil ambiciozen projekt (ki ga je podpiral Sorosev Institute for New Economic Thinking-INET) in ki ga je vodila Wendy Carlin z University College London. Dobili naj bi nov kurikulum ekonomije z novimi syllabusi predmetov itd. Toda, če danes pogledate nazaj, je težko videti kakšne resne spremembe. Velika večina univerz in njihovih profesorjev ekonomije je ohranila syllabuse večinima na predkrizni ravni. Novega kurikuluma pa ni od nikoder, INET danes ponuja syllabuse in on-line predavanja za zgolj šest predmetov. Z nekaj posamičnimi izjemami nikjer ni “alternativnih” učbenikov. “Alternativni”, heterodoksno zastavljeni predmeti se poučujejo kvečjemu v večernih urah.

Tudi na moji matični fakulteti do te spremembe v smeri heterodoksnega poučevanja ekonomije ni prišlo, čeprav je bilo kar nekaj pobud v tej smeri. Sam sem v svoje predmete sicer uvedel bistveno več kritične distance in alternativnih pogledov. Ampak to je to. Sami sylalbusi pa so navzven ostali povsem enaki. In vprašanje na mestu je, ali je ekonomijo sploh mogoče poučevati na drugačen način? Je možno razlaganje mikro in makro ekonomije premakniti iz abstraktnih predstav in predpostavk na raven heterodoksnega jezika brez jasne formalne strukture?

Ne vem. Ne znam si tega predstavljati. Tudi Karl Marx je v svoji kritiki kapitalizma moral najprej kapitalistični sistem formalno zapisati v abstraktni model. Enako najbrž moramo tudi mi. Če želimo spreminjati, moramo najprej razumeti, kaj spreminjamo. Najprej razumeti sedanje okostje modelov in nato secirati veljavnost posameznih predpostavk na podlagi njihove realističnosti in empirične podpore. Moja predstava poučevanja ekonomije je naslednja:

  • poučevanje osnov ekonomije na dodiplomski ravni v podobni obliki kot (do) sedaj,
  • vendar začinjeno z obsežno zgodovinsko, filozofsko in institucionalno analizo, ki ob intelektualni širini daje tudi zgodovinski kontekst razvoja posameznih teorij,
  • na podiplomski ravni pa usmeritev v empirično preverjanje privzetih konceptov, teorij in modelov in reevalvacija njihove relevantnosti (dober primer so denimo empirične ovržbe uveljavljenih dogem o splošni koristnosti proste trgovine, o škodljivosti minimalne plače, o irelevantnosti neenakosti, o neučinkovitosti fiskalnega stimuliranja itd.),
  • fokus na uporabnost ekonomije in s tem na pragmatičen namesto dogmatskega pristopa k ekonomiji.

Toda to najbrž ni tista prava revolucija v poučevanju ekonomije? Ali pač?

Yet the bushfires those teenagers saw raging each night on the news got barely a mention in the seminars they sat through, they say: the biggest economic catastrophe of our times “wasn’t mentioned in our lectures and what we were learning didn’t seem to have any relevance to understanding it”, they write in The Econocracy. “We were memorising and regurgitating abstract economic models for multiple-choice exams.”

Part of this book describes what happened next: how the economic crisis turned into a crisis of economics. It deserves a good account, since the activities of these Manchester students rank among the most startling protest movements of the decade.

After a year of being force-fed irrelevancies, say the students, they formed the Post-Crash Economics Society, with a sympathetic lecturer giving them evening classes on the events and perspectives they weren’t being taught. They lobbied teachers for new modules, and when that didn’t work, they mobilised hundreds of undergraduates to express their disappointment in the influential National Student Survey. The economics department ended up with the lowest score of any at the university: the professors had been told by their pupils that they could do better.

The protests spread to other economics faculties – in Glasgow, Istanbul, Kolkata. Working at speed, students around the world published a joint letter to their professors calling for nothing less than a reformation of their discipline.

The most devastating evidence in this book concerns what goes into making an economist. The authors analysed 174 economics modules for seven Russell Group universities, making this the most comprehensive curriculum review I know of. Focusing on the exams that undergraduates were asked to prepare for, they found a heavy reliance on multiple choice. The vast bulk of the questions asked students either to describe a model or theory, or to show how economic events could be explained by them. Rarely were they asked to assess the models themselves. In essence, they were being tested on whether they had memorised the catechism and could recite it under invigilation.

Critical thinking is not necessary to win a top economics degree. Of the core economics papers, only 8% of marks awarded asked for any critical evaluation or independent judgment. At one university, the authors write, 97% of all compulsory modules “entailed no form of critical or independent thinking whatsoever”.

More thoughtful academics have accepted the need for change – but strictly on their own terms, within the limits only they decide. That professional defensiveness has done them no favours. When Michael Gove compared economists to the scientists who worked for Nazi Germany and declared the “people of this country have had enough of experts”, he was shamelessly courting a certain type of Brexiter. But that he felt able to say it at all says a lot about how low the standing of economists has sunk.

The high priests of economics still hold power, but they no longer have legitimacy. In proving so resistant to serious reform, they have sent the message to a sceptical public that they are unreformable. Which makes The Econocracy a case study for the question we should all be asking since the crash: how, after all that, have the elites – in Westminster, in the City, in economics – stayed in charge?

Vir: Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian

%d bloggers like this: