Revamping the Economics curriculum

Year: 2006

Author: Harkness, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Economics is commonly studied at schools and is one of the most popular courses at university (usually within a Bachelor of Business or Commerce degree). Thus, it is of great importance that the economics curriculum is enlightening and revealing and addresses profound questions. In my view, it is not doing this well. The typical syllabus hides more than it reveals, especially at the tertiary level.

This paper will describe the major deficiencies in the way economics is normally taught in western countries, including how narrow and unrealistic orthodox economic theory is, and how it legitimises our unequal, competitive, individualistic capitalistic economic system. Orthodox economics courses rarely question the status quo, and rarely present students with alternative ways of imagining society.

The paper outlines an alternative syllabus which endeavours to analyse the economy the way it really is, and addresses all its main dimensions: historical, social, political and environmental. This contrasts starkly with the simplistic stylised "perfectly competitive" economy assumed in standard economic theory.