Archive | Education

Does Hayek Belong in High School Economics Classes?

At the Freakonomics blog, economist Justin Wolfers criticizes a recent Texas Board of Education effort to include the work of F.A. Hayek in high school economics classes. He sees it as a “conservative” ideological mandate that isn’t justified by Hayek’s scholarly influence:

Sunday’s New York Times reported on attempts by the Texas Board of Education to rewrite the high school curriculum in accordance with its conservative values….. I find the raw ideological force exerted by these “educators” to be both striking and dispiriting.

How do they plan to rewrite high school economics?

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, to the usual list of economists to be studied – economists like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes.

Taking social science seriously surely means teaching the insights of the most prominent, most important, or most influential economists. This involves teaching important theories—even those you disagree with. There’s no doubt about the influence of Smith, Marx and Keynes; Friedman also belongs. But does Hayek belong on this list?

Let’s use data to inform this debate. I counted the number of references to each economist in the scholarly literature indexed by JSTOR, finding 30,708 articles mentioning “Adam Smith”; 25,626 articles mentioning “Karl Marx”; and 4,945 mentioning “John Maynard Keynes” (the middle name was required to avoid articles by his father, John Neville Keynes). “Milton Friedman” sits easily with this group, and was mentioned in 8,924 articles.

But searching for “Friedrich von Hayek” only yielded 398 articles; adding “Friedrich Hayek” raised his total to 1242 mentions; also allowing “FH Hayek” raised his count to 1561….

By the way, “Lawrence Summers” was mentioned 1712 times, adding “Larry Summers” raises his score to 1972 mentions; and also including “LH Summers” raises his score

Continue Reading 139

Paul Samuelson, Ave Atque Vale

Paul Samuelson has died, at the age of 94.  From the New York Times obituary:

In receiving the Nobel Prize in 1970, Mr. Samuelson was credited with transforming his discipline from one that ruminates about economic issues to one that solves problems, answering questions about cause and effect with mathematical rigor and clarity.

When economists “sit down with a piece of paper to calculate or analyze something, you would have to say that no one was more important in providing the tools they use and the ideas that they employ than Paul Samuelson,” said Robert M. Solow, a fellow Nobel laureate and colleague.of Mr. Samuelson’s at M.I.T.

Mr. Samuelson attracted a brilliant roster of economists to teach or study at the university, among them Mr. Solow as well as such other future Nobel laureates as George A. Akerlof, Robert F. Engle III, Lawrence R. Klein, Paul Krugman, Franco Modigliani, Robert C. Merton and Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Mr. Samuelson wrote one of the most widely used college textbooks in the history of American education. The book, “Economics,” first published in 1948, was the nation’s best-selling textbook for nearly 30 years. Translated into 20 languages, it was selling 50,000 copies a year a half century after it first appeared.

Continue Reading

Immersion vs. Bilingual Education

In the City Journal, Heather Mac Donald has an interesting article showing how California’s 1998 ban on bilingual education (a referendum initiative that passed despite the opposition of most of the political and education establishment) has improved English Language acquisition by immigrant Hispanic students. Unsurprisingly, young children learn new languages better by immersion. Mac Donald also claims that this result ran counter to the predictions of various experts in education and psychology:

Unless Hispanic children were taught in Spanish, the bilingual advocates moaned, they would be unable to learn English or to succeed in other academic subjects….

The 1960s Chicano rights movement (“Chicano” refers to Mexican-Americans) asserted that the American tradition of assimilation was destroying not just Mexican-American identity but also Mexican-American students’ capacity to learn. Teaching these students in English rather than in Spanish hurt their self-esteem and pride in their culture, Chicano activists alleged: hence the high drop-out rates, poor academic performance, and gang involvement that characterized so many Mexican-American students in the Southwest. Manuel Ramirez III, currently a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, argued that bilingual education was necessary to ensure “the academic survival of Chicano children and the political and economic strength of the Chicano community…”

Novel linguistic theories arose to buttress this political platform. Children could not learn a second language well unless they were already fully literate in their native tongue, the newly minted bilingual-ed proponents argued. To teach English to a five-year-old who spoke Spanish at home, you had to instruct him in Spanish for several more years, until he had mastered Spanish grammar and spelling. “Young children are not language sponges,” asserts McGill University psychology professor Fred Genesee, defying centuries of parental observation.

Such claims are difficult to take seriously. Centuries of immigrant experience show that immersion [...]

Continue Reading 54