Harvard grads frequently go on to highly influential jobs on Wall Street, at think tanks, and in government. Did the principles they learned in their alma mater’s most popular class cause America’s financial crisis and growing wealth gap? That’s the view of a group of approximately 70 students who walked out of professor N. Gregory Mankiw’s Economics 10 class this week in solidarity with the Occupy protests happening coast-to-coast.
The students say the conservative slant of the economic theories taught by the prominent professor are driving policies that create inequality. According to their open letter to Mankiw—who advised President George W. Bush and now Mitt Romney—the free market, laissez faire capitalism he teaches to nearly 700 students every semester deprives students of “an analytic understanding of economics as part of a quality liberal arts education.”Mankiw’s academic influence also extends well beyond Harvard. His textbook, Principles of Economics, is widely used in introduction to economics classes nationwide.
Without any “critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws” of alternative economic theories, the students say, it’s “difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively” since coeds who take the class are familiar with “only one heavily skewed perspective.” The students also say that Mankiw’s class “does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals.”
According to the Harvard Crimson, Mankiw was aware of the walkout and made announcements at the beginning of class, saying “I have a feeling people might leave a little early.” When the students got up to leave, some of their peers booed.
Sandalow-Ash, one of the organizers of the walkout, continued, “Harvard students will not do that anymore. We will use our education for good, and not for personal gain at the expense of millions.”
Of course, one class didn’t create the entire financial crisis, but at a time when the world is experiencing such economic instability, it’s not a bad idea for students everywhere to take a critical eye on what they’re being taught. Then perhaps when they graduate and hold positions of power, they’ll be less likely to repeat their predecessors’ policy mistakes.
I agree that students should take control of what is being taught. The problem is that often it is impossible for them to do that intelligently as they lack the knowledge to protest against professors over the contents except for format or non-cognitive issues