For the Weekend: Stephen Vincent Benet: The Devil and Daniel Webster II
Ten Years and 29 Days Ago at Grasping Reality: Hoisted from the Archives for August 2, 2007

Comment of the Day: Kansas Jack: Data Science, Computer Literacy, and the Skill of Writing with a Fine Chancery Hand...: "Don't give up the lecture...

...What I have discovered among my undergrads is that too many instructors have stopped telling students the whys of things. Many years ago you asked these same questions and it got me to think about the way I taught micro. My micro class got better. One example, I jettisoned Edgeworth (shock!) and spent the time getting my State U students to use real data to do regressions (in Excel!! I know, I know. Don't shoot me, but it's what these kids will use down the road and businesses asked us to get them to do more with Excel. But, I know, it's Excel, just give me a pass here, OK?).

Anyway, I also brought into just about every lecture how economics is a philosophy, a way of answering a question. It lifts the veil for my students if I remind them that I'm teaching them a scientific method of my profession. My teaching evaluations got better as I moved away from the textbook and more into data and philosophizing. ("let's estimate an elasticity with pork prices and quantity," "let's take the cost numbers out of this table and see if we can't get a cost function from a regression; does it look sort of like the one on page 137?")

The last 3 years, I moved from micro to undergraduate finance. I tell them the first day, "I'm not a b-school guy, this is how I, as an economist, think about finance..." Then I derive things like why it makes sense the WACC has a min that relates to D/E the way it does, something that the book doesn't delve into. Bottom line for me is that explaining to them why I think about this stuff the way I do is sort of mildly entertaining for them. Like watching a street performer. But I feel like I'm being honest about my scholarship. I'm an economist. I think like an economist, and I owe the way I now teach in part to your blog over the years.

So, thanks, and don't assume that they already get it (even at Berkeley). In my experience even if they do, they want you to tell them again why we do what we do and why economics matters. Well, most of them do...