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Friday, August 29, 2008

Teaching for the presidential election

I must be a complete glutton for punishment but I think I want to completely re-arrange the schedule for my Principles class. Yes, classes start next week and yes, I probably am crazy! But while listening to Barack Obama speak last night*, it occurred to me that although I plan to talk about two of the topics that are going to be front-and-center during the election - namely, how our income tax system works and the asymmetric information problems that are crucial for understanding health care - I won't get to them until AFTER November 4th (for non-economist readers, these are both topics that tend to be on the 'optional' list for what to cover in an intro micro class so they are often tacked on at the end of the term, if at all). It seems to me that I should move them up much earlier in the semester so we can use these tools to analyze the candidates' proposals.

I spend the first four weeks of the semester talking about the core principles of economics, including opportunity costs, thinking on the margin, cost-benefit analysis and incentives. I also cover the positive/normative distinction and the equity-efficiency trade-off. After the first mid-term, we get into basic supply and demand, followed by elasticity. I'm thinking that that is where I would then go into asymmetric information, followed by the tax system (taking us up to the end of October). For any economist readers, what do you think? Would this make sense? For non-economist readers, am I crazy to try to re-arrange my schedule at this point? I'd appreciate it if you would leave opinions in the comments!

* One editorial comment about Obama's speech: Wow! Whatever your political leanings, it has to make you incredibly proud that we have reached a day when an African-American man is a serious contender for President!

1 comment:

  1. I think its a GREAT idea, though it may be hard to fully accomplish the things you will try to do in such a limited time to prepare it. I know health care to young people seems like a complex issue, and possibly hard to understand. The tax idea is absolutely a great idea, but I think you already knew where I stood in terms of mixing these lessons together.

    It would seem to me that Elasticity would be the biggest part that would be important to focus on, especially in terms of understanding the gas and oil situation which many people will relate to and fight it easier to understand. I think that would be the best topic to start with to make it the likeliest of possibilities that students become engaged in what your saying, because they can relate to it. Maybe also a cost benefit analysis in terms of health care and insurance companies, but maybe I'm off base with that.


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