This is the open letter to Greg Mankiw from the Harvard students who walked out of his class in solidarity with OWS (HT - Tom Dowling). It's breath-taking in its ignorance (and I know a thing or two about breath-taking ignorance... interpret that how you will...):
"Wednesday November 2, 2011
Dear Professor Mankiw—
Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.
As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.
A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.
Care in presenting an unbiased perspective on economics is particularly important for an introductory course of 700 students that nominally provides a sound foundation for further study in economics. Many Harvard students do not have the ability to opt out of Economics 10. This class is required for Economics and Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrators, while Social Studies concentrators must take an introductory economics course—and the only other eligible class, Professor Steven Margolin’s class Critical Perspectives on Economics, is only offered every other year (and not this year). Many other students simply desire an analytic understanding of economics as part of a quality liberal arts education. Furthermore, Economics 10 makes it difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively as it offers only one heavily skewed perspective rather than a solid grounding on which other courses can expand. Students should not be expected to avoid this class—or the whole discipline of economics—as a method of expressing discontent.
Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.
We are walking out today to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement. Since the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America, we are walking out of your class today both to protest your inadequate discussion of basic economic theory and to lend our support to a movement that is changing American discourse on economic injustice. Professor Mankiw, we ask that you take our concerns and our walk-out seriously.
Concerned students of Economics 10"
I'm not sure what my favorite part is - where they accuse Mankiw of being unfriendly to Keynes, or when they try to juxtapose Keynesian economics with Smithian economics.
Also - I think Mankiw should assign his students to read, summarize, and critique a full-length article from the AER. The whole point of an intro course is to give you the tools to read the harder stuff. How the hell do they think this works? Maybe this requires taking my readers back to their first economics class. You probably only learned what "marginal cost" was in a vaguish sort of way. You did not do comparative statics. You saw no calculus. You struggled valiantly to calculate a price level index. Many of you succeeded in that. A lot failed and probably never took another economics class. "Economic profit" and "opportunity cost" were fairly straightforward concepts, but they still probably took much of the class to really sink in.
Here's a rule of thumb: if a freshman in college can comment intelligently on a journal article, it is probably not a high quality journal.
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