This fall is the first in the last 9 that I will not be teaching Introductory Economics to first-year undergraduates at the London School of Economics.
Because of my other duties at the School I will not, early this October, be standing up in a large, darkened theatre in London’s West End in front of 850 undergraduates sitting in their first university lecture. I will not be worrying if their first lecture will set the appropriate tone for the rest of their university career. I will not be worrying if economics will come alive for them, over their first year, in a way that fires their imagination for the rest of their lives. I will not be worrying if the ideas these students encounter lead them later in life to assess affairs of the world thoughtfully and reasonably.
Well, I will worry – it’s just that I no longer face the hazard of doing anything about it, for good or bad.
Less than 30 percent of the students sitting in that large lecture theatre for Introductory Economics will go on to study economics as a specialization at LSE. An even smaller fraction will contemplate doing economics professionally. For the overwhelming majority, those Introductory Economics lectures provide the one opportunity we (academic economists and social scientists) have to tell them why we think the way we do.
Will the economics we teach seem obtuse, technical, obscure, specialized, counter-intuitive, uncool, and …, well, just plain the opposite of fun? Will this economics appear in a hurry to get on to yet something else (a more advanced course?), and not spend enough time revealing itself, right then and there, as a pretty remarkable way of understanding and improving the world around us?
LSE has the most cosmopolitan and international a student body of any top university in the world. About 1000 undergraduates matriculate at the LSE each year; of 8000 students here overall, 49 percent come from more than 120 countries outside the European Union. The native languages and states of origin among the students milling about the tiny expanse of Houghton Street dot every single part of the globe.
No other location on Earth matches per square meter the intellectual and experiential diversity worn so lightly by the LSE.
CM were in Paris this month with their mom for a French language course; then they all visited the Arc de Triomphe.
Two things I am currently working on frenziedly (beyond the long-term projects listed elsewhere on this page): First, a paper on the Digital Divide for the Copenhagen Consensus—what should the global community do if we had an additional $50 billion to spend over the next four years? Second, in taekwon-do a 540-degree jump spinning hook kick (here’s what it’s supposed to look like:
I’m just trying to get close for now.) If I don’t get both these done soon after this item gets posted, I will become even more embarrassed and have to remove all of it from this blog.