By Tom Rhodes, 6/23/2011
I spent a lovely Sunday riding my motorcycle, and ended up having a late lunch at a chain casual eatery noted for somewhat skimpy costumed waitresses, and good food. It was a slow summer afternoon, hot outside, cool inside, the beer, food and view were excellent. Chatting with the waitress I learned that she was a recent University of Florida graduate, with a degree in economics.
In her early 20’s, and having the attributes for this particular establishment, she chose to continue her college job after graduation because it paid significantly more than the jobs available with her degree. If the few other tables tipped the way my table did she was probably making $25 or more per hour during a slow day.
Finding out she was an economics major, and liking to stir the pot, I just had to ask her which major theories of economics were taught at UF and which one did she believe.
I was dumbfounded at her response, she said “What?” to which I replied, “You know, what was the predominant economic theory taught, Chicago School, Keynesian, Austrian, or what?
She didn’t have any idea what I was talking about, I asked if they discussed the various theories on economics, and how they differ in describing how the government actions influence the economy. She then said "Oh, We're not allowed to discuss any politics in class.”
“No debate on any difference economic theories at all?”
“No that would lead to politics which wasn’t allowed, we just learned what the book, and took the tests." They didn’t allow any theoretical discussion in the classes and they didn’t want the classes to have any conflict.
I was floored, not only did an economics major graduate from a major university with no political discussion of various economic theories, but she didn’t even have knowledge that there were multiple theories associated with economics. It sounded more like indoctrination than education.
Maybe I’ve just been out of college for too long, but I find it hard to believe that nowhere in the following required UF Economics Major Courses: ECO 2013 Principles of Macroeconomics; ECO 2023 Principles of Microeconomics; ECO 3101 Intermediate Microeconomics; ECO 3203 Intermediate Macroeconomics, that there are no competing ideas on economic theory addressed.
Sadly looking at the syllabi of those courses on-line, it is evident that an economic theory is taught, but not identified. From even a short chat with a graduate of the UF Economics program, it is evident that the economic theory taught is treated as if there were no other or competing economic theories. The young lady in question was definitely smart, but was totally ignorant not only of competing ideas but even that competing ideas existed.
It is no wonder a significant part of our population cannot logically debate ideas. While in college they aren’t allowed to debate ideas, and conflict is not allowed. Our young people are being taught that competitive ideas are not good, and that ideas other than those of their professors, are just political and not to be considered. I confirmed that within four years of courses at UF, the young lady in question never witnessed a debate on anything she was taught. This is a far cry from the way Dr. Michael Sandel teaches his course on Justice at Harvard. You can watch it at HERE, where debate and both sides of controversy are discussed, obviously without any fear that disagreeing with the professor will get you in trouble.
Any university program that discourages debate of competing ideas because of “politics” should be rethought. The idea that avoiding conflict in ideas at the college level is preferable to vibrant debate seems to me to be absurd. Yes students must be expected to provide the answers to exams that their professor want, whether they agree with those answers or not, but not even allowing the discussion of alternative ideas is not education but indoctrination.