A couple of months ago Nigel Watson, an economics teacher here in the UK, wrote a piece for the Adam Smith Institute entitled The Keynesian Bias In A-level Economics (A-levels are the state examinations taken by 16 year-olds in the UK). It’s an interesting yet troubling read.
He reveals that:
“At A-Level macroeconomics is entirely Keynesian. Students are not expected to know anything about competing schools of thought. Bright students realise that Keynesian policy remedies [increasing the money supply, keeping interest rates low, continued government borrowing etc.] are not working.”
and remarks that:
“Keynesian economists were unable to foresee the economic crisis that erupted in 2008. This view is not controversial. Unsurprisingly, Keynesian demand-side policy remedies have been unsuccessful. Despite fiscal stimulus and ultra-loose monetary policy, UK national income remains lower than what it was before the crisis. The Keynesian paradigm is under pressure [that’s an understatement in my view!]. Unfortunately, students across the country are being taught this failing paradigm.”
How tragic that life-long economics teachers such as Nigel Watson are left little choice but to betray their students; they must teach only what is required to pass state exams in order to pass ‘inspection’ by the state in order for their school to receive funding from … the state. In a system of state education good teachers aren’t allowed to teach everything they know; they must merely ‘pass on’ what those who author the state examinations know and believe students should know. This is the fundamental flaw in forcing all schools to teach the same syllabi, especially for non-scientific subjects like economics; it’s the fundamental flaw in having the government monopolise the provision of education. Furthermore it’s the fundamental flaw in using force to attempt to solve a social problem or to attempt to achieve good.
Mercifully, the intellectual freedom offered by the Internet today enables young people with a desire to pursue the truth to wriggle out of the intellectual shackles of state education, consider all the reason and evidence on any given issue for themselves, and draw their own conclusions. Such is the quality and wealth of educational content on the web nowadays, almost all of it free (that’s actually free, not faux ‘free’ as in the context of state education) and much of it produced by some of the world’s finest minds and teachers, that the low quality and sheer inadequacy of education on subjects such as economics as delivered by government is now painfully obvious.
But still the patterns that exist all around us keep people on the ‘straight and narrow’ with as much reliability as did the little curved edges on the ‘hot wheels’ and ‘matchbox superfast’ track I had so many years ago. As hard as it is to see what’s off the path, it’s even harder to break through the barrier…