I think economics, like philosophy, cannot be taught to nineteen-year olds. . .A nineteen-year old has intimations of mortality, comes directly from a socialized economy (called a family), and has no feel on his pulse for the tragedies of adult life that economists call scarcity and choice. . .you cannot teach him a philosophical subject. For that he has to be say, twenty-five, or better, forty-five.
Read the whole thing. Pointer from Tyler Cowen. My thoughts:
1. By her definition, I was not a natural economist. (She would say that there is nothing wrong with that.)
2. My own teaching experience is consistent with her view. I do not believe that the undergraduates I taught at George Mason or the high school students for whom I taught AP economics really grasped what I wanted them to grasp.
3. I wish that McCloskey had spelled out more completely what it is that she believes is difficult to teach. I am inclined to believe that she is right, but I cannot be sure without more elaboration on her part.
4. I am inclined to believe that teaching economics in terms of the history of economic thought would be worth attempting. I had a great high school chemistry course in which the teacher started with the discover of the gas laws and then gradually added new theories and experimental findings as they took place chronologically. I wish that it were standard to teach economics that way. Of course, you might reach the end of the first semester and still not have finished Adam Smith–even if you start with him.