[lbo-talk] Blog Post: Teaching Workers

Jason Hecht jayhstata at gmail.com
Sun Mar 9 19:15:28 PDT 2014

Mike -

It is a tough sell - though not impossible - to introduce alternative points of view about economics in the classroom. You may have used Carson's "Economic Issues Today" that approaches 15 economic issue from a conservative, liberal, and radical viewpoint. I think my students (nearly all nursing and science majors) are grasping some of the basic radical critiques - especially the nursing students who are pretty savvy about how health professionals have lost much of their autonomy to hospital financial needs. I even have one nursing student who is examining the statistical association across the 50 states between adverse nursing outcomes and various financial and operational measures. I have a student who wants to a veterinarian and I had her read a study about the supply and demand for future vets - now there's a profession that's in real crisis as tuition has skyrocketed and real incomes continue to fall (I think the avg. vet makes about $150L per year). Students at the state college where I teach are really uncertain about their futures. However, they seem pretty skeptical about many neoliberal ideas - the problem is they seem fairly powerless to change anything.

On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 10:43 AM, michael yates <mikedjyates at msn.com> wrote:

> "Karl Marx's famous dictum sums up my teaching philosophy: "The
> philosophers of the world have only interpreted the world in various ways;
> the point is to change it." As I came to see it, Marx had uncovered the
> inner workings of our society, showing both how it functioned and why it
> had to be transcended if human beings were to gain control over their lives
> and labor. Disseminating these ideas could help speed the process of human
> liberation. From a college classroom, I thought that I could not only
> interpret the world, I could indeed change it.
> Thinking is one thing; the trick is bringing thoughts to life. How,
> actually, does a person be a radical teacher? How, for example, can
> students be shown the superior insights of Marxian economics in classes
> that have always been taught from the traditional or neoclassical
> perspective--taught, in fact, as if the neoclassical theory developed by
> Adam Smith and his progeny is the gospel truth? My college expected me to
> teach students the "principles" of economics: that people act selfishly and
> independently of one another, that this self-centeredness generates
> socially desirable outcomes. And further, that capitalism, in which we, in
> fact, do act out of self-interest, is therefore the best possible economic
> system. Had I refused to do this and taught only Marxian economics, I doubt
> I could have kept my job.
> My students were mostly the children of factory workers, miners, and other
> laborers, just the young people I wanted to reach and move to action.
> However, nearly all of them were hostile to radical perspectives, having
> been taught that such views were un-American. Their animosity was sometimes
> palpable, especially when I pointed out the many things they did not know
> about our country's unsavory relationships with the rest of the world. A
> retired Marine told me that, after we watched a particularly radical film
> about U.S. imperialism, he wanted to come down the aisle and strangle me"
> I welcome comments. Please pass along to anyone you think might be
> interested. If you post this to a website, please let me know.
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