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Reconnecting economics education with today’s global realities

Nonprofit Quarterly, December 2023

In a world of worsening climate disruptions and growing economic inequities, what is the economics education that people need? Last spring, Michael D. Higgins, the president of Ireland, called out the dangers of how economics is taught in most mainstream economics programs, which often assume there is no limit to the extraction of physical materials. He said, “[Our] failure to facilitate a pluralism of approaches in teaching economics is a deprivation of basic students’ rights, indeed citizen rights leading…to a narrow, blinkered, and distorted education.”

Higgins’s speech, given at a reception honoring a prominent social justice organization in Dublin, hit on an important theme: given the ecological limits of the earth’s systems and, therefore, the impossibility of maintaining an economy dependent on never-ending growth and resources, a course correction to how economics is taught is urgently required. Indeed, one leading ecological economist (that is, an economist who focuses on the intersection of the environment and the economy), Jon Erickson, has labeled current mainstream economics education a form of deception. Calls for a radical change in how economics is being taught are growing.

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