Dave Cousins and Educational Equality

by Harry on January 11, 2008

Weather-permitting I’ll be giving a talk called “Putting Educational Equality in its Place” at the University of Toronto on Monday. IT looks as if it is a public talk, and I’ll even be using a powerpoint. More details here (Henry will be delighted to notice that the first name on the pdf of the text is his, not mine) I’m looking forward to it, partly because I’ll get to see frequent CT commenter Tom Hurka, who, rather cruelly, pointed out that I was going to be missing the chance to see Dave Cousins live by about 2 months. Well, its 28 years since I last saw him live, so a few more won’t make much difference. Still, some free Dave Cousins here.

Apparently I am on “mea culpa watch” from Tyler Cowen, Picture me at present pursing my lips and flapping my wrist in the international signal for “ooh! Get her!”. I have looked at the NEJM study, had a look at some of the online discussion of it, and I think that few of my friends and few of my enemies will be disappointed to learn that my response is not so much “mea culpa” as “pogue mahone”. In particular, see below the fold for a list of apologies not forthcoming, additional castigation, and new heretics who need to be squelched.
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Quelle Horreur

by Kieran Healy on January 11, 2008

The Economist Blog joins in the handwringing over the Theil piece that Henry linked to the other day.

bq. I often fantasise about how much nicer the world might be if more people grasped a few rudimentary principles about they workings of the social world. So I took this Foreign Policy article by Stefan Theil on the sorry state of economics education in Germany and France pretty hard. I desperately hope it’s not really this bad … Why does this matter? Because ideas matter … We rightly deplore the politicisation of the curriculum when it comes to “intelligent design” crackpottery. We should deplore politicised psuedoscience all the more when it so directly threatens the material well-being of a country’s people. If this is all as Mr Theil says it is, then the Germans and French really ought to be ashamed by the failure of their educational system to teach anything remotely approximating decent social science.

Given the sorry state of their economics, it’s amazing the French even manage to have an economy at all. And presumably it is by sheer chance that products of their disastrous education system often end up tenured in leading American economics departments, and write textbooks used to teach economics to Americans. I’m reminded of the concluding paragraph of this JPE paper by La Porta et al, which asked whether the relatively weaker protections of investors and creditors in civil-law countries like France, as opposed to the stronger protections in places like the U.S., had adverse consequences for corporate governance and economic growth. And, indeed, they found some of the predicted effects. On the other hand:

bq. Taken together, this evidence describes a link from the legal system to economic development. It is important to remember, however, that while the shortcomings of investor protection described in this paper appear to have adverse consequences for financial development and growth, they are unlikely to be an insurmountable bottleneck. France and Belgium, after all, are both very rich countries.