Friday, July 25, 2008

"I want you to abolish economists"

I am watching a BBC programme about its own situation comedy Yes, Minister.

Naturally they have featured the embarrassing sketch that Mrs Thatcher forced the cast to accompany her in at an awards ceremony. It featured the Iron Lady saying:
Yes. It's all very simple. I want you to abolish economists.
Well the old girl may be having her way after all. The BBC reports:
Only three economics teachers were trained on teacher training courses in the whole of England last year, shows a study of students entering teaching.

The report's author, Professor Alan Smithers, warns that economics risks "dying out" as a school subject.

There are now more pupils taking A-levels in media studies, expressive arts and PE than economics.
I have an A level in Economics myself. It seemed a wonderfully grown up subject, largely because in those days you could not study it until you were 16.


cabalamat said...

It would be best if A levels in crappy non-subjects were abolished. Failing that, the top universities should draw up a list of A-level subjects that they won't accept as a valid qualification.

One of the reasons people take crap subjects at A level is the perception -- no doubt valid -- that they'll be easy. I know someone who recently did A level Media Studies and Film Studies, which sounds like a total skive.

dreamingspire said...

Before the creation of these non-degrees, I used to rank Sociology as the bottom rung, with economics next rung up. But look at it from another viewpoint: university education is a course in maturity for the young, albeit one that may well burden them with a £20K debt. We hear whinges about the shortage of people taking the traditional scientific degrees, but the job market isn't there for them as it was in the 1960s, and govt denigrates technical competence (Tom Watson, Minister for Public Sector Messing About, take note: simple economics rules).

Edis said...

Thomas Carlyle famously described economics as the 'Dismal Science'.

Not many people know what he was actually objection to.

In the early part of the 19th Century the movement for the abolition of slavery used the evolving aruments of market economics as devastating tool in their campaigns. Carlyle, a bone-hard racist was horrified by the idea that in economics everyone could be considered an equal regardless of race. That was for him a dismal prospect and economics therfore the 'dismal science'.

Toby Philpott said...


This is a trend away from economics and towards business studies which had been going on at a University level since the mid-1990s. I was a lecturer in economics at Staffordshire University between 1993 and 1996.

From memory, within the course of a couple of years the numbers taking the full-time economics degrees HALVED. I think that the numbers of economics graduates has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s (I'd need to check the statistics again) and consequently the numbers of teachers available to teach economics has fallen.

I think that it's because of the perception that the subject is hard because you might need to be able to use a little bit of algebra! Shocking thought eh?