Monday, July 11, 2005

L&S: Learning About Teaching

Steve Horwitz now paces back and forth across the front of our lecture hall, offering a revisionist take on the Great Depression. This gives him an excellent platform for explaining the theory and practice of monetary policy. It also gives him a welcome opportunity to lay a few well-deserved blows to Hoover and Roosevelt.

I find teaching at IHS Liberty & Society seminars rewarding for many, many reasons. Among those, I rank learning about teaching very highly. The good people of IHS give careful thought about how to best serve their students, and gently but persistently encourage their faculty to adopt innovative and effective teaching methods. Sitting through a seminar thus gives me a chance to watch four skilled pedagogues stretching to do their best.

Steve, for instance, does a superb job of peppering his talk with quick little questions like, "What would that do to prices?" "Who benefited from that policy?" and "How can we explain that outcome?" The students quickly adapt to his call-and-answer rhythm, offering answers without raising their hands. Steve thereby keeps his audience engaged while at the same time winning near-constant feedback about whether they follow his train of thought.


Anonymous said...

Did Professor Horwitz spend five minutes discussing the "non-revisionist" causes of the GD? If not, then it sounds more like indoctrination that education, especially considering the youthfulness and lack of sophistication of the audience. And why does he pace back and forth so much? Did he have a triple expresso at Starbucks before giving his lecture?

Glen Whitman said...

Actually, Steve's explanation is pretty close to the conventional wisdom among economists. It's only revisionist in the sense that it differs from the popular mythology about the Great Depression, which most economists consider simplistic at best.

But even if Steve's account were truly revisionist, how would presenting it count as indoctrination? The non-revisionist account is regularly presented (in school, in the media) as though it were gospel, with nary a hint of alternative accounts. That, I think, is the true indoctrination. Giving an alternative version to listeners who have probably already heard the usual story is more like, well, enlightenment.

Steven Horwitz said...

I'm a born pacer. It's how I think on my feet. I have gotten better over the years though. My first semester teaching, I paced so vigorously that I actually caused a student to be motion sick!