Nowadays, it seems college American history courses fail to teach basic information on important people critical to the nation’s formation.
However, Columbia University history major Joshua Fattal shows that he knows something about Adam Smith. Using his background, Fattal explains why he wants students to be challenged and learn basic economics.
Adam Smith has left me wanting. Reading excerpts from the famous “Wealth of Nations” for Contemporary Civilization, I am overtaken with an appreciation for the complexity of the formation of the modern political economy. And yet, I remain without an understanding of how that economy actually works.
Economics will be a daily part of my life no matter what career I embark on; it is a daily part of all of our lives. Where’s the Core requirement preparing every Columbia student for this reality? We are required to learn literature, philosophy, science, history, language, art, and music—but not economics. A subject this fundamental and this necessary must be added to the Core Curriculum if the Core is to remain true to its founding objectives.
The Core was not always so detached from this field. In 1928, Contemporary Civilization was divided into two courses, CC-A and CC-B. CC-A is what we think of as CC now, but CC-B emphasized “the question of making a living in the United States.” In 1932, the onset of the Great Depression made it necessary for CC-B to include questions about the “nation’s economic security and survival.” But by 1961, CC-B was placed on hold as a requirement because both students and teachers struggled to adequately understand subjects that ranged from economics to sociology to psychology without any prior foundation. “They could not, for example, properly understand what Keynes was saying without the foundation of a previous course in economic theory,” Dean Carl Hovde wrote in 1961. By 1968, because it had for so long struggled to define its aims and received affection from neither instructors nor students, CC-B was dropped….
Economics will be a part of a student’s life no matter what field he or she decides to enter. .
I say all this as a history major, in search of an education that will stimulate my mind in both tangible and intangible ways. There is currently a gaping hole in the Core Curriculum, and an educational institution committed to teaching all its students the necessary knowledge for global citizenship cannot afford to remain blinded to one of the most important subjects. Just ask Adam Smith.