Some answers on the Harvard 1953 economics exam..

This is by far the most read post on ME. The total visits to the blog in a month (0r more) were done in one day. Clearly, most people feel quite a bit about how econ education has changed over the years. On the twitter handle, there were comments like whether students can answer any of those questions, how economics has ignored what matters and so on.

Prof. Holt has written on the various questions posed to him regarding the q-paper:

I have received a number of private e-mails about the Harvard economics exam that I sent out last week, dated April 29, 1953. Most people wanted to know if it was an undergraduate or graduate exam. This was the general written examination for undergraduate students. The exam was for three hours, broken down into two areas. At the option of the examiner, an oral examination could be given, “if the mark of the student is in doubt.”

Requirements for the economics major in the  early 1950s included: 1) the completion of a certain number of courses in economics, government and history; 2) To choose a concentration in a special field of economics and take a number of courses in that area.

There were five major “special fields” the student could choose from: a) Economic Theory, b) Economic History, c) Money and Finance, d) Market Organization and Control and e) Labor Economics and Social Reform; 3) To submit a plan of study for general courses, one’s special area of concentration and to participate in the tutorial program; 4) pass the general written examination in economics at the end of the senior year. For Honors besides answering more questions on the general exam the student had to hand in a thesis.

What’s interesting with the questions is that they would be considered to be heterodox today, and probably could only be passed in a heterodox economics department, but at that time they were considered  to be very mainstream questions. This supports my view that the mainstream is constantly changing — for the better that’s up for interpretation. 

(emphasis is mine)..

One thing this changing mainstream has done is that it has completely ignored econ history and history of thought courses. The current mainstream should have been more tolerant and allowed both  to function. It is ridiculous to read statements like why teach history as it is only about some dead old men and so on. These statements were made by people  whose works we read now despite them being dead too.

2 Responses to “Some answers on the Harvard 1953 economics exam..”

  1. Marianne [20 janvier 2015] Quand Fioraso soutient la dictature des économistes orthodoxes - AFEP Says:

    […] Andy Rodrick, professeur d’économie à Princeton s’est plaint également. Il a publié une liste des sujets d’économie à Harward en 1953… Et à la parcourir, on croirait un rêve d’économiste hétérodoxe. Grâce à Geneviève […]

  2. Một số hồi đáp về đề thi môn kinh tế học năm 1953 của trường Harvard | Phân tích kinh tế Says:

    […] “Some answers on the Harvard 1953 economics exam”, blog Mostly Economics, January 19, […]

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