When mentioning the worldwide economic crisis, the crash of Wall street or the housing bubble spring to mind. However, some people believe that economic problems have much deeper roots: it all starts with teaching economy.
“It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in” – reads the opening paragraph of Rethinking Economy manifesto. Rethinking Economics is a student movement established at the beginning of this year, who stand for a change in economic curricula.
What makes it different from many other student movements is it’s international focus. Yuan Yang, an economics student from Britain, started a network to unify existing student societies with similar goals and realized that that the same concerns occurred in many different countries. Post-Crash Economic society already existed in Manchester, where material for provocative reposts in the Guardian and Washington Post was provided.
About six months ago, Nova Agora and Rethinking Economics Italia (REI) expanded their actions to Brazil and Italy. REI began as a radio programme on the LUISS University in Rome, where it’s founder, Nicolo Fraccaroli, hosted a series of interviews with non-mainstream economists. The initiative received a very warm welcome from students and teachers from all over Italy. Similar groups will be created in several other universities in Italy.
Rethinking Economics Italia’s home university, LUISS, went even developed a new course for economy students that will focus on alternative views on the subject ‒ a definite success in comparison to the upfront refusal that the Post-Crash Economic Society in Manchester has been facing. But Nicolo is modest about his achievement: “I was just lucky, because one of my teachers mentioned other schools of economic thought during his lectures.”
Meanwhile in Brazil, a group on economics students in Mato Grosso do Sul has established Nova Agora. “When I was traveling with my friends, we came across this tiny village in the jungle. From the point of view of the economy we learned, it was not an optimistic picture: there was no growth, no industry there ‒ but still, people were happy. They worked on their own farms, and nobody was hungry, nobody was dying in the streets, or using drugs,” ‒ remembers Gustavo Bernardino, who co-founded Nova Agora.
A comparison of this ‘lost paradise’ to the country’s bustling economic capital Sao Paulo, where drug abuse and extreme poverty are undeniable, triggered Gustavo and his friends to re-think the economics they were taught and to promote this way of thinking to their fellow students.
Nova Agora was founded as an organisation dedicated not so much to changing the study curricula, as to the way economy is applied to real life. Therefore, their first project is about microloan funding for poor people in rural areas.
While Nova Agora and Rethinking Economics Italia have different approaches (one more practical, the other rather theoretical) they both relate to Rethinking Economics. After all, their aim is to fundamentally change the economy. Changing the way people think about economics and the way it is applied can have a very significant impact on our everyday lives. And thus, the students fight to make a change.
By Daria Sukharchuk