What we are about in teaching
Our courses aim to equip students with the necessary skills to act competently in a complicated world. Teaching political economy - that is, how economics affects politics and how politics affects economics - presents a unique opportunity and challenge: As the U.S. economy sputters, the euro is threatened with collapse, and China's growth rate rapidly alters the global economy, students are looking for understanding. But often, there are no clear-cut answers about what is right and what is wrong.
However, this does not mean that all arguments are equal: Arguments with convincing causal mechanisms and supporting evidence are clearly better than others. Still, learning to evaluate arguments and empirical information is difficult. These are the skills we seek to teach our students so that they can competently navigate a complex world. Many students pursue careers in fields where there are no clear-cut answers. As political economy instructors, we have the opportunity to help students develop the skills needed to work in such fields.
From a variety of classroom experiences, we know (and continue to learn) what works and what doesn't. Our research and teaching are committed to the causal analysis of empirical questions - for example, "Why did Ecuador accept offers of credit from China while Peru rejected them?'' Students learn to compare competing hypotheses and decide between them. We believe that it is not enough just to teach facts - especially given that ''facts'' are readily available on the Internet - the key is the ability to reason.
Thus, our teaching focuses on helping students formulate explanations for empirical questions and develop the ability to evaluate the quality of competing arguments. The role of our instructors is that of motivators, skill developers, and providers of frameworks for absorbing new information. After taking courses at our Institute, students will have sharpened their ability to assess news and historical accounts and fit them into a coherent framework about how the world works. These goals guide all our teaching activities.