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Saturday, March 25, 2006

WSJ Interview of Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell has been one of my favorite columnists/writers for years. In fact, signed copies of two of his economics books (Basic Economics and Applied Economics) occupy prominent spots on my bookshelf.

So, I greatly enjoyed today's Wall Street Journal interview of Sowell. Not surprisingly (since he's 76), he's refreshingly old school. He makes a critical distinction between how he presents his views within the classroom vs. without (emphasis mine):
Mr. Sowell may be an unabashed free-market adherent, but he's proud to say that Professor Sowell left his personal views out of the classroom. In his 2000 memoir, "A Personal Odyssey," he relates an episode in which some students approached him after taking his graduate seminar on Marxian theory. They expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment.

"My job was to teach them economics, not teach them what I happen to believe," says Mr. Sowell, who adds that efforts by some today to counterbalance the prevailing liberalism in academia with more right-wing instructors is not only an exercise in futility but a disservice to students. "Even if you succeed in propagandizing the students while they're students, it doesn't tell you much [about how they'll turn out]. I suspect that over half [of the conservatives at the Hoover Institution] were on the left in their 20s. More important, though, let's assume for the sake of argument that, whatever you're propagandizing them with on the left or right, every conclusion you teach them is correct. It's only a matter of time before all those conclusions are obsolete because entirely different issues are going to arise over the lifetimes of these students. And so, if you haven't taught them how to weigh one argument against another, you haven't taught them anything."

Read the whole thing here.

Update: Welcome to all the readers from Brad Delong's blog. Look around a bit and leave some comments before you click onto the next site. And thanks for the mention, Dr. Delong. The traffic is most appreciated.

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