[OPE-L:6061] French students' letter: a year later

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 06:46:08 EDT

In [3948] there was a translation (courtesy of Riccardo and Joseph Halevi) of the "Open Letter from Economic Students" (reproduced
below). That was over a year ago -- what has happened since? Is
there anything that we should and can do _as a group_ to express
solidarity with these students?

In solidarity, Jerry


translation of : Lettre ouverte des étudiants en économie aux professeurs
et responsables de l'enseignement de cette discipline

Open Letter from Economics Students to Their Professors and to Those
Responsible for Teaching this Discipline

As students of economics in French universities, we generally declare that
we are unhappy with the education we are receiving.

And this is so for the following reasons:

1) Let's leave these imaginary worlds!

Most of us have chosen economics in order to acquire a profound knowledge
of the economic phenomena with which today's citizen is confronted.
However, the teaching, as it happens to be taught, is normally that of
neo-classical economics or of its close by-products and does not fulfill
our expectations. In effect, if the theory detaches itself firstly, from
its contingencies, it rarely makes the necessary return to the facts: the
empirical part (history of facts, functioning of institutions, study of the
behaviour and the strategy of agentsŠ) is practically non-existent.
Besides, the time lapse between what we are taught and concrete realities
necessarily poses an adaptation problem for those who would like to make
themselves useful to social and economic actors.

2) No to the uncontrolled use of mathematics!

The instrumental use of math seems necessary. However, recourse to the
formalisation of mathematics, when it is no longer an instrument, but an
end in and of itself, leads to a veritable schizophrenia with regard to the
real world. The formalisation lets us, on the contrary, easily construct
exercises, activate models where what is important is to find the 'right'
answer (that is to say, the logical result of the initial hypotheses) in
order to hand in clean work. This facilitates notation and selection, under
the auspices of scientificity, but never answers the questions we pose on
contemporary economic debates.

3) For a pluralism of approaches in economics!

Too often, lecture courses do not leave room for reflection. Among all the
existing approaches, we are presented but one, and it is supposed to
explain everything following a purely axiomatic process, as if it
constituted THE economic truth. We do not accept this dogmatism. We want a
plurality of explanations, adapted to the complexity of objects and to the
uncertainty that overshadows most of the big questions in economics
(unemployment, inequalities, role of finance, advantages and inconveniences
of free-trade, etc.)

4) Call to teachers: Wake up before it is too late!

We know very well that our professors are themselves held by certain
constraints. We do however call upon you for your support, because you
understand our claims and because we would like to see a change. If one
does not occur soon, the risk is too great that a huge number of students,
who have already started to retreat from the discipline, massively desert
this line of inquiry which has become uninteresting, because it is cut off
from reality and today's world.

We no longer want to pretend to be studying this autistic science that is
being pushed on us.

We are not asking for the impossible, but only what good sense can suggest
to each and every one of us. We hope therefore, to be heard in the very
near future.

started May 2000

as of July 5th, 2000, 500 signatures from (ENS Ulm, Cachan et Fontenay,
ENSAE, EHESS, Paris X-Nanterre, Paris I, Paris Tolbiac, Versailles
Saint-Quentin, Orlé Grenoble, Rennes, Clermond-Ferrand, Aix-Marseille,
Besanç Hamburg, Florence, London, Barcelona,...)

To sign the open letter send
surname, given name, place of study, level, and address to:

original may be found at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Nov 02 2001 - 00:00:04 EST