David L. Prychitko
Shortly after I began teaching in the 1980s I lost interest in what my students thought. To this day I really don't care to know what they think.
Outrageous? No. But where does my interest lie? As I now prepare for the upcoming semester, it hit me in a way that I've never been able to clearly articulate for over a quarter of a century of teaching. And it's so simple.
I don't want to know what my students believe or think. I have neither the time nor the interest. Instead, I want to know how they think. Are they using the economic way of thinking? And, if so, are they merely using the same words and terms that I use in the classroom, or are they absorbing and understanding economic analysis? I feel that my goal as an educator is to offer them a way of learning how to think about complex social phenomena. "What do you think about minimum wages?" -- forget it. "How do you think about minimum wages?" Now we have something to discuss.
Job market applicants are often asked to write up something about their teaching philosophy. If I were to ever do so, I'd sum up mine in one sentence: I have no teaching philosophy, or at least none that I'm aware of. (I also have no clear method, no bag of tricks, nothing special to offer.) I do, however, have a single purpose -- to encourage my students to think like an economist.