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Win A Few Bucks If You Can Teach Economics

Not many economists are great teachers. The sorts of skills that get you into graduate school (like getting an “A+” in Advanced Real Analysis) are not highly correlated with being a star at the blackboard. Combine lack of natural talent with weak incentives to teach well at the top research institutions, and the results in the classroom are often not pretty.

If there were a prize given for the best economics lecture at the University of Chicago in a year, I know who would have won it last year. I brought in a very high-priced call girl to guest lecture at my undergraduate Economics of Crime class. The next day, I asked my students whether they liked the lecture. More than one-third of them said it was the single best lecture they had attended in their four years of college. I had to agree with them.

The Association of Private Enterprise Education and the Market-Based Management Institute are doing their part to try to improve the level of economics teaching. They’ve put up $17,500 in prize money to be split between the three contestants who prove themselves most effective at communicating economic concepts.

I’m going to encourage my call girl friend to enter, so probably the rest of you are competing for second place; but that is still worth $5,000.