SFI Professor Samuel Bowles describes economic history as a hockey stick in a CORE project video.

Last year, at Her Majesty’s Treasury in London, a global team of economists calling themselves Curriculum Open-access Resources for Economics, or CORE, launched an ambitious, unconventional project.

This February, CORE will meet at SFI to discuss how to make sure their anomalous efforts have a lasting impact on how students learn economics – and the way they think about science.

“CORE is teaching economics as if the last 30 years had happened,” says SFI Professor Samuel Bowles, one of the group’s founders, referring both to the financial crisis of 2008, which took many economists by surprise, and the growing acknowledgment among economists that not everyone is entirely selfish as traditional economic theory asserts.

CORE’s interactive ebook, The Economy, is not your usual Econ 101 fare. First, it emphasizes identifying and modeling empirical regularities rather than developing mathematical models from a set of abstract, often dubious assumptions about economic behavior.

Second, it focuses on fundamental issues that are connected to economics but that other texts tend to ignore – issues like financial instability, wealth creation in capitalist societies, inequality, and environmental sustainability.

Students come to economics wanting to tackle those problems, and recent innovations in economics have a lot to say about them, wrote CORE director and University College London professor Wendy Carlin recently in the Financial Times.

As striking as the book’s content is the price. Competing textbooks sell for upwards of $200, but The Economy is free and available to anyone with an internetconnected device at www.core-econ.org.

“Meeting at SFI is a natural for CORE,” says Bowles. “We are teaching first-year students to think about the economy as a complex, dynamical system and to beware of static metaphors and disciplinary parochialism.”

The question now, Bowles says, is how to ensure that CORE continues to grow and mobilize the diverse inputs from teachers, students, and other users. Others contributing to CORE are SFI External Professors Rajiv Sethi and Simon DeDeo.

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