Thursday, February 28, 2008

Conversations with My Students

I teach a Macroeconomics class on Saturday mornings that has a very international group of students. And it is amazing the questions that they ask.

A few weeks ago I put the class on teams for a little stock market game that will run during the course of the semester. After class, Helen, who comes from Ethiopia approached and asked me what a stock market was. Now, I had not taught the part of the class yet about how our financial system works, but the other students were at least aware that something called a stock market exists, and stocks of companies are on it and go up and down. Helen had never heard of such a thing. I explained it a little and gave her some guidance to learn more on the internet. The following week she told me she discovered there is a stock market in Ethiopia, but only a few companies are listed.

Last week I was teaching about the effect of taxes on welfare (you will recall there is a “dead weight loss”). After class Mohammed, who I hadn’t talked to much, but I guessed was from somewhere in the Middle East, approached with an even more astounding question: “Why would a government ever tax anyone?” Now, I know some of my Republican friends feel the same way, but they know we do need the government to perform certain tasks, for which we pay taxes ( and, yes, we pay taxes for things they shouldn’t be doing, but no one ever agrees on how to stop that!). But Mohammed has recently arrived in the US from Saudi Arabia, where there are no taxes. Why? Because their government raises all the money they need from Americans filling our big cars with gas made from their oil. Mohammed had never heard of taxes, because we pay his taxes for him

So, think about Saudi Arabia: No taxes, conservative religious nuts and the oil industry completely in charge. No wonder Bush is always holding hands with those guys!

By the way, this class also has a girl from S. Korea, and a guy from Nepal. This is one of the things that makes teaching fun. I get to learn from my foreign students.

Finally, I took my bike into the shop yesterday, where I saw a former student of mine who is now at CU. I asked what he was majoring, and he said “Eco”. I said I hoped I was not responsible for that. He said that there is a lot more math involved than I lead him to believe. Oh well, the world can never have too many dismal scientists!


Dustan said...

I'm in that class and it is interesting to hear comments from the foreigners, but I think most of them do not speak up much except for Mohammad. It's a shame too because I'd be interested in their thoughts, having grown up so much differently than us Americans. But, it is kind of funny when Professor Locke makes a joke that is funny to Americans and gets pretty much dead silence from them because they don't get the joke.

Budd Bailey said...

Those of us who have known Mr. Locke since high school realize that the funniest part of that comment is the reference to "Professor Locke."

ClaireWalter said...

Have you crossed paths with our friend Evelyn Kaye, originally from England and a lapsed writer/publisher who is now teaching ESL at Front Range? Perhaps she helped some students from other countries gain a sufficient command of English to take "Professor Locke's" econ class.