Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Preference Falsification

Timur Kuran has done some nice work on preference falsification. Inside Higher Ed finds it plenty active on college campuses.
After talking about the expected topics, one student had said, “This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable saying what I really think about Israel.”

When I asked why that was, she said, “Because I always have to gauge, if I say what I think, whether that would impact a grade or a friendship.”

“Is this only about Israel that you find yourself repressing your views?” I asked. “No,” she said. Others agreed – this culture of double-checking one’s thoughts, they said, applied to many issues, and was experienced by non-Jewish students at Columbia, too, as well as by students they knew at other campuses.

How depressing that at an institution designed to shake up the thinking of smart young people, the message heard instead is the importance of self-censoring. Not because of harassment or intimidation, but because there was insufficient space created and cultivated for students to take intellectual risks. College should be the time when students receive encouragement to say things that others might find difficult or even offensive, as part of the learning process.
This is one reason I try to find topics for my Current Issues class where economists are likely to disagree with the comfortable consensus: it's a first step to breaking information cascades. But I also tell them that thoughtful essays, regardless of whether I agree with them, do better than ones that just parrot back what I've said in class - I don't want to generate a new cycle of falsification.

1 comment:

  1. Well, with states going into default, they will probably soon not be able to adequately fund higher education anymore (if they ever did).