My American students’ minds are polluted and my foreign students minds are not.
I teach principles of macroeconomics. This is a second year course, that’s required for business majors, and a general education option for all students.
Bottom line, I get a big, varied group of students.
I also give extra credit questions on exams, based on extra topics I cover in class.
This time around I asked about the employment to population ratio over the last 50 years: is it higher or lower?
The fact is that it’s higher: there are ups and downs from business cycles, but in general there are more people working outside the home than there used to be.†
The myth is that it’s lower. This is what Donald Trump tells us with his “93 million unemployed” nonsense. This is what many conservatives want us to believe, with their harping about welfare queens and disability recipients. This is what progressives want us to believe, with their harping about how we need more jobs and no one else can grow the economy (as if it’s a “corpse flower” or something).
My students got a mini-lecture on this. They even got a handout with a graph showing a clear upward trend.
And then I asked about it on the exam: my American students got it backwards and my foreign students got it right. I think all the harping really has polluted their minds.
Here’s the breakdown.
My 34 American students averaged 1.3 points of extra credit, while my 9 foreign students averaged 1.1 points. So it’s not like the foreign students scored better overall.
But those numbers are based on 3 questions. On the one question about willingness of Americans to work, the results were upside down. Americans tried that one 27 times, and only 5 got it right. Foreign students got it right every single time.
As Mark Twain said: “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
† This is really a no-brainer. Of course there’s more people working outside the home than there used to be: everyone knows it’s much more common for women to work than it used to be.