"Saving Adam Smith" Saves My Economics Class

Leah Kilfoyle for AdamSmithWorks

June 19, 2020


Saving Adam Smith hit the bullseye for my most recent search for a book that not only covers a number of my state’s standards, but demystifies the broader understanding of Adam Smith’s economics.
In the 20 plus years that I have taught high school economics, I have sought to find new ways to engage my students.  Trends come and go, but a consistent winner has been finding fictional stories that camouflage the content and cover important standards in an entertaining way.  Problem is, those fictional stories, especially good ones, are hard to find.  

Saving Adam Smith hit the bullseye for my most recent search for a book that not only covers a number of my state’s standards, but demystifies the broader understanding of Adam Smith’s economics.  In addition to the solid coverage of economic concepts such as voluntary exchange, the invisible hand, division of labor, and the creation of wealth, Saving Adam Smith digs into Smith’s emphasis on morality.  Sympathy, justice, and benevolence are not words that the modern world wants to associate with capitalism.  Readers get a chance to see the context in which Smith intended capitalism to properly function.  

There is a common tendency in economics courses to focus on the role of self-interest from The Wealth of NationsAnd it is often misrepresented as selfishnessSaving Adam Smith does a great job of differentiating the two.  The book emphasizes the foundational role of The Theory of Moral Sentiments to The Wealth of Nations.  Humans’ need to love and be loved guides their decision-making.  Finally, Smith’s impartial spectator is needed for the development of a conscience.  After all, markets cannot operate without people.

I am most excited with the flexibility to use Saving Adam Smith in a variety of learning environments.  While my preference would be in a face to face setting, I am also looking at the possibility of using the book in an e-Learning situation.  A Socratic format could be used in person or with an online platform (LMS discussion board or video conferencing service such as Google Meet).  The book could be used at any point during my semester-long course and that adaptability gives me peace of mind should there be another interruption to the school year.



Editor's Note: Leah recently led the AdamSmithWorks online reading group on Wight's book. After the discussion ended, ASW's Amy Willis recorded this AMA with author Jonathan Wight:

 
Comments
Caroline Breashears

What a lovely interview!
I was especially intrigued by Professor Wight’s use of TMS in his work with police officers and his point that empathy is a two-way street. Thank you for sharing!

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