Speaking courses needed in economics

As the latest crop of senior economics majors plows through 401, I can’t help but notice the emergence of an occasional tear in our well-polished facade of knowledge and experience.

Undoubtedly there are those who cruise through the class presentations and oral exams of the final required economics offering like it was melted butter, but I count myself among the rest who don’t quite feel at home with all these new demands. It was not far into the semester when I realized that the last presentation I gave was in high school, and if I remember correctly, it wasn’t exactly smooth.

My turn to lead discussion finally came and went – no one laughed or said they were sorry afterwards, but I walked out of the room thinking that my lack of comfort with the format left something to be desired in the final product I presented. I understand that class size complicates the issue, but I also think that the ability to present and explain the material we study should play a larger role in a liberal arts education.

We should be good at this stuff by the time we’re seniors – especially in light of the impending interview process and the applicability of these skills to the post-graduate experience. If refined oral communication skills are critical components of the economics major, as I think they should be, then why spring it on everyone senior year?

Whether it’s through smaller discussion groups or an actual public speaking class, I think the school can and should provide more early opportunities for students to develop and tweak their ability to coherently present arguments. It’s a given that some people won’t need the extra help, but the rest of us likely wouldn’t mind a little practice.

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