Using Proverbs from Around the World in Economics Education
USING PROVERBS FROM AROUND THE WORLD IN ECONOMICS EDUCATION Gherardo Girardi London Metropolitan University 7 September 2011 Prepared for Developments in Economics Education Conference, LSE Sponsored by the Economics Network of the Higher Education Academy OVERVIEW Pedagogical basis Literature Methodology Results Conclusion
PEDAGOGICAL BASIS Transformative learning theory and Rogers humanistic approach encourage the use of provocative material to stimulate thinking, such as proverbs from different cultures Proverbs from around the world can be used in economics classes to: Reconsider what we teach, essentially that the more money one has the happier one is because he can but more cars, holidays, etc.; this belief is challenged by the economics of happiness literature Reconsider how we teach, essentially through diagrams and mathematics, which is not appealing to some students Attain cultural inclusivity By introducing material from the students cultures in the curriculum, the students can feel included Internationalize the curriculum at a time of globalization, promoting appreciation of other cultures (value-based approach) and the ability to work with people of other cultures (functional approach) Consider wisdom wealth affects our lives in ways which we do not take into account in economics, e.g. our relationships, and it would seem unwise to ignore these. Also is there such a thing as a world wisdom, i.e. a wisdom that applies across cultures?
In addition, proverbs offer concise and readily accessible information, consistently with our societys demands LITERATURE Proverbs are not presently used in economics educations They are, however, used in other disciplines: Tisdell and Tolliver (The Role of Spirituality in Culturally Relevant and Transformative Adult Education, Adult Learning, 2001) involves the use of proverbs in African-centred psychology education. Grant and Asimeng-Boahene (Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Citizenship Education: Using African Proverbs as Tools for Teaching in Urban Schools, Multicultural Perspectives, 2006) discuss the use of African proverbs in urban schools with a view to promoting a sense of citizenship. Ibanez (Using Proverbs in Chemistry, Journal of Chemistry Education, 2002) shows how proverbs can be used to teach chemistry (!). Charteris-Black (Proverbs in Communication, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 1995) uses proverbs to develop the crosslinguistic understanding of professionals involved in intercultural situations. Manzo (Using Proverbs to Teach Reading and Thinking; Come Faceva Mia
Nonna (The Way My Grandmother Did It), The Reading Teacher, 1981) describes the use of proverbs to improve reading comprehension skills and critical thinking abilities. METHODOLOGY Questionnaire distributed in class Includes all 51 proverbs containing the word wealth from the Prentice-Hall Encyclopaedia of World Proverbs Students asked if money buys happiness Focus group (8 students) and 5 individual interviews RESULTS - QUESTIONNAIRE Ques tio nnai re There is mild evidence that males think that money buys happiness more than females (based on t-test analysis) Students tended to regard the proverbs as truthful (38 out of 51 proverbs); one student remarked proverbs describe the wisdom of history in a few
words. Among proverbs seen as most truthful by students are The greatest wealth is contentment with a little and The wealth which enslaves the owner is not wealth, neither of which are covered in the economics classroom No evidence found that students found proverbs of their own ethnic group more truthful than those of other ethnic groups (but note small sample and problems with grouping students) Students tended to regard proverbs as negative about wealth (39 out of 51 proverbs, e.g. Where wealth is established it is difficult for friendship to find a place) with important implications for economics education 10 (out of 30) students underwent a change of attitude: 7 away from money buys happiness, 3 towards it Students appreciate the fact that proverbs enable them to appreciate both positive and negative aspects of money, in contrast with what they are taught in the classroom. RESULTS FOCUS GROUP Fo c u s g ro u p s a re b e t t e r t h a n q u e s t i o n n a i re s t o a s s e s s i f s t u d e n t s h a v e u n d e rg o n e t r a n s f o rm a t i v e l e a rn i n g ( a n d 1 - t o - 1 i n t e r v i e w s a re e v e n better)
e.g. a student initially thought that people in general only agreed with proverbs from their own culture, but, having taken part in the focus group discussion, now believes that they are far more universal Students proposed ideas not covered in mainstream economics, e.g. that money can bring about a change in personality, and that effort is desirable in its own right in order to appreciate the things attained through effort, and the importance of being virtuous. Evidence of global wisdom: students believe that human nature has stayed the same over time, making proverbs applicable across time. Some students were less clear as to whether proverbs are equally applicable across cultures. When two proverbs clash, most students reconcile them, e.g. Where wealth is established, it is difficult for friendship to find a place and Where wealth, there friends, with students interpreting the word friends in the second proverb in a sarcastic sense; alternatively some student thought that one proverb may be true in one situation and another proverb true in another situation. This shows respect for proverbs, seen as depositories of wisdom. The role of religion in the economics of civil conflict
RESULTS - INTERVIEWS A mature student from Yorkshire said that the exercise had opened his mind a bit, that with proverbs youre forced to think outside the box in that he was not given any input by the tutor before engaging with the proverbs. He said that he was not given a received wisdom which you are supposed to take in and felt a sense of exploration and freedom in taking part in the exercise. A Somali student felt that proverbs are more truthful than figures , in fact she finds them a useful reminder that there is more in economics than figures. Proverbs have been around for a long time, so there is wisdom in them, unlike figures, which can change across time and cultures, like the Phillips curve. She cited a Somali proverb which says that People lie, but proverbs dont lie. She also cited sayings from her religion, Islam: Remember God when you are wealthy, hell remember you when you are poor , and Ask for wealth that will not delude you. A Kenyan student was taught by her parents that it is not so much money but the love of it [that is the problem], then it becomes your idol, reflecting her Christian upbringing. She also said that Wisdom cant be acquired at university, which can be very intellectual, but the people [teaching at university can be] not very wiseThe events in your life teach you wisdom.
She remarked: I have learnt a lot from the proverbs exercise, but what do I do with it?; she felt that students would benefit from looking at different role of religion in the economics civil situations to which they The can apply proverbs, thenof proverbs would teach you conflict wisdom. In other words, a tutor needs to apply the proverbs to real life RESULTS INTERVIEWS (CONTD) For a Slovak student, proverbs are common wisdom and have general, though not universal, applicability both across time and space. She felt that although at university one learns plenty of theory, youre not encouraged to look for your place in the theory, if you fit into it or not, but
with proverbs you do. She appreciated the fact that proverbs pointed to the negative aspects of money, such as distracting ones attention away from helping others, and offered some proverbs of her own: Money can consume you, and Money shows you who you are. A British student of Pakistani ethnicity said that he was normally very confident about his views but this time he felt his views had been successfully challenged in the interview and was grateful for it. He felt it was good to teach proverbs, it has opened my eyes. He felt that spiritual wealth was more valuable then physical wealth, as it cannot be stolen and serves as a foundation for ones life. The student offered the proverb If you dont respect money, it wont respect you, giving gambling as an example of not respecting money; also a key question for him is Do you control money or does money control you?; if it controls you, then (citing another proverb) Money makes worship. The role of religion in the economics of civil conflict CONCLUSION The use of proverbs in the economics classroom can be justified pedagogically by means of transformative learning
theory or Rogers holistic approach; it also helps to promote cultural inclusivity Results from the experiment show that students tend to regard proverbs as truthful and rich in wisdom students think the majority of proverbs are negative about wealth, in contrast with what they are taught in the economics classroom transformative learning took place for a significant number of students (at least 10 out of 30) In addition, a database of 221 economics proverbs was constructed, with proverbs classified as follows: wealth (71), money (59), labour (29), savings (18), risk (17), borrowing (11), happiness (8), sustainability (4) and preferences (4). This is a teaching tool that will be made available to other tutors via the Economics Networks website.
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