For many Harvard freshmen, Ec10 (aka, Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics,”) is as much a part of the college experience as sneaking food out of Annenberg. Sections will sometimes bore you to tears, yet this introductory economics survey is one of the most practical classes offered at the College. Besides knocking out the Social Analysis core and fulfilling a requirement for Economics and Social Studies concentrators, it teaches concepts that will seem so intuitive you’ll be embarrassed by how little you knew before taking the course. Not surprisingly, Ec10 attracts about a third of the freshman class from all walks of Harvard life: future investment bankers, undecided souls who are “thinking about Social Studies,” and, naturally, some stereotypical jocks.
Those who took AP Economics in high school call Ec10 a joke, but for those new to the field, it’s just the right pace of weekly problem sets and readings. The supplemental readings book—with articles from The Economist and other periodicals—serves as a reminder that what you learn in class actually has some grounding in the real world. And you won’t have to worry much about your grade; Ec10 offers a “Unit Test” program to take practice exams for bonus points. Combine that with a Core curve set on a B+ average, and your grade will be as inflated as the Argentinean peso.
This year marks the first time that Ec10 students can elect to take just one semester of the previously indivisible year-long course. Ec10’s infamous structure, however, appears to be here to stay: the course only meets for lecture about ten times a semester and is primarily taught in section by graduate students. Competent TFs are a rare treat in Ec10, so much so that one popular section leader from the Law School drew nearly 100 desperate undergrads to her final review session last spring.
Liberals criticize Ec10 as having a conservative bias and preaching a form of “free-market fundamentalism.” And it’s true that Mankiw—a former economic adviser to George W. Bush—did assign an article entitled “Two Cheers for Sweat Shops.” But hey, that’s economics, baby.