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The Importance of Ec 10

It's Popular, If Not Inspiring

By Richard S. Weisman

Last year, the Crimson Confidential Guide described Economics 10, "Principles of Economics," as "a good course with limited personal and academic value, solid but uninspiring." A crowd of well over 1200 practically beat down the doors of Sanders Theater for the first lecture, which only succeeded in scaring away about 400. Ec 10, for the second time in as many years, was the highest-enrolled course in the University.

Again this year, despite an even less favorable Confi Guide review and the defection or retirement of several of the course's star lecturers, the course remains the most popular offering in the University, according to preliminary enrollment figures released by the Office of the Registrar last Friday.

What has been responsible for the sustained popularity of Ec 10? Karl E. Case, head tutor in Economics, attributes the course's consistently high enrollment to the "important" nature of its subject matter, and to "general confusion on the part of most people about the economy."

"People in Ec 10 are infinitely better off than people who are not taking the course," Case said this week." "A lot of people have realized that taking Ec courses and concentrating in Economics is much better than concentrating in English for getting a job."

Career-consciousness, though, seems to play a considerably less important role in attracting people to Ec 10 than simple "general interest." Students currently enrolled in the course contacted by The Crimson this week appeared unanimous in their regard of EC 10--a broad, often-less-than-coherent survey of economic thought and analysis from a primarily neoclassical viewpoint--as "necessary."

"I just view the course as a kind of medicine which one can take to find out what's going on," explained Hannah Judy '78, an English concentrator. "No one told me I had to take it; I just told myself I had to take it."

Paralleling the sustained growth of the popularity of Ec 10 has been a disproportionate increase in the number of Economics concentrators. According to Case, many individuals are motivated to concentrate in the field for largely the same reasons that attract them to Ec 10, the department's only introductory offering. The ever-increasing number of students who in their freshman or sophomore years have somehow felt compelled to take Ec 10 later decide to stay on in the Economics Department.

All this has swelled the department's ranks to over 600, or more than 14 per cent of all undergraduates.

Case, who correlates the jump in Ec 10 enrollment with the worsening condition of the American economy over the past several years, feels that enrollment will probably fall off abruptly when the economy begins its recovery. Signs of this eventual fall-off are already apparent--enrollment in Ec 10 actually peaked three years ago, and has declined, though only slightly, ever since.

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