Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grad School: The Impressionable Years

Sometimes I wonder if I am an overly impressionable young grad student. Am I being indoctrinated more than I realize?

I mostly ask this because I had very little economics background before coming to Berkeley. I was hardly aware of any of the major debates or viewpoints that characterize different schools of thought. I didn't know much of anything about who the important economists were or what they thought. So first year was particularly formative because I came as a blank slate. My professors impressed, intimidated, and influenced me.

It took me a few months of the program to get a vague sense of the different styles of economics, to start recognizing names and lineages. One of my professors said that a Berkeley economist can't look at a market without seeing a market failure and proposing a complicated mechanism to fix it. That's only partly the case. What stands out more is whom we include among the most revered and celebrated past economists. It's not that the "Berkeley style" is something well-defined, but there is only a finite amount of reading you can do, methods you can learn, and discussions you can have, so the decision of what to include and what to leave out depends a lot on the school. Even Berkeley's econometrics is distinctive. (Click the link, you'll see what I mean!)

I like the so-called Berkeley style a lot, though with admittedly little basis for comparison. Part of my reason for writing this blog is to practice formulating and reformulating my own ideas and formulating my own opinions about other people's ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from Barcelona, Carola!
    (This is sort-of a response to the last four posts combined)

    It's entirely possible that the only reason I say this is is because I'm drowning in my fellow Computer Scientists' horrible writing skills, but you are one of the best writers I know. Your prose has attitude, personality and charisma. I can't agree with you more - in the real world, presentation bridges the gap between good and great. It gives what you want to say a meaning and a purpose beyond facts and statistics. It's the difference between reading something because I want to and reading something because I have to. Sometimes, class discourages this; you only get marks for meeting specified criteria. Whenever I do work for the sake of just getting it done, it always lacks that 'extra oomph' that I put into something I truly care about.

    In regards to you feeling impressed upon, Berkeley does have the reputation of being, uhh, just a little politically charged. But you can't change the world without knowing what it is you're trying to change. Don't let it take you over, though - always keep an open mind! But who am I kidding, you don't need the advice of someone younger than you, slower than you, and dumber than you (I got a B! Put me on suicide watch!).

    How is your arm healing? Skype me sometime - I have some stories to tell! (The 9 hour time difference might make it a little difficult!)
    ~ Joe IV