Neoliberal Economics and Undergraduate Poverty Education

Authored by: Kevin D. Blair , Gabriel A. Santos

The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415673440
eBook ISBN: 9781315755519
Adobe ISBN: 9781317627401


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Educating undergraduates at American universities about poverty via an integrated series of courses leading to a minor is a small, but steadily growing, phenomenon. These efforts to strengthen undergraduate poverty education stem from a desire to aid the poor, but also from the need to provide students with the tools they need to develop an ethical orientation that can challenge the basic assumptions of neoliberal economics and policies that tend to dominate undergraduate education in the areas of business and economics on American campuses. As noted by Craig Murphy (2001, p. 354) amongst others (Stiglitz, 2012), it is vital that we educate undergraduate students on the consequences likely to arise “in a world in which some of us are so relatively rich and others so relatively poor.” Echoing Murphy’s concerns, Krian and Shadle (2006, p. 52) note:

Very few undergraduates have more than a basic understanding of this global crisis, and very few college courses deal adequately with that knowledge gap. The issue can seem very abstract to college students, particularly those in the developed world who are surrounded by all-you-can-eat dining options and an endless array of fast-food delivery services. To help bridge the gap between the reality of poverty, inequality, and hunger, and that of the average college student, innovative pedagogical techniques must be used.

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