Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, January 17, 2005

Isoquants: Chemistry and Physics teachers as Inputs

Suppose students are told that their overall grade in the physical sciences will be a composite of their chemistry and physics grades. Suppose further that hiring physics teachers is very expensive and very difficult, compared with hiring chemists (or even biologists) to teach the combined syllabus.

If these suppositions are even close to correct for a given educational system [e.g. in the UK], it should come as no surprise that their school boards would hire fewer physicists and teach less physics, yet students would still do "okay" in their combined grade for the physical sciences.

For the school boards, the higher effective price of employing physicists (compared with chemists or biologists) would lead to their hiring fewer physicists. And given this effect, the teachers, tooling up to teach students enough to get them to a given threshhold can be done, on average, with lower cost to the teachers by covering less physics and more chemistry. Not surprisingly, for students taught under such a system [thanks to JC for the tip],'s generally possible to get a grade C - the benchmark for league tables - with a score of roughly 30-35%, which means that you can pass double science quite easily while knowing next to no physics...

Well I'll be...., people respond to incentives.

Ohmygosh... The Guardian got something right?

p.s. My younger son, Adam Smith Palmer, gave up teaching physics for a non-teaching job: "Dad," he said, "I'm working only 40 hours/week now instead of 80, and I'm earning lots more."
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