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Grand Canyon University student says she was ‘silenced’ about ‘biased’ econ textbook

‘Taxing the wealthy to raise the living standards of the poor can potentially make everyone better off’

A Grand Canyon University student says she has not been allowed to offer her opinions in class while her econ textbook is full of them.

Elizabeth Olson sent excerpts of the book, “Essentials of Economics” by Gregory Mankiw, to The College Fix and a syllabus showing it is being used for assignments and discussions throughout the course at the private Christian Arizona university.

The author, a Harvard University professor, advocates for government solutions to economic issues.

“Because of the free-rider problem, eliminating poverty through private charity will probably not work,” one page reads. “Yet government action can solve this problem.”

“Taxing the wealthy to raise the living standards of the poor can potentially make everyone better off,” the book also states. “The poor are better off because they now enjoy a better standard of living, and those paying the taxes are better off because they enjoy living in a society with less poverty.”

One chapter criticized former President Donald Trump’s “inaction” on climate policy and argues for taxing carbon emissions. It cited a Chicago Tribune editorial that endorsed a bipartisan group that included Mankiw.

“Right now, most people in Washington show little interest in finding sensible solutions that can attract support across the political spectrum,” the Tribune wrote. “If and when that changes, the carbon dividends plan should be high on the list.”

The book’s author said he teaches “mainstream economics without any ideological bias” in an email to The Fix. “I should note that there was a time when my introductory course (based on my book) was accused of a conservative bias,” Mankiw told The Fix.

The Harvard professor has served several Republican officials as an economic adviser.

Student calls book ‘tax propaganda’

“The whole book” is “tax propaganda,” Olson told The Fix during a phone interview. However, the undergraduate student was told her own opinions were “not welcome” in online class discussions.

The Fix viewed screenshots of messages in which Olson’s professor, Kathy Archer, explained why she had blocked her discussion post.

“I have hidden your Participation post in response to the discussion question about how the destruction of Ukrainian power plants will affect Ukrain[e]’s PPF [production possibilities frontier],” Archer told her. “Partisan political discussions are not welcome here.”

“Please focus your responses on the underlying economic concepts,” Archer said. “For instance, in this question your thoughts on whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is just are inappropriate and off-topic.”

Archer emphasized that parts of Olson’s post had “good ideas” on the classroom topic but that she should “edit the post to meet the guidelines and re-post it for credit.”

Olson told her, “Your textbook is partisan” and argued that “economics goes hand in hand with politics.”

Archer replied that “economics is a science, based on data not opinion.” When Olson continued to press the professor about the opinions in “Essentials of Economics,” she deferred to GCU’s curriculum choices.

“This is the textbook that GCU has chosen for this class,” she said. “My job is to teach it. Your job is to learn it.”

“Your grade will be based on your ability to demonstrate understanding of the economics concepts in this textbook through discussion posts, topic assignments, and topic quizzes,” Archer said. “Partisan debate is left to social media.”

The Fix asked Archer via email why she trusts the content of the textbook, if there is a meaningful difference between the author’s opinions and Olson’s, and for any other context on the dispute. Archer deferred to GCU’s media team, which has not responded to two inquiries about the textbook and curricular standards in the past two weeks.

“I was warned going back to school that it would be like this, and I didn’t think it would be, but it is,” Olson told The Fix.

“The fact that you can’t speak about it respectfully… and you’re being silenced, that’s wrong,” Olson, who calls herself a “capitalist,” said.

“I feel like all Americans should be concerned about biased textbooks.”

MORE: American Economics Association dominated by Democrats

IMAGES: Cengage; College Fix edits

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Hudson Crozier is a student at the University of North Texas studying journalism and political science. He is senior contributor for Upward News and has also written for The Federalist, Red Liberty Media, and others.