conomics is a useful tool for figuring out what makes society tick, says Richard England, and how things work is definitely a theme when he teaches the introductory course at UNHs Whittemore School.
I love to
put things together, take them apart and understand how everything fits,
with England is a little like watching a painter, suggests one of his
students. He will sketch a few ideas in lecture, offer facts in
a very precise manner, then ask a provocative question, recalls
Momin Khan, a 1986 Whittemore School graduate now back to pursue a masters
degree. After he shows us certain lines, hell add color,
says Khan, continuing the metaphor, but we are still wondering what
point he is trying to make.
Finally, England fits the pieces togethertons
of information, some key questions, an overall theoryand suddenly
there is a picture, Khan says. You are left with two or three
very strong images, and the solid facts to back them up. He is like a
painter or a puzzle maker. Theres a real skill in that; it takes
a lot of thought and care, almost artistry. I think you have to love your
work to do it so well.
Even the cartoons on the bulletin board outside Englands
office resonateYou are here, says an arrow pointing
to the Milky Way galaxy. Knowing how we got where we are is important,
the professor believes. Like many good teachers, hell try a variety
of approaches to make a pointassigning market simulation games,
current events, television. Hes got a reputation for arriving in
class with an armload of newspaper clippings, too. I get my higher
marks from students by being enthusiastic about my subject, he laughs.
I guess that comes across.
England simply acknowledges that students approach economics
with the prejudice that the material will be boring. Im aware
that I need to make a special effort.
His goal, especially for undergraduates, is to prepare
them to be active citizens. I believe in democracy with a lower
case d, and for it to work, people need to develop critical
thinking skills, he says. Long after facts are forgotten,
critical thinking allows us to make choices wisely.
A city and country walker, perennial gardener, and lover
of the outdoors, Englandwho is proud to call himself an ecological
economistadvises both the Natural Resources and Economics graduate
programs at UNH. As a doctoral candidate at Michigan, he spent a full
year reading ecology and environmental research, so it seemed natural
when England and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
won a grant to study how tax policy might help to preserve open space
and rural lands in the state.
I care a lot about making good public policy at
the national, state, and local levels, he says. Economics
provides the tools to help us know what to do as a society with issues
like health and the environment. But then we need to act in order to make
A midwesterner, England developed an appreciation early
for how the System workshis mother encouraged him as
a boy to watch congressional hearings on television. Plus, an outstanding,
dynamic, and engaging economics teacher at Ohio State showed him
how to explain things in the world.
In Durham, his home for the past 30 years, England belongs
to a mens reading group, where a recent favorite was Jared Diamonds
Guns, Germs, and Steel. It combines economics, genetics, anthropology,
geography, politics, and more to explain human civilization. Its
right up my alley, chuckles England, understanding how things
work, and how we got where we are today.
Janet Lathrop, UNH News Bureau