When I first went to Keele University in 1976 I taught in the Department of Sociology, which had introduced a workshop-based teaching programme that did without most of the material I had been taught at Essex – Sociological Theory, Methods, Statistics, Social Policy, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Comparative Sociology, History of Sociology, Sociology of Development, Political Sociology. Looking back, at Keele I seem to have mainly taught workshops on documentary film, media and social anthropology. While these were all things of great interest to me, they did not reflect what I wanted to teach, which first became possible with my transfer to the Department of Economics in the mid-1980s.
Besides the stimulating routine of teaching introductory classes, I first developed in 1988 a Year 3 option on the European Economy, at a time when the emphasis was very much on the institutional structures of decision-making in the Community. Next in 1991 I created a second year course on what I called “Social Economics”, using a demographic foundation to develop arguments about the economics of healthcare, education, welfare, housing, poverty and social insurance. The last thing second year students wanted to hear about then was the problem of pension provision with an unpredictably ageing population; here for the first time, in the actual uncertainties of demographic projections, I found something actually worth trying to model. Then in 1993 I began teaching a Year 3 course on Industrial Organisation, dealing with industry structure, competition, regulation, and privatisation.
By the later 1990s teaching loads were increasing, and when added to the routinisation of teaching associated with modularisation, the departmental response was to cut back and consolidate teaching on a textbook-based format. The possibility of designing and developing interesting courses no longer existed at Keele, and so I left university teaching.
Living in Worcester and an active member of Worcester Rowing Club racing in eights and fours, I found a second, and far more satisfying, career as a rowing coach with King’s School Worcester. The only teaching qualifications I have come courtesy of British Rowing. Not only is the quality of your crews open for all to see – unlike most other sports, your training takes place on the river in front of an interested public – rowing coaches are in the main simply handed responsibility for a year-group of enthusiastic teenagers and expected to get on with it. This generally involves four sessions a week for most of the year, the summer break being the only real lull. During the last few years I have coached fifteen-year old boys, before that I coached fifteen-year old girls, and the experience has been both instructive and rewarding. But the very intensity of this experience, the fragmentation of time for writing and translation, led to my retirement in the summer of 2013. There is however a boat named for me in the boathouse, and there is no higher honour than that.
Nonetheless, I have at last begun to teach a course on the History of Economics to Year 3 undergraduates at the University of Birmingham, thanks to the invitation of Roger Backhouse while he was on research leave. And after his “retirement” in 2014, we will share the teaching of a subject that had almost died out, and which today almost threatens to make a comeback, if there is any will at all to reform an economics curriculum that has become a matter of dull routine, and the butt of criticism from students and media alike.