During my visit to the campuses of the Thomas Jefferson Institute school at Queretaro and Mexico city, I was asked to address the students. Talk? Me? Of course, I can talk to classes. Been doing that for a while and I must say that I miss teaching. So I am given a pretty hectic schedule of 15 classes. They said that it was up to me how much time I actually spent in each class. I guessed I would talk to them for about 20 minutes or so. As it happened, in each class I took the entire 50 minutes.
I must admit that I have not had so much fun in a long time. Over the two and a half days, it was a learning experience for me. Each session I started off with a short introduction about me and then the rest was all dependent on what the kids wanted to talk about. We covered a lot of ground. In all of them, I would ask them if they knew what an economist was. Not surprisingly, most did not know. Some guessed that an economist was someone who did stuff with money.
My line was: “Well, yes, economists deal with money. But only indirectly. Basically, economists study the economy (lots of smiles) — but what is an “economy”? — whatever it is, an economy has people — because you could have everything in a place — mountains rivers forests fields animals fish whatever — but if there were no people, there would be no economy. Now people do things. They make things, produce things, and they use things, consume things, and finally they exchange things. So they produce, and consume, and most importantly they exchange stuff. And what is the mechanism they use to help with the exchange of stuff?” At this point, many would guess “money”. And so we would get started on our topic.
In one class, I ended up talking about the Prisoner’s Dilemma and game theory. In another, we started discussing the size of the earth, and the age of the universe. Discussions and questions were varied. But there was one common thing: they wanted to know where all I had been, which countries I had visited. And they wanted to know whether I liked Mexico.
I could honestly answer that I liked Mexico. But then, what defines a place is people. People matter not just in the case of the economy, but even more so when it comes to whether one likes or dislikes a place. The people I met in Mexico were without exception kind, warm, hospitable, and sweet. So naturally I have a very positive impression of Mexico. Ricardo and Jeanene, my hosts and the couple who are responsible for the Thomas Jefferson Schools, are two of the nicest people I have had the good fortune to know.
Anyway, I had a good time talking to the kids and I believe that they enjoyed the time I spent with them as well. By the end of the class, we would become acquainted enough that picture time would see them with genuine smiles. I took a picture of each class. I uploaded them on to my picasa album. Just click on the picture above to see them or click here.