Stanford University administrators axed a popular course titled “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” that portrayed free markets in a positive light.
John McCaskey, a philosophy professor at Stanford, decided to offer the course after the 2008 financial crash, and began teaching it in 2009. Both the course and McCaskey’s teaching style soon earned rave reviews from students of all political stripes.
“This is one of the most fantastic courses that I have taken at Stanford,” wrote one student.
“Definitely offer this course again,” wrote another student. “This course exposes students to concepts that many ought to be exposed to. It teaches students to think more completely than they probably do now. Please offer it again.”
But despite the course’s popularity, administrators discontinued “Moral Foundations of Capitalism” last year. The Stanford Center for Ethics in Society, which sponsored the course, decided to invest its resources elsewhere.
“The Center on Ethics in Society will play a role in supporting the creation of new courses and existing courses in ethical reasoning, and the Center decided to allocate its limited resources (human and financial) to this task in the coming years,” said Rob Reich, director of the EiS program, in a statement to the Stanford Review.
Reich did not respond to requests for comment.
However, according to the winter course guide, the EiS program continued to offer a course that challenges the moral goodness of markets: “Moral Limits of the Market.”
McCaskey stressed that his course was “discontinued” rather than “canceled.”
“‘Cancel’ is when the university says it will offer a course in a certain term and then doesn’t, like when you cancel a dinner reservation,” he wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That didn’t happen here.”
While he shared students’ disappointment that the course would not be offered again, he stressed that the university makes similar curriculum changes all the time.
“Course rosters are always changing so many, many courses get discontinued, even many popular ones,” he wrote. “I know many students were hoping to take that course, but there is never a guarantee that an elective offered in one year–or even for several years–will be offered in perpetuity.”
McCaskey said he didn’t know whether the new ethics curriculum would be more or less politically diverse without his course.
“We really can’t say that without looking at the whole curriculum,” he wrote. “It might be that the new suite of offerings is more diverse. Maybe it is less diverse. I don’t know.”
McCaskey was invited to teach a similar course, titled “Rival Defenses of American Capitalism,” at Brown University last semester. He expects to teach it again in the fall.
A spokesperson for Stanford did not respond to requests for comment.
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