University Honors College - The Honorable mention

ECO 212 Current Economic Issues Debate Course Seats for Honors Students

Posted by Tim on February 5, 2018 in Academics




 ECO 212 Current Economics Issues (3 credit hr.)                                                        Professor Holmes

T, Th, 12:30PM – 1:50PM      NSC 228                                                                      Fall 2017                          Phone: 645-8680 (do not leave message)                                  Home: 688-2461 (leave message)

OFFICE: 431 Fronczak Hall  OFFICE HOURS: By arrangement Tue- Thur, preferably between 2- 3:20PM


You should know what a syllabus is.  It is a written commitment/contract of what a Professor intents to do/teach during a course.  You should make a similar commitment/stated intension of what YOU want to achieve by taking this course.  Take the time NOW to write down what you want to learn out of this course and why.  Then set a date(s) at which you will evaluate your personal success at achieving the goal you stated.





REQUIRED READING; on UBLearns/ Blackboard, under this course in course documents is a collection of files/matterials YOU MUST READ!


REQUIRED TEXT:      Taking Sides, by Thomas Swartz and Frank Donello (Dushkin), McGraw Hill ( (older, used editions I consider better than the current edition. This will be lots cheaper and work well if all the members of your debate team have the same edition.)


The Wall Street Journal.  Is REQUIRED. Subscribe online at, for a special discount price.

To confirm compliance a  students must print out the homepage/ proof of subscription by the end of the 2nd week of class and submit it to the TA coordinator.

Students who read The Journal are: – 76% more likely to expect a GPA of 3.5 or better.- 46% more like likely to say they are extremely or very prepared for job interviews.- 140% more likely to be starting a full-time job when they graduate.

You will utilize the ability of the online Journal to go back for many year’s worth of W.S.J. articles.  To research a topic use Internet Explorer,  Go to WSJ home, use your WSJ subscriber ID/password, go to today’s paper, search, advanced search options, time range two years. If you wish to search father back with no cost to you, you must use Factiva and your UB library ID and password which.Here’s the URL for the page that links to the Factiva version of the Wall Street Journal:


Other Free Sources:

there are several Econoblogs that many people find interesting and educational.  In particular you can check out;

  1. blogs,, or
  2., or
  3., or

5. Students can visit the WSJ forum page on to connect to a discussion on various topics.

These may have interesting possible debate topic/issues.


The economics reference librarian, Don Hartman 645-2814 ext. 429, can be very helpful to you and has suggested that These online UB Library sites should be good starting points for economic students:
(Note: the URLs may be long & wrap to the next line, so you may have to cut
& paste URL into Internet Explorer’s address box)

If students must use other Internet sources, here’s a nice webpage that
lists “Criteria for Evaluating Internet Resources”:

EVIDENTLY 40+% of the information on the web is not accurate or is absolutely false. The sources of your information matter.  It is a relevant debate question of what are the incentives and motivations of the providers of information on the web. (I know of no penalty for lying on the Internet.)


Course Description and Organization


This should be a “fun” course.  You will participate in classroom debates on interesting topics.  The first week of class you will be organized into debate teams with a debate team leader, who is an undergraduate teaching assistant for this course or a volunteer experienced in debate.  It is the responsibility of this leader to monitor and mentor the research you do as a basis of the team presentation and to schedule one or more practice debates before an actual presentation in class. It is your responsibility to communicate with this leader and follow their instructions.


Because this may be the first economics course some students have taken, I will first cover the core economic concepts we will use in this course.  These concepts are:

  1. I) opportunity cost, II) demand and supply, III) how price and quantity are determined, IV) their relationship to efficiency and V) competition and monopoly power. I will apply these concepts to the issue of the employment effects of the minimum wage from my research available at You may find an old Introductory Principles of Economics text helpful.

Hopefully, you will apply these to concepts and issues that you debate in this course.  Various Editions of the textbook list of variety of possible debate topics.  I will, with the help of my debate team leaders, supply an additional list at the beginning of this course.  topics are not limited to these.  However I and/or the debate team coordinator should approve every topic that you wish to have debated.   Because some of the recent textbook topics are pretty silly it is prudent/required to have all of your topics approved in advance.  Topics should be selected by a team leader at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled presentation and approved by the debate team coordinator and/or me.  I suggest a team meeting the first week to make a list of potential future debate topics with their orders of preference.  We are fortunate to have XXXXXXXXXX as the debate team coordinator, to whom potential topics should be submitted and who will schedule the debates. Topics will be assigned by the coordinator on a first come first served basis.


There is one topic which interests me because of my research and therefore I will include in my lectures, “Should the minimum wage be abolished or should it be raised?” (see textbook)


The textbook presents several examples of the pro and con arguments on interesting topics.  The first round of debates will select one topic from the text but subsequent debates can select any topic so long as economic analysis and arguments are utilized.  Hopefully, this will give each student the opportunity to learn to speak (and argue) in public.  You will evaluated on the basis of the quality of your research and presentation, e.g. “uh”, “um”, etc. are bad.  You will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not you appear to be prepared, tried to communicate and engage the audience or just read from a paper or notes, appear to practice before hand, and the quality of your research and argument. (many foreign students have received A’s in this course despite heavy accents and poor English pronunciation because they did excellent research and presented it using good visual materials.


Preparation on any debate topic should go beyond the material presented in the text or what you find on Google.  High quality research is the single most important factor in a good debate and for you to get a good grade.  Because approximately 40% of the material obtained on the Internet is erroneous or fabricated, it is required that you use research sources that are reputable.  Personally, I only use printed hard copy material or online resources (which I have printed and check the sources) which I know to the reputable: for example, The Wall Street Journal and official US government sources.  Partisan sources, particularly those run by special interest groups or individuals should not be part of your research, e.g. the human rights commission of the UN and several other of their agencies.  This course should teach you to be skeptical; there is no cost or penalty for anyone publishing lies and misinformation on the Internet, for this reason I will not accept sources that are not established and reputable.  (If you can catch your opponents using such sources you will get a better evaluation and grade from me.)


 I definitely note when your research incorporates or is based upon;

1) Refereed Academic articles particularly in economics, you will find The Journal of Economic Perspectives, The American Economist, The Journal of Economic Literature often have articles an undergraduate can read and understand.


2) The Wall Street Journal is always reliable and respected.


3) Many online sources are not reliable and contain misinformation.  Google Scholar is an exception (usually).  To get there go to Google, click more, choose scholar.  I suggest that you print a hard copy of the sources you use.


Visual Presentations in Your Debate.


You should incorporate and combined visuals with your oral presentation.  This should include an outline of your points, and relevant graphs and tables.  I am not fond of cartoons and they should be avoided unless they are integrated and pertinent to your argument.

  1. All fonts must be 14 point or larger including table’s.
  2. you should not use hand printed or cursive visuals. You can use Word to make a very good visual.


Grades.  Grades will be based on four things.

1) Class attendance is required.  You will be allowed 3 unexcused absences.  More than this will earn a grade of incomplete.  It is rude to come in late when someone is speaking.  (If you are traveling from the South campus or for some reason must be regularly late please inform me and the debate team coordinator the first week.)  Otherwise, each three minutes period you are late to class will count one third of an unexcused absence, so if you are late more than 9 minutes you will be counted as absent.  It is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet or hand in an evaluation sheet for each class you attend including when you debate.

2) your debate presentation.  Every member of the debate team must make a presentation and participate during their scheduled debate.  These are responsibilities of each student.  A debate team leader, if your team has one, should contact his/her members by e-mail and require a confirmation that the e-mail was received.  I have given considerable power to debate team leaders.  Failure to respond to your leader, attend scheduled team meetings or practice debates will be reported to me by the team leader and I will lower that students course grade by one letter from what they would have earned otherwise or give them an incomplete grade.  Because, Such behavior by one student can potentially lower the grades of all of his or her teammates, I want this behavior reported immediately.  A second reported failure will earn a grade of incomplete/F.

Before each debate, a group should meet preferably as soon as possible, e.g. a week or more, in advance of the scheduled debate to discuss the issues, possible research and allocation of subtopics to be researched.  Such research, visual materials and arguments should be reviewed, criticized and corrected by the team leader, if there is one.  If, due to a shortage of experienced TAs a team does not have a leader, then the team must assume these responsibilities to ensure the success of each student. The team should have at least one and preferably two practice debates before the classroom debate.


***Require that all students have a fully prepared and ready to present debate approved one class proir to their actual debate. This will ensure higher attendance, and that research is done prior to debate day.


During a debate each team leader, or the designated substitute,  has the responsibility to keep track of a debaters time and to insure they do not exceed their allotted time, leaving insufficient time for the remaining debaters to present their material.  I authorize the leader to give a one minute warning, after which that debater will receive a reduction of one letter grade on their performance for that debate.

If a debate team leader, or the substitute, does not contact a student in a timely fashion before the debate it is a mature student’s responsibility to contact the leader and other members of his or her group. This is not a course for tourists, it is a course for participants.  You must “row your own boat” do not expect anyone else to do so!
I expect each group to present a minimum of 2 or 3 debates on separate topics.  Hopefully, each group will present between 4 and 6.  The text presents several excellent examples of issues in this manner and it is a good starting place to choose and organize topics and research.  You should be VERY concerned with poor research, and presentation.  Figure out your incentive; If your present 4 debates each of 6 min.  and you do  only 1 poorly this is 25% of your debate grade!!  Do you think that is stupid?

I will put on UB learns material on how to prepare and present a debate .  Each class I will distribute an evaluation sheet, which you must sign and will be used to take attendance.


I will grade a student’s research and effort to communicate that research in these debates.  I will weigh your improvement heavily. Students who are unprepared or do not participate in their group debate will receive a grade of incomplete.  A student’s debate presentation will count approximately 60% of their course grade.


3) Essay

Each student will write 5 short essays on debated topics of their choice (including presumably the ones they present.)  These will be handed in to your group leader, corrected and returned.  Then 2 of these of your choice will be extended, revised and resubmitted to be graded by me or one of the debate team leaders.  These will be a major basis for your course grade (i.e. approximately 20%).  The first of these graded essays will be due slightly after mid-semester, and the second due at the end of this course.  Hopefully, the two final essays will be better in every way than the first draft.


4) Class Participation

The debate team coordinator and I will attempt to keep track of questions, comments and criticisms from students in the class that are not presenting a debate. Hopefully, by the end of the second week we can post at UB learns a debate schedule for the different groups, including the topics to be debated. This will allow non-presenters to research some of these topics and prepare questions and criticisms potentially.  Approximately 20% of your grade will depend upon class participation.


The use of cell phones and Laptops during debates is strictly prohibited and will count, if you are caught, as non-attendance.


This plan/organization is not set in stone and I am willing to change it.


Finally, I hope this is a fun course which a non-economics major will find interesting and educational.  At a minimum it should improve your ability to express yourself both orally and in writing.


Other matters


Students who suspect they may have either a visible or invisible disability should be aware of the services offered by the university Office of Disability Services, the policies of which they can read at  (Personally, as will be obvious when I first go to write on the blackboard or overhead projector, I am classified with that office for having an expressive language disability, and I am most sympathetic to students with disabilities.)


Students are responsible for the academic integrity policies of the University and Department of Economics and Faculty of Arts and Science.  Students should be aware of and follow the university policy concerning integrity available at

Incomplete policy

            I give the grade of incomplete only if you cannot complete all the course work for good reason in accord with the university policy, please see these at

 “I/F” is the only incomplete grade I give, you can make it up only by redoing the course as an auditor either with me or any other instructor (with their permission) and completing all the course work, tests, quizzes, etc., exactly as if you were retaking the course.  DO NOT RE-Register. The grade you earn as an auditor is the grade you will then receive.

This is my notification in writing of the work that must be completed by any and every student that receives an incomplete in any class I teach in order to resolve the  I/F grade.  It is the only notification you will receive.


I reserve the right to make changes in this syllabus and course plan, when, in my opinion, this will better achieve the objective of this course.  However, any changes in this syllabus and plan will be announced well in advance in class, and/or via e-mail, and/or UB learns for this course.


This should be a “Fun” course. I hope you enjoy taking it as much as I enjoy teaching it.  I learn something new each time I teach it.  (What I learned about global warming several years ago was nothing less than shocking then.  Compare this to what is public information now, see the WSJ 12/01/09, P. A 17, “Climategate..” by Bret Stephens and  P A 19 “the climate science isn’t settled” by Richard Lindzen.  See these on UBL.)


If you are curious about my research and/or personal life, philosophy, and adventures (including instructions about how to camp in the wild) you can find my personal webpage of some interest:   This personal web page is separate from my departmental web page.  It has some really neat pictures.