I handed back an exam and was especially exasperated with my students. I had told them that there would be a mandatory question on the Fed goals of full employment, price stability, exchange rate stability and economic growth. They were to give the Fed a grade and tell how they would do things differently if they were Ben Bernanke. Fully 2/3s of them did not take the two minutes to look up the current numbers, the historic numbers and compare the two. So they lost between 6 - 10 points on a 10 point question. I told them that if I had as easy access to information when I was their age, I would have won the Nobel Prize in Economics by now. I also told them that information makes you seem smart. The example I gave was that the previous week I was in Raleigh for some meetings and was told that the head of the John Locke Society was added to my schedule and I would meet him after lunch. The only thing I recalled about Locke was that he opined that the mind was a blank tablet. By the meeting I knew that Locke was an abolitionist who also was a stockholder in the Royal Africa Company - they had the charter from the King to engage in the slave trade. I also found out that Locke had written the Constitution of the Carolinas. Was that why the society was headquartered in Raleigh? So when we met we had a lively conversation that caused all in the room to be impressed by my knowledge (newly acquired). Then, I asked the Locke person whose name was John Hood, “Please don’t tell me your middle name is Bell”. It wasn’t but we launched into a detailed discussion of something I know very well – the Civil War. We talked about Hood and his tactics that lead to grief at Franklin and at Nashville where he became the only general on either side to lose his entire army at battle. We disagreed over one point. He had accepted the common notion that Bell Hood was the south’s best division commander. I believe that honor went to Patrick Cleburne who Hood killed by having he lead the suicidal frontal assualt at Franklin. I then told my students that the irony was that the Union general George Thomas, the only Virginian of flag rank to stay north had a large contingent of black troops who undoubtedly took great pleasure in their work. I said, they were probably told by their officers “Don’t fire til you see the whites.” No one except the one student who is in his 40s chuckled. The rest had no clue to the reference. I am glad I am retiring.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com