Local News

Duke prof writes children's play about economic crisis

Posted October 10, 2008 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2008 10:50 a.m. EDT

— Middle schoolers performed a new play that its author, a Duke University professor, hopes will help them understand the causes of the financial crisis that has sent stocks plunging globally.

"That it's hard for adults to understand is an understatement. It's not clear that the secretary of the treasury understands what's going on," said Dr. Campbell Harvey, professor of finance at Duke's Fuqua School of Business.

Bankers, customers and loan seekers are the central characters in Harvey's "The Credit Crisis: A Middle School Play."

"The play is short and explains the origins of the crisis, how banks got into trouble, the FDIC and the basic lessons of risk and return," Harvey said.

In the play, the First Triangle Bank Corporation takes customers' deposits and denies a home loan to famous heart surgeon Dr. Sikeston Bainbridge – but approves one with a higher interest rate to unemployed dancer Peter Mint, who wants to build a house in an "exclusive" subdivision in a swamp.

And when customers come to collect their deposits, the bankers find that Mint can't pay his loan and they can't pay their customers. The FDIC swoops in to close the bank, fire its workers and insure customers' deposits.

Two bank workers later sit on a park bench, bemoan their fate and recall the lesson learned: "Beware of the highest promised profit, because it could be very risky – and put you out of business."

Eighth graders at Triangle Day School indicated they got the lesson after reading Harvey's play Friday afternoon.

"I learned about the different bad loans that people are taking out, like with the unreliable people and how they can't take it back and the money that the bank loses," student Tanner Lockhead said.

"We are the next generation, and there's been a lot of mistakes in the past couple of years, and I think it's kind of up to us to try to fix it," student Michael Laskowtiz said.

Harvey has formulated a response to the economic crisis he said would "cover not just the big banks that are in trouble but all banks, the good banks." Efforts should be focused on increasing credit available to small- and medium-sized banks and businesses, as well as individuals, he said.

On Friday, Harvey was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Time, Fortune and The Washington Post.