Bernanke Plays Professor For a Day

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke went back to school on Tuesday, in what looks like an attempt by the central bank to appear more friendly and transparent to the public.

Bernanke gave a lecture to a class at George Washington University, focusing on the origins and missions of the central bank. It was the first of four talks to students on the history of the Fed.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke

The chairman was, as usual, tight-lipped and steered clear of saying anything that would hint at the central bank's future stimulus intentions.

In his lecture, Bernanke said that the central bank's purpose was keeping the macro-economy stable with monetary policy, and to keep the financial system working normally or to mitigate financial panics. He also described the Fed's tools of action, including being the lender of last resort in a crisis.

The talk comes at a time when the Fed faces much criticism from both liberals and conservatives. Some say the central bank hasn't done enough to stimulate the economy and lower the unemployment rate, while others say that the Fed needs to stop meddling. While low interest rates and quantitative easing may encourage lending and have positive effects on the housing and jobs market, critics say these methods lead to inflation and trigger higher commodity costs.

The lecture series follows other attempts by the central bank to clarify its intentions to the public. In response to the uncertainty that investors faced in the midst of a tepid economic environment, the Fed began in January to publish interest rate forecasts of its policymakers. Last week, it launched a twitter channel with the handle @federalreserve, which as of today, had more than 16,700 followers.

It's not the first time that Bernanke has played professor. He taught at Princeton University from 1994 to 1996 as well as taking stints at Stanford University, New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the past.

Today's lecture comes as the 100th anniversary of the Fed's founding year draws near. The Fed was officially formed in 1913. Later this month, a second lecture in the series will cover the central bank after World War II. The final two lectures will cover the financial crisis, the response from policymakers, and the aftermath.

Bernanke said that he will be reading some of the students' essays. But, not surprisingly, he won't be giving his official opinion on them. According to Associated Press, the George Washington Professor who developed the course said that Bernanke won't be grading any papers.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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