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Bernanke revisiting college life Tuesday afternoon

AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will take a break from his day job Tuesday afternoon to revisit the academic life he led before coming to Washington a decade ago.

He’ll stand before a class of George Washington University undergraduates and give the first of four one-hour lectures on the Fed. Anyone can view it live (at at 12:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Fed will maintain the four lectures on its site for later viewing.

Tuesday’s lecture focuses on U.S. central banking dating to the panics of the 19th century and early 20th century, which led to the Fed’s creation in 1913. The second lecture, on Thursday, involves the central bank’s actions after World War II.

In the final two, on March 27 and 29, Bernanke will review the roots of the 2008 financial crisis and the Fed’s response to the crisis and the recession that followed.

GW assembled the class of 30 from 80 applicants who wrote essays on what they hoped to learn from arguably the second-most-powerful U.S. official after President Barack Obama.

For a Fed chief who has set new standards for public accessibility, the GW lecture series marks another first: None of Bernanke’s predecessors ever helped teach college students while serving as chairman.

For Bernanke, the GW lectures also serve a dual function:

They give him a chance to reprise the role of professor he played for more than two decades, first at Stanford and then at Princeton, where he eventually chaired the economics department.

And they give him a way to expand his mission of demystifying the Fed. As part of that campaign, Bernanke became the first Fed chief to hold regular news conferences and conduct town-hall meetings.

In addressing the public directly, Bernanke has also sought to neutralize attacks on the Fed, some of them from Republican presidential candidates. Critics have argued that under his leadership, the Fed’s efforts to boost economic growth have heightened the risk of high inflation.

Bernanke and his defenders counter that the Fed’s extraordinary efforts to ease borrowing costs and raise confidence helped save the financial system and kept the Great Recession from deepening into another Great Depression.

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