Macroeconomics is sometimes presented as if it is half of all economics. But macro is a rather small field of inquiry: What causes business cycles? Growth is sometimes lumped in, but it is really completely different and contains many non-overlapping concepts. You need to learn micro before you learn macro. It doesn’t make any sense to try to figure out recessions without knowing how the economy is supposed to look when it’s working right. No one would hire a car mechanic who had never seen a properly functioning engine. Business cycles are not the most important question which economics addresses – growth is. However, it is a fun subject to learn and I think I understand it pretty well.
The problem I have with macro textbooks is that they focus on the toolkit of PhD economists and not on the basics of how to tell what type of a recession the economy is in and what they appropriate policy responses are. Microeconomics is clearly useful for the average person in explaining the world. Macro is a lot more esoteric. While your entire class will be able to use micro to improve their everyday lives, how many will grow up to be central bankers? And for that matter, of the 12 members of the FOMC, 3 have no formal training in macroeconomics, two only have bachelors, and most with PhDs aren’t “world class” macroeconomists. Perhaps that speaks to the uselessness of formal economics training, or perhaps it just means unqualified candidates are chosen to be on the FOMC. But the questions which are asked of economists in the media, and the questions which I think students are interested in are predominantly macro: “Why is there inflation?”, “Why is there unemployment?”, “Why is the stock market so volitile?”, “Can you predict (some variable)?”, etc.
Here is the order I recommend learning macroeconomics:
Microeconomics – Take a class or read a text book or something until you understand supply and demand, comparative advantage, trade theory, incentives, all that biz.
Supply side theories of the business cycle – This stuff follows from micro and provides a pretty coherent view of how recessions could happen. Every recession has some micro-related problems associated with it, so why not learn this stuff first?
Money – How does adding it change how we analyze that economy.
Demand side theories – Once you have money, you can talk about how it can screw things up.
Finance and prediction markets – Learn about the stock market, banks, debt, EMH.
Case studies – Look at actual recessions through the lenses of various theories. Have students debate which theories might be the most applicable to each. IMO this is where the bulk of the class should be spent. Learn the basic toolkit, and dive right into the real world.
Other oddball theories? Minsky, MMT, Austrian, etc. Macro is full of theories which never gained widespread acceptance. I think every new theory you learn adds another way to think about the world and even if you decide that they are wrong, they can nonetheless refine your thinking.