Archive for July 6, 2005

Review: Freakonomics + Cartoons

I think I’m becoming a blogger, becuase I find myself reading bloggy books like Everything Bad is Good For You and now Freakonomics.
Aside from it’s high discussion in the blogosphere Freaknomics is the work of one Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Stephen met Steven when through an assingment for the New York Times magazine. Freaknomics is the result of Dubner asking Levitt to write a book with him (Dubner has written 2 previous books and a lot of articles). The result is that Levitt’s controversial research is made into book form. The novel that results is just another romp in the park. Levitt is essentially a deconstructist. While that’s much bally-hooed and cliched title for a researcher, Levitt is essentially bringing the multi-discplinary thinking so common in fields of science and humanities to economics. The result is a rather fascinating and well read article that brings everyday twists of logic down to a layman’s level. The correaltion between school teachers in the no child left behind program and the cheating of sumo wrestlers isn’t hard to find or even surprising, even with out the incenvitives there to cheat many people would repeat the behavoirs Levitt notices just out of kindness. I mean take a fall in sumo so your friend can get on board? sure why not. Help out the kids though by cheating? Mmmmm… maybe not. But it’s this exact correalation that Levitt’s so good at focusing in on, is the cheating between Sumo and School exactly alike? No, but the similarities can tell us something about the system as a whole. The only major problem with Levitt’s book is that towards the end he begins to contradict himself. In the part on parenting he can’t aduequtely explain the correlation between having books in the house and the absence of correaltion when it comes to reading to children. He never seems to consider that many of these parents probably just lie. I mean what parent doesn’t read to their kids? A lot more than say they do. Dispersing this lie over a population of 30,000 perhaps we can see why reading to your children has almost no correlation to test scores, but having books around does. If you don’t have books around what are you reading to your children? Additionally, as Levitt’s own facts show, quite often even the finely crafted math of economics and studies show contradicting things. At one point he states that the numbers show that parenting doesn’t do anything for a child, it’s who the parents are. Then we find out that adopted children suddenly spiral upwards at the end of their college careers. Simply put, his page on children raising will be controversial regardless of what happens (I mean parents hate to be told what to do with their children), but it doesn’t seem to coalesce the way the other chapters do into one concentric and well thought destruction of logic. Freakonomics I recommend more than many of the well hyped but intelligent books working their way around the u.s. and the world these days (Freakonimics is now available in Korean and probably Japanese), but all of these seem to be treading one level below what’s happening. Who cares about how controversial the research is, is it true?

BTW Korean cartoons
http://kr.play.kids.yahoo.com/play/

July 6, 2005 at 12:19 am Leave a comment


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