Friday, June 03, 2005

Freakonomics

Recommend you look at this new 2005 book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. “A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything” sums it up. Sections titled “Where have all the criminals gone?”, “Schoolteachers and Sumo wrestlers”, “Drug Dealers Living with their Moms”, “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a Group of Real-Estate Agents”? and “What makes a Perfect Parent?”, present some interesting theories backed by statistics and extensive notes.

The authors quote a study done by ECLS Data “parents matter less then you think and peer pressure matters more”. Not news to me who raised three kids, taught for five years and have visited many a classroom. I know what peer pressure does to sometimes offset ALL the parental training in a kids life, sometimes totally altering a kid’s life forever; drugs addiction, teen pregnancies, alcohol related deaths and the “dumbing down” of bright kids to a “dumber” friend or group of “friends” called peer level.

The study also shows there is no proven correlation between museum visits and test scores.

The book also quotes statistics that approximately 600 kids 10 or under die in swimming pool drowning each year versus 175 by accidental gun shots. Yet hundreds of millions are spent to prevent gun deaths and the only requirement on pool owners is to have the pool fenced in.

The book also claims to show a correlation between incarcerations and the passing of Roe vs. Wade. I found this information interesting.

I quote the book as stating “approximately 13,000 homicides” occur each year in the U.S. By comparison, approximately 1700 of our citizens have died in Iraq. I have previously shown figures that 43,000 people die in auto accidents and approximately 3 million injured each year in the “safety” of our own country. (17,000 of these deaths are alcohol related). Death and grief are relatives and it makes little difference to the how’s, whys and where’s.

A most interesting paragraph in the book states “Recall for a moment two boys, one white and one black. The white boy grew up outside Chicago had smart, solid, encouraging loving parents who stressed education and family. The black boy from Daytona Beach was abandoned by his mother, was beaten by his father, and had become a full fledged gangster by his teens. So what become of the two boys?

The black child, now 27 years old is Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the Harvard economist now studying black underachievement.

The white child also made it to Harvard. But soon after, things went badly for him. His name is Ted Kacznski.

The more we warn our kids about what and why not to do it, the more they rebel and are often more inclined to “try it” to see what we are warning them against. Kids are often taught or believe that there are no truths so they no longer trust us. Kids can see that many times parents and other teachers do not lead by example.

Has it occurred to many people that the more we try to teach our kids to accept diversity, that we might be encouraging them to do the opposite? We have a tendency to place all the blame on “bad” parents for the failure of their children. We tend to excuse kids from these “bad” families for failing. Yet many of our leaders in all of history came from poor and often “bad” and underprivileged backgrounds.

Think about it.

I grew up in what was considered to be a lower middle farm class family without much exposure to the outside world. My relatively uneducated parents didn’t trust Italians, Spaniards, Catholics, Poles, Jews and people of color. Yet while I was serving in the armed services, my best buddy was Cooney “Tony” Terracianno from Chicago, a Jewish man named Irving Block from New York City and a Pollock named Andy Sobieski from Connecticut. I made friends without regard to race. Another friend was of Italian descent (I temporarily lost his name in my mind) whose brother later became mayor of St. Louis. Had my parents told me I had to like people of all races, I might have shown typical teen rebellion.

Think about this, too.

I do understand that the family and environment into which we are born into add a great deal to the chances of our successes. Had I been born in a family with a successful business background, I would have both gained and lost. We cannot pick our parents. I’m glad I was born in a family of love and discipline. In later life my parents learned to be more tolerant of other races and creeds. But they never changed their minds about the “poor” who had the ability to work but accepted welfare. None of their nine kids ever accepted welfare; they were taught to work and to be responsible to make a living and if we were going to have a family, work to support it.


Anyway, back to “FREAKONOMICS”. Take time to read a least parts of it. May give you some new insights as to why things are as they are.

1 comment:

Angela Anderson said...

I think I read about this book in the WSJ or NYT, can't remember which. The authors also found that children who attended "gifted" schools were not as well off as those who graduated with great grades from typical or even impoverished schools. Apparently it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a designer fish in a tank with a whole lot of other designer fish. Did that make sense? Kids who do well in regular schools are better adjusted and are easily able to get along with all different types of personalities and people with varying degrees of ability. That is, the "regulars" were better adjusted than the "gifted." I found that result facinating. I was dismayed that the authors found no difference in the success level of those children who were not allowed to watch t.v. and those who were allowed to wacth unlimited amounts of television. Anyway, I'm deeply entrenched in What's Wrong With Kansas, but look forward to Freakonomics next. You are better than Oprah's book club! (Although her club is reading three Faulkner books over the summer...) Great and thoughtful blog, as always.