Archive for the ‘Education’ Category


March 10, 2011

I recently watched the Freakonomics movie which is available for live streaming via Netflix.  I met Stephen Dubner once on a creative writing trip to New York.  He was lecturing at Columbia.  Since he’s an appstate alum, he was willing to talk to us.  Nice guy.  Really interesting story about his parents and Judaism and Nazi Germany.  I think this meeting was definitely before Freakonomics.  Anyway, something silly occurred to me during this film.  It’s some kind of compilation of TED and movies and the way education is shifting.

Traditional academic settings tend to reject the 10-20 minute idea bursts like you see in TED talks.  They prefer the long laboring of ideas and conversations that delve deeply into a subject.  It’s the academic model.  They look at the 10 minute sessions as a glossing over, a dumbing down, and rejection of depth and thoughtfulness.

My idea had to do with a guy names Matt Ridley who wrote a book titled The Rational Optimist.  (Not surprisingly, he has a TED talk).  His talk and the first chapter of his book are entitled “When ideas have sex.”  It’s all about ideas recombining in novel ways.  It’s really the fundamental driving theory of progress and development.  It’s R&D come to life.

Anyway, my idea was that it would be great to publish a series of social science books that have snippets of these great thinkers.

Malcolm Gladwell, Matt Ridley, Dan Ariely, Dennis Dutton, Stephen Dubner, David Orr and all the other million authors.  Anyway, it’s sort of a cliff notes of ideas, but more interesting and easy to read.  It creates an environment for ideas to do a lot of procreating (if you know what I mean).  It’s not tainted with ignorance like cliff notes.  It’s more of the realization that ideas are developing very quickly and books are often really long.  I read a TON and I don’t get a quarter of the reading done that I want to.

Freakonomics made me think of this because there were really only four ideas in the movie version.

1.  the name thing

2.  the sumo wrestler thing

3.  the abortion/lowered crime thing

4.  the financial incentives for grades thing

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s okay.  Just wait a few years until I have time (to finish the dissertation and raise the kids and vacuum the house in heels and pearls) to write the short shorts book of social theory for procreation and you can read all about it.