i finished reading freakonomics last week. JR finished reading it awhile back and had mixed feelings about it. not that he's an economist, but JR has taken his share of econ classes and his work involves a lot of statistics and data, which the book deals with, so i think he found parts to be questionable. me, having also taken enough econ and stats classes during college but having never absorbed any of it, found the book more interesting. (have i ever mentioned how easily swayed i am by what i hear and read? JR calls me a marketer's dream.)
of course, i can see how difficult it would be to write an economics/stats book that's easily digestable by the general reading public and still be convincing to more academic types. but, in general, i thought it was a good, fun read and brought up some interesting topics to think about. (case in point, former secretary of education william bennett's "controversial" statement regarding abortion and the crime rate was triggered by a chapter in this book.)
i particularly thought chapter 5 -- "what makes a perfect parent?" -- would be of interest to readers of this blog. part of the chapter is based on a study called the early childhood longitudinal study, which was conducted in the late '90s and followed 20,000 elementary school aged children across the country. i don't want to get into the details of the study here because it could get long, but the data was subjected to a whole bunch of regression analysis to find correlations between the variables (a child's personal circumstances and his school performance).
in the end, based on the correlations, the authors say that the data, for the most part, show a student's success is more greatly influenced by factors which describe what the parents are rather than what they do. for example, the factor "the child has many books at home" is correlated with higher student test scores and the factor "the child's parents read to him nearly every day" is not.
it's kind of disturbing to read this because, as a parent, you hope that what you do for your child has some sort of influence on his success. in essence, this brings us back to the whole nurture-nature debate, which i still am sitting on the fence about. i look at my son and see the results of both his nature and our nurturing. but does our nurturing have a lot to do with our nature? hmm ... so much to think about.