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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?: It's in the Book

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

At a meeting last year, John Gage, chief researcher and vice president of the science office for Sun Microsystems, came into the room with the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything tucked under his arm. I recognized the freaky cover immediately and went over to engage Gage in a conversation about the book (which I had read a couple of months earlier).

Just put two scientists in the same room with a book as provocative as this one and you'll definitely get feedback on the hypotheses, research design, analyses, and the like. Because we were at a meeting about education, we naturally gravitated to certain chapters, one of which was titled, "What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?" (I'll leave it to you to read the book and find out.)

If you're not an economics teacher, don't run away! The Freakonomics phenomenon is bringing the field of economics to a broad, public audience and peeling back the veil of what economics theories can uncover: human behavior is motivated by incentives; conventional wisdom is not always right; and as the authors state, "The answer to a given riddle is not always right in front of you."

Regardless of how you feel about the authors' theories and analyses, I think you should pay attention to some interesting, and perhaps enduring conversations and actions, precipitated by the book. (Hey, being addicted to critiquing Freakonomics-like views of the world is better brain exercise than being addicted to watching American Idol.)

So, if I've piqued your curiosity:

Check out the Freakonomics blog. If nothing more, then the book and the blog offer mind-bending ways to look at ideas with a new lens; and engage people in intelligent (and sometimes heated) conversations about often-controversial subjects. Entertaining and makes you think!

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia
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