FREAK-Quently Asked Questions: David Levin

INSERT DESCRIPTIONDavid Levin, (Photo by Jim Lo Scazlo for USN & WR)

Here’s the first installment of a new feature we’re trying out. It’s a simple idea: we wrote up a Freakonomics questionnaire and will now force it on a variety of people.

The first victim is Dave Levin, co-founder of the national charter-school program, the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).

Thanks to everyone who helped think up questions, including Steve Levitt, Justin Wolfers, John List, Linda Jines, Annika Mengisen, and Ryan Hagen. If you have ideas for other questions or for interviewees — we’ll try to run these FAQ’s once a week or so — just send a note here.

An FAQ with David Levin:

Q: On my deathbed, I will wish that I had spent more time _________.

A: Outside.

Q: On my deathbed, I will wish I had spent more money on __________.

A: Traveling with my wife.

Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? What was your best accomplishment by the time you turned 16?

A: My greatest accomplishment so far is having the joy of teaching so many amazing kids at KIPP. Not sure it qualifies as best, but my most unique accomplishment by 16 was digging a 10-foot-deep hole in the sand with my bare hands.

Q: What’s one goal you’d still like to accomplish?

A: See one of our KIPP alums as the principal of a KIPP school.

Q: What is the best investment you made in getting to where you are today?

A: Buying Harriett Ball lunch. She was my mentor teacher and taught me most of what I know about teaching. We would meet at lunchtime and after school, and the food was on me while the wisdom was all hers.

Q: What’s the best financial investment you’ve ever made?

A: My first car was the best $500 I ever spent.

Q: The worst?

A: All the money I then wasted to keep that car running.

Q: What talent have you always wished you had more of?

A: Dancing.

Q: What’s the last book you read cover to cover, and what percentage of the books that you buy do you read cover to cover?

A: The last book I read cover to cover was Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath. My favorite book is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and I read about 75 percent of the books I buy cover to cover.

Q: What do you most often lie about?

A: Really — who me, lie?

Q: Fill in the blanks: I ___________ too much or too often; to avoid this, I tend to ___________.

A: I get distracted by my cell phone and email too much or too often. Wish I knew how to fill in the second blank.

Q: What is your biggest regret in life?

A: That I didn’t take Spanish class more seriously.

Q: If you could have any job in the world for one day, what would it be?

A: I’d run a team of sled dogs in the 1,000-mile Iditarod Dog Race across Alaska (although I guess this would be a 10-day job).

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A: Being able to jump from place to place across the world like in the movie Jumpers.

Q: What’s the most expensive piece of clothing you’ve ever bought, and why did you buy it?

A: An $850 jacket for my wedding; way too expensive, but it is a really cool jacket and I’m betting on the fact that I’m only getting married once. Plus, I get to wear it all the time, so the cost per wearing is constantly dropping.

Q: Would you rather win a Nobel Prize, an Olympic gold medal, or the Megabucks Lottery?

A: Megabucks Lottery (with that I’d be able to buy the others on eBay).

Q: How much is too much to spend on a cup of coffee?

A: Any amount — since I don’t drink coffee.

Q: What do you collect, and why?

A: Funny, until this question I didn’t realize that I don’t really collect anything. I don’t throw away books that I’ve read or photos I’ve been given by people, but I don’t know that I collect them either.

Q: What is one item you own that you should probably throw out but never will?

A: Any of my nearly 40 KIPP T-shirts, especially the ones that are more than a decade old.

Q: New York or California?

A: New York — in a New York minute.

Q: What will eventually lead to humankind’s demise, and when will it happen?

A: Mankind. Hopefully not for a while.

Q: What’s the best possible future discovery or invention?

A: How all people could work, live, and play together happily. Cheesy, maybe, but … how cool if it actually happens.

Q: Happiness is ____________.

A: Seeing the joy in the faces of the KIPP students at their college graduations. It is truly a remarkable thing.

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  1. Eric M. Jones says:

    I am struggling to find any meaning or relevance in this. Good job Mr. Levin, but I can’t imagine how you could be talked into this. I would MUCH rather hear your views on education; how it affects the economy, peace, justice and the world.

    I don’t care if you wear boxers or briefs.

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  2. Debi says:

    Um, if you have 40 t-shirts then you do collect something. :)

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  3. Laura B says:

    I’m going to have to agree with #1, I would much rather hear about charter schools and education than these questions.

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  4. Ashley says:

    Lighten up people…I enjoyed reading something a bit more light-hearted for a change. It made me smile so thank you for that.

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  5. Chuck says:

    Oh, stop complaining. There’s nothing wrong with a fun little list of questions every once in a while. This is a blog, after all. If you don’t like the less substantial entries, just skip them.

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  6. RB says:

    My answers to these questions are just as interesting as David Levin’s. I am not as interesting as David Levin. Something is wrong with the questionairre.

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  7. MC says:

    Man — I agree. I just learned about the KIPP program a few days ago and clicked this hoping to get some good interview info.

    Any chance we can get an extended interview with this gentleman if he has time? Thanks!

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  8. BSK says:

    Furthermore, I don’t know what qualifies Levin as someone of particular interest. KIPP’s results are dubious at best and while the program may be beneficial to those who attend it, the approach’s ripple effects in the greater educational landscape does far more harm than good, particularly to the underserved populations of color they seek to promote.

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