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Cite “Freakonomics,” Get Kicked Out of Class

A few days ago, we asked whether blogging is perhaps dangerous to professors seeking tenure. Here is proof that citing Freakonomics can be dangerous to your academic health as well. A reader sent in this e-mail the other day, which we now reprint in full — minus the young man’s name and college, for obvious reasons.

Dr. Levitt:

I was asked to leave a college classroom because of you.

I’m a college student and currently taking Criminology. Among the subjects we’re currently studying are Victimization. The professor uses a powerpoint presentation as an aid. We requested the powerpoint because he talked so fast and often gave statistics hard to believe. Now he shows us well documented charts, statistical numbers, and papers from different authors.

I noted he quoted some ideals from “The Changing Relationship Between Income and Crime Victimization” (specifically how poor people are now more likely to be assaulted or robbed). He specifically named Levitt as the author. Having read “Freakonomics”, I picked up on the name and readily agreed with the idea.

Later the professor asked the question: “Why did crime fall in the 1990’s?” Answers were typical: good economy, more police, etc. I offered a different view with the Roe v Wade approach. The professor immediately accused me of being all sorts of nasty things. I assured him my opinion was not loosely based, but rather well documented. He stuck back that no one in their right mind could possible prove that
case had any effect on crime in the 90’s. I answered back that one of the authors previously discussed in that very day’s discussion wrote the paper and a few follow-ups and also co-authored a book containing that assertion. The professor was so upset at losing ground in the argument that I was asked to leave the room.

Apparently college professors are the ultimate authority on classroom information but not necessarily on the subject’s actual facts.

Thanks for getting me kicked out the room! I enjoyed every minute of it!