Will “Freakonomics” Be Banned?

A board member at a suburban Chicago high school is trying to wipe Freakonomics off a required-reading list, along with The Things They Carried, Beloved, and The Awakening. “One part of Freakonomics that raised her ire,” reports the Daily Herald, “hypothesizes that legalized abortion could lower the homicide rate.”


hnarsana

Interesting to note that people keep harping on the legalized abortion hyphothesis even though you both clearly state that you aren't on any side of the abortion fence!

It's just data, not you, that's doing the talking.

continentaldrifts

Are you really suprised?

lukeq

What's really amazing is the naivety of parents who unsuccessfully try to shelter their children from ideas and words that might be objectionable- whereas once they turn 18, or leave highschool for college, they will instantly cross the imaginary line of cencorship/indecency, and these issues, and so much more will be a significant part of their life and education. . . whether they choose to engage in them or not.

And the "Catcher In The Rye" comparison is hilarious- wouldn't it be nice if the censors actually read the works they're so eager to ban?

alipkin

Hmmm. I can't imagine that the fact that book shows teachers in the Chicago School System cheating is in any way influencing them. Because they surely wouldn't want to stop folks from reading a book just because it exposed an uncomfortable truth, right?

leliathomas

I'm [mostly] pro-life myself, but it's just data, as hnarsana pointed out. Sometimes we don't like data, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught.

shmoo

Give the history of banned books in this country, you should hope you're banned. It means you're saying something interesting.

JMichael

Um, did she even read the book? As I recall, you only showed a corelation, and suggested a causational relationship.

Don

'Gutter Trash'?!!! Who could argue with that? I think the publisher should use it in promoting the book. 'Banned in Boston' and all that....

Mango

It seemed to me there was pretty strong statistical evidence of causation, combined with the fact that it makes perfect sense. (Who can dispute that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals than wanted children?)

But the point so frequently missed is that this is completely irrelevant to the abortion debate. The entire question revolves around whether a fetus has rights that can supercede the rights of its mother. Any suggestion that we should set aside questions of rights for the sake of its affect on crime is like a horrible utilitarian thought exercise. It puts me in mind of Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment.'

The controversy, in my view, illustrates very well something else mentioned in Freakonomics: Galbraith's assertion that people want the truth to be convenient and comfortable.

Pro-lifers find it inconvenient and uncomfortable that abortion reduces crime, even if it doesn't rationally undermine their argument.

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kkwan

I don't believe Freakonomics should be banned because it provides data and analysis of information, not assertions or creative machinations of fiction. I've not read many of those books so I'm unsure of the content but there may be valid reasons that they should not be put in front of teens. Though 'Mein Kampf' is an important historical piece I don't think putting it in front our highly influenced youth is a good idea.

I also don't think it's necessarily uncomfortable only for pro-lifers to believe that abortion could reduce crime. It should be uncomfortable for humanity to believe that preventing birth should be a policy to reduce societal ills, much like the program in China for one child, or only keeping male children so they can contribute to a household's wealth. I think that anything that can bring civility back to debate is a good thing, however, vitriol abounds.

squid

Just to clarify, it's not just one school, and it's not the Chicago Public Schools; it's northwest suburban school district 214, which includes schools from Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows, Mount Prospect, Elk Grove Village, etc.

As a graduate of one of 214's "fine" schools (and as a sister to two current students in said district), I will be joining my mother (an elementary school librarian in one of 214's feeder schools) at the board meeting on this topic next Thursday, 5/25. My mom and I both plan on giving Ms. Pinney hell, and I'll post here afterwards on anything interesting that arises.

Cheers!

saelaenc

Isn't there a pretty big difference between "banned" and "removed from the required reading list"? At my high school, there weren't very many books on the required reading list and a much greater number in the library.

Alane

I wonder why The Things They Carried is on the bad list. My entire freshman class in college was required to read it, and it was one of the most interesting, moving, thought-provoking books I've ever read. Yeah, it's grim, but...well, the Vietnam War was grim. I don't remember there being any explicit sex--lots of explicit violence, but Pinney doesn't seem too worried about that.

Yes, there's a difference between true banning and removing from the required list...but it's pretty disturbing that the woman pushing for the "ban" hasn't bothered to read any of the books. It bothered me even in high school that many students were afraid of being forced to analyze their views by reading something that challenged them or wasn't "happy" enough.

zbicyclist

There's a huge difference between not being on a required reading list and being banned. Is it intellectually honest to equate the two?

synapticmisfires

I currently attend a District 214 High School. Freakonomics is currently suggested outside reading in a class and has been read by most of the social science teachers in my large school. Apparently, if Mrs. Pinney gets her way, all of these books would be removed completely from the curriculum. Of course, the teachers can't really do much as they are just employees, but my impression is that no one supports Pinney.
Pinney absolutely has not read these books and told the paper that she does not intend to. She is basing this off of excerpts from a website. I, along with a large number of my classmates will attend the meeting next Thursday. She claimed her reason for the bans was pornographic content, but Freakonomics earning a place on the list makes it obvious that it is purely political bias behind this. This is especially disheartening because Freakonomics itself displays no bias. This anti-intellectual policy that High School students can not be trusted with information is very frustrating to me, and insulting to my contemporaries. Although Mrs. Pinney's motion will be soundly defeated, the mere fact that has been suggested does not seem to bode well for the future.

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johnnyfix

This has nothing to do with schools banning ur book.... Putin has a plan to promote more births in Russia. Maybe he should read your book!
http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20060519/ts_csm/obabies

Leviathan

For those of you interested there is an organization supporting Ms. Pinney's request to remove these books - .

Leviathan

For those of you interested there is an organization supporting Ms. Pinney's request to remove these books - www.culturecampaign.com. This site features an email address that is linked to Pinney - feedback@culturecampaign.com. I wrote a brief and respectful email to her questioning her rational in banning said books, especially considering a woman of her bleifs would never ban the Bible, which contains countless tales of savage violence and disturbing sexual acts. It is likely, however, that she has at least taken the time to read the Bible, or some portion thereof. She responded by the next morning with a courteous email, however lacking an explanation of her rational. She was kind enough, though, to mention that the Bible itself has been banned (banned - her words) in Dist. 214 eventhough it has been used through out our brief history as a tool in literacy education. Her argument to have the Bible read by everyone in secular schools aside, its removal from the list was obviously done not out of distaste for the violence it contains, rather it arose out of concerns of seperation of church and state.
Send her a respectful and inquisitive email and she may respond in kind.
I will add that I sent another email back restating my original question: Considering the value of many pieces of literature through out history, including the Bible, Koran, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, etc., that contain sexually explicit stories and graphic depictions of violence, what is your rational for banning these particular books?

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Leviathan

Additionally:
Shouldn't we be concerned that a person representing the best interests of your children in public education is so publicly linked to an extremely conservtive religious group.

Shoshanna

I graduated from a district 214 school and, at least the school I went to, required the Bible as summer reading for incoming AP Lit classes. It is definitely not banned in the district. I wonder how many great works of literature could stand up to this woman's "morals." Shakespeare certainly couldn't.