Free “Freakonomics” for District 214 Students

Last week, I posted here about how a member of the school board in suburban Chicago’s District 214 wanted to have several books removed from the schools’ reading list. Among them was Freakonomics. The board member, Leslie Pinney, objected to the various books for various reasons, including pornography, vulgarity, and in the case of Freakonomics, the argument that legalized abortion led to a lower crime rate.

Last night, at an apparently raucous meeting, full of students and parents as well as board members, Ms. Pinney was the only board member voting to remove the books from the list.

So Freakonomics will not be tossed out after all. We’re pretty grateful for that. To be fair, there is some vulgarity in the book, and yes, I can see why parents want to have heavy input into what their kids are reading — but also to be fair, the vast majority of teenagers (and their parents) we’ve heard from have talked about how the frank discussion of various topical issues in Freakonomics have actually encouraged lots of good dialogue between kids and their parents, as well as kids and their teachers and kids and other kids.

Now that District 214 students are free to read Freakonomics, we thought it might be nice to send some copies their way. If you attend a District 214 school and want a free signed copy of Freakonomics, please send your name and address to We’ll honor the first 50 requests.


Having graduated a few years ago from a District 214 high school (Prospect, specifically), I'm pleasantly surprised by the successful opposition--it's hard to overstate just how reactionary school officials can become when faced with the "concerns" of a small number of parents and administrators.

On a side note, I hope that the breadth and depth of the econ curriculum has improved since I graduated. In my senior year, only one or two schools in the district offered an advanced econ course, and only thanks to a very helpful teacher at Hersey was I able to take it. If Freakonomics inspires people to get interested in econ, they'll probably want to learn about more than intersecting supply and demand curves.


"These are the days when men of all social disciplines and all political faiths seek the comfortable and the accepted; when the man of controversy is looked upon as a disturbing influence; when originality is taken to be a mark of instability; and when, in minor modification of the scriptural parable, the bland lead the bland."
John Kenneth Galbraith
Affluent Society (1958), Chapter 1

The more things change, the more they stay the same...


OT, but the podcast of Steven Levitt's talk at Colorado College is now up on the CC website.

CC podcasts:

Direct link to Levitt m3u file:

I assume you might want to let your readers know. :-)


In my senior year, only one or two schools in the district offered an advanced econ course, and only thanks to a very helpful teacher at Hersey was I able to take it.
I use within-state comparison groups to net out hard to measure period effects. I also follow Donohue and Levitt (2004) and average the effects of abortion on crime over 15 to 20 years of the life of a cohort to lessen the impact of the crack epidemic. to see in brife vist

Erin Severs

I know this is an old post, but I just learned about this crazy-pants from District 214. I am a graduate of Hersey High School ('96)-- the same school from which this woman's daughter graduated. I have a BS in Biology and a BA in English, and have read every one of the books she wanted to ban.

I came across the story as I was reading through yet another "banned books" list (I try to ready every book on the lists at least once), and I'm so very pleased this woman got clobbered in the vote on this issue. I am NOT pleased the Daily Herald decided to support her in her re-election. It is deeply insulting that a person would try to dictate what students are allowed to read, especially a person who admits to not having read a single book she tried to ban.

Students are going to be presented with things that challenge them in every way-- they need to know how to think critically and question what they read. How can they effectively learn this skill if they are never presented with "controversial" material?

Anyhow, I know I'm late to the party, but kudos to everyone who championed free speech in District 214.