America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up (Ep. 391)

Most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the Sputnik era. Steve Levitt wants to get rid of the “geometry sandwich” and instead have kids learn what they really need in the modern era: data fluency.

Hello, My Name Is Marijuana Pepsi! (Ep. 387)

Research shows that having a distinctively black name doesn’t affect your economic future. But what is the day-to-day reality of living with such a name? Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, a newly-minted Ph.D., is well-qualified to answer this question. Her verdict: the data don’t tell the whole story.

How Much Does Your Name Matter? (Ep. 122 Rebroadcast)

A kid’s name can tell us something about his parents — their race, social standing, even their politics. But is your name really your destiny?

The $1.5 Trillion Question: How to Fix Student-Loan Debt? (Ep. 377)

As the cost of college skyrocketed, it created a debt burden that’s putting a drag on the economy. One possible solution: shifting the risk of debt away from students and onto investors looking for a cut of the graduates’ earning power.

Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late? (Ep. 228)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Does 'Early Education' Come Way Too Late?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

The gist: in our collective zeal to reform schools and close the achievement gap, we may have lost sight of where most learning really happens — at home.

The Harvard President Will See You Now (Ep. 218)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “The President of Harvard Will See You Now.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) It features an in-depth interview with Drew Gilpin Faust, and explores how a (self-described) "pain-in-the-neck" little girl from rural Virginia came to run the most powerful university in the world.

How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps (Ep. 189)

Our previous episode -- "Is America's Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?" -- looked at the role of teacher skill in the education equation. But the education equation isn't so simple -- there are a lot of inputs, a lot of variables, a lot of question marks. Our conclusion: sure, it would be great to have a brilliant teacher in every classroom -- but that still doesn't guarantee that every student will be well-educated. Students have to want it; families have to want it. What is a teacher and a school system supposed to do if a lot of its students just don't really care about school?

That brings us to this week's episode, "How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

It's about a program called Pathways to Education, which came out of a community health center in Regent Park,  a housing project in Toronto. You'll hear from Carolyn Acker, who used to run the center:

Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem? (Ep. 188)

We’ve all heard the depressing numbers: when compared to kids from other rich countries, U.S. students aren't doing very well, especially in math, even though we spend more money per student than most other countries. So is the problem here as simple as adding two plus two? Is the problem here that our students aren’t getting very bright simply because … our teachers aren’t very bright?

That's the question we ask in our latest Freakonomics Radio episode. It's called "Is America's Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?" (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The cast of characters:

+ Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor (and head of the U.S. Dept. of Justice's Antitrust Division) who now runs Amplify, a News Corp education-technology startup. Klein's new book is Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools, which was so informative and impressive that I blurbed it. In its review of the book, Newsweek says that Klein "politely rips the status quo," which is exactly right.

Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It? (Ep. 158)

Our latest podcast is called “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) We produced the episode in response to a question from a listener named Doug Ahmann, who wrote in to say:   

I'm very curious how it came to be that teaching students a foreign language has reached the status it has in the U.S. … My oldest daughter is a college freshman, and not only have I paid for her to study Spanish for the last four or more years -- they even do it in grade school now! -- but her college is requiring her to study EVEN MORE! 

What on earth is going on? How did it ever get this far?

In a day and age where schools at every level are complaining about limited resources, why on earth do we continue to force these kids to study a foreign language that few will ever use, and virtually all do not retain?

Or to put it in economics terms, where is the ROI? 

Great question, Doug! We do our best to provide some answers.

Freakonomics Goes to College, Part 2 (Ep. 88)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Freakonomics Goes to College, Part 2.”

Part 1 explored the value of a college degree and the market for fake diplomas. This episode looks at tuition costs and also tries to figure out exactly how the college experience makes people so much better off.

You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.

While there are a lot of different voices in this episode, including current and recent college grads, the episode is also a bit heavy on economists (d'oh!), including: