This is the book that I am alternating with The Ancestor’s Tale. It is not exactly the right kind of book, because it does contain some ideas, though not much in the way of Big Ideas. Ideally, I would have as my alternate a very frothy little novel.

However, I have been wanting to read Freakonomics for a long time, so I am seizing the chance. I have confessed before in these pages that I have a sneaking fondness for statistical analysis of data. I have discovered some interesting and surprising things through analyzing numbers — and aren’t you glad I am not going to tell you what they were? Statistics is right up there with punctuation (which I also find interesting) on most people’s lists of truly dull things. Freakonomics gets around this by going for the shocking, the politically incorrect, and — well, maybe most people buy it because it was famous, and then find after the first chapter that their eyes slide off the page, and they don’t read it after all. I think that was true of A Brief History of Time.

If you are thinking “I know I’ve heard of that book… where was it?”, this is the book that claims that the drop in teen crime in the 1990s was the result of legalized abortion. Made some headlines there.

I was intrigued to discover  in this book that the No Child Left Behind Act has led to teacher cheating on the high-stakes tests — up to 35% in some studies. I have seen that it has led to a lot of fudging — choosing tests that give  the desired results, teaching to the test, and simply doing things that we know are poor pedagogy because of the pressure. But there have been some large-scale studies that found actual cheating with pencils on the paper, chalk on the board, stuff like that. I think so little of the test that this doesn’t trouble me much in terms of the test results, but the message to the kids is disturbing. And the effects on the teachers themselves are very disturbing — they might have been honest men and women before they were pushed to that extreme, but now they have cheated once, they may find it easier and easier. The old French saying is “It’s only the first step that counts.”

This came in the middle of a discussion on honesty: the circumstances that lead to greater or lesser honesty in malleable people. Very interesting.

Well, I have been tagged.

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
1. artist’s model
2. college teacher
3. museum education coordinator
4. foreign student advisor

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Singing in the Rain
2. The Court Jester
3. The Mikado (with Eric Idle)
4. Holiday Inn

Four places I have lived:
1. Santa Rosa, California
2. Silver Springs, Maryland
3. Biloxi, Mississippi
4. Sarasota, Florida

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. The Daily Show
2. Vicar of Dibley
3. The Thin Blue Line
4. Monk

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Kansas City, MO
2. San Francisco, CA
3. Eureka Springs, AR
4. Broken Arrow, OK

Four websites I visit daily:
1. xanga
2. other people’s blogs
3. my bank’s website
4. newspapers — New York Times and SF Chronicle

Four of my favorite foods:
1. fruit salad
2. good homemade bread
3. ravioli
4. French pastry

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Here’s pretty good, thanks
2. No, really, even though I stole that answer from Kali Mama, I’m happy where I am.
3. Oh, okay, I can be happy anywhere, so I pick a nice big city.
4. And also a beach, desert, or mountain, for variety.

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1. Rosalyne01
2. Sighkey
3. LostArts
4. Dweezy