Think Like A Freak


No … No!  Not the Rick James version of Super Freak, though that was the title of Levitt & Dubner’s book that advanced the Freakonomics principle.

The entire audiobook of Think Like A Freak is well worth a listen if you have an aversion to reading, but if you only have two minutes, go to the 2:18:22 point and you’ll hear something special.

Here is the transcription of that clip, from pages 91-92 of the book:

“Trillions of dollars have been spent on worldwide education reforms, usually focused on overhauling the system in some way – smaller classrooms, better curricula, more testing, and so on.  But as we noted earlier, the raw material in the education system – the students themselves – are often overlooked.  Might there be some small, simple, cheap intervention that could help millions of students?

One in four children, it turns out, has subpar eyesight, while a whopping 60 percent of “problem learners” have trouble seeing.  If you can’t see well, you won’t read well, and that makes school extra hard.  And yet even in a rich country like the United States, vision screening is often lax and there hasn’t been much research on the relationship between poor vision and school performance.

Three economists – Paul Glewwe, Albert park, and Meng Zhao – happened upon this problem in China.  They decided to do some hands-on research in Gansu, a poor and remote province.  Out of the roughly 2,500 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders there who needed eyeglasses, only 59 wore them.  So the economists ran an experiment.  They offered free eyeglasses to half the students and let the other half carry on as before.  The cost, about $15 per pair of glasses, was covered by a World Bank research grant.

How did the newly bespectacled students do?  After wearing glasses for a year, their test scores showed they’d learned 25 to 50 percent more than their uncorrected peers.  Thanks to a $15 pair of glasses!

We’re not saying that giving glasses to the schoolkids who need them will fix every education problem,not by a long shot.  But when you are fixated on thinking big, this is exactly the kind of small-bore solution you can easily miss.”

Surely Levitt and Dubner simplify, and not only aren’t glasses the answer to all education problems – they aren’t even the answer to all vision problems.  Yet their points are well-taken.  All the educational solutions to learning will not compensate for students in the classroom who have inadequate visual abilities.

3 thoughts on “Think Like A Freak

  1. Perhaps Levitt and Dunbar need some education of what the difference between vision and sight are. They also seem to not understand the difference between “corrective” and therapeutic lenses. Corrective is a misused word in this context. Compensative would be a better choice of adjective.

  2. Blessed Thanksgiving. My point in education is a good mom and dad who assist in getting home work done, and they used to stay together for a stable family unit. Government is supposed to protect us from our enemies, not confuse our kids about right and wrong.
    In addition, American Public Schools seem to teach auditory sequencial, so the kids who are visual spacial probably are better off home schooled. At any rate, I refer back to Up Side Down Brillance a book by Dr. Silverman. One many Optometrists should read since a lot of what we learn is through vision. August

    • Students need more individualized learning programs for the greatest success. There also needs to be a lot more training pre-school in auditory/visual integration. Happy Thanksgiving

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