Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong, but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think “outside the box” and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.
That’s where authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner come in. They specialize in debunking accepted norms. They gained instant notoriety with the release of their book “Freakonomics” by illustrating that common assumptions aren’t always true.
Sometimes their findings are easy to accept. They found that establishing a standardized test in education simply causes teachers to teach to the test instead of inspiring students to learn. It makes perfect sense since the teachers’ jobs end up being based on the standardized test outcomes.
I remember 40 years ago hearing the same logic applied to law schools. Some “fly-by-night” institutions boasted that they had a high percentage of graduates pass that state’s bar exam. While technically true it didn’t mean good lawyers were the result. Top law schools teach you to think like a lawyer and not to the test.
Translate this concept to the current education model and it appears we’re training a bunch of robots instead of inquiring minds. Levitt and Dubner are clearly on to something.
On the other hand it’s an easy target because bashing the education system has become a national pastime. But the two authors also aren’t afraid to take on subjects that many would consider taboo.
In one study they discovered a correlation between the drop in the crime rate the past 40 years and the increase in the number of abortions. Levitt and Dubner were simply providing statistical analysis but most people would probably find it heretical to even suggest such a thing. Whatever, their main idea again was to convince people to think “outside the box.”