But, for today, I am writing about how to get a 10-year-old excited about economics. And, obviously my title is not billed as a question, but with the inference that I have discovered an answer.
You see, it all started when I was cleaning in my office. My 10-year-old daughter, Harper (who turns 11 this Friday, May 17. That little nugget is relevant to this story.), was “helping” me sort books. One in particular caught her eye and she asked if she could take it. The book was “Superfreakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. “Superfreakonomics” is their follow-up to the book “Freakonomics – A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.” They also have a website devoted to sharing their insights with the masses. It can be found at www.freakonomics.com.
The day after Harper borrowed the book, she told me that she was up late reading “Superfreakonomics” and couldn’t put it down. The first thing she reported, with wide sweeping arm movements as a part of the telling, was that “Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner are great writers!” I have read the book so I had to agree with her on that point, but I will admit I was a little surprised that it caught her interest. She went on to tell me a few of the things she had learned so far: that “drunk walking” is more dangerous than “drunk driving”; that in India women are treated like “dust” – and, in fact, that in an interview, one man in India reported that he had one son but it was later discovered he also had five daughters, which apparently slipped his mind during the interview; and, she said, she learned that the book seems to be in large part about how to make decisions.
I thought this was all mildly humorous and, having listened to Levitt and Dubner’s podcasts (they are broadcast periodically during MarketPlace on NPR), I thought they might find it mildly humorous as well. “So,” I thought, “why not tell them?” So, I sent them an email regarding the events which led to their book falling into the hands of my daughter and how much she had enjoyed it. And, I also mentioned that she was 10 years old and would soon be turning eleven and would they ever consider sending her a little “birthday note”? Well, Stephen Dubner replied, “Sure, I’ll send a note.”
I was pretty impressed, not to mention excited! I didn’t tell Harper what I’d done – it was to be a surprise. In the meantime, life went on. Well, a few days ago, there appeared in our mailbox a letter with a New York City postmark and I wondered who it was from. Then, I remembered Dubner’s email and I got excited all over again. I couldn’t wait for Harper to get home from school, to open this mysterious note.
I wasn’t sure if it would make an impression on her or not. I prepared myself for the possibility that her reaction might not be as exuberant as mine. But, she did not disappoint. She was thrilled!
She told her sister, “I got a letter from a real author!!” You see, at this stage in her life, Harper aspires to be a “writer”, a notion that makes me a little nervous considering the field isn’t exactly ripe with job security.
But, if she can be intrigued by the fact that an author can live and work in other realms other than strictly the arena of fiction, maybe I won’t have to worry so much. And thus one of my hopes has been attained – get that girl to see that a job in writing can occur even in such seemingly-obscur fields as economics. (I realize economics is not an obscure field to 20-somethings and beyond, but I’m talking about the soon-to-be-eleven-year-old.)
As for Mr. Dubner, lots of class there, I’d say. Doing his part to expand the horizons of a little kid – that’s cool. So, do me a favor, check out the website – www.freakonomics.com. You will learn, as Harper did, that economics really can be exciting!
Until next time,