• English Listening Exercise: Freakonomics and Car seats

    One of my students has recently introduced me to U.S. author and economist Steve Levitt. Levitt, in his books and lectures, presents theories based on data that are often surprising and go against popular wisdom. This week, we’re using his TED lecture as a English listening exercise.

    Levitt has proposed a number of controversial and even unpopular theories. One famous theory from his book Freakonomics is that the massive, unexpected decline in crime that the U.S. saw in the 1990s was not the result of better policing, tougher prison sentences or the death penalty, but legalized abortion.

    The TED talk in the video below may be his most controversial theory. He claims that child car seats are no safer than seat belts in protecting children in motor vehicle accidents, and that seat belts may even be safer. This after a campaign that has made it a law that parent must restrain children in car seats in the U.S. and the generally unquestioned belief that it is the safest thing to do. Below you’ll find a Levitt’s TED talk in which he presents this idea, and is even questioned in the end by an audience member. If you would like to take an English class based on this video, contact us.

    Why you should listen to Levitt:

    With his 2005 book Freakonomics (co-authored with Stephen Dubner, a writer who profiled him for the New York Times), Steven Levitt carried hardcore economic method into the squishy real world and produced a pop-culture classic. Freakonomics is both an economics textbook and a series of cautionary tales about the fallacy of conventional wisdom. Levitt examines the links between real-world events, and finds many instances where the data simply doesn’t back up popular belief.

    He asks provocative questions: If selling crack is so lucrative, why do dealers live with their mothers? Does parental doting really improve children’s test scores? Did New York City’s crime rate really drop because of police tactics (or population trends)? His controversial answers stir debate, and sometimes backlash.

    1. What was the difference between the first and second cure for the disease?
    2. What was the problem with the second cure?
    3. Then ____ ____ a lowly economist. Who ___ children _______.
    4. What was the disease?
    5. What were the cures?
    6. But ___ _____ are so _______ and _______ and they ____ ____ ___ ______ of ______.
    7. What is the other line of reasoning people have against believing seatbelts are better than carseats?
    8. What happened when they called crash test centers?
    9. Fundamentally, the car seats ______ _____ ____.
    10. What did Levitt’s father give the first set of patients that came in to see him, if he thought they weren’t sick?
    11. What did he give them if they came in a second time, and he still didn’t believe them? (use the specific word)
    12. What were in the third jar?
    13. What question does the person in the audience ask?