Monday, July 7, 2008

When 'dumbing down' is a substitute for 'understandable'

Oops, I upset someone on Marginal Revolution for using "dumbing down" to describe the content of Freakonomics and Discover.
"Meds, I'm not sure "dumbing down" and making understandable are the same thing. In fact, I am certain they're not. Can you understand having the flu without knowing how a virus invades your cells? Probably. One thing I like about these books and this blog are that the specialists don't withhold knowledge with the belief that the unwashed masses are incapable of understanding. Even with a shallow understanding, I suspect the layman is better off understanding something of economics rather than nothing at all."

I replied (using a silly economic principle, of course):

"...Good teachers need to make the subject matter (I don't care what it happens to be) interesting and understandable. That sometimes means getting rid of fancy terminology (due to overblown egos/narcissism/inability to teach) and the calculus (why I enjoy Levitt). In some cases the lousy professor's view of "dumbing down" and making something "understandable" could be substituted.

Oops, I said "substituted," Econ 101 time: If the price of saying "dumbing down" increases then demand for "understandable" increases. Therefore, I will use "understandable" in the future, unless of course there is a change in expectations.

I told you I was a junkie for "understandable" books explaining the basic economic principles."

Entry from the Best of 'Just Enjoy the Show'

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