The Heckman Equation

Friday, January 11th, 2013

When I got an opportunity to interview a Nobel prize winner (Economics in 2000) at the end of last year, I didn’t quite know what to expect; what sort of intellectual giant would be sitting across from me in the KET Green Room guest area before the taping began?

How could I possibly engage him in small talk or question this esteemed University of Chicago economist and about his research in early childhood education? What preparation and study did I need to do before sitting down with James Heckman, B.A in mathematics, Ph.D in economics from Princeton, and renowned author of an educational formula known worldwide as “The Heckman Equation”?

The circumstances that brought Dr. Heckman to Kentucky for my “One to One” conversation didn’t follow the normal protocol for booking a guest on the program; he had “handlers” in Chicago, a staff to prep him for the interview, and P.R. people doing their jobs to  ensure he was comfortable during his visit. They also wanted to be sure the host (me) of the program didn’t ask any tough or embarrassing questions during the taping. Oh, I forgot to add we had at least two telephone conference calls prior to his appearance.

Dr. Heckman was in Kentucky to talk about the economic advantages of investing in early learning and childhood development. His groundbreaking work with economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, and many others has shown that the quality of early childhood education development heavily influences health, economic, and social outcomes for individuals and society. It’s something educators and legislators have been working on in Kentucky for a long time.

Not surprisingly,  Dr. Heckman turned out to be a wonderful guest and, for a Nobel Laureate, quite a regular guy. Turns out, he even spent some of his childhood  in Kentucky. I enjoyed the brief time we had together.

Tune in Sunday at 1/12pm CT on KET and Tuesday evening at 7:30/6:30 CT on KET2 for an interesting conversation on the benefits of early childhood education with Dr. Heckman, brilliant, regular guy.

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