Monday, July 27, 2009

50BC09 #12: Outliers

Outliers Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. In a book both provocative and informative, Gladwell helps us to understand achievement is not only about hard work, but cultural legacy, and being in the right place at the right time. Indeed, when a person is born can predetermine their chances at a place on an elite hockey team. Where a person is born can determine their ability to commandeer a jumbo jet if need be.

Gladwell's revelations may be startling for some, but what is most impressive is his ability to talk about culture in a way that is straightforward and not burdened by politically correct parleying. In a climate where we are supposed to be having unencumbered discussions about culture, Gladwell's book is a step in the right direction. He looks at several examples of cultural legacy with an objective, yet not passive, eye.

As other reviewers have commented, there is a noticeable absence of female "Outliers." While Gladwell does have a wonderful section about his grandmother, it is disheartening that Gladwell didn't take the opportunity to examine a well-known female outlier, particularly since it would have supported the "working against hardship" vs. "timing" hypothesis so well.

That said, we would do well as a society to take notice of what Gladwell reveals and summarizes in this book, as it largely accounts for huge achievement gaps in our educational landscape and our inability to move freely about the socio-economic strata in both the world and the U.S.

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