Books I Read: "Outliers"

I have to confess that I have really tried very hard not to read anything by Malcolm Gladwell.  This was not based on any sort of rational decision making process on my part.  It was just something about the one-word titles and slick covers that made me look upon the entire Gladwell catalog with suspicion.  But on the recommendation of someone or other, I did finally find a moment to read “Outliers” (which only takes a moment), and I am glad that I did.

Gladwell’s stock in trade is amassing evidence for non-obvious causations of bizarre correlations, and that shtick is on full display in the book, which is supposed to analyze the causes of “success”, operationalized to mean the study of brilliant folks and generalized great things.  Along the way, we are treated to Gladwell’s perspectives on why elite Canadian hockey players are so elite, what made Bill Gates so darned good at programming, and why Korean air plane pilots are prone to crashing their airplanes.  We even learn why asian cultures are better at math.  In each case, the results of Gladwell’s investigations is different, and more interesting, than any particular presuppositions that you might have about the particular subject at hand in a given chapter.  

The writing is easy to consume quickly, to the point that you sometimes wonder if you really are internalizing as much as you think you are (note:  you probably aren’t).  I was also impressed by just how much of the book I could apply to my own teaching and thinking about pedagogy, and how it could be used to add ammunition to the host of arguments about education policy that are currently consuming the country.

So, that’s my take on “Outliers” and my impressions of my first foray into Gladwellia.  I’m sure I’ll find some time to put his other two major works into my brain, but for now, I’m off reading other things.

Correlation is Causation (?)

The 100 Longest Entries On Wikipedia