English 103 sec 4027
March 16, 2011
Debunking the American Dream
“For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” – Matthew 25:29. Malcolm Gladwell uses this scripture from the gospel of Matthew to introduce the phenomenon of the “Matthew Effect” in his book, Outliers. He defines an “outlier” as “men and women who do things out of the ordinary” (Gladwell 17). In his search of trying to find what exactly made these men and women so extraordinary, he discovered that they all had an “accumulative advantage” over their counterparts. That, there was no amount of hard work, intelligence, knowledge, or gift that could make someone extremely successful. That, the Bill Gates, John Rockefellers and Henry Ford’s of our society are not simply just a product of hard work, but rather the result of when hard work meets opportunity under incredibly unusual circumstances. In a way, Gladwell debunks the "American Dream". He insists that no matter how hard we try, how much we know, how smart we are, that without the added benefit of some type of fateful chance encounter, we will never be an "outlier".
Gladwell illustrates this concept in several ways. He begins with the examination of the success of Canadian Hockey players. Psychologist Roger Barnsley first noted the large effect the players’ birth dates had to do with their success. Upon looking at a roster, he noticed most of the players were born in the first quarter of the year. While this seemed coincidental to some, and even went unnoticed in most, Barnsley was able to detect the link between the players birthday, in relation to the leagues cut-off date, of January 1. This meant that the players born in the first quarter of the year were almost a full year older than their teammates. This age difference leads to
an advantage in physical maturity, which later leads to being...