The novel Outliers, aims to investigate the very thing we want for our family, our students, and ourselves. For most of our lives we have believed that with hard work, anyone can achieve success. That had to be the reason that poor immigrants like Andrew Carnegie and college dropouts like Bill Gates achieved unimaginable wealth. Most of us were taught that working harder than anyone else would lead to ultimate success. While the author, Malcolm Gladwell, does not dispute that hard work in a necessary component, we learn that many factors, lucky breaks, and some coincidences all occur in making high achievers into true outliers. We also learn that many of the richest, most famous, and most successful people in history are often linked by certain factors that can be traced back to the reason for their successes. The novel is broken down into two sections detailing traits and components that helped pave the way for the ultra-successful. On the following pages I will discuss the factors that Gladwell presented, comment on them, and discuss how they apply to us as burgeoning school administrators. Part One: Opportunity
With the section titled “Opportunity,” Gladwell breaks the path to success into three different sub-groups each with a catchy subtitle. For the purpose of this abstract, I will call them birth date, the 10,000 hour rule, and high IQ.
The first factor, which Gladwell delves into, is the birth date of his outliers. Not only the year that someone is born, but also the month and day in which they are born. Take, for instance, the example of junior hockey players in Canada. Most of the hockey players on the best traveling team in all of Canada had birthdays in the first three months of the year. This seemed like an unbelievable coincidence, until we explore further. Gladwell interviewed people connected with the selection for these teams and it turned out the participants of a certain level had to be born after the New Year. Theoretically a boy born on January 1st would have time to physically mature over someone born towards the end of the year (making that child the youngest on the team). The more physically mature boy would then be selected for the team, get more practice time, better coaching, and compete on a higher level. This created and advantage for older children and created a roadblock in the path for hockey players born towards the end of the year.
This is a phenomenon that also happens in our schools. For every kindergarten or first grade class there is a cut-off date for children who are being registered for school. The children closest to the cut-off date have more time to cognitively develop as compared to younger children. This provides the older children with a greater opportunity to be included in gifted classes, have better teachers, explore concepts more in-depth, and get the same head-start on education the older players got in hockey.
The 10,000-hour rule, as I have come to realize is quite popular, is Gladwell’s theory that to truly become an expert at something one needs to spend 10,000 hours perfecting the craft. Gladwell cites several examples including a young Bill Gates practicing writing code, but for the sake of space, I will explain one example: The Beatles. While performing in the late 1950’s in Liverpool, The Beatles were not particularly gifted showmen and rarely stood out among other Mersey Beat groups. It wasn’t until they were booked to play clubs in Hamburg that they began to show their true colors. What was it about Hamburg? Gladwell points out that in Germany they played seven days a week for eight hours a day. Along with their Liverpool background, the Beatles had achieved 10,000 hours playing and performing, the magic number for mastering your craft.
The 10,000-hour rule can apply several ways within our schools. For students, 10,000 hours can be spent in class, studying, researching, writing and computing. Perhaps...