Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Outliers: Gladwell’s 3rd Mega Hit – Revised Summary

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018


Outliers: The Story of Success (©2008, Little Brown: New York, NY) is Malcolm Gladwell’s third mega best seller after The Tipping Point and Blink, both of which are summarized here. Gladwell looks at many notable situations where people or populations stand out from the crowd. He finds that circumstances and effort are more important than talent. There are many lessons here for educators and parents.

The Secret of Roseto

  • Roseto is a town in Pennsylvania populated by immigrants from a village in Italy. Although the residents do not have a healthy diet or lifestyle, they do have a very low incidence of heart disease. The entire town is an outlier in this respect. After a great deal of study, it was determined that it was the supportive town culture that helps keep the residents so healthy.

The Importance of Birthdays

  • A study of birthdays for stars in hockey, baseball, and soccer shows that players born earlier in the year are more likely to stand out and qualify for better coaching and more playing time. At a young age there is a significant advantage to being born earlier in the year of eligibility. In preadolescence, a twelve-month gap in age represents an enormous difference in physical and mental maturity.
  • The birth order effect also operates in schools where the older students in a grade level tend to do better and get placed in higher ability groups. Older children scored up to 12 percentile points higher on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Teachers seem to sometimes confuse maturity with ability. Schools could put all the students born in the first quarter of the year in the same class and do the same with children born in other parts of the year of eligibility. As it is, many educated parents hold their kids back to insure that they will be older than their classmates which gives them a better chance in education and school sports that are based on grade level rather than age.

Time Trumps Talent-What Really Made the Beatles Great

  • Psychological studies have demonstrated that all great artists and people with great expertise got there only after putting in at least 10,000 hours of effort or practice. Even Mozart didn’t make great music until he hit this number at the age of 21. It takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.
  • A club owner from Hamburg went to London looking for bands to play in this club. By pure chance he met an agent from Liverpool who booked the Beatles in his club. Unlike English gigs which seldom lasted more than an hour, the club had the Beatles play for five hours or more a night. All told they performed 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By 1964 they had performed about 1200 times. They were no good on stage when they went to Hamburg and they were very good when they came back.
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Everything is Illuminated, The story of Big History by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Everything is Illuminated the story of big history by Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times Magazine, Sept. 7, 2014) tells the story of how Bill Gates got the idea of bringing a course created by David Christian called Big History to schools in place of existing history courses. While this sounds very cool it is not without controversy. To get an idea of what this is all about, you can watch Christian’s TED Talk, The History of Our World in 18 Minutes.

In the Beginning

  • Big History is unusual in that it does not confine itself to any particular topic, or even a single discipline. It is a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy, and other disparate fields that deal with life on Earth. The course is divided into eight thresholds. They are for example: the bing bang, the origin of Homo sapiens, the appearance of agriculture, and forces that shape our modern world. This course is available on DVD as part of the Teaching Company’s Great Courses. After viewing the course, Bill Gates approached Christian telling him that he wanted to introduce this course in high schools all across America. (It is also available online for free. Teachers have to register first and then give course codes to students.)

The Project Launch

  • In 2011, the Big History Project debuted in five high schools. As of this fall (2014) 1,200 schools and 15,000 students are involved. In many places like New York it runs into problems with regulations that require students to take certain specific history course, but states like California allow it to be taken in place of more traditional courses. Christian was teaching history at Macquarie University in Sydney when he started his own form of cross-disciplinary scholarship. The big idea is that everything is connected. As he started to look at the bigger picture of life on Earth, he realized that he needed to go to the starting point, or the beginning of the universe itself.
  • When he started testing his ideas he was delighted by the reaction of the students, and the notion that the course allowed him to address big questions like How did we get here? and Where are we going? that were not possible to ask in a course confined to a silo of content. It also allowed for insights across subjects and wildly ambitions narratives. This is just the opposite of what most students experience in school, which is “one damn course after another” with no connections between the courses.
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