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ice-hockeyHello Readers,

This post is the first of a series titled, “You’re not Succesful, You’re Just Lucky.” This series is devoted to exploring Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Below is a short synopsis and commentary of Chapter One:

Malcolm Gladwell begins the chapter, “The Matthew Effect” detailing the processes of how Canadian ice hockey players are chosen.

Throughout the chapter, Gladwell makes the case for how those lucky enough to be born earlier in the year reap the benefits of physical maturity over younger players in terms of additional practice and training.

A self-fulfilling prophecy emerges because players are picked with the false notion that they are the “best,” but through additional training, they become stars, therefore initially proving the false assumption as “correct.”

Gladwell surmises that cut off dates hugely figure into whether ice hockey players progress to proceeding leagues, or spend it on the bench, prematurely swapped out because of their weaker, underdeveloped playing skills.

According to Gladwell,

We could easily take control of the machinery of achievement, in other words – not just sports, but, as we will see, in other consequential areas as well.

But we don’t.

And why?

Because we cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules in which we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.

Basically, you are screwed if you are a Canadian from an ice hockey crazed family and weren’t born in the first half of the year.

I say, count yourself lucky, move to America and play basketball instead. Gladwell uses Canada’s ice hockey system as a frame to explain the inefficiencies in using cut off dates in context to our educational system.

It’s somewhat of a slim example, at best. Gladwell claims that older children will always outpace younger children in sports and academia because of the advantage of advanced maturity (if, even only by a few months).

Duh!

And while Gladwell’s conclusion is wholly obvious, it’s extremely “hidden” as well. Such differences do create unfair advantages – Gladwell thinks one way to overcome them is to fine tune the age groupings.

He believes that once that is done, the playing field would be further evened out.

Would it be that simple?

There’s a lot more to account for than just making sure all the 5 year olds born between October and December get an even playing field by being grouped together.

Individual intelligence and parental involvement contribute quite a bit to a child’s development in school. Surely, Gladwell can’t merely suggest that administrative changes in school policy could solve the problems of our nation’s school performance?

Well, Gladwell claims he is just beginning to set the stage – I hope he brings more to the party.

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