The Hill Glad to Host Author Gladwell

Writer of Class of 2013’s freshman reading ‘Outliers’ comes to Alumni Hall to talk to community

Dan Lamond

Staff Reporter

On any other day, if you saw him walking through McDaniel campus, you most likely would assume he is a student’s father. Adorned in a brown fleece, jeans and Nike shoes, Malcolm Gladwell blends in with everyone else, but really he is an outlier in disguise.

Having published three New York Times best sellers and countless contributions to The New Yorker, Gladwell indisputably sets himself apart from the rest of us on campus. On October 6 , Gladwell took time to visit The Hill to talk with students and faculty members.

McDaniel Professor of Education, Dr. Francis Fennell, formally introduced Gladwell, describing him as “a teacher of a different kind.” Gladwell approached the stage with thunderous applause from the audience as he took each step towards the podium in McDaniel’s Western Maryland College Alumni Hall. “When I come to a college campus I always feel about 20 years younger,” Gladwell remarked as he began his speech.

Gladwell spoke mainly of capitalization, an idea that he “thought of a lot and helped form his book Outliers: The Story of Success”. Capitalization as Gladwell defined it, “is what percentage of people capable of doing something, actually end up doing that.”

Gladwell stated that he thought there were three main elements, which prevents capitalization from happening. For the first element, poverty, Gladwell described Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Gladwell stated that in Memphis, the capitalization rate of football players that enter the NFL is one to six. Many of the players have the ability to play in the National Football League but they are too poor to get equipment, practice and get the necessary hours.

Next, Gladwell blamed plain stupidity for a reason why capitalization rates are so low. Gladwell reiterated the cutoff dates for eligibility, a point he made clear in Outliers. Gladwell read off the list of dates that each player was born for the Czech Republic National Soccer Team.

An overwhelming majority of the players were born in the first few months of the year. As if the audience was not already convinced, Gladwell read the dates of when the players on the Czech Republic National Hockey team were born. The same situation appeared, giving evidence that this was not just a one-time occurrence.

Gladwell said that this happens in every country and that setting that cutoff date is a bad idea. Gladwell suggested that countries have two or three cutoff dates and then choose from the best players of each group. “Countries are preventing some of the finest players from ever having a chance because of cutoff dates.”

Gladwell told the audience that culture is the final element that prevents capitalization. Gladwell stated the stereotype that “all Asian kids are good at math. But why is that?” Gladwell asked. He stated that it is because of the emphasis placed on math in Asian countries.

Their teachers have more rigorous curriculum for the students and the students are simply willing to work harder than students in other countries. If students from other countries were willing to put the same amount of effort into math then this stereotype might not be true only of Asians.

Gladwell suggested that teachers or students be sent to Asia to see how much work is put in towards math. The teachers could then use similar methods in their classrooms to help students become better at math. Gladwell defined success as “it doesn’t matter how much money you make, what matters is that you are doing something that is important to you.” He believes that far too much of the idea of success is based on wealth and material belongings.

When Gladwell later fielded questions from the audience he was asked about where he comes up with this “stuff.” Gladwell chuckled and responded, “well you have to read a lot.” Gladwell explained that there are a lot of good books out to read but, “the problem about this cool stuff is that it’s not written cool.” Gladwell encouraged the audience to get past the first chapter, the less interesting part of a book, and get the exciting parts where reading can be enjoyed.

A member of the audience asked Gladwell a question that has been brought up many times by anyone who was read the book. Why didn’t he use any women in the book? Gladwell said that all the professions that he talked about in Outliers were male dominated professions.

Gladwell said thought that this idea was obvious in the book but sees how many of the readers could see misinterpret it as him disrespecting women. “I regret not making a remark about that in the book.”

Gladwell may regret not mentioning women in his book but he sure doesn’t regret putting in the necessary 10,000 hours he put in to get where he is today.