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December 16, 2008 / Ben Chun

Most Likely to Succeed

This is just plain good writing, of the pleasure-to-read variety: Malcolm Gladwell absolutely nails it in his New Yorker article Most Likely to Succeed. For anyone wanting to understand the shape of the problem American public education has with finding good teachers (beyond the fact that we’re underpaid) this is a great introduction. If you’re not a football fan, please don’t be put off by the introduction. His choice of secondary story is a deft analogy, and no students are actually tackled during the article.

Between this and Lou Gerstner’s recent WSJ opinion piece Lessons From 40 Years of Education ‘Reform’, I wonder if the Overton window for structural change in the public education system is moving.

[Followup: Gladwell has a coda posted on his blog.]

4 Comments

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  1. Dad / Dec 17 2008 4:26 pm

    Thanks for the thought provoking articles … I doubt that raising standards by itself works any more than extending the finish line in running makes a runner improve.

  2. Ben Chun / Dec 17 2008 6:33 pm

    Yeah, this is the first time I’ve seen someone (Gladwell) in the mainstream press call for putting more runners in the race (so to speak).

  3. Dad / Dec 17 2008 10:23 pm

    The approach seems reasonable until one has to convince students and parents that what is proposed is to literally sacrifice 3 of every 4 classes to discover the 1 worthy teacher.

  4. Ben Chun / Dec 18 2008 1:46 am

    I guess the other way to look at it is this: There is a given percentage of people who aren’t that great at being teachers. Would you rather have those people stay in the game until they’re ready to retire, or would you rather have a system that allows you to try some new people in their place? Sacrificing 3 of 4 classes sounds bad until you remember that sticking with something you know doesn’t work means sacrificing 4 of 4.

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