More Thoughts on Outliers
I’ve finished reading another chapter in Outliers, about education: “Marita’s Bargain.” This chapter describes a typical day in the life of Marita, a 12-year-old girl attending a KIPP charter school in New York.
I highly recommend reading this chapter. You’ll be inspired by Marita’s determination and by the many examples of how KIPP has changed people’s lives for the better.
Here are some thoughts on “Marita’s Bargain”:
- I was annoyed that Gladwell doesn’t identify KIPP as a charter school, instead calling it an “experimental public school.” KIPP is indeed innovative, but not because it’s been given some license to experiment that other public schools are denied. KIPP’s policies and curricular choices would be legal for other schools to adopt; it’s just that traditional public schools usually don’t go out of their way to find best practices. I would expect a book like Outliers, which is premised on systematic generalization, to point out the different incentives that charters and traditional schools face, as well as the divergent outcomes for students that result.
- Gladwell seems to imply that KIPP’s success stems entirely from the extra time its students spend on schoolwork. The omission is understandable, because there isn’t space in a short chapter to analyze all the causes of school achievement, but readers should keep in mind that dedicated principals, well-qualified teachers, and sound instructional methods enter the mix. Which adds to my frustration with Gladwell — why doesn’t he ask what brought these factors to the “experimental” school? Was it a stroke of luck?
- I love the quotes from Marita, especially her comments on how hard she’s working at KIPP, and how her friends and family respond to her efforts. This middle-school student is making great sacrifices to get the best education she can, and I’m sure she’ll go far. Maybe she’ll appear in another Gladwell book some day, for her own scholarship or research.