David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell has proved to be a thought-provoking study in only the first quarter. One repetitive message throughout the section is that often what we view as advantages are often not. So far in the novel, I think the authors way of expressing this theme is very successful. By showing his messages through short stories readers are really able to relate to his messages. For example- haven’t we all experienced thoughtful discussions in around a 25 person class? By using an example that many can relate to, Gladwell is able to have his audience understand and visualize his evidence. That situation reminds people that unlike popular belief, large classes can have benefits, which Gladwell states in his book. Also, the statistics in the book create visuals that keeps the readers attention and allows for a way to convey information easily. I also like the statistics because it supports his opinions and makes them seem believable.

However, I believe that occasionally his opinions are too debatable. For example, he says that Monet’s paintings were better suited at a small art show than at the prestigious Salon showings. Even though Monet received attention in the local and small painting world – wouldn’t he of reached an even bigger audience at an worldly celebrated event? This is just one example where Malcolm’s opinions can easily be challenged.


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10 responses to “David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

  1. Madeleine, I completely agree with the clear, reoccurring theme. Something that I did not agree with while reading this first quarter was the idea that underdogs actually have an advantage. The underdog basketball team that consisted of girls who had never played before was, in my opinion, only winning due to sheer luck. As Gladwell stated, they would have lost if the opposing teams had pushed back. In my opinion, it is the element of surprise that is allowing the underdogs to win. This is just how David’s unconventional warfare tactics startled Goliath and momentarily stunned him, causing him to not be able to react to David’s stone.

    I think it was stated at some part in the novel but I wanted to reiterate: it’s not a good thing to be TOO big, TOO rich, or TOO anything. The example used was that Goliath was too big to be able to move out of the way quickly when the stone was fired. This idea of being too something is something that I look forward to seeing more examples of.

  2. Kamala GhaneaBassiri

    I found both of your observations to be very insightful! Like Madeleine, I also was intrigued by a concept of Gladwell’s. I found that Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of the advantages of being a big fish in a small pond to be very comforting. At the beginning of reading more about the concept I became frightful for my future. At the beginning Gladwell described two students who fit societal expectations for the “perfect” student. They both got very high grades in advanced classes in high school. The female example he mentioned was valedictorian and the boy started high school algebra in the fourth grade. What I found frightening was in the interviews Gladwell had with each of them that uncovered the disadvantages of going to a big pond like Harvard. Contrary to my beliefs, Gladwell made a well-supported argument for why prestigious schools, where a student becomes a small fish in a big pond, have the potential to ruin a student’s life. He described how each of the students he interviewed ended up quitting their dream of pursuing a career in science or math because of going to Harvard and M.I.T. He further explained that because these actually really intelligent students were surrounded by other students who knew what they were doing and were smart too, they endued up feeling that they could not relate to anyone when they were struggling. Due to this feeling of being stupid, these intelligent students quit their dreams and changed the course of their lives.

    When learning and reading about this concept I was scared. I began to think that if these seemingly “perfect” students regretted going to Harvard and found it so unwelcoming and difficult, then there was no way I would make it to a good college. However Gladwell reassured me that going to a huge prestigious college might not be as beneficial as I used to believe, and that learning is what matters in the end not the name of a college I go to. Because in the end, college is supposed to be a great learning experience where one is able to pursue their dream and learn, and not an constant unwelcoming struggle.

  3. Kamala GhaneaBassiri

    After finishing Part II of “David and Goliath,” I have found myself seeing through Gladwell’s eyes and agreeing with his observations on various topics I would have otherwise thought I could not have seen in a different light. One specific concept that Gladwell brought to light that I found very intriguing was the common theme among “creatives” of losing a parent. Gladwell highlighted that a traumatic struggle or fear that one has to overcome, like loosing a parent or surviving a bombing, makes people more innovative because they have less fear of failure and of what other people think of them and this allows them to make progress in the world. When I began reading about this connection it seemed bizarre. How can such a horrible event involving death bring one success? However Gladwell convinced me that society needs people who have emerged from such a trauma stronger and are willing to take risks that will hopefully benefit society, like Freireich and his cure for leukemia. Knowing now that trauma allows one to take risks and push through problems like the dislike or disapproval of others, I can skip the step of dealing with the trauma and focus on gaining these skills without the need of a traumatizing experience. Gladwell showed me that these traumatic experiences only lead to gaining the qualities of “creatives” however I inferred that one could get similar results if one just becomes disciplined and focused on executing the same qualities in real life.

  4. Kamala, I agree with your idea that what Gladwell revealed about Ivy League schools can be very surprising. The big pond small pond effect is something that I had not thought about when thinking about school. This lesson teaches readers that it is important to look beyond your community before feeling unable. It interesting to learn how one’s mindset has such a large influence on their performance.

    This theme is also present as the book moves on to discuss mental disorders. Mindset has also has an effect on people with dyslexia, which is not a huge topic in the novel but worthy of discussion. Someone I know outside of school has been dyslexic their whole lives. Unfortunately, the derogatory statements that others say has an affect on how they perceive their disadvantage. Despite Gladwell’s statement that dyslexia is often good, in many cases it is negative because it poorly affects self esteem.

    I also thought it was interesting how many successful people are dyslexic. Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein and many other successful scientists all had dyslexia. However, the common presence of dyslexia in well known people is not surprising with the statistic that about 20% of the American population is dyslexic. It makes logical sense that many inventors or scholars are dyslexic, as dyslexia has no effect on intelligence.
    Another reason why dyslexia could be a benefit is that other skills could prosper. As mentioned in the book, if you can’t read, you learn to be a great listener. Being dyslexic would also create creativity because dyslexics would have to come up with alternatives for reading and school.

    • One thing I found very interesting while reading about the Ivy League schools was that Gladwell wrote how society’s way of helping students actually by pushing students to the next level becomes just the opposite. In the instance of Caroline Sacks, it caused her to lose her love for science. This information was very helpful to keep in mind when I was forecasting for next year.

      Madeleine, your point about his section about dyslexia was interesting. While reading this section of the book, I found it a bit hard to see why Gladwell thought to ask the thought provoking question: would you wish dyslexia upon your child. I couldn’t help but think that these people who overcame their disability were a very small percentage of all the people who have this disability. I would find it interesting to compare these outstanding people who achieved success with those who succumbed to their dyslexia. I wonder if it was just the passion and the desire to learn that fueled the fire to push themselves?

      This section of the book, especially the part about losing a parent, really opened my eyes to looking at difficult, hard situations in a new way. Gladwell does a good job at showing how some people have made the best out of their awful situations. It is inspiring to read.

  5. Kamala GhaneaBassiri

    I agree! Madeleine, I also remember our conversation at school about how Gladwell portrays dyslexia and I found everything you said in this blog post to be very insightful as well. Overall, Gladwell’s arguments for how society perceives a disadvantage as actually being an advantage, in this case dyslexia being an advantage, are very intriguing and I am glad you covered this topic.

    As for me, I did some further reading and came across a topic Gladwell discussed that I have been concerned with myself. Having parents that have both grown up in California, Gladwell’s analysis of the Three Strikes policy for criminals and its effects really intrigued me. Gladwell applied his inverted-U theory to a problem I have been concerned with for a long time. This inverted-U theory dealt with limits and on page 238 Gladwell described it as “[illustrating] the fact that “more” is not always better.” The problem Gladwell ended up addressing was whether or not putting more people in jail would have a better effect on the amount of crime that would be committed and other ways criminal activity could be reduced.

    To provide examples for this problem, Gladwell juxtaposed two stories that involved different ways of dealing with criminals and the effects both had on criminal activity. One story was based on the creation and motivation behind the Three Strikes policy in California and the other was an experiment that was executed in Brownsville.

    In summary, the Three Strikes policy was seen as leaving California worse off because of how extreme the policy was. The Three Strikes policy left a person who stole a pizza and a murderer living the same jail sentence. Gladwell argued that although putting people in jail did prevent them from committing any crime while in jail, it did increase their chances of committing more violent crimes once released. However, the experiment in Brownsville devised by Joanne Jaffe took a more humane approach to the crime in Brownsville. Jaffe practically turned the police department into parents in order to lower the criminal activity! She did this by putting 106 juveniles into a program that would help them get a high school diploma, bring services to their families, and find out what each family needs, like food and supplies, with the consequence that all these services would be exterminated if any criminal conduct. This experiment ended up becoming extremely successful and in the next year that the program was in play robbery arrests decreased from 370 arrests before the program and 45 arrests a year into the program.

    This parental approach that the police took to lower crime in Brownsville, may seem strange in society’s eyes but it showed me as a reader how criminals are still human beings with needs. By having the police work to make the lives of juveniles better they were also giving criminals less reason to commit a crime. Also in terms of money, this parental solution would be more effective and require less money than building more jails to put criminals in. In conclusion, Gladwell brought to light a new concept that I found very intriguing and felt should be considered when brainstorming how to prevent or lower criminal activities.

  6. Kamala, I that the of older prisoners returning from jail more crime prone was a very startling fact. But not only does the prisoner become affected but the prisoners whole community. The community’s crime rate may go up as people who don’t like crime move away and other people may be attracted. Like Gladwell mentioned, the children of the prisoner would be extremely changed. Not only are their statistics of crime higher, but they also face psychological problems. They could have to deal with the social reactions to his or her parent’s arrest. In addition, the son or daughter has to live on less as they have one or no parents to take care of them. I am glad the rules on the Three Strikes Policy are being changed, especially after I learned that between 1991 and 2007 parents in prison has increased by 79%.

    I am curious to see the results of other crime policies and see their outcomes. Do all criminal policies follow the U-Curve? Also, I found it interesting when Gladwell suggested that stepping in might not always be a good idea, as he pointed out the the creator of the Three Strikes Policy ultimately had a negative effect.

    I also was interesting when Gladwell pointed out the negatives of powerful authority positions. One shocking statistic was that when the army was raiding Catholic households in the 70s. They raiding every house on average of twice. This must of ruined the communities that were already cramped and poor. The citizens must of been living in fear and worry that the police were going to arrest them unfairly. He also highlighted the negative effects of typical police behavior by telling the stories of Joanne Jaffe. She had to turn the stereotype of police into people who were caring and personal. All of Gladwell’s points brought to light that things we think of as positive often turn out to be negative.

  7. David and Goliath 8/10

    Malcolm Gladwell weaves short stories together brilliantly in his book David and Goliath to reshape the way we think about disadvantages in our world. Part one of his novel is titled: The Advantages of Disadvantages (And The Disadvantages Of Advantages). In this section he writes that what people view as advantages actually end up being disadvantages; for example, a celebrity says his kids will act spoiled when they grow older because of the wealth of their parents. Gladwell continues his excellent story telling skills when he writes Part Two and Three, which are titled The Theory of Desirable Difficulty and The Limits of Power. The first of this sections discusses how difficulty in one’s life, such as a parent’s death, helps one succeed as an adult. The final section shows how power often does not have as large of an influence as it is expected to. Overall, the book flips the way the reader views the world.

    I thought it was very interesting how the author wrote the book. The stories really support the ideas and give the reader evidence to believe. For example, a reader would not believe that a going to a good school will make them fail. However, when Gladwell tells the story of Caroline Sacks, who has to give up her love for science because she feels insufficient at her Ivy school, I full heartedly believed in Gladwell’s points.

    I would recommend this book to all freshman. It has definitely changing the way I view high school. His points that disability can be beneficial and the best school is not always the best choice are just two of the comments that directly connect with many people. The author writes it very clear so everyone can understand the points he makes. Overall, I rate this book 8/10 because of the inspiring messages and interesting stories.

  8. Kamala GhaneaBassiri

    David and Goliath; 10/10

    David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell has proven to be a thought-provoking piece of literature. Malcolm Gladwell did an excellent job of connecting and complicating his theories and ideas, as well as, providing excellent evidence to back up it all up. His examples helped me, as a reader, to understand his underlying theme of disadvantages actually being advantages all the better. His stories played a key role in expressing his theme in a way that was attention grasping. Also, the statistics and graphs that he uses in the book helped portray his ideas and conveyed the information easily. By using an example that many can understand, like straight forward visuals, Gladwell did not lose his audience to boring facts and made the book easier to follow.

    As you have read in my previous posts, I wrote about the many ways Malcolm Gladwell’s intricate ideas have changed how I think about various topics like to usefulness of jail, or the benefits of dyslexia. Gladwell never failed to change my mind in his writing and wrote in a way that always captured my attention. His writing made me rethink my beliefs about certain topics, which I believe only a great writer can do. He maintained my interest with some of the most intriguing stories I have read and connected them in ways I never thought possible. For Gladwell’s convincing writing style and organization of ideas I give this book a 10 out of 10.

    • David and Goliath 4/10

      While this novel is filled with thought provoking questions and stories about underdogs flipping their situations around and making the best out of them, the whole novel read as a confusing essay that was extremely frustrating to read. As I wrote previously, I found many of his stories to be only about the small percentage of the community that was actually able to overcome their disadvantages. With this in mind, it almost felt like I was reading a book of trophies and gold medals, success stories that I view as outliers in our society. It is a novel of ideals. Yes, it would be great for people to be able to overcome a hard childhood and turn that into a huge medical breakthrough as Freidrich did, however, that is simply not the reality of our society. It would also be excellent for every dyslexic to overcome their set backs, many don’t and give up on becoming educated after high school. I wish Gladwell had touched on the majority of the population instead of the few cases where the norms were exceeded and turned into shining moments. While I wish it wasn’t true, I found the most accurate part of the book to be the small fish big pond affect. Society today tends to push people into something too advanced for them. The example of the girl who went to Brown to study science is, sadly, a norm in the US. As she was pushed ahead, she lost her love and passion for science when she was challenged and started failing. As a result of reading this book, I have realised just how cruel and unjust society is. For these reasons, I give David and Goliath a 4 out of 10.

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