• In his review of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, Steven Pinker writes, “[t]he reasoning in “Outliers,” which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle.”  Is Pinker’s criticism a fair look at Gladwell’s work? Why or why not?
  • In Outliers, Gladwell argues, “It is not the brightest who succeed.  Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf.  It is, rather, a gift.  Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”  Defend/refute/qualify this argument.
  • Michiko Kakutani writes that Gladwell’s “assessments turn individuals into pawns of their cultural heritage, just as Mr. Gladwell’s emphasis on class and accidents of historical timing plays down the role of individual grit and talent to the point where he seems to be sketching a kind of theory of social predestination, determining who gets ahead and who does not – and all based not on persuasive, broadband research, but on a flimsy selection of colorful anecdotes and stories.”  Using evidence from the text and class discussion, defend, refute or qualify Kakutani’s assertion that Gladwell unfairly plays down the importance of individual grit and talent as determinants of success.
  • Discuss the 10,000 hour rule and evaluate its relationship to success.
  • Explain Gladwell’s theory about how culture and language affect the likelihood of plane crashes. Be specific about his claim and the evidence he uses to support it.
  • Explain how the chapters about hockey players and airline pilots prove the same essential argument.
  • Gladwell seems to believe that we are, at least in part, the product of our genetic and cultural heritage. Focusing on his examples of the Southern culture of honor and Chinese skill at math, explain his argument and show why/why not you believe it to be true.

For each of these questions, you should be prepared to write at least 6-8 sentences using specific examples from the text. An answer receiving a score of an “A” will be well-reasoned, specific, and demonstrate mastery of the text.


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