Gladwell on Education, Hiring, Journalism

I haven’t read (m)any of Malcolm Gladwell‘s articles in the past 6 months as they’re all, well, a bit homogeneous. Plus, if there are any fascinating revelations that I really should hear about I’ll undoubtedly discover them (in a much-condensed form) in many other places rehashing his content.

This interview with Malcolm Gladwell—where he discusses education, hiring and journalism—is typically Gladwellian and worth your time, however.

On education:

If I were [the United States Secretary of Education], I’d think of myself as a venture capitalist, fund as many wacky and inventive ideas as I could, and closely monitor them to see how they worked.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that in inner-city schools, the thing they do best is sports. […] It’s not correct to say these schools are dysfunctional; they’re highly functional in certain areas. So I’ve always wondered about using the principles of sports in the classroom. Go same sex; do everything in teams; have teams compete with each other.

On teaching and hiring practises:

Certain kinds of predictions are impossible. If you want to find out if someone can do the job, you have to let them do the job. We should be experimenting with people too. I feel very strongly about the notion that if you want to find the best teachers, you let everybody into the profession, monitor them for two years, and then pick the 10% that are the best. That’s how you do it, and that’s completely the opposite of the way we do it now. Right now we’re acting out a fiction, which is that we can tell whether someone’s good at this enormously complex thing called teaching before they’ve ever taught.

And the single piece of advice he would offer to young journalists?

The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about. […] Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master’s in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that’s the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.

I particularly like that penultimate sentence: The role of the generalist is diminishing. It puts me in mind of this previous post on the end of the polymath and the downside of scientific progress (that I’ve just updated to include a link to the quoted post).

via @sgourley