Tag Archives: Gladwell

Are we nearing the Tipping Point?


I started reading Gladwell‘s new book Outliers this week, and as usual he shares his thought-provoking research in what is almost a story-telling style.  But I got to thinking about the first Gladwell book, the one that made me a fan: The Tipping Point.  It’s a great book and a must-read.  Without going into too much detail, the basic premise is that there is an event or a moment in time when a certain change is unstoppable, and all things up to that point contribute to the momentum.  So as I think about our economy, the government bailout of The Big Three, and massive cuts to public eduction on our doorstep, I wonder: are we nearing a tipping point?  Consider Friedman’s contention in The World is Flat, that any job that at its basic element is routine can be “off-shored” and done by workers in countries where their populace is being prepared for this work, and at a much lower cost.  Consider also Wagner’s reminder that due to sheer numbers (population), there are more honor students in China than we have students.  Are we nearing what my parents would refer to as the point of no return–or what Gladwell calls the tipping point?    Holiday travel afforded me a lot of thinking time while trekking across the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Imagine what schools could do with the money being given to banks, financial insitutions, and the auto industry.  We could get webcams so our kids could use Skype on individual laptops.  We could abandon textbooks and subscribe to relevant websites that aren’t obsolete when the kids access them.  Maybe we could even purchase a real statistics software package like SPSS that our kids could use to input real-time local data to record, analyze, and report and draw conclusions from the trends they see.  But wait–we have the same problem the auto industry no doubt faces as it tries to “reinvent itself”: those on the front lines have to get it.  Teachers have to know why a shift in this direction is absolutely crucial right now.  Are we ready?  Can we count on “Yankee Ingenuity” to save us once more?  Or is Yankee ingenuity a 20th Century concept?