Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Tipping Point

I just read “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he talks about how epidemics start. He theorizes: “in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” In fact, “small, close knit groups have the power to magnify the epidemic potential of a message or idea.”

So, I think of real education reform and I agree that has already begun with many small movements. Take a look at my sidebar “Recommended Blogs and Websites” for a list of people and organizations that are rethinking traditional education. Each one of those sources has links in it to more sources of reform.

Gladwell also suggests that “if anyone wants to start an epidemic… he or she has to somehow employ Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen…to find some person or some means to translate the message of the Innovators into something the rest of us can understand.”

When I hear this I think of a few poignant films that are currently in production that expose flaws in our current education system. Race to Nowhere,” “Flunked the Movie,” and “Waiting for Superman” are three examples of documentaries that examine our failing education system and begin to address reform.

In addition to films, how can we get the message out to the masses about education reform? According to Gladwell, we need to do this through Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

Connectors: “Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors… The point about Connectors is that by having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.”

Mavens: “A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own...a Maven is someone who solves his own problems—his own emotional needs—by solving other people’s problems.”

Salesmen: “What separates a great salesman from an average one is the number and quality of answers they have to the objections commonly raised by potential clients.”

“[In] a social epidemic, Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. [And there are also] Salesmen—with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word of mouth epidemics as the other two groups.”

“Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen are a little different. They are distinguished not by worldly status and achievement, but by the particular standing they have among their friends. People look up to them not out of envy, but out of love, which is why these kinds of personalities have the power to break through the rising tide of isolation and immunity.”

I like that -- ordinary people with extraordinary talents. This is who will ultimately steer the tipping point in educational reform.

1 comment:

  1. Kerry,

    Good article-- very timely. I have been trying to add weight to the homework issue and many other educational practices which I believe are questionable at best, and often harmful.

    Homework is but one area where schools lack consistency, and it that lack of consistency in understanding and practice that is dangerous.

    As a former principal, my standard response to teachers who were involved in questionable practices was "Does it work and how do you know?" In other words, do you read and study about your profession. Sounds like a good title for another article.

    I'll be in touch.

    Harvey Craft