Malcolm Gladwell

But what did [Hunter College Elementary School] achieve with that best-students model? In the nineteen-eighties, a handful of educational researchers surveyed the students who attended the elementary school between 1948 and 1960. [The results were published in 1993 as “Genius Revisited: High IQ Children Grown Up,” by Rena Subotnik, Lee Kassan, Ellen Summers, and Alan Wasser.] This was a group with an average I.Q. of 157—three and a half standard deviations above the mean—who had been given what, by any measure, was one of the finest classroom experiences in the world. As graduates, though, they weren’t nearly as distinguished as they were expected to be. “Although most of our study participants are successful and fairly content with their lives and accomplishments,” the authors conclude, “there are no superstars . . . and only one or two familiar names.” The researchers spend a great deal of time trying to figure out why Hunter graduates are so disappointing, and end up sounding very much like Wilbur Bender [Harvard’s admissions dean from 1952 to 1960]. Being a smart child isn’t a terribly good predictor of success in later life, they conclude. “Non-intellective” factors—like motivation and social skills—probably matter more. Perhaps, the study suggests, “after noting the sacrifices involved in trying for national or world-class leadership in a field, H.C.E.S. graduates decided that the intelligent thing to do was to choose relatively happy and successful lives.” It is a wonderful thing, of course, for a school to turn out lots of relatively happy and successful graduates. But Harvard didn’t want lots of relatively happy and successful graduates. It wanted superstars, and Bender and his colleagues recognized that if this is your goal a best-students model isn’t enough.
‘Getting In: The social logic of Ivy League admissions’, The New Yorker (October 10, 2005).
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/10/10/051010crat_atlarge

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Filed under Expectancy, Quotes, Sureness

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