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Why are English soccer professionals more likely to be born in the months of August-October, while Canadian hockey professionals are more likely to be born in the months of January-March?  Why are children born between September and November more likely to excel academically than those born between June and August?  And why are the children of wealthy families more likely to succeed in school - and later in life - than the children of poor families?

When it comes to success, it's not a question of "Is he good or just lucky?"  Recent research suggests that if you're lucky, you're far more likely to be made good.

More below the fold....

Streaming into Success

This week Morning Feature looks at Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, in the context of the Narrative Fallacy: the human tendency to construct simple, cause-effect stories from complex, partly-random events.  Today we'll look at streaming, developmental programs that mistake luck for potential and create self-fulfilling prophecies.  Tomorrow we'll examine how social networks and social skills influence our "opportunity windows," opening or closing off possibilities for success.  Saturday we'll conclude by exploring whether and how we as a society can make "opportunity windows" less capricious.

Professional sports are often presented as a pure meritocracy, where the best athletes rise to the top regardless of race or heritage.  Indeed, Pat Buchanan made that very argument on The Rachel Maddow Show two weeks ago, in defending his claim that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is "an affirmative action baby" who doesn't deserve to be on the Supreme Court.  That Mr. Buchanan was wrong about Judge Sotomayor is a matter of public record, as Ms. Maddow made clear a few days later.  But he was also wrong about sports.

Indeed as many studies have shown, athletic success seems to depend as much on blind luck - specifically, the month of birth - as on any other single factor.  It's called the Relative Age Effect (RAE) and it results from a process Malcolm Gladwell calls streaming.  And it's not limited to sports.

What is streaming?

Streaming is a developmental process where young children are evaluated and selected for special treatment based on the perception of greater ability or potential.  It's what happens when 300 5-6 year-olds show up at your community soccer club and 24 are chosen for the "competitive" squad.  The "competitive" squad will often practice five days a week and play a full season against other local clubs' "competitive" squads.  The other 275 kids are assigned to "recreational" squads that practice two days a week and play a shorter, intramural season within the club.

Typically the same kids progress from one "competitive" squad to the next as they move up the age brackets.  Does that prove that the coaches who selected the "competitive" from the "recreational" players were right, and those 24 kids really were the most talented 5-6 year-old players in the club?  Can coaches really spot standout athletic talent that young?

Probably not.

More likely, the RAE research suggests, they were the oldest 5 and 6 year-olds: kids born in the three months after the league's cutoff date.  Most leagues require U7 "competitive" squads to be evenly split between 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds, and the cutoff date for soccer is usually August 1st.  The children born in August, September, and October will be a few months older, bigger, stronger, and faster, and thus will seem to be better athletes.  How strong is the RAE?  English professional soccer players are twice as likely to be born in August-October as in the other months of the year.

Skeptics initially dismissed these studies by citing other possible causes for athletic excellence in Autumn-born children, such as better infant nutrition because they were born at harvest time, but they were quickly proven wrong.  In Canadian hockey, for example, the youth league cutoff date is January 1st ... and children born from January-March are far more likely to be selected for their clubs' "elite" squads ... and far more likely to eventually play professional hockey.  The same RAE pattern has been found in other sports that select "competitive" squads from each age cohort.

The self-fulfilling prophecy.

Many youth coaches still reject this evidence, insisting they're just good at spotting young talent.  And as proof they cite their players' advancement from one "competitive" squad to the next as the players get older.  But the research suggests their talent-spotting is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Children selected for the "competitive" squads get 3-6 times more development time each year.  They have more practices per week, a longer season, the club's most experienced coaches, and usually assistant coaches as well.  ("Recreational" squads often make do with a lone volunteer parent as a coach.)  Given all that extra developmental time, the players' excellence is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If that happened only in sports, perhaps it might not matter much in the big scheme of life.  But it's not limited to sports.  Many school systems now have "gifted" classes as young as 2nd or 3rd grade, when it's likely "gifted" children are more often those who were "given" the best birth month: the first three months after the cutoff date.  Not surprisingly, the same children tend to progress from one "gifted" class to the next, and not surprisingly that may owe more to the self-fulfilling prophecy: smaller class sizes, better teachers, and higher expectations leading to more homework.  The school year for "gifted" children may be the same number of days, but total up to 30% more hours given the extra homework assignments.

Extra developmental time is that important.

Look at any elite university or graduate school and you're likely to find a disproportionate number of students from wealthy families.  It's not just that they're better able to afford college or graduate school; more of them will often be on academic scholarships or have placed in the top quartile on SATs and other admissions tests.  Conservative educational commentators often point to the students' parents - who are more likely to have advanced education themselves - suggesting it's simply a matter of the genetic "cream rising to the top."  That's a reassuring story for those who want to celebrate the privileges of wealth.

Again, research suggests it's only a story, and those students' academic excellence owes more to their summer vacations than to their genetics or their performance in school.  Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander tracked 650 students in the Baltimore public school system, starting in the first grade.  The city schools administer the California Achievement Test to each student twice each year: in September and June.  Based on those data, Alexander was able to assess the students' progress both during the school year (change in score from September to June) and overall (change in score from September to September).  His results were startling.

The children of poor families actually made more progress during the school year than children of wealthy families, an average gain of 37.8 points per year from Grade 1-5 for children of poor families vs. an average gain of 36.8 points per year for children of wealthy families.  But that all changed during summer vacation.  On average, the children of poor families lost 0.5 points per year over the summer, while children of wealthy families gained 10.5 points per year over the summer.

Indeed, Alexander found that all of the wealthy kids' academic excellence - their gains over poor and middle class children - happened during their summer vacations.  That's when the wealthy kids were in summer tutoring programs, exploration camps, traveling to educational sites, and the like ... while poor kids were more often sitting at home watching TV (or worse).  The children of wealthy parents keep learning throughout the year, and over the course of K-12 that adds up to two extra years of education.

So look again at the "best and brightest" in elite universities, more likely than not the children of wealthy parents.  Are they really the "best and brightest," or simply the students whose parents could afford to give them an extra two years of education by the time they finished high school?  Like the older kids in youth sports - but for a different reason - they got the benefit of more developmental time, and excellence became a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Happy Thursday!

Originally posted to NCrissieB on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 04:05 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for distinguishing "lucky" from "good." :) (41+ / 0-)

    My apologies for typos; I got done just in time to dash off to drive Springoff the Fourth to carpool, and will proofread when I get back.  As always, ::smoooooooooochies:: to Kula, wherever she is, and ::huggggggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew!

  •  Good morning and hugs to (16+ / 0-)

    Crissie and the Krew.

    Finally, one of my assumptions turns out to have some validity.  I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel in the WAYR series and everything I assumed about history is turning out to be wrong, but on this, I have long suspected that what Alexander says is true.  This is important because it illustrates ways that outcomes can be altered, if only there is a will to actually act on the information.

    •  What's required to "flip the script?" (18+ / 0-)

      Yes, these outcomes can be changed.  And what's required to "flip the script" points to how daunting these advantages are.  In Outliers, Gladwell relates the story of a 12-year-old girl named Marita, a student in the KIPP school in the South Bronx.  KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) schools accept applicants by random lottery; there are no entrance tests or academic prerequisites.  75% come from single-parent homes; 90% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs.  Almost all are minorities.  By the time the students leave KIPP - the program runs from 5th to 8th grade - almost all excel, many qualifying for New York City's most elite prep schools.


      Because in those four years, KIPP students get a total of almost seven years' developmental time as compared to ordinary public schools.  Their school day runs from 7.30am - 5pm, and most spend the rest of their evening on homework.  They have only a brief, two-week summer break.  Marita gave up all of her neighborhood friends.  Her mom had to make her take a half-hour dinner break; otherwise Marita did homework until bedtime.  By 11pm, she would tumble into bed and talk with her mom - they shared a bedroom - until they fell asleep.  It's a grueling schedule and Marita's story left me in tears.

      That's what it takes to "flip the script" and give poor kids a chance to excel.  That's how big the disparity of opportunity is for the wealthy and the poor, in terms of academic achievement.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

    •  Great book (10+ / 0-)

      I was heartened to find out that my fiancee owns a copy of it, too, so now there are two copies around.

      Keep reading it and looking forward to seeing you in the comments of that diary series!

      "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

      by Neon Vincent on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:01:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a topic that needs more discussion. (16+ / 0-)

    I did see the opposite effect in engineering school in the early 70's. Back then, computers were relatively new and only a handful of entering students had any programming experience. At first, these experienced students were ahead in programming, but, by my observation, at the end of the program, there was no relation between incoming programming experience and programming skill. This is a counter example, but it is one that is near and dear to me that shows that talented people who work hard at science studies end up doing well.

    I read something recently that what you say about sports is definitely true in American Baseball. Almost the whole nation has the same cut-off for ages for the competitive leagues. Simple counting shows that those who were oldest due to birthday placement were disproportionately represented and then showered with extra coaching, which put them further ahead, sometimes all the way to the professional leagues.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 04:25:36 AM PDT

    •  I think there are (11+ / 0-)

      plenty of exceptions to the observations.  There are some younger kids who really are just talented, or they have older siblings or parents who work with them in sports or in school and end up excelling.  

      I could tell a big difference between my son and daughter.  My son was 5 1/2 when he started kindergarten.  He was more than ready.  My daughter turned 5 a few days before school started.  She was emotionally and developmentally way behind where my son had been, but by January she had caught up.  If her teacher had pegged her as being "not too bright" initially it might have made a difference in her whole academic experience.  Fortunately, that didn't happen and she ended up doing just fine once she matured enough to keep up with the others in her class.

      •  Reminds me of the Manhattan Beach (9+ / 0-)

        School District's solution to high stakes testing and academic achievement: kids linger in preschool or kindergarten, so they are older when going through the testing years of school. Seems to work: Manhattan Beach is doing quite well under NCLB.

        Good Morning! and ::hugggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew. :)

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:38:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Letting kids "linger" helps. (7+ / 0-)

          Back in the 1960s and 70s, there was a push for "social promotion" on the theory that children who were held back in the very early grades would be "marked for life."  But by pushing kids who weren't yet ready on to the next grade, and the next, they simply fell further and further behind.  I'm not surprised Manhattan Beach has done better by letting the kids "linger" in the early years.  Getting a good foundation - academically and in terms of self-confidence - is huge.

          Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

          •  There were studies (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            winterbanyan, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

            that showed kids who were held back in elementary and middle school dropped out of high school at a higher rate. Confusing correlation with causation, the educational establishment decided to avoid holding kids back to prevent their not finishing high school.

            Well, we've seen how well that worked out.


            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 10:00:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  "Red-shirt kindergartners" (5+ / 0-)

          Some parents, aware of the Relative Age Effect, will intentionally hold their kids back a year at the start of kindergarten, especially if their birthdays are close to, but on the wrong side of, the cut-off date. My sister in law, the comedienne, calls these kids "red-shirt kindergartners".

          (For those who don't follow sports, the term refers to the practice of holding college athletes out of competition as freshmen, while letting them practice with the team. They gain a year of physical development, maturity, and practice, and still have all 4 years of eligibility left when they start competition as sophmores.)

          •  Head Start and other programs can help offset it. (5+ / 0-)

            Even better, go to year-round schooling so poorer kids don't fall behind during summer breaks.  Having an extra two years of education - which wealthy kids do because they're essentially still "in school" on summer breaks - makes a huge difference, and we'll see on Saturday what it takes to "flip that script."

            Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

      •  I entered Kindergarten at age four. (9+ / 0-)

        I turned five in December. Kindergarten was pretty overwhelming, having had no pre-school. The teacher liked me and I "caught up" by December or so. So, I think the teacher's attitude toward the "youngies" is also important. Huggggs, myrealname!

      •  If teachers recognize and compensate ... (7+ / 0-)

        ... the age difference disappears.  Streaming only happens when kids are selected out and given special treatment because they excel at a given point in time.  That's one reason I don't think schools should have "gifted classes" in elementary school.  When you're picking the "gifted" kids during the first grade, you're far more likely to be picking the kids who were "given" the right birth month, and are thus a few months older than their classmates.

        By middle school, if the children haven't been streamed, the age differences disappear.

    •  Gladwell discusses computer programmers. (13+ / 0-)

      The giants in the computer industry who started as programmers (Bill Gates, et. al.) all came from high schools that not only had programming classes, but had access to remote terminals (very rare in the 1960s) so the students could compile, debug, and run their programs immediately rather than having to send in punch cards.  They entered college in the early 1970s with far more hours of programming experience than other students of the time, and that experience made it more likely they would excel at precisely the right period (the mid-1970s) when personal computers were just emerging.

      What's more, all were born in a roughly 20-month period, from late 1953 to early 1956.  Had they been any older, they would have already been working at IBM or other such firms and focused on mainframes; had they been any younger, they would have been still in high school or only college freshmen when personal computing emerged on the horizon.  They were exactly the right age, and from the right background, to be the programming whizzes that founded Microsoft, Apple, etc.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

  •  Good morning Crissie and Krew! (15+ / 0-)

    And, hugggggsssss!
    When I started to read this diary, I thought Crissie was going to finally prove that astrology is valid.  
    RAE makes so much sense.  As does wealth vs. poverty and middle class.  Great diary. Thanks for putting it together!

    All shall be well again, I'm telling you. Let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. (S Carter)

    by MinervainNH on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 04:28:45 AM PDT

    •  It raises interesting questions. (12+ / 0-)

      A society that allows capricious "opportunity windows," as ours does, favors luck over merit.  Often, that luck is what Warren Buffet calls "the Ovarian Lottery" ... being born to wealthy parents.  As we'll see tomorrow, the advantages don't end with childhood development.  Children born to wealth are more likely to learn crucial social skills and build critical social networks that expand the "opportunity window" in adulthood as well.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

    •  Poverty is an interesting concept. (14+ / 0-)

      It really depends on how you define it.  Money, the most common measure, is really misleading.

      That old saying, "time is money," is really revealing because poor people today have more money than ever and, indeed, more money is needed because more and more transactions are mediated.  But, what poor people have much less of today in the U.S. than ever before is time.  The days are still 24 hours, but, in addition to working more hours for free and for pay, time's being spent on transport over great distances for no appreciable gain because every segment of society has been dispersed.  You could almost say American society has been atomized.
      Back in the late fifties, a steelworker in Pittsburgh not only earned enough to keep a house and a wife and send two daughters to college; he had enough leisure time to read the works of Dickens over and over and engage in discussions with his family and friends, thereby promoting the love of learning.
      We've had forty years of women's time being saved with various devices that don't last and require someone to earn money to replace.  Still there's no more time available to learn, play and rest.

      How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

      by hannah on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:13:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Money does matter. (5+ / 0-)

        Everyone gets 24 hours a day, but those with more wealth have a wider range of choices in how to spend those 24 hours.  As we'll discover tomorrow, they're also likely to have a different view of parenting, and their children have access to better social networks that will yield opportunities into adulthood.

        Good morning! ::huggggggggs::

        •  Especially when access to money is (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DBunn, NCrissieB, etbnc

          restricted by race, gender and ethnic identity.  Money is more important when it's missing than when it's there in a society that's monetized all transactions.

          Why else would the world bank rely on using money to control how nations allocate their natural resources?

          Fees for services are the devil's tools.

          How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

          by hannah on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:59:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "When it's missing" is right. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DBunn, winterbanyan, etbnc, FarWestGirl

            Obviously, there are some extra advantages to being a Bush or a Kennedy, as opposed to another very wealthy family, and the very wealthy have advantages over the merely wealthy.  But those are marginal compared to the huge gap between the wealthy, middle class, and especially the poor.  Yes, both George Bush and Barack Obama became presidents.  The difference is that Bush could coast through school drinking and get a "gentleman's C," while Obama's mother woke him at 4am to review his homework and thus instilled the work habits that earned him top marks at Columbia and then Harvard Law.

            But according to Glenn Beck, it's Obama who's the racist....

            •  Well, really, the problem with Obama is (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DBunn, NCrissieB

              that he's not a stellar example of "hegemonic masculinity."  Maybe it's a consequence of having been raised in households controlled by women.  Maybe "hegemonic masculinity" has to be beaten into youths, as it apparently still is in some boarding schools.

              If an impotent male can become President of the United States, what does it say about all the beating that were endured in the interest of being tough enough to rule?

              Accusing Obama and Sotomayor of racism is not necessarily perceived as a bad thing by those making the "accusation."  In their book, it just means taking race into account when you decide who your friends are and isn't intended to shut people out, though that's the effect.

              Effect is not an important consideration for people whose behavior is directed by intent--like the intent to save the nation by extracting information from kidnap victims.

              Conservatives are focused on intent and associations.  They have no interest in achievements.  If they were into achievement, they wouldn't want things to stay as they are.

              How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

              by hannah on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 07:53:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Money is logarithmic (4+ / 0-)

            (Please excuse, if I'm misusing that $5 word... it's been almost 45 years since I last touched the relevant math... )

            The value of a given increment of money changes radically depending on where you are on the scale. At the very bottom, $20 can be the difference in whether a homeless guy lives one more day. A little higher up, $200 can buy you clothes and a haircut so maybe you can get a job. For $2000, you can pick up a used car, and open up wider opportunities for work, education, or recreation.  For a middle class family, an extra $20,000 means maybe your high schooler can think about college after all. At the upper-middle class level, it would take an extra $200,000 to put their kid through med school with no debt, or perhaps to retire a couple of years earlier. With an extra $2 million, maybe you never have to work again. People who think they need an extra $20 million, or $200 million, are just using money to keep score. At the extreme tippy-top-end of the scale, folks like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates can gain or lose $2 billion overnight, and barely even notice it.

            At each socio-economic level, it takes 10x more money to "make a difference", so it's fair to say the value of money changes with each notch of the scale. The same $20 that means the universe to the homeless guy, is still important but not game-changing to a waitress trying to buy an old clunker, and makes no difference either way in helping that middle class family send Sis or Junior to college.

            •  So true, DBunn (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DBunn, NCrissieB, etbnc, FarWestGirl

              Where once I could hand my kid a five, or sometimes even a ten without thinking about it, now I calculate that bill in terms of gallons of gas, or the fact that it's half the cost -- or the full cost in the case of ten -- of feeding my family of four for a day.

              Years ago, the heir to the Dow Chemical fortune, when asked my he didn't get his VW repaired, said, "My problems are the same as everyone else's.  They just have more zeroes."

              At the time I thought it was funny.  No more.  

              "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

              by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 09:34:19 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  or at least, "nonlinear" (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DBunn, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

              Good examples, DBunn.

              To generalize a bit, the perceived influence of money may be "nonlinear".  

              I think of money in terms of influence.  I see belief and perception wrapped up in the way money influences our decision-making process. I see money as a means by which we influence each other's decisions.

              It seems to me the adage that "Money talks" captures a deeper truth than we sometimes care to acknowledge.

              I've been trying to figure out a concise way to describe money in terms of influence. I haven't found it yet.

              Thanks for illustrating how the influence of money can be nonlinear and even logarithmic.


              •  Maybe I had it backwards (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NCrissieB, etbnc, FarWestGirl

                It's not so much that class distinctions change the value of money, more that the points where the value of money changes, are where the class boundaries lie.

                DBunn's Law (if you'll excuse the pretension-- heh): Class boundaries conform to order of magnitude changes in the amount of money required to make a qualitative difference in a person's economic circumstances.

                As to "money talks", I think I see your point. It's not just that the person with money gets his way, but also that money itself whispers promises and lies to each of us... is that what you are getting at?

                •  Money operates as a method of influence, but how? (4+ / 0-)

                  Well, to me the words, "Money talks", translate as, "Money exerts influence".  But if that serves to distract, it suggests to me that I'm on the wrong track in using it as an example. And that's helpful feedback. Thanks.

                  I have two goals in mind, one general and one specific. My general goal is to provide a way to think about money (and the economy) so that intimidating policy questions become easier to answer. My specific goal is to make it easier to think about, and to respond to the issue, "Universal health care would be expensive! How can we pay for universal health care?"

                  As a social species, it seems to me we humans spend a lot of our time trying to influence each other about what to do next. At the moment I'm trying to persuade you, the reader, to finish this sentence. I'm also trying to persuade you, the reader, to think about money in a fundamentally different way than we usually do.

                  Suppose I go into a grocery store and say to the produce manager, "I plan to eat this apple. I do not plan to give you any green paper, metal discs, or plastic rectangles in exchange." In our culture the produce manager would be Doing the Right Thing to respond, "Hell no!" But if I do the customary thing and offer green paper, metal discs, or a plastic rectangle to another particular person in the grocery store, that person will probably allow me to take an apple and eat it.

                  Somehow, almost as if by magic, money allows me to influence another human being. Money allows me to influence someone else's decision to let me eat. Money allows me to influence someone else's decision to grow apples. Money allows me to influence the decisions of total strangers thousands of miles away.

                  That's the magical, influential operation of money in a general way.

                  As far as my specific goal, when I think about the question, "How can we pay for universal health care?", I translate it as:

                  How can we influence each other to decide to do things that benefit fellow human beings?

                  How can we, as human beings, influence other human beings to do things we already know how to do, things we're already doing anyway?

                  When I think about universal health care in terms of influencing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists to keep doing what they already know how to do, the concepts of "money" and "cost" become distractions from the important task of humans making decisions to Do the Right Thing.

                  Our beliefs about money seem to me to function mostly as a way to complicate our decision process and to distract us from what ought to be trivial for a species that evolved some of the largest brains on the planet.

                  That's how I think about money. I try to turn our belief system sideways, and transform it to a way of thinking that simplifies rather than distracts.

                  That's the longest description I've drafted so far. I suspect it would benefit from further refinement. And if I influenced you, reader, to keep going all this way, thank you.

                  •  Money as a medium of influence (4+ / 0-)

                    Some of the standard definitions of money include:

                    Money as a store of value.
                    Money as a medium of exchange.

                    To which I might add one of my own:

                    Money as a self-replicating virus.

                    That last one sounds a bit bitter, probably won't catch on for that reason. But that's kind of how I view what's been happening on Wall Street since Ronald Reagan declared Morning in America. Of course, the first rule for any successful virus is not to kill your host, at least not before you can replicate yourself into another host. Unfortunately, the current, virulent version of the money virus has come close to killing us, and may yet. The harmful effect of the virus is to destroy the "pro-biotic" function of money as a store of value (by causing inflation and/or deflation) and medium of exchange (by freezing credit availability). And we could note that one implication of the globalized economy is that there is effectively only one host any more.

                    I do like your suggestion to think of money as a medium of influence. Economics as psychology, influence as power. It is in the nature of influence that even a small increment, applied consistently over a long period of time, can have large effects. If there is a small money reward to be had each day by behaving a certain way, after a while almost everyone will adopt that behavior.

                    Something I've been thinking about lately is, the wonderful things that can be accomplished if we take money out of the picture. In other words, if we are able to keep 'money as influence' from being the thing that prevents good things from happening. It is my belief that the world is full of people who would love to help their fellow humans, if only money were not an obstacle. Teachers and nurses, for example, who certainly don't go into those jobs to get rich, all they ask is the means to support a basic lifestyle so they can do what they really love, which is helping others.

                    Personal story: a friend and I, two retired guys, just finished and installed a handsome new sign for a local community health clinic. Neither of us charged for our work, and the clinic paid only for materials. The result was a much nicer sign, for a much lower cost, than if the clinic had had to go through a conventional commercial process. That sign will be there for decades, providing a steady trickle of whatever benefits quality, grace, and proportion confer to the social and psychological environment (there must be some, because their price is quite high if you go through the money medium). In this example, money was not the incentive for a good outcome, we were simply fortunate to be able to dodge it as an obstacle.  

                    •  Thanks for sharing your example. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      DBunn, NCrissieB

                      Your anecdote about personal experience is exactly what I'd like people to think about more often.

                      Taking money out of the picture — or at least becoming aware of how money can distort the picture — is part of my goal in talking about money in terms of influence. The standard definitions you mention seem descriptive; unfortunately they can become deceptively restrictive when we apply them purely out of habit.

                      By the way, I deliberately use the word influence instead of power because the P word seems to carry some connotations that distract people. Exploring the psychological assumptions I see buried in the P-word's baggage might become another essay someday. :)

                      I think of influence as a common denominator in human interaction. Not the lowest, but actually the most important. I tend to translate a lot of descriptions and explanations in terms of influence. I find that transformation helps me to turn things sideways, to see some of our hidden assumptions and sometimes, to see some of our hidden solutions.

                      Thanks for continuing the conversation.


                    •  Money as an index of choice. (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      DBunn, etbnc, FarWestGirl

                      I agree with both "medium of influence" and the other definitions the two of you have offered.  I'll offer another: money is an index of choice.

                      To use etbnc's apple example, if you have 24 apples and potentially 30 people who'd like an apple for lunch, how do you choose which of them gets an apple?  There are a lot of ways you might do it: first come first served, which people you like, even who can make you laugh.  More commonly, who offers you something you need or want (a cookie?) in exchange for one of the apples you've brought.  Or you could put a money price on each apple and use who can afford and is willing to pay that money price as your index of choice.

                      That's not quite the same as "medium of exchange," because it recognizes that word: choice.  Those with a limited supply of some good or service must choose, somehow, those with whom they'll share that good or service.

                      The converse is true as well; those with money must choose what they do with it.  The less money you have, the harder those choices become, because you have more choices you could make - even more choices you need to make - than than you have money with which to choose.  But however little we have, we're still making choices.

                      The word choice brings in non-economic dimensions like morality and wisdom.  Our indices of choice have moral implications and reflect our moral values.  If you distribute your apples according to whom you like best, that quite a lot about you.  If you distribute them first come first served, maybe you think randomness is better than making decisions.  If you give them to people who make you laugh, that says you value laughter (at least your own).  And if you give them to people who have money, that also says something about you and whether you think money is a moral index of choice (at least in distributing those apples that day).

                      Similarly, our spending choices also have a moral dimension.  In God's Politics, author Jim Wallis writes: "a budget is a moral document."  Whether it's your household, a business, or the government, how we choose to spend money is a statement of our moral values, of what we think is more or less important than what else.

                      Defining money as an index of choice also breaks the magical spell of money as an objective index of human worth.  It's not objective.  It's a choice, and it's not always the most moral or most socially useful choice (think health care).

                      One of the things we're exploring this week is how our "opportunity windows" are often capricious.  The real "lesson" of Outliers is that most of us probably could have done a lot more than we imagine, had different opportunities been opened to us at key points in our lives.  Those windows can never be totally uniform, but letting so many of them be so dependent on money is not "objective;" it's a social choice.  Which opportunities each of us decides to seize on and which we let slide are choices, and they're not entirely individual choices.

                      All of those choices have moral dimensions, and to the extent that we participate in those choices, we are morally responsible for them.

  •  It was amazing to me to listen to (11+ / 0-)

    moms discussing whether or not to send their boys off to kindergarten.  It seems most of the boys with birthdays in April through August were candidates for "needing an extra year" of maturing before heading off to school.

    However, the mothers of girls did not seem to waver on sending their daughters to school -- if the girls met the age requirement, off they went. And in my daughter's preschool class, the two summer-birthday boys with zero interest in sports also went happily off to kindergarten.

    The moms always claim their sons needed an extra year of preschool to be ready for the academics, but if it was really about education, you'd think a couple of girls would have been held back too.  

    Good morning Crissie.  Huggggggs!

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    by theKgirls on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 04:30:19 AM PDT

    •  Interesting point. (7+ / 0-)

      Neither Gladwell nor the other researchers I've read addressed the issue of boys being held back a year to be more mature entering school (an advantage) versus doing so for girls.  Girls usually do better than boys in elementary school, about the same as boys in middle school, and begin to lag in high school.  The research I've read suggests that's social (and maybe hormonal) as girls become more focused on dating than classwork owing to differing sexual development.  But other research suggests that sexism in the classroom builds up over the years and slowly chips away at the girls' academic self-confidence.  I'd be curious to see whether and how age difference plays into that.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggggs::

      •  I Had a Fascinating Experience Teaching Sailing (7+ / 0-)

        co-ed at the college level.

        Typically we saw about 3 times the success rate among the male beginners till I saw an incredibly simplistic trick, pulled as a prank by an instructor once, and it gave me an idea.

        I was flummoxed by the fact that learners who came with experience as crew members usually made worse skippers than newbies who started at the helm from scratch. They seem to approach every issue as two problems they need to work simultaneously: one being how do I deal with this problem, the other being how'd the old hands deal with it. The newbies were free to think of the situation as entirely theirs and put 50% more brain to the matter at hand.

        And this I found applies even when the level of experience is only a few minutes, as in taking turns trying something for the first time on a boat.

        What I never expected was that altering the instruction management to prevent tiny initial experience differences to "stream" turned out to fully get rid of the gender difference as well.

        If the goal is to turn out a high proportion of self reliant practitioners, preventing this problem of streaming just over the course of a few lessons is a lot more important than fussing over details of content.

        I don't think it's purely a sex bias matter, I'm sure it cascades off some combination of innate preferences and responses along with social expectations. But it seems to go hand in glove with boldness vs timidity, and our responses to that in individuals may be much of the trigger for the ways we respond to gender.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:00:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  UHh Boys and Girls are VERY Different at That Age (8+ / 0-)

      Mom was an elementary teacher all her life. She felt the behavioral environment of elementary ed in the beginning favors girls quite a bit in all sorts of ways that make them more comfortable and potentially successful sitting still in classrooms. Mom would've preferred to see boys as a rule starting one year later and let them stay outside running around playing.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:33:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know that it's just the difference (8+ / 0-)

        between boys and girls. My daughter is very "energetic", charitably speaking... And she had a wonderful kindergarten teacher who knew how to funnel that energy. But not every teacher has been so wonderful. And, quite often, teachers are harder on girls who are energetic.

        There is a school district in a neighboring town that has three elementary schools, with each using a different type of educational system - auditory, visual and kinesthetic. The family visits each school before kindergarten and see which best suits the learning style of their child.

        I don't know that it is the age of the child that determines success -- I think it's the way school has been designed. The kinesthetic school has more boys, but not exclusively so, and those boys are testing every bit as well as the girls in the other schools.

        "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

        by theKgirls on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:59:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And all this time I thought (11+ / 0-)

    I made the traveling (competitive) team because I had a sweet swing and a good glove.

  •  I confess: I make my son do at least one (17+ / 0-)

    worksheet a day during the summer, and sign him up for educational programs for some summer weeks.  And I am a college professor, who can indeed afford to buy special worksheet booklets for next grade-level material, and to purchase summer educational experiences for him.  

    Our son just got admitted to the gifted program at his elementary school.  BUT-- and here's the big thing-- he is mildly autistic and there are some areas in which he never has and never will test well, because of his socialization problems and aversions.  Math, for example, he's always done average in, and it has a lot to do with the way he conceptualizes things as an autistic person.  He's extremely visual, pattern-oriented, has an almost photographic memory.  He's always tested near the top in language arts and visual/spatial stuff.  But math, which seems to drawn on different parts of the brain than language and literature do, is a weakness of his, at least now.  So for example-- and this is really interesting to me-- he's really good at arithmetic and geometry.  But he freaks out about word problems, and can't seem to figure out what to do with them.  This is fascinating to me.

    So this summer, the daily worksheets are in word problems for math.  And it's not to give him an "advantage" in school-- it's to give him a chance to keep up when he enters the next grade level.  

    •  Good for you! (12+ / 0-)

      I wish more parents were as observant as you.

      All shall be well again, I'm telling you. Let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. (S Carter)

      by MinervainNH on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 04:42:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just wonder about (14+ / 0-)

      math - it never made sense to me in high school, but when I started college as a non-traditional student in my early 30's it was so easy for me, until I got into calculus.  The same is true of my daughter - it was as if she had a mental block about math, but now that she's in her 30's she seems to be fine with it.  Neither of us are math geniuses, but it just seems to make sense.  I wonder if the math area of the brain develops more slowly for some people.  Just some random thoughts.....

    •  That's a very common family pattern. (9+ / 0-)

      Wealthy and highly educated parents are more likely to "keep the kids in school" over the summer, in the very ways you cite: more opportunities to read and do workbooks, tutoring, academic and other camps, travel to museums and other educational sites, etc.  Take a two-month summer break over the course of K-12 and it adds up to an extra two years of school as compared to poorer children, whose summers are more likely to be idle (or worse).  Graduating high school with 15 years of education, vs. only 13 for poorer kids, makes those wealthy kids look a whole lot "smarter."

      Nor should you apologize for doing that.  It's not that you're doing anything wrong, but that we as a society don't do enough right - or encourage and enable poor parents to do those things right - for the kids who are being left behind.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

    •  The relationship between cause and effect (11+ / 0-)

      is not readily apparent to some brains.  In some it may be a sequencing flaw--i.e. the brain doesn't register the sequence in which events happen.  Behaviors that demand a specific sequence have to be learned by repetition until they become habitual and the brains doesn't have to pay attention.

      The loss of sequential memory is apparent in the elderly and may account for what we refer to as short-term memory loss.  It also shows up in what we refer to as confabulation where real, imagined and observed events are all mixed together (Reagan's war stories may have been an example).  When we know the true sequence, we're tempted to accuse a confabulator of lying, but there's not necessarily a deceptive intent.  Also, the ability to reflect may be missing.

      My ninety year old house guest seems to be getting some of his ability to reflect back now that his diet, rest and exercise levels have been improved.  It may be that the brain shutting down in response to poor nutrition is a self-preservative strategy.  After all, an active brain uses up a lot of energy.  (Think how much you pee after you've been thinking hard--and how unfair it is to restrict toilet privileges in school).

      How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

      by hannah on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:30:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting you should mention (9+ / 0-)

        brain and nutrition, with nutrition as a possible cause for loss of memory.  I recently watched a program on survival, and how the body copes without food or water.  It went into great scientific detail about the order in which systems shut down, or begin to slow.

        Everything else shuts down before the brain, in order to protect the brain.  So your observation raises an interesting question: does that process alter in the elderly for some reason?

        Good morning!

        "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

        by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:46:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would guess that different parts of the (4+ / 0-)

          brain react differently to the nutrition level.  Automatic and instinctual behaviors would likely persist while the frontal lobes and the processing centers, which we don't need to survive, shut down.

          Even when my aged mother's cognitive functions were temporarily impaired by little blood clots, her bodily functions and her antagonistic attitudes weren't affected.

          How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

          by hannah on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:51:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You may well be right (3+ / 0-)

            And now I have to go looking to see if there are some studies on this.  Some portions of cognitive function may well be unnecessary to survival, and if so... why not slow them down along with everything else.

            The body is a smart survival machine.  In our current environment, survival is measured in different ways than at bare subsistence level.  It may indeed be that certain higher levels of thinking go by the wayside when hunger strikes.

            I know how I get with low blood sugar.  Tain't pretty.

            "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

            by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 07:07:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  absolutely! we saw this effect first hand (9+ / 0-)

        with our daughter.  She was unbelievably hyper -- sometimes her movements looked like she was having a seizure. She just couldn't control herself at all.  Six months ago, we found that she doesn't digest properly and was slowly starving to death.

        From the first pill she took to control this, her body calmed right down.  All the weird movement has disappeared. Her schoolwork immediately improved -- she learned to read and her math skills took a giant leap forward.  She learned to ride a bike; she can swim.  The list of improvements keeps growing.

        I read something on DKos about how intercity teachers found that Monday mornings were extremely difficult.  They assumed that it was due to just getting back into the groove, but discovered that it was because the kids weren't eating enough over the weekend. So along with less resources in the school and parents who aren't as equipped to help on homework and everything else -- these kids aren't getting an adequate diet that helps their brains function.

        "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

        by theKgirls on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:11:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Brain function vs. brain growth? (5+ / 0-)

          During the first 12 years of life the brain needs super amounts of fat and calories to grow.  Poor nutrition inhibits that growth.

          Just wondering if the process is different in the elderly, not arguing with the notion.

          More hugs. :)

          "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

          by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:13:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm sure the diet will be very different, but I (6+ / 0-)

            think that nutrition plays a role no matter the age.  My grandfather lived alone for a couple of years and he didn't bother making meals for himself.  He deteriorated quickly and it was thought that he had Alzheimers.  But as soon as he moved in with one of his sons, he was just as sharp as ever.  At 96! We have no way of knowing if it was the food or the family contact and conversation that brought him back from the brink -- but his doctor seemed to think that the better diet had a lot to do with his returned brain function.

            Good morning and lots of hugggggs!

            "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

            by theKgirls on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:24:08 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Nutrition is incredibly important in this. Our (4+ / 0-)

          son reports on the kinds of things kids in his class get for their lunches-- when their parents pack their lunches, or when the kids themselves pack their lunches:  squeezable "yogurt," candy, doughnuts, cookies, Luncheables, etc.  No fruit.  Little protein.  Little fibre.  Lots of chemicals.  The kids who pack their own lunches and put that kind of stuff in their sacks have it at hand at home because parents buy it-- that's what amazes me.  We just don't have stuff like that in the house, not for eating, not for snacking.  When my son looks for a snack-- which he does every hour-- he has lots of options for grazing, but all of them are healthy.  

          But this isn't just a class thing, because we are middle class and live in a high property tax district where the voters tend to be same, tend to be educated... yet many of these educated, higher-education degree-holding, professional people are giving their kids poor nutritional options.  

  •  Peaking too soon (14+ / 0-)

    Both of my sons were very active in sports (still are for that matter) and were on the bench warmer squads during junior high school as they were younger and smaller than the August/October born boys.  The August to October boys for the most part, however, had reached the peak of their athletic prowess and by high school, they became the bench warmers, and the 'little, younger' boys had caught up in their maturity process.  An over generalization, of course, but noticeably true.  Considering how relatively few athletes achieve the ranks of professional sports as compared to the mass majority of those who don't, I don't know that the birth months are particularly meaningful, except that the numbers are very interesting statistically.

    My youngest child is a late October baby who didn't make the age five cut off for Kindergarten, so she was almost a full year older than most of her classmates.  She zoomed into the Kindergarten class room like she owned it, and I felt so sorry for the little ones who cried and didn't want to leave their mothers...

    In these diaries, I am often surprised by how different life in urban/suburban is from that in rural America.  In our little town, summer events and recreational opportunities are pretty much equal opportunity and any and all can participate - for free.  When activities cost, then the diversity breaks down, obviously.

    •  I noticed that (12+ / 0-)

      team sports in school were different for boys and girls.  For boys, kids had to be great to even get on the team.  For girls, all were welcome and all got to compete.  It was a great experience for my daughter because she got to associate with girls of different ages and different backgrounds in ways she otherwise wouldn't have, plus she developed confidence in her physical abilities and her body.
      So rah for sports and just having fun - not so much for competition and adult interference.

    •  There are exceptions ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... but the statistics belie the "peaking too soon" theory.  I found nearly a dozen studies on athletic achievement as a function of RAE, and all pointed to the same trend: the kids born in the three months after the cutoff were far more likely to be chosen for the "competitive" squads, and that advantage held all the way up to professional athletes.

      That's not to diminish the talent, training, and tenacity of those professional athletes.  Those who make it to the professional ranks do have exceptional talent, do take advantage of extra training, and do have the tenacity to stick with it when injuries or other setbacks happen.  It's simply to suggest that other children might have had just as much talent, would have taken equal advantage of extra training, and developed the tenacity to stick with it ... had they been equally blessed with timing (birth month).

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  It could also suggest (4+ / 0-)

        that if somehow the window were opened to include the full year, that a lot more talent would be developed.

        Good morning! and ::huggggggggggggggs::

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:15:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Gladwell suggests multiple cutoffs. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Orinoco, winterbanyan, kktlaw, FarWestGirl

          Rather than a single annual age cohort, Gladwell suggests having two or three age cohorts (think UxJ, UxM, UxS) with cutoffs spread through the year (January, May, and September 1st, respectively).  That way kids born in December don't have to compete with kids born in January (11 months older, bigger, stronger, faster, etc.).

          •  I was thinking (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            winterbanyan, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

            monthly tryouts for an age based team: If your 8th birthday is in March, you compete for a place on the 8 year old's team in March, against other kids born in March. If you make the cut, you join the team immediately, replacing someone who left the team because of their 9th birthday. You'd start out as the team scrub, of course, but as older players left because of their birthdays, you'd get increasing responsibilities.

            This assumes that teams operate year round, either playing or practicing, which isn't practical for some sports in some places. So there might be some self selection of which sport to try out for depending on how your birthday matches the playing season calendar.

            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 09:55:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's more than luck (10+ / 0-)

    The real problem here is our tendency to confuse intelligence and ambition.  We tend to reward the latter and punish the former, and that goes a long way towards explaining the  so called "best and brightest".    

    Remember, we live in a society that values completion above all else.  We also have little inclination to move too far beyond appearances.  Intelligence might be useful, but it is pure raw ambition that will get you there.  

    I think the above goes a long way towards explaining the disparity between wealthy and poor children.  As you suggested in the diary, wealthy kids are pushed to succeed. What's more, they are taught how to look and act successful.  Intelligence ain't got nothin to do with it.

    •  P.S. Whoops, competition, not completion (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Orinoco, BlueStateRedhead, NCrissieB

      My built in spell checker got me.  Unfortunate, as I believe that our insane emphasis on competition is the root of all evil.

    •  Children of the wealthy are "expected" to succeed (9+ / 0-)

      I don't think it is so much that they are 'pushed' as much as it is that they are expected to succeed, which is a big difference.  A difference Bill Cosby has expounded both in real life and in his TV persona.  Obama is saying much the same thing.  With no expectations in a family situation, only the very self motivated child will strive to achieve.

      •  Also true (8+ / 0-)

        and those expectations can have interesting repercussions when the child fails to live up to them - when they fail as the object of their parent's ambition.

      •  We'll explore that more tomorrow. (7+ / 0-)

        University of Maryland sociologist Annette Lareau did a fascinating study of third-graders and parenting styles.  She found that wealthy parents raise their children very differently from poor parents.  Wealthy parents use what she terms "concerted cultivation" - being very involved in their kids' activities, coaching them on how to interact with other adults, etc. - while poor parents have a "natural growth" approach and try to let their children learn and develop on their own.

        The poorer children were, to [Lareau's] mind, often better behaved, less whiny, more creative in making use of their own time, and had a better-developed sense of independence.  But in practical terms, concerted cultivation has enormous advantages.  The heavily scheduled middle-class child is exposed to a constantly shifting set of experiences.  She learns teamwork and how to cope in highly structured settings.  She is taught how to interact comfortably with adults, and how to speak up when she needs to.  In Lareau's words, the middle-class children learn a sense of "entitlement."

        -- Outliers at pp.104-105

        As we'll explore tomorrow, those advantages turn out to be hugely important when it comes to social networking, and the many opportunities that social networking makes available.

        Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  Agree, JF (10+ / 0-)

        Remember the study where teachers were told that blue-eyed children were not as smart as brown-eyed children... and were given a phony study to support that?

        The psychologists watched with fascination as the brown-eyed kids were not only treated as smarter, but were expected to be smarter and received far more attention and assistance from the teacher.

        Now imagine a classroom, with the ever-present meme that poor kids just don't do well in school.  Take out everything else: birthdate and so on, and imagine the things happening subconsciously in the teacher's head because of how children are dressed, whether they are shiny-clean, whether they talk street lingo or proper English (with some slang thrown in), whether they already know to use a tissue rather than their sleeve...

        Who do you think will receive more patience, the little extra bits of help, etc?

        And I'm not dinging teachers on this.  This preconception is so embedded that unless you're conscious of it every moment, it will have an effect.

        Hugggs and good morning!

        "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

        by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:54:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Intelligence is a "threshold" issue. (11+ / 0-)

      Having a 160 IQ is actually no great advantage over having a 120 IQ (which seems to be the threshold for graduate school).  The research suggests that so long as you have the threshold-level of intelligence, your success is a function of other factors: expectations and opportunities that exist due to family, region, socioeconomic group, etc.

      As for whether competition is good or bad, I think it's best to just acknowledge that competition exists.  When three people apply at a business that has only two openings, the person doing the hiring is judging a competition, whether he/she wants to or not ... and someone's going to get left out.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

      •  Does IQ change from your 20's to 60's? (6+ / 0-)

        Is IQ relatively stable over a lifetime? Or do other factors, like 'the wisdom of age' start to seem more important?

        I'm just curious and if someone would know this, it'd likely be someone here.

        Morning and thanks for the diary.

        •  The traditional IQ tends to decline with age. (4+ / 0-)

          The "quotient" part of "Intelligence Quotient" was originally expressed as (IA/CA * 100) where IA denotes Intellectual Age and CA denotes Chronological Age.  So if at age 12 you knew as much as a typical 14-year-old, your IQ would be 14/12 * 100 = 116.

          Because childhood IQ tests measure the kinds of knowledge that tend to "max out" in our early 20s, those IQ scores tend to decline with age.  Those with higher IQs learned that knowledge sooner, but most of the rest have caught up (for most of that knowledge) by the late-20s.  And most of what the rest didn't learn (e.g.: calculus, or the last four Roman emperors) has been forgotten by those who did.

          IQ tests that for adults are a bit different, and don't measure "Intelligence Quotient" as originally defined.  Instead they measure how much obscure stuff you know and the kinds of word, logic, and spatial problems you can or can't solve.  That can change throughout your life as you learn (or forget) things.

  •  Forget the Tutoring. Merely Sharing Life in a (13+ / 0-)

    home of educated people with challenging hobbies and interests over the summer months is (well I was going to say "incalculably" but I guess the point of the diary is that it's been calculated!) a significant education in itself.

    It certainly was in our house. In fact the routine contact with our family environment helped lift the neighbor's kids out of a lower bluecollar destiny and show them the path to college and advanced degrees.

    Nobody else from that neighborhood ever made it up. You could hardly ask for a better controlled experiment.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:12:38 AM PDT

    •  I wouldn't necessarily forget the tutoring (7+ / 0-)

      When I was in college kids who could afford private tutors could struggle through classes that were more difficult for them.  Those of us who couldn't afford the extra help either made it or didn't. It's kind of scary to think about that classmate of mine whose parents were doctors and is now a doctor herself - she just wasn't that bright but she went on to med school and made it with lots of extra help that others wouldn't have had.  

    •  That's part of it as well. (7+ / 0-)

      The key point in the data is the differences in development during the school year vs. the summer vacation.  The household environment matters, yes, but if it were merely that then you'd expect to see the difference happen during the school year as well as over the summer.  But poor children outperform their rich classmates during the school year; it's during the summer when the poor children's learning stops (or actually slips), while the wealthy children learn at the same pace (or even a bit more) as during the school year.  It adds up to an extra two years of school by the time they graduate high school, and that's a huge edge.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

  •  Factor in that David occasionally beats Goliath? (9+ / 0-)

    Aha! Subject to which I have been giving some thought.

    A long response, therefor.

    An article by the very same Malcolm Gladwell in the NYer of May 11 2009 in the Annales of Innovation series. He tracked the success of underdog Davids who beat Goliath by breaking the rules that Goliath wrote, rules that blind G. to any other possibility and make him vulnerable to defeat by David. Granted, MG's examples are of individual strategy and collective execution. Granted, the underdogs often are more fit/train more. But according to your rules, the Goliaths have that age-based head start of life-long training opportunities.

    Some examples of MG's arguments w/ my comments below.

    My question is: Same author, contradictory or complementary arguments?

    Some of the examples are persuasive. For example:

    Case in Point: Lawrence of Arabia's rag tag Bedouin band success against the Turks. Thus, an attack on the gulf city  Aquba a water-borne invasion was expected. He a.attacked on its unprotected desert side and b. arrived there by taking a 600 mile detour to disguise his intentions.

    Another Case in point: Rick Pitino's  use of the unheard of strategy of full course press to make underdog teams made of 90-lb. weakling players at Providence College, Univ. of Kentucky and of Louisville into champions.

    Less persuasive:
    Jewish applicants to Ivy League Colleges in the 1920s. here Goliath uses secret rules to keep the rule breakers out. We know David (here literally David the Jew) wins. But a. it took a Goliath to change the rule book to do so and, speaking to your argument, b. these Davids were not beneficiaries of advanced age training.

  •  Good insight and so interesting - as a mother of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winterbanyan, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

    3, I have seen this over the years. There was a lot of encouragement/pushing to hold boys back who were born in the summer so they would have a chance to succeed. At one point, boys who were born even in the spring were held back an entire year. One interesting thing I noted was that the girls were sometimes a year and a half younger than boys in the same class.

    Sometimes in the drive for success we go so far it's ridiculous. And anyone who thinks there is a level playing field for economically disadvantaged children and wealthy ones is simply not in touch with reality.  

    ...if only animals could write...

    by Jinnia on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 07:23:01 AM PDT

  •  I consider Gladwell a hack (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Creates some lively arguments at home since my wife buys his bullcrap.

    Anytime anyone claims that everyone but them confuses correlation with causation raises a red flag in my mind.

    From what I've seen Gladwell tends to pick some concept he wants to pimp for his book then proceeds to cherry pick data points to support it. That different annecdotes he uses in other portions of his work contradict the premise he is pushing is ignored.

    Consider Bill Gates Gladwell makes a big point of how much time Gates was able to spend programming to get his 10k hours (another number pulled from Gladwells ROMA dataset) to explain Gates success. Yet Gates did not make his fortune as a programmer in fact he didn't write the program that served as the kernel of his eventual success he bought DOS from other programers then came up with the concept of liscensing and the rest as they say is history.

    Bill Gates success has a hell of a lot more to do with one small incite (the idea of liscencing operating systems) and hell of a lot of just plain old luck in coming up with the right idea at the right time.

    He also ignores genetics which the more science learns about human nature the more it becomes clear that gene's dictate most of human behavior.

    Seriously I don't care if a 5' person dedicated 10,000 or 100,000 hours to nothing but playing basketball they will never be as good as Michael Jordon was in his prime.

    There are just too many factors involved in success at any particular endevor to try and boil it down to some pop psy drivel.

    •  You're criticizing strawmen. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      winterbanyan, FarWestGirl

      Gladwell didn't make any of the arguments you raised.  Not one.  And you haven't refuted any of the scientific evidence on which Outliers relies.  You may not like the conclusions in Outliers, but you haven't disproven them.  You haven't even addressed them.  You've just torn down strawmen of your own creation.

      •  What scientific evidence? (0+ / 0-)

        Annectdotes are not evidence.

        Here since I don't feel like reinventing the wheel is a nice bit of debunking.


        The problem I have with both Malcolm and his freakonomics buddy are that they try to reduce highly complex issues down to a single data point and the universe simply does not work way.

        They are pop culture snake oil salesmen and I see their books as the sociological equivelent of fad diets you know the ones that say you can lose weight by eating one particular food and that you don't have to worry about little things like exercize or number of calories.

        The fact that some of his conclusions happen to reinforce aspects of my ideology does not grant automatic credibility to his meathods.

        •  Read the book. (0+ / 0-)

          Gladwell cites several scientific studies in his work.  He cites individual stories that share the gist of those studies, but his background is as a science reporter.  I've read the debunkers, and not one of them has scientific evidence to back their claims.  They just don't like his conclusions.

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