The Trouble with Geniuses

Published: 2019-12-10 07:30:00
902 words
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In the introduction of his book called Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell defines an outlier as an object that is located away from or classified differently from the main body (pg 2). The title of the book explains its content clearly. Moreover, he divides it into chapters that discuss different aspects that contribute to ones success. In chapters 3 and 4, Gladwell focuses the readers attention on a genius as an outlier. He uses clear examples of previous studies done on geniuses to aid the reader in understanding that the path to success takes more than just having a high IQ. Gladwells purpose in these two chapters is to show that the family unit plays a significant role in peoples success.

Chapter 3 marks the first part of the Trouble with Geniuses. Gladwell begins the chapter with a character called Christopher Langan. According to the anchor of the television show, one vs. 100, many call Langan the smartest in America with an IQ of 195. The reporter is amazed by Langan intellect, but Langan claims that it could be a hindrance (pg 27). He explains that to have a high IQ, one tends to specialize and think deep thoughts while avoiding trivia. Gladwell lays bare the life of Langan as a genius from his early years. Apparently, he describes him as a child who had a high passion for scholarly accuracy and thoroughness that set a high standard for accomplishment.

Gladwell continues his illustration by introducing Lewis Terman, a young professor at Stanford University who specialized in intelligence testing. Terman began his study on geniuses after he met a remarkable boy named Henry Cowell. Cowell had been raised in poverty and had remained unschooled since the age of seven because he failed to get along well with other children. Nevertheless, despite his lack of education he played beautiful music. Terman had perceived Cowell as intelligent, and when he did test him, he had an IQ of 140. Therefore, Terman proceeded to search for other diamonds in the rough (pg 29). He identified a group of 1,470 children whose IQ averaged over 140. That team of young geniuses came to be known as Termites and comprised the subjects of the excellent psychological studies in history. For the rest of his life, Terman tested, measured, and analyzed the geniuses from school, into marriage, and work-life. According to Terman, the IQ was the most important aspect for an individuals success, an idea that many people believe until today.

However, Gladwell differs with this notion by arguing that intelligence only matters up to a certain point in the success of an individual. He uses an example of basketball players whereby he claims that being tall is a necessity to being a successful basketball player. However, when all players are tall enough, other aspects come into play to make a successful player, for instance, speed, ball-handling skills, and shooting touch. Similarly, Gladwell uses a divergent test on several candidates to enable the reader to understand his argument deeper. According to results of this analysis, Gladwell argues that it takes more than a high IQ to be successful. That critical trait of having practical intelligence contributes to a significant part to being successful.

In chapter four, Gladwell introduces the aspect of families as the source of practical intelligence. It is the kind of knowledge different from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ (pg, 42). He re-introduces Langan as a child brought up in poverty. He was the brightest among his other brothers and even managed to join Reed College after graduating from high school. However, he lost the scholarship in the second year because his mother forgot to sign the financial statement. A few years later, he managed to join Montana State University. Nevertheless, he dropped out because he failed to negotiate successfully into having his classes changed from morning to afternoon. Despite his high IQ, Langan remained unschooled and never had the opportunity to be published in scholarly journals.

Gladwell continues to write that the unfortunate story of Langan reminds him of Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who headed the American effort to create the nuclear bomb during Second World War. Like Langan, Oppenheimer was a genius since his childhood. He attended Harvard and Cambridge University where he pursued a doctorate in physics. However, his teacher, Peter Brackett, forced him to attend experimental science despite the fact that Oppenheimers strengths and interest lay in theoretical physics. Accordingly, Oppenheimer developed depression, which led him to make poison intended to kill Brackett. Nevertheless, he did not succeed, but he got probation and regular sessions with a psychiatrist (pg, 40). Twenty years later, Oppenheimer was appointed the scientific director of the Manhattan Project. He possessed practical intelligence that helped him talk his way through the Groves.

According to Langan and Oppenheimers illustration, an experiment by a sociologist named Annette Lareau and a further study on the Termites, Gladwell argues that children from wealthy families are more successful than those from poor households. Apparently, the free support children get from their families play a significant role in helping them develop practical intelligence. Christopher Langans mother did not care enough to sign her financial statement, which subjected Langan to his lack of academic progress. However, Oppenheimer grew in a wealthy family that fostered and assessed his talents, opinions, and skills. From these illustrations, the reader understands that practical intelligence, learned from parents, plays a significant role in the success of an outlier.


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