Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Outliers & Accumulative Advantages

[Outliers Reading Group

Gladwell’s chapter “The Matthew Effect,” a title which refers to the biblical Scripture the Parable of Talents, illuminates how the talented greatly increase their talents. Biblical and popular retellings of the parable of talents often concentrate on the lesson that if talented people do not use or maximize their gifts, those gifts could be relinquished. But Gladwell, a writer always interested in providing an alternative take on familiar ideas, concentrates on the gifts talented people receive prior to attaining their most notable achievements.

Gladwell draws on a body of research from various scholars and reveals that all-star hockey players, for example, do not simply become all-stars because of their accomplishments as professional athletes. Instead, their achievements are rooted to a larger system of rewards offered early in their childhoods and which continually compound, a process known as “accumulative advantage.” To illustrate his point, Gladwell shows how, on average, young people born in the early months of a given year get a literal and significant head start over their peers who are born in later months of the same year in youth hockey and soccer leagues.

A cursory search of “accumulative advantage” on the internet connects that concept to inequality, showing how those fortunate enough to be born or situated in the right time and place receive tremendous advantages and benefits.

What do you think about the workings of accumulative advantage? Or better yet, how should we be thinking and talking about apparently hidden systems of rewards or disadvantages that exist at universities like SIUE?

25 comments:

Alicia Sears said...

I believe that the system of accumulative advantage is unfair because it does not allow people the same opportunity. Therefor, it is harder, sometimes even impossible for someone to come up who has been given a disadvantage from the start than someone who was given a head start as a child. While at the same time I believe that here at SIUE and other colleges as well you are able to break that cycle and turn over a new leaf. You are given new opportunities to prove yourself and show what you are capable of. By getting involved in on campus activities and reaching out for help you can put yourself ahead.
I am Alicia S.

Ta'Mara Woodson said...

I've never payed attention to any accumulative adavntages. I think it's unfair. I also compared it to my life, being born in February, I was in gifted and honors classes.
I think we should consider things like cut off dates and such here at SIUE and other universities. We should let the fact be known that they can be advantages/disadvantages to students.

Jaleelah Muhammad said...

It took me a while to notice exactly what was wrong with the presented system but when they pointed it out, I found it really interesting. I never thought or heard of accumulative advantage before. Makes you wonder if other industries do the same.

All the potential stored in the other children that were born outside of the desired months was disregarded and I think that's unfair.
Jaleelah M.

Jaleelah Muhammad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi Looker said...

Accumulative advantage was a new concept to me. After the idea was first presented I felt a little skeptical but after reading further into the research Gladwell did I found the topic really interesting. I think it is very unfair that students are given better opportunity at a young age not for being gifted but for being older and therefore having more brain development. Although these children are given greater opportunity and have a higher likely hood to succeed at the college level, there are things such as tutoring. At the college level with the will to succeed I believe that students whether given greater opportunity or not can persevere.

Anonymous said...

I've never really thought about thing either. It does seem unfair but maybe it's just how things are supposed to be. Maybe it's for the better because it helps us to ind out niche in life. We go to college to try and figure out what we want to do in life and essentially who we are. I think most of the time it probably works out that what we are good at is what we enjoy and what we are interested in.At least we could all hope.
I am Kelsey W.

Terri McFadden said...

I agree that the system of accumulative advantage is unfair but there is no way to stop this advantage. If not because of the academic maturity needed than because of organization.
In college, people are placed together not based on grade level or school systems but because of chosen classes or requirements. This is a good system because it does not promote an accumulative advantage.

Jasmine Williams said...

I've never realized the prevalence of accumulative advantage. But being born in October and being of the oldest in my classes growing up, I guess that would be the natural response.
I think that although accumulative advantage starts at a young age, it becomes less of an issue as we grow up. In college, all students have numerous opportunities to get ahead and use resources that could give them an advantage.

Jasmine W.

Paris Smith said...

I think that the system is unfair. I compared it to my own life because I was born in January and have been the "smart" one in my family because I went to the a top high school and I took AP and Honors courses. I just worked hard for my grades, I did not think of any advantages or disadvantages.
I do not think that those exist here at SIUE because everyone has the same opportunity. Everyone can start fresh and become the person they want to be regardless of the obstacles in their past.

Mikaela Suggs said...

Although many seem to think of accumulative advantage as unfair, I think of it as a blessing. In life, nothing is fair. Some people have the upper hand to others simply because of God given talent or their family being able to fund "necessary" training, tutoring, etc in order for that individual to reach success. If everyone had an accumulative advantage, the society would become average because what we think of as "great" now would become the norm. For those of us that weren't born during the early months of year, we may have a disadvantage compared to others, but at the same time everyone has the right and should have the will to become great regardless of the circumstance. Because college is an even playing ground, people should use this time as their shot to excel, no matter what college/university they attend!

Olivia Slater said...

I have certainly noticed the idea of accumulative advantage throughout my educational career. I was at a disadvantage, being born in July, which made me one of the youngest members of my class. Although I was in honors programs, people that were eight months older than I, were in the same class. I always felt that it gave the same amount of attention to children with an unfair advantage. Here at SIUE, the same concept stands, however, it is less prominent. The younger class members have had time to develop and grow throughout the years, making it more of an even playing filed by the time they reach SIUE.

Tayla Myles said...

I agree that the accumulative advantage is unfair, but there is really no way to stop it unless we get rid of cut off times altogether. I too wonder if this system is present for people who are CEO's and presidents of companies. SIUe does not really place people together based on cut off dates or grades but on what classes they need to take. SIUe is more of an even playing field.

Tashawna N. said...

When it comes to accumulative advantage, it is not something that people think about until it is pointed out to them. An accumulative advantage is very unfair to students who were not born in those selected months. After seeing how it is pointed out in the story it makes me wonder as a May baby how much more could I know that I do not if I was born just a few months before.

Here at SIUe as far as an accumulative advantage goes I do not believe there is one and if there is it is not that prominent as when we were in grade school because here everyone is pretty much given the same opportunities. I also believe that if students are given more of an advantage then they should make the best of it while they can but for students who do not receive that advantage I believe that it should just encourage us to work just as hard with the resources that are provided to us all around campus.

Tashawna N. said...

When it comes to accumulative advantage, it is not something that people think about until it is pointed out to them. An accumulative advantage is very unfair to students who were not born in those selected months. After seeing how it is pointed out in the story it makes me wonder as a May baby how much more could I know that I do not if I was born just a few months before.
Here at SIUe as far as an accumulative advantage goes I do not believe there is one and if there is it is not that prominent as when we were in grade school because here everyone is pretty much given the same opportunities. I also believe that if students are given more of an advantage then they should make the best of it while they can but for students who do not receive that advantage I believe that it should just encourage us to work just as hard with the resources that are provided to us all around campus.
Tashawna N.

Brianna Reed said...

Before starting this book, I had never heard the term accumulative advantage, but the concept seemed familiar. As I continued to read I saw the term self-fulfilling prophecy which I am familiar with, and which incorporates the same basic idea as accumulative advantage. As far as something like sports goes, I do not believe that implementing a system such as accumulative advantage is a big deal. When applying the idea to education on the other hand, I believe it can be very detrimental. Starting off at an early age, it should never be assumed that an individual is incapable of handling a more challenging environment simply because of their age. As stated in the book "maturity should not be confused with ability". If one is never challenged, how can it be determined what they can and cannot do? Practicing this only limits possible opportunity for growth, personal motivation, and expectations of oneself. At the university level, I believe that it could be just as harmful. Although it may provide encouragement for those who receive the advantage, it can create the opposite effect for those who don't. I believe that everyone should receive equal opportunity to take the more accelerated and challenging path. After some experience, and assessing ones own level of ability and goals, they and only they, should be able to determine whether or not they stay on that path.

YaQkeha Witherspoon said...

I agree that accumulative advantage is unfair. But, I never thought about the concept until it was presented to me by Gladwell in the book. I found all the information and data he gave about the soccer and hockey players to be interesting. And I also agreed with his idea that schools should group children with other peers that have the same maturity levels as themselves and teach them that way.
Here at SIUE, I don't believe that we have hidden rewards or disadvantages because everyone is offered the same opportunity to learn. And there are several programs put in place that can help those that are struggling if they are utilized.

Tiera Williams said...

Accumulative advantage is something that I've always noticed, but just simply referred to as nothing more than favoritism. I never realized how early it starts, how global the issue is or how it can restrict people at such a young age. I look at it as the reason there will always be a vast difference between those at the bottom and those at the top.
After reading the first chapter I feel like I have a better understanding of why the world is the way it is, and that I'm not the only one who has always felt like those who are ahead are just ahead because they started off a little better. However, at SIUe I don't feel like accumulative advantage is something that can really be used as an excuse for little to no success in comparison to those who succeed. We all have the same resources, those who use them just show they want it more. This to can be said about all things if you think about it. Tiera W.

Tracee Williams said...

I don't believe in the accumulative advantage. Me personally, I feel that I am ahead some of my peers that were born months ahead of me. In my opinion, intelligence and skills comes from time and effort and every person is afforded that opportunity but not all take the time to act upon it.

Universities and colleges gives every student the same opportunities. In college there are so many varying ages that there can not be cases of accumulative advantage. After you have reached college, age is no longer the factor in skill and intelligence. Obtaining a degree and career is the main focus.

cassidy oliver said...

The system of accumulative advantage is one of the many paradigms that people do not know exist. While it may give advantages in sports and to kids in their younger years, I Ultimately think that the playing field can be leveled out, especially academically. For example, while some people may be "naturally" smart, others who study harder and don't rely solely on their natural ability will have the better GPA's. While it is an unfair, there is nothing that can be done. The people who do reap the disadvantages of the system just has to work harder, just like others with disadvantages.

Anonymous said...

I've never even noticed that we had accumulative advantages in our society. But now that I know I think that by having these accumulative advantages are excluding all the other people who have the potential to achieve the same things as the "successful" people. I think the best way to try to talk about this phenomenon in Universities is probably by trying to provide the students with "equal" education and "equal" opportunity as far as extra credit and extra help.
Brittany P.

Anonymous said...

Before this I have never even heard of accumulative advantages. But now that
I know what it is I think that accumulative advantages exclude some people from achieving the same things as the "successful" people in the world. I think accumulative advantages stunts a persons growth in a way and coming off as "you don't fit this norm so you cant be a part of this thing". I think as far as talking about accumulative advantages in Universities, the University could try to provide the students with "equal" amounts of opportunities and services. These opportunities could be extra credit and other services to help the student advance because by this point the school is providing the students with ample resources making the extent of success for the student to decide.

Brittany P. said...

Before this book I did not know what accumulative advantages were. Once actually understanding what accumulative advantages were and how they excluded some people from certain things it made me start to think about how our society is inhibiting the potential success of others all because of their birthdays and date cutoffs. I think Universities could try to talk to the students about all the opportunities that they have and colleges could make this available to all of the students. Also I think that by doing this the colleges are providing all of the students with ample resources ultimately making the students decision on how successful they want to be.
Brittany P.

Brittany P. said...

Before reading the first chapter I didn't know what accumulative advantage were. Now that I know what accumulative advantages are and what they do to people, I think they are inhibiting other peoples potential. I think these accumulative advantages are inhibiting other peoples potential to succeed like the "successful" people. Also I think the birthday cutoffs are also sending the message to others that if their birthdays does not fall in =to this certain set of months then they are not guaranteed the same success as the others. I think Universities could give all the students the same opportunities so that they'll be "equal". I feel that by this point it'll be the students choice to decide how successful they want to be.

Brittany P. said...

Before reading the first chapter I did not know what accumulative advantages were. Now that I know what they are I think they inhibit a person degree of success and slows the persons potential. Because of the cut off dates for certain activities, the other people who have the same potential as the people whose birthdays come months before are encouraged to pursue something else instead of expanding on their talent. I think by having these cutoff dates our society is discouraging others and sending the message that if you fall into this certain category than you will be successful and if you don't fall into this category then you will not be successful. I think Universities could help improve this situation by providing all students with "equal" opportunities to improve and expand on their college experience. By doing this, colleges are giving the students the option of deciding how successful they want to be and what direction they want to take that.
Brittany P.

Jacquesia H. said...

Accumulative advantage is unfair. It sets people up in positions to where they can become successful with less work than those born without those advantages.