[Outliers Reading Group]
In chapter eight, “Rice Paddies and Math Tests,” Malcolm Gladwell continues to explore his claim that cultures can have significant impacts on various aspects of success. He takes an in-depth look at the work ethics of farmers in southern China and reveals how rice cultivation can be an intricate, laborious, and, if done well, rewarding process for an entire family. And over long periods of time, the processes and culture of rice cultivation appear to yield benefits to a people well beyond the farms.
According to Gladwell, rice farmers, the majority of whom have limited resources, improved the returns on their labor by “becoming smarter, by being better managers of their own time, and by making better choices.” In other words, more than simply working hard, they worked intelligently and strategically. Gladwell proposes that cultures “shaped by the tradition of wet-rice agriculture and meaningful work” tend to produce students with the fortitude to “sit still long enough” to find solutions to time-consuming and complex math problems, for instance.
What did you view as most useful about the topics that Gladwell covered? Why or how so? Please identify the page number for the concept or idea that you cite.