Haley Scholars Spring 2013 Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
The query “Are smart people overrated?” threads through Malcolm
Gladwell’s article “The Talent Myth.” By chronicling the strategies that
McKinsey & Company management-consulting firm offered corporations
like Enron, Gladwell explains that failed businesses quite possibly fell
short on account of the very thing that seemed to make them
outstanding—the talent mindset, or “the deep-seated belief that having
better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors”
One specific practice McKinsey promoted to businesses trying to place
“better talent at all levels” within respective companies was that of
differentiation and affirmation. This technique is a process of
assorting employees into tiers based on performance. Those in group one
would be employees who are “challenged and disproportionately rewarded,”
and the next group would include workers who “need to be encouraged and
affirmed” (Gladwell 360). The bottom group consists of those who are in
danger of losing their jobs due to lackluster performance. Quite
evident, each rank is distinguished and calls for divergent levels of
Although the article demonstrates how differentiation and affirmation
work in the business world, the concept is quite portable and apposite
in other institutions, like colleges and universities. In what ways do
differentiation and affirmation manifest in collegiate education
systems? Who benefits from the strategy, and for whom does it prove
In college education systems if you succeed in your classes they reward you with honors such as awards, but if you do bad they have no sympathy for you. The people who do bad or act they do not try in the eyes of a professor are less likely to get help or favors from the teachers. With little help and support from the university most of the bad students tend to drop out, while the good students get the benefit of having the teacher on their side.
At colleges and universities, students who excel in their classes are greatly rewarded. Things such as the Dean's List and the prospect of graduating with a degree encourage those students to maintain or increase their work ethics. Teachers are more likely to support those students who put forth an effort to get their education. Students who do not take the time to focus on their school work or get extra help from teachers have almost no hope of having teachers and administrators working to keep them in school.
It is obvious that the smartest and brightest students always recieve the most benefits from professors and administrators. I have been in many classes where a professor will inform students that those who work hard and are at the borderline of an A will get their grade bumped up. But in most cases, only the students with good grades will receive the one on one attention from the professors while failing students would be advised to drop out if the class.
In many college education systems, it is obvious that the smartest and brightest students always get the most attention from professors and administrators. Grade A students will receive rewards like making the Dean's List and getting scholarships for their good grades. While poor students are told that they are lazy and sometimes even advised to drop classes.
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