David and Goliath: The must read book for educators [Book Review]

I'm so glad I listened to David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Malcolm Gladwell is a masterful storyteller and the way he reads this book is just awesome.

Who should read David and Goliath?

If you or anyone in your family is dyslexic – you should read this book. If you are a minority or advise minorities on their career and education choices – you should read this book. If you are fascinated by interesting stories and little (or unknown facts) about education, success, and achievement – you should read this book. Whether you make class size decisions or just give kids advice, this is an important read that will make you think.

My initial thoughts and Book Review of David and Goliath

[spoiler alert: If you are reading this book or haven't read it yet, you may choose to skip this section and scroll to the end.]

I must say, I had no idea what to think when it started off telling the story of David and Goliath and then saying it was “all wrong.” It wasn't really, but the point that what Goliath's strengths seemed to be actually pointed at his weakness (he theorizes that Goliath likely had a pituitary gland tumor which is why he needed a shield bearer to guide him and told David he was coming at him with sticks – a double vision caused by the disease.) David's agile rock throwing with the equivalent speed of a handgun – actually made it so that his victory — even in the face of visual proof otherwise — was actually assured.

Affirmative action is hurtful?

Then, Gladwell goes on to prove that sometimes we think we're helping someone by “helping” them get into a college “above” their ability when, in fact, we're destroying their hope of success in the field they may love. (aka Affirmative action is having the opposite effect of what is intended).

Dyslexia is beneficial?

Then, he actually convincingly proves that in many ways, we might WISH for our kids to have a learning disability and dyslexia because the effort required to overcome those things actually will make them more successful and cites the astounding statistic that 1/3 of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Many may start viewing special needs kids differently with the powerful stories of uber-successful dyslexics were were cut ups and malcontents in school.

You can have too small of a class?

He even tackles class size with an interesting revelation that the ideal class size may actually be somewhere between 18-24 and that super small class sizes may not be as good as you might think but that there is a limit where a large class size (somewhere around 30 perhaps) really does negatively impact student learning. These thoughts actually made me think and realize that I am happiest and have a great medium when my class size is somewhere around 18 — I do agree with that one as a teacher.

Art and the Underdog: Meet the French Impressionists

This book is a best seller for good reason. Gladwell gets better with each book and there were several times — like when he talks about the French Impressionist movement's decision to go out of the Salon into a private exhibit — that I am completely in awe.

Educators should read “David and Goliath” even if it is only to respond to it

Because of the heavy relation of this book to education — it is throughout the book – this is a great read for education thought leaders and decisionmakers at all levels. I also think guidance counselors and college professors should read it.

In particular, I do hope that some research and analysis will be done to either refute or prove Gladwell's analysis because it is so powerfully, convincingly rendered that I predict that his words will impact education policy decisions throughout countries where this book is read. That, and the fact that it is already a best seller, makes this an important book to read, even if it is only to disagree.

I highly recommend this book to educators both because it is entertaining and informative but also because it may just change everything you thought you knew about some important topics in education. Any time people talk about education, it is the responsibility of real, practicing educators to add their sentiments via the outlets we now have. (As I have just done.) Researchers have an imperative to respond if their research shows otherwise because few of their papers if any will ever have the readership that this book is getting. What gets read gets believed unless someone speaks otherwise.

David and Goliath — my recommendation — get this book now for you or for that well-read educator or uncle who loves a good story full of controversial conclusions.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Jacqueline Shlecter December 12, 2013 - 3:23 pm

I love Malcolm Gladwell’s books. The Tipping Point was my first – I found his writing style so engaging and easy to read. As a former teacher (still in education) I’m so excited his next book is relevant to education.

His point about saying it’s ok for kids to have some kind of disability (though aggressive) to have much credibility. I’m a firm believer in how important persistence and grit are in succeeding, and though a huge challenge to overcome that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, I can understand his argument.

coolcatteacher December 12, 2013 - 3:46 pm

Yes, and the arguments seem to be validated by research.

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