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Revisionist History

From the Vietnam War to inequality in higher education to free throw shooting in the NBA, Malcolm Gladwell tells a compelling story in each podcast while teasing out the deeper meaning. Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History allows him to explore shorter story arcs that might not otherwise make it to a larger audience. Each podcast features a well told story entertaining enough to keep your attention, but simple enough to listen to while doing another activity – I found the podcast to be a good accompaniment to mowing the lawn and working out.

I think too often we make up our minds about something that happened and then we move on without pausing to ask, “Wait a minute – is that actually what happened? Do we really understand it?” The Lady Vanishes

Gladwell is at his best during his three-part examination of opportunity in America. Though he finds a dysfunctional system that prioritizes food over financial aid and growing endowments over raising opportunity, it’s a deeply important story.

There’s only one solution. If you’re looking at liberal arts colleges, don’t go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your kids go to Bowdoin. Don’t let your friends go to Bowdoin. Don’t give money to Bowdoin or to any other school that serves amazing food in its dining hall. Because every time you support a school that spends its money on amazing food, every time you cast a vote in favor of eggplant Parmesan pancakes and lobster bakes and venison during deer season. You’re making it harder and harder for someone like Catherine Hill [President of Vassar] to create opportunities for poor kids. Suck it up and go to Vassar. Send a message to the Bowdoins of the world about what really matters.

But Gladwell isn’t just moralizing. He’s examining the way the world works and the competing ways we view it. This theme of looking more closely at these stories allows him to move directly from this powerful arc on unequal access to opportunity to the nature of creative genius as examined through the song Hallelujah. Passionate and invested, Gladwell seems truly interested in his stories and the ideas they bring to life – making the podcast even more enjoyable listening.

Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History

Next time: Baby Books reviewed by a special guest!

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Published in Brian Reads Education Monday Review