The Tipping Point

8/15/2005 01:00:00 am

I'm working my way through Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point. Jim, over at A New Adventure, has already read it. It's an interesting concept that may have important implications for teaching. From the back of the book .... [emphasis mine]

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate .... the tipping point phenomenon is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.

Our culture (North America) doesn't really hold "education" in very high regard. Education is way down the list after "style," "flash," "looks," sports stars, rock stars and movie stars. Take, for example, the way the news is reported on television. We don't really have news programs any more, they're called news shows. How does a classroom teacher turn a kid on to lifelong learning in the face of this overwhelming media drenched pop culture we live in? How can we tip our classroom culture over to genuinely valuing learning for the sake of learning?

It seems to me that teachers are primarily in the business of disseminating ideas. Imagine what our classes would look like if all parents and students held education as one of their top three cultural values. Can we tip over the dissemination of this idea? If not throughout North American culture then how about just our individual classroom cultures?

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