Review: “Carlos Doesn’t Remember” by Malcolm Gladwell
Anyone who’s ever heard me present knows I’m a very big fan of Malcolm Gladwell.
Well, he’s got a podcast now, and it has all the well-researched storytelling you come to expect from him.
In this episode on Carlos, it’s a gripping story on why the argument that people growing up in poverty just need to try harder is simply short-sighted. Grapple with this question for instance:
“What is the capitalization rate for children who have to cross gang lines to get to high school?”
Gladwell makes this great point: We like to believe that our country is great at capitalization. That is to say, we like to believe that if you work hard and make good choices in our country you can pull yourself out of poverty. But the reality is that these kids with boundless talent and potential live a life of horror and destitute poverty. He can’t afford to not do well in school. Even when your mother’s been beaten, your father and brother have been murdered, and you’ve witnessed your home burned down to the ground. He doesn’t get second chances.
“That’s the whole point of privilege: It buys you second chances.”
In classic Gladwell-style, he is a storyteller. I constantly find myself asking why is he telling this story, or telling us about this research? What’s the point? But he always gets there. It’s always crystal-clear in the end. And in this episode, it just happens to be heartbreaking.
It’s also just uncanny how he is able to draw connections. I imagine that he is just really great at asking good questions. Through those questions, he draws the connection from the efforts of college admissions officers to Carlos’ story elegantly and concisely. It’s quite impressive.