Last week we introduced Edwin, a recent college grad who will be pursuing his Ph.D. in American Studies this fall. However, as Edwin told us, academics weren’t always his strong suit. He explained that it wasn’t that he was incapable of producing quality work, but more so that he simply wasn’t putting in 100% effort. There so many kids who, like Edwin, don’t necessarily achieve academically, but it’s not because they aren't academically gifted. And, unlike Edwin, many of those kids don’t attend well-funded high schools where opportunities are more readily available to their students.
Hearing the conversation Alejandro had with Edwin, I was reminded of a podcast episode a friend recently recommended: Carlos Doesn’t Remember, part of the Revisionist History podcast. The episode is a great reminder of just how much talent is left on the table each year. It brings up the importance of capitalization: “the percentage of people in any group who are able to reach their potential”.
In this episode, focused on the personal experiences of one student, Malcom Gladwell explores a simple question: Is the United States good at capitalization? And if not, what does that mean for talented students, like Carlos, who might be the best and the brightest, but who might never be given the opportunity to showcase their abilities?
As we mentioned back when we first started this project, we truly believe that our society would benefit from the perspectives that many first-gen students bring to the table. As we’ve mentioned, we don’t necessarily believe that each and every person should go to college. We strongly believe that each and every person should do what works best for them. However, for students who want to attend college—they should be given the opportunity to excel. This access to opportunity is the mark of a democratic society.
Our society is rapidly evolving, and our most pressing issues would benefit from a healthy dose of fresh perspectives. I find it difficult to believe that the talent isn’t out there. Carlos’ story confirms this. Unlike Carlos, most kids aren't lucky enough to meet someone like Eric Eisner to help them, to advocate for them. If what it takes for kids like Carlos to succeed is such an extraordinary level of serendipity, we should seriously rethink the way in which we conceptualize education.
If you want to hear Carlos' story, click here.
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Malcom Gladwell, Interview with Carlos, Revisionist History, podcast audio, July 6, 2016. http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/04-carlos-doesnt-remember