David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

The Advantage of Losing a Parent at an Early Age

  • Here we start with the feeling one gets when a bomb goes off nearby and they are not injured. This explains why Londoners were so resilient after months of bombing by the Germans during World War II. These are called remote misses. Several studies also show that eminent people are far more likely to lose a parent at an early age. This includes American presidents from Washington to Obama. Unfortunately, the same is true for prisoners. Surviving a bombing or the loss of a parent can either build you up or break you down.

The Trickster Approach

  • This chapter tells part of the story related to the Civil Rights movement in Alabama in 1963. The police lead by Bull Conner had all the power, but Martin Luther King and this team tricked them into looking bad and bringing negative national attention to their efforts. A focus is a photograph of a police dog attacking a protestor that the protesting team set up for this very reason. As it turned out, the protestor was an experienced dog handler and knew how to stage this photograph to make it looked like he was being attacked without protecting himself.

The Problem with Authority

  • In order to be effective, authority has to seem legitimate to the people being ruled, be they, children or criminals. This requires three things. First, people need to think they have a voice. Second, laws and rules have to be predictable with a sense that they won’t arbitrarily change. Finally, the authority has to be perceived as fair. When laws are applied in the absence of legitimacy, you are likely to get backlash rather than obedience.
  • In this chapter Gladwell reinforces his point with stories from the troubles in Northern Ireland that started in 1969, and a more recent story from Brooklyn, New York involving innovative police work. He also shows how legitimacy is necessary if teachers want to maintain order in their classrooms. Good parents understand this as well.
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