Piaget, Vygotsky, and Erickson all held different yet highly influential views about human development. Malcolm Gladwell the author of “Outliers” embraced many of these theories to write his book about America’s educational system. By looking at concepts of child development he determined that America has it all wrong in regards to providing education that compliments developmental milestones.
Gladwell stated, "the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work." (Gladwell, 2008). He feels that family and cultural influences play a large role in how successful a person will become. This theory is most closely related to Vygotsky’s theory that implies that culture, language, and social interaction are key influencers in development. Gladwell relates that by addressing culture in schools the level of academic success would surely rise(Gladwell, 2008). It would seem that Gladwell and Vygotsky think very similarly. Erickson also recognizes that people can change due to these influencers, however he strongly feels that the basis of who we are is inborn. He proposes that humans all develop in predetermined stages with learning brought on by crisis. An example of this can be seen in Gladwell’s book when he examines a hockey team with team mates born within a year apart (Gladwell, 2008). Gladwell observes that some of the players have not hit the same developmental stages as their older teammates suggesting that Erickson’s theory may have some merit. This would also apply to Piaget’s theory that suggests children have “bursts” of development that contribute to maturity. This may account as to why some of the children were so much more ahead of the others.
Arthur Jensen was also very intrigued in determining why there are such diverse learning differences in children. He feels that childhood learning can be broke down into two separate levels, associative learning and conceptual learning (Jensen, 1973). This theory most closely relates to the theories expressed by Piaget. Piaget also speaks of "cognitive constructivism" in which children are influenced through accommodation and assimilation. Jensen is not as focused on developmental stages as Erickson, but like Erickson feels that genes may indeed be influencers (Jensen, 1973). Jensen’s theory disputes Vygotsky schools of thought in associative learning by concluding that all races have equal ability to achieve this type of learning. Jensen does, however agree that race and culture may play a part in conceptual learning. Some have even accused Jensen as being racist because of this theory.
In conclusion, both Gladwell and Jensen have embraced theories by Piaget, Vygotsky and Erikson by carefully analyzing them and using real life examples to either support or question the theories set forth by these well-known developmental theories.
DONALDSON M (1984) Children's Minds London Fontana
Hayslip, Bert JR., et al. (2006). Developmental Stage Theories. Chapter in:Michel Hersen & Jay C. Thomas (ed): Comprehensive Handbook Of Personality and Psychopathology.
Jensen. A. R. (1973). Educational differences. London. Methuen.
Gladwell, Malcolm (2008). Outliers. Little, Brown and Company. pp. VII–IX.
SATTERLY D (1987) "Piaget and Education" in R L Gregory (ed.) The Oxford Companion to the Mind Oxford, Oxford University Press