Tuesday, May 12, 2009

David Brooks copies Malcolm Gladwell's homework and calls it his own

Three of the last four columns by David Brooks in the NY Times borrow directly from the work of Malcolm Gladwell -- and not once does Brooks mention Gladwell or cite him in any way. What a hack.

A few weeks ago (May 1, 2009), against my better judgment I started to read David Brooks' column, "Genius: The Modern View" which makes the case that genius is not the product of a divine spark but rather the result of persistent hard work. I thought, 'oh how nice, Brooks is going to talk about Gladwell's piece "Late Bloomers" from the October 20, 2008 edition of the New Yorker (which came out 6 months earlier) and has much the same theme. Or perhaps Brooks would cite Gladwell's work in Outliers which makes the case in chapter 2 that it really takes about 10,000 hours to master anything.' Sure enough Brooks in "Genius the Modern View" cites the example of Mozart to make his case just as Gladwell discusses both Mozart and Cezanne in his piece "Late Bloomers." Brooks even cites the "10,000 hour rule" as the key to understanding this phenomenon just as Gladwell does on pages 35 to 68 in Outliers. But I reached the end of the article and discovered that even though Brooks borrows both his thesis and main illustrations from Gladwell -- he never mentions Gladwell once in his article.

Then a week later it happened again! David Brooks' column, "The Harlem Miracle" appeared on May 8, 2009 in the NY Times. In it he talks about the remarkable gains in student achievement produced by the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children's Zone. The thesis of the article is that with massive numbers of hours of instruction in the proper school setting, children from disadvantaged backgrounds can perform as well as children from more advantageous backgrounds. Like an idiot I thought to myself, 'oh how nice, Brooks will surely talk about Gladwell's findings on pages 250 to 269 in Outliers about the results of the Knowledge is Power Program in the South Bronx -- which showed these same results (but a decade earlier.)' But once again, even though Brooks' thesis copied Gladwell's earlier (and better) writing on the topic -- Brooks never mentions Gladwell in his article. It is as if Brooks did a "find and replace" -- taking Gladwell's earlier work and replacing "Knowledge is Power Program" with "Harlem Children's Zone" and replacing "the South Bronx" (where Gladwell's chapter is set) with "Harlem."

Finally, and this is starting to get ridiculous, Brooks "borrowed" from Gladwell yet again this week (May 12, 2009) in his column, "They Had it Made." This time Brooks looks at the results from a longitudinal study called, "The Grant Study" which followed the Harvard class of 1942 throughout their entire life span. The only problem is that Brooks column mirrors Gladwell's analysis of the Terman longitudinal study which Gladwell writes about on pages 73 to 115 in Outliers. For the 3rd time in 4 weeks Brooks ripped off an idea from Gladwell -- and never once mentioned Gladwell in the article.

Look, David Brooks is smart enough not to directly plagiarize Gladwell and pass it off as his own writing. But he is basing his entire workload for the past month on the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell and not giving Gladwell any credit. What do you bet that Brooks read Outliers over the holidays but by now he's forgotten where the ideas came from and so he's just passing them off as his own? Can the NY Times please just fire David Brooks and just syndicate Gladwell's original work from the New Yorker instead.


will said...

he just did it again

RFK Action Front said...

Hi Will:

Thanks for the comment and the link! Yeah David Brooks is just a hopeless hack. I have no doubt that coming up with ideas for a regular column is difficult. But it's really quite shocking that he doesn't reveal his sources.