I have been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell for over ten years since reading his book “The Tipping Point”. Although he is often seen a smug and an intellectual for the masses I enjoy is ability to communicate difficult and controversial topics into a form that is both entertaining and digestible. His New podcast “Revisionist History” confronts topics that are often glossed over in the news and takes a much deeper analytical investigation into the story. His ability to voice over, mix music and add sound effects creates a deep sense of immersion in his story telling.
In this particular episode Gladwell tell the story of two elite colleges Bowdoin College in Maine and Vassar College in upstate New York. Both are roughly the same size and have approximately the same operating budget. But Bowdoin has invested heavily in amenities of the student including and top ranked chef who specializes in organic gourmet food at the cafeteria and Vassar has invested instead into financial aid programs for minorities and economically disadvantaged youths. Gladwell attacks Bowdoin College viscously explaining that all universities receive federal funds so in some ways we the tax payer are paying for these privileged students gourmet meals while Vassar is going what should be done with tax payer money and that is give a top notch education to any student who is academically gifted enough to be admitted to Vassar regardless of income.
I enjoyed this story not just because it was brave of Gladwell to take on a University and their practices with financial aid but also his ability to tell this story using interview, sound effects, music and data. I read later that he was under fire from Bowdoin University for defamation but that does not negate the real thesis and that is what is the ethos of higher education. He believes that a University education is not a privilege but should be a right of every high school student who has the ability to go to college and that the universities should be doing everything in their power to make this happen and that includes cutting back on superfluous spending on things like gourmet meals and world class chefs.
I hope that audio only formats for story telling will continue in the future. Audio mixing software now comes with all PC and Mac operating systems this will allow more amateurs access to not on the tools to build but also the platforms to disseminate their stories.