in chapter 6 of david and goliath gladwell

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In chapter 6 of David and Goliath, Gladwell shows us how Davids can sometimes outsmart Goliaths with some good old fashioned trickery. He tells us about the trickster hero in folktales, particularly in those of American slaves, and suggests that the outcomes of the Civil Rights movement were inspired by and parallel to the outcomes of many of those stories. Dr. King and his followers, Gladwell explains, begged to not be thrown into the briar patch — but of course the briar patch is exactly where they wanted to be.

A big concern about the events in Birmingham, though, is that Wyatt Walker used children as a key part of the protest and turned them into likely police targets. Walker and King understood how this would look to the rest of the world once Connor and his police started pushing back: it would look like police attacking and arresting children. To the rest of the world, the white Birmingham police force would appear to be unfair and unmerciful, and as a result, more people would soon be on Dr. King’s side of the movement.

As Gladwell asks on page 186, “Does Wyatt Walker’s behavior make you uncomfortable?” What happened in Birmingham is considered a major turning point in the Civil Rights movement, but do the ends justify the means? Is it right to use children on the front lines for your cause, even if your cause is noble and just? Was it right for Walker to take on the role of the trickster hero if it meant involving children and placing them in harm’s way?

Obviously, there is no clear answer here, but I would like you to argue your position on this issue using support from Gladwell’s book and anything you already know about the American Civil Rights movement.

Also, if you follow current events and would like to incorporate this week’s UN speech by 16 year-old Greta Thunberg and the resulting criticism of her as part of your answer, please do. Is it right to have a 16 year old scold the members of the UN? Or, like the children in Birmingham, should she not be brought into the fray?

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