This year M.U.W. is proud to select journalist Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success for The Common Reading Initiative. The entire MUW campus is encouraged to read and discuss this important book.
The Common Reading Initiative (CRI) at Mississippi University for Women draws on our rich literary heritage and builds on MUW’s tradition of excellence in teaching to:
- Develop intellectual community among students, staff, and faculty outside the traditional classroom,
- Foster intellectual curiosity, inquiry, and responsibility among all groups,
- Deepen understanding of issues raised in significant books, and
- Provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage socially in meaningful ways.
Mr. Gladwell has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award, and in 2005 he was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference," (2000) , "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" (2005), and "Outliers: The Story of Success" (2008) all of which were number one New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, "What the Dog Saw" (2009) is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered business, science, and then served as the newspaper's New York City bureau chief. He graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a degree in history. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York City.
MUW's CENTER FOR CREATIVE LEARNING IS OFFERING A SERIES OF FACILITATED FACE TO FACE DISCUSSION GROUPS AND ONE ONLINE DISCUSSION GROUP THROUGH BLACKBOARD. THESE ARE FOR MUW STAFF, STUDENTS, FACULTY, ALUMS, COMMUNITY MEMBERS, FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO TALK ABOUT OUTLIERS. FOR GROUP LOCATIONS, DATES, AND TIMES, CLICK HERE!
Some Suggested Class Discussion Questions by Chapter
Chapter One discusses the “Matthew Effect.” What is the Matthew Effect? Have you experienced or witnessed this phenomenon in your life? Do you believe that those who have a lot seem to achieve more? How about reverse (i.e., those with little achieve little)?
Chapter Two presents the notion that enough practice of something or exposure to something will result in mastery, which will greatly enhance the chances for success. Do you think this is generally accurate? Will enough practice make perfect?
Chapters Three & Four introduce Christopher Langdon and Robert Oppenheimer. How are these individuals alike? How are they different? Why was one successful and the other not as successful? Do you relate more to one or the other of them?
Chapter Three presents a “Threshold Effect” when it comes to intelligence. What is the “Threshold Effect” about? Do you believe this idea is accurate when it comes to intelligence and success? Why or why not?
Chapter Four discusses “practical intelligence” vs. “analytical intelligence.” What is the difference between the two? Think about the person who you believe has the greatest practical intelligence. What characteristics does this person have that cause you to think of him/her as having high practical intelligence? Can practical intelligence be learned?
Chapter Five introduces Joe Flom and other Jewish immigrants (i.e., Alexander Bickel, Maurice Janklow; Louis and Regina Borgenicht, etc). Which story of these individuals did you find the most compelling? Why? What did these people have in common, besides being Jewish?
Chapter Six presents “A Culture of Honor” that seems to apply more to southerners than other American demographics. Have you experienced the phenomenon Gladwell describes? What did you think about the University of Michigan experiment? How do you think you would have responded if you had participated in the study?
Chapter Seven examines ethnic or social habits/practices that affect how we respond to certain situations. What can we learn from this discussion with respect to interacting with those from different ethnicities or cultures? Chapter Seven also introduces “mitigating language.” What is that exactly? How has it changed the way pilots and co-pilots interact? Can you think of other areas where mitigation might hurt or help the situation?
Chapter Eight discusses how Asian culture, including language, may have affected the culture’s mathematics aptitude. Is this plausible to you? How has American culture affected American learning?
In Chapter Nine, Outliers concludes with, “To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that determine today’s success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.” Do you agree that many successful people are a product of “lucky breaks” and “arbitrary advantages?” If so, is it possible to control these things to create a greater advantage for more people?
Common Reading Initiative
2012 Essay Contest
The Common Reading Initiative Essay Contest provides MUW students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of issues raised in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, fosters intellectual inquiry in written form and (with the publication of the winning essays on the CRI web site) develops intellectual community among students, faculty, and staff.
ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS
From left to right are pictured 3rd place winner, freshman English-Creative Writing major John Gibbs, 2nd place winner, sophomore Elementary Education major Jenna Petrel, and 1st place winner, sophomore English major Philip Stoner, just before they went together to dinner with the authors attending the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. All three winners were recognized at the opening of the Welty Symposium on October 18th in Rent Auditorium.
CLICK HERE to read the 2012 FIRST PLACE ESSAY
CLICK HERE to read the 2012 SECOND PLACE ESSAY
CLICK HERE to read the 2012 THIRD PLACE ESSAY