English 12 Honors: Outliers Weekend Activity I — Question #3

Respond to one of the three discussion questions from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success in the Leave a Comment Section to the left of the question. Your response must be well written, well edited, and demonstrate critical reading of the text, including some textual support (page number or quote) to receive full credit. Your response should be a short paragraph, and you need to include your full name. Worth 20 points. Due by noon on Saturday, August 2.

You will then respond briefly to one of your classmates’ posts by noon of Sunday, August 3. This is a brief response. Worth 10 points.

Discussion Question #3 (Chapter 3):

Gladwell states that communities and companies in American society “are convinced that those at the very top of the IQ scale have the greatest potential.” After reading Chapter 3, explain why you either agree or disagree with this statement.


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About James E. Lang

I'm a high school journalism and English teacher at Floyd Central High School in Southern Indiana. My interests include reading, writing, literacy, politics, the media, issues of faith, and IU basketball...basically, I'll blog about anything and everything. I'm an independent thinker. I respect all viewpoints and opinions and value reasonable discourse and learning about others. I have been a proud public school educator all of my life. The purpose of my blog is to support scholastic journalism, promote literacy and civic engagement, and explore the social, political, and policy issues impacting education.

23 responses to “English 12 Honors: Outliers Weekend Activity I — Question #3”

  1. Amber Branch says :

    The world is obsessed with being the best at everything. You must be able to have the right resources, the right connections, and most “importantly”, the right schooling. Now not to say that school is bad, it is just what the world does to school that is bad. If you pressure every student to always get an “A”, it makes it really hard to actually learn. Learning, you must find intrest and it is the individuals job to find intrest in the subject, but I know i wont find intrest if i am terrified i wont graduate high school if i dont get an “A”. I will simply go through the motions to get the “A” and move on with my life.–Amber Branch Period 1

    • Madison Kaiser says :

      I completely agree with what Amber is saying about education. Schools only care about grades and not about acquiring knowledge. To do well in school and life, you must have drive and opportunity. A high IQ definitely makes it easier. However, the rare person succeeds without a high IQ.

    • Kelsee Watson says :

      I agree with you, Amber. Society thinks people who do the best in school will be the ones who are most successful in life. That is not always the case though. I think that opportunity has more to do with it than intelligence.

      Kelsee Watson

  2. Olivia Hudson says :

    Olivia Hudson
    I agree with Gladwell’s statement. Communities and companies often are convinced that someone with a very high IQ will have the greatest potential. Schools introduce this thought when they are children; some young students will get placed into “gifted” classes and school becomes a competition of who is the smartest. “Elite universities often require that students take an intelligence test for admission. High-tech companies like Google or Microsoft carefully measure the cognitive abilities of prospective employees” (p. 75). Society has the belief that if someone is exceptionally smart that they will be the ones that have the better chance of excelling and most likely will. Many people will assume that is someone has a very high IQ that they will be the most successful in any field and have the greatest potential.

    • Morgan Schultz says :

      Morgan Schultz
      The quote you chose to represent your idea is a good quote. I agree with the opinion that the world is too often convinced that only the brightest will go far in life. Test like the SAT and ACT are used to measure intelligence, whereas in reality, the correlation between high SAT scores and success in college is actually miniscule, which begs the question of their usefulness. Not to mention, high emotional intelligence or EQ (Emotional Quotient) is actually a better measure for success than IQ. This is shown in the example of Christopher Langan vs. Robert Sternberg. Langan had a higher IQ but a low EQ, whereas Sternberg had both a high IQ and a high EQ, which led to Sternberg having greater success.

      • James E. Lang says :

        Olivia and Morgan: I agree that Gladwell’s book should cause us to reevaluate the emphasis we place on standardized testing in education. Your point about the SAT and college success is a valid concern, Morgan. Lang

    • Elizabeth Knotts says :

      I agree with Olivia, however I think that Gladwell’s use of Microsoft as an example was more to support his point that IQ is actually not the most important aspect of a potential employee. He includes the question Microsoft asks its interviewees, “why are manhole covers round?” This question is a measure of reasoning skills but not necessarily IQ. To support this point, I can actually use my own parents as an example. In high school, my mom became Miss Floyd Central and valedictorian. She was a varsity cheerleader and as involved in school and her community as one student could be. My dad, on the other hand, was obviously bright but left school early to work in his father’s machine shop and was involved in few extra curriculars. I asked both of my parents the Microsoft question. Almost instantly, my dad was able to provide the exact correct answer, complete with the geometric reasoning given in the book. My mom was unable to understand the answer even after my dad had explained it. This goes to show that while I cannot say which of my parents is “smarter,” my dad obviously has the reasoning skills that Microsoft is looking for. My mom was an incredible student and the kind of students that any college would want, and yet a seemingly intelligent woman such as herself was unable to answer the Microsoft question. This proves only that Microsoft is not only looking for a high IQ, but it does not represent all major corporations.
      Elizabeth Knotts

  3. Hasaan Ladha says :

    After reading chapter three of Gladwell’s “Outliers” I now believe that having an incredible IQ is not quite as valuable as having a moderately high IQ while having other personality developing skill sets. In chapter three “The Trouble withe Geniuses, Part 1” the author poses two characters that both have exceptional IQs; Christopher Langan has the higher IQ while Robert Sternberg has an additional skill set. Eventually, the book reveals the conclusion of both characters life’s. Surprisingly, the man with the higher IQ (Christopher Langan) had a life that ended with a less desirable conclusion.

    • Amber Branch says :

      I agree with you Hassan, the author does show how having the worlds best IQ isn’t always the best. Christopher Langan is an awesome example of how his IQ actually hindered him.

    • Stefan Linden says :

      I had changed my perspective of the IQ situation after reading as well, and I would agree with what you stated. It seems more likely for someone with a higher than average IQ and some skills to accompany it would have more potential than someone with just an outrageously high IQ.
      -Stefan Linden

    • John Strobel says :

      Hasaan and Malcolm are correct when they say that having the highest IQ won’t necessarily make you successful. You have to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that you are given.

  4. Kolby Vaughn says :

    Kolby Vaughn-I agree with the statement that those at the very top of the IQ scale have the greatest potential, but only to an extent. The people with the highest IQ’s have the ability to become the smartest and most successful people, but only if they apply themselves and have the motivation to do so. They also must have a supporting family life and a childhood that prepared them to become successful. As Gladwell says: “Yes, he (Chris Langan) is a man with a one-in-a-million mind and the ability to get through Principia Mathematica at sixteen. And yes, his sentences come marching out one after another, polished and crisp like soldiers on a parade ground. But so what? If we want to understand the likelihood of his becoming a true outlier, we have to know a lot more about him than that. (Pg 90)”

    • TJ Flick says :

      I agree with what you said Kolby because without the hard work and the motivation to be successful their IQ almost means nothing because it cannot carry you through everything. Also like you said they have to have the best possible scenario to be able to achieve, like Bill Gates had when his school had one of the best available computers so he had the best scenario, IQ, and the motivation to achieve. The quote you chose about Chris Langan is a great quote because it explains all the things that go into the idea of an outlier, and what it means to be a true outlier.

    • Lydia Villiger says :

      I agree with Kolby in that people with the highest IQ have the greatest potential to an extent. People have to show something more than that. I like that quote about Chris Langan. I agree completely when it says that we need to know a lot more about him than just his mind being one-in-a-million. You may have the ability but that doesn’t necessarily make you the most successful yet.

    • Trent Powell says :

      I agree with Kolby in the way that people cannot be judged simply on IQ points alone, but I believe that people cannot even be judged by their backgrounds because what really matters is that once they reach that threshold they can be motivated and work hard enough to be successful.

    • Meg Taylor says :

      I agree with Kolby, to have a high level of intelligence will certainly bring opportunity, but after a certain point, intelligence doesn’t matter. What trumps the importance of intelligence are the things Kolby talked about; motivation and childhood upbringing. Having a combination of all of those is what will make a smart person also a successful person.
      Meg Taylor

  5. Madison Costello says :

    The point being driven throughout this chapter is that the IQ of people is not essential to their talent beyond a threshold, and is even more trivial than exactly how an individual uses it. I’m inclined to agree with this idea, as well as the idea that a higher IQ does not immediately make someone more capable of great things. A good example of how the book addresses this idea is in its examination of affirmative action at the University of Michigan. Although it would be assumed that students with a lower IQ allowed into the school through lax requirements would not function as well as students considered “better” intellectually, but they were every bit as functional in the real world as more intelligent students (part 1, page 159 on smartphone ebook). People were so focused on arbitrary requirements that it took a court case against affirmative action policies to encourage someone to look at what the students actually did with their education. This trend continues today in the idea that having a genius-level IQ is just as much a merit as actually doing something influential, when really the former quality doesn’t mean anything until it is put to use. Essentially, what someone does with the intellect he does have is more important than the strength of his intellect in some imaginary race between the brains of the world population.

    • James E. Lang says :

      I, too, found the University of Michigan affirmative action case an interesting example, Madison. What Gladwell — and you — point out here is that the merit of any program must examine how effectively the students used their education to succeed.You summarize the argument well in your final sentence. Lang

  6. Lydia Villiger says :

    “Intelligence has a threshold.” (Pg.80) Intelligence can help you up to a certain point but after that it stops mattering so much. I agree that communities and companies in this society are convinced that the higher the IQ is, the more potential a person has. However, IQ isn’t what it all should be focused on. Once you get to a certain point there are other things that contribute. As Gladwell talks about the height of a basketball player in chapter 3, it makes you realize that if the professional is either six two or six four it doesn’t matter so much. The world has this mindset revolving around the thought that a test that tells you how intelligent you are is everything. There is so much more to it than that. Yes, IQ helps, but applying yourself, having motivation, and being the creative and unique human being that you are is just as important.
    -Lydia Villiger

  7. Trent Powell says :

    I agree with Gladwell’s statement that there is a threshold to intelligence. Once you have hit a certain IQ it does not matter how much higher you are from the other genius’s. Like Gladwell stated in chapter 3 basketball players only have to be certain height then what matters is how good you are at what you do. I believe that same would go with intelligence, once you reach the threshold of intelligence what will matter is how motivated and how good you are at your job rather than a few IQ points over another genius who has put in more effort to his job. Our world is two in to the idea that a piece of paper and some tests tell us how good a person will do, I believe its more about once you have a certain amount of something, whether it be height for basketball or IQ for genius’s, the rest is up to you on how much effort you put into what you are good at. -Trent Powell

  8. Madison Kaiser says :

    I agree that there is a correspondence to IQ and success in life. With intelligence comes the will to succeed and the drive to accomplish more. One cannot settle for average if they know of more. You can’t deny that our founding fathers knew what they did not want and were driven to be better. This is what great success originated from with tycoons of business and invention. With their great knowledge came the means to effect change. Chapter3 page75 speaks to google and apple agree that those with highest IQ have the greatest potential.

  9. Kelsee Watson says :

    I agree that companies in America and society in general say that people with the highest IQ have the most potential for success. Everyone wants to be the best. If there were two people were applying for the same job and one had an IQ score of 150 and the other 100, who would be hired? It would probably be the applicant with the IQ of 150, because he is seen to have more potential than the other. On page 88 of “Outliers”, Gladwell states that “Once someone has reached an IQ of 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage”. Society sees a person that has an IQ of 180 with more potential than a person of an IQ of 120. “Outliers” has proved that those two actually have almost the same amount of real-world potential.

    Kelsee Watson

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