In a 6-7-page essay, contrast the “background” of the two Wes Moores and analyz
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In a 6-7-page essay, contrast the “background” of the two Wes Moores and analyze the role their backgrounds, including their environments, influenced their opposing fates. Choose 2-3 factors to analyze. Your analysis of their contrast should be informed by Gladwell’s theories on what determines success. What would Gladwell argue were the determining factors of the Moore’s opposing fates?
Using the arguments Gladwell makes in Outliers about opportunity, cultural legacy, cumulative advantage, meaningful work, culture of honor, and entitlement, explain what made the difference in the two men’s fates. You may also use the podcast.
Other questions to consider for this essay:
Is author Wes Moore an outlier? What “personal explanation of success” does he provide in his book?
To what extent does author Moore acknowledge being “the beneficiar[y] of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow[ed] [him] to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot?” Does author Moore “personal explanation of success” work? How so or why not? For which audience may it work or be relevant? What is the danger in his personal explanation? What is the benefit of his personal explanation?
To what extent is it true that “Wes’ story could have been [the author’s] and “[the author’s] story could have been his?” What would have had to change for this to be entirely true?
** Please refer to the author Wes Moore as The author Wes Moore or Moore. Please refer to The Other Wes Moore as the other Wes Moore or Wes. Establish how you will refer to each in parentheticals, when you first introduce them in your essay.
Summary on the back of the book (2011 Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperback Edition):
Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on the street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated Veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? In the introduction, Moore explains:
It is my sincere hope that this book does not come across as self-congratulatory or self-exculpatory. Most important, it is not meant in any way to provide excuses for the events of the fateful day…. Let me be clear. The only victims that day were Sergeant Bruce Prothero and his family. Rather, this book will use our two lives as a way of thinking about choices and accountability, not just for each of us as individuals but for all of us as a society. This book is meant to show how, for those of us who live in the most precarious places in this country, our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one (xiv). In the epilogue to The Other Wes Moore, author Wes Moore says: The most important thing that happened to me was not being physically transported–the moves from Baltimore to the Bronx to Valley Forge didn’t change my way of thinking. What changed was that I found myself surrounded by people–starting with my mom, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and leading to a string of wonderful role models and mentors–who kept pushing me to see more than what was directly in front of me, to see the boundless possibilities within myself. People who taught me that no accident of birth–not being black or relatively poor, being from Baltimore or the Bronx or fatherless–would ever define or limit me. In other words, they helped me to discover what it means to be free. As I wrote at the outset of the book: The chilling truth is that Wes’ story could have been mine; the tragedy is that my story could have been his (179-180). In “The Matthew Effect,” Gladwell explains:
In the autobiographies published every year by the billionaire/entrepreneur/rock star/ celebrity, the story line is always the same: our hero is born in modest circumstances and by virtue of his own grit and talent, fights his way to greatness… In Outliers, I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations of success don’t work. People don’t rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot (18-19, see book for full context of quote).