Wellesley Orientation Common Reading Selection: Being Wrong

July 17, 2013

Kathryn Schulz's Best-Seller Sent to New Students, Student Leaders, and Faculty

Kathryn Schulz at TED talk

Being wrong might seem a counterintuitive way to start one’s college career, but not when approaching it as author Kathryn Schulz does in Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Schulz’s book is the selection for the 2013 Orientation Common Reading Project at Wellesley. All students new to Wellesley this fall and Student Orientation Leaders received a copy of the selected book in the mail to read over the summer.

The Office of Dean of Students introduced the book, saying, “It can be hard to accept—let alone celebrate—being wrong, but it is a crucial part of learning, and we invite all Wellesley students to reframe the way they see errors.”

Readers are encouraged to discuss the book online through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Hangouts, on campus when they arrive in August, and with the author herself in October. First Year Dean Lori Tenser said, “In addition to new incoming students (first-years, transfers, and Davis Scholars), we are giving the book to all 200 student leaders, and also to faculty members teaching first-year writing or first-year seminar courses. Others in the community are certainly invited to read the book and to come to Ms. Schulz's talk.”

Booklist calls the book “a fascinating counterpoint to the notion that making a mistake somehow diminishes you as a person. We shouldn’t fear error, the author says; rather, we should embrace it because it’s our capacity for making mistakes that makes us who we are. (‘To err is human’ isn’t just an empty cliché.)”

Schulz calls herself a “wrongologist,” and she writes about the ways we make and understand mistakes. She speaks and writes widely about this concept, perhaps most notably at the 2011 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. In her TED talk, Schulz said, “Most of us do everything we can to avoid thinking about being wrong, or at least to avoid thinking about the possibility that we ourselves are wrong. We get it in the abstract. We all know that everybody ... makes mistakes, the human species in general is fallible; that’s fine. But when it comes down to me, right now, to all the beliefs I hold here in the present tense, suddenly all this abstract appreciation of fallibility goes out the window. And I can’t think of anything that I’m wrong about.”

According to Tracy Gleason, Professor of Psychology, the book was chosen in part because of its connection to child development, which is a major theme for events at Wellesley in the 2013-2014 academic year. The Wellesley College Child Study Center will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

Being Wrong earned rave reviews from The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly, was named a Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2010 by Amazon, and garnered praise from former President Bill Clinton and Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust.

Last year’s Common Reading Project was Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. WuDunn spoke at Wellesley about her book and the Half the Sky movement last fall, around the time the four-hour PBS miniseries was released.

Schulz will speak at Wellesley about Being Wrong on Tuesday, October 1. The event will be free and open to the public.


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