Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Community of Outliers

Off the top in our discussion of Outliers, it’s worth noting that the book’s author, Malcolm Gladwell, is a gifted storyteller. His ability to transform a large body of facts and information into coherent and compelling narratives helps to explain why his books are considered so accessible, captivating. There’s something alluring about a good story, you know?

To be sure, Gladwell opens his book with a narrative about this small, fascinating town Roseto, Pennsylvania, where residents seemed to have an unusual predisposition for health. During the 1950s, hardly anyone under age sixty-five had heart disease in Roseto, even though heart attacks “were an epidemic in the United States” and “the leading cause of death in men under the age of sixty-five.”

According to Gladwell, the citizens of Roseto had “created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”

Given our interests in establishing community, we’re curious about your thoughts. In particular, what stood out to you as the Rosetans’ most fascinating habits or ways of life, and why did those habits or ways of life really stand out to you?

Or, what new approach—-based on the old ways of Roseto-—might we take in order to establish our own extraordinarily healthy academic community?

27 comments:

Shawn C. said...

An interesting fact that stood out about the Rosetan people was that of the unity and social hierarchy in their own household. Today we see less people socialize with their family, let alone live with them everyday. This seems like a lost trait that most modern day families have steered away from for a reason that seems to be hidden.

I think however the thing that really caught my attention the most was the mentioning of the amount of respect elders demanded from the younger generations. Really, it seems to me that the elders in the family did not have to demand the respect, rather the younger family members just knew to give it to them. Yes there are still a few families that portray these acts of respect through the ages, but for the most part who still turns to their grandparents for the final thought or say in a matter?

Could this be the secret to better life, health, and well being? An act as simple as getting back to the roots of respect?

Ashley Wilson said...

I beleive that the key to happiness is the good company of family and/or friends. Having conversations with others that are not stressful and cooking meals for one another was what helped the Rosetans to remain healthy. In health care, we focus on providing good company for the ill. We encourage family to visit as much as possible. Conversation that keeps the patient from focusing on the current situation can help relieve stress and is good for mental and emotional health.

Anonymous said...

What I found really interesting was the fact that the Rosettans didn't have a healthier lifestyle than any of the other communities, but the fact that they were very community oriented kept them healthy longer. It goes to show just how important community is.

SierraCarmichael said...

I completely agree with Ashley, because back then all the Rosetan had were each other so they learned to make the most of their community. In addition, although there were different families,the Rosetan community operated as one family. They had the support and encouragment that America and Americans lack today, The Rosetan were community-intrested, while other cultures are self-interested and this type of selfishness tends to wear down the body, not just mentally but physically as well.

Ian Caveny said...

It is a very interesting example of unity and how unity is necessary for life and living. To steal from Paul, who spoke of the body of Christ as a physical body with many parts, you can look at a group of people from the other direction. Not only are the individual parts necessary for the body to be healthy, but the body is necessary for the individual to be healthy. Organization and society are vitally important.

As has been mentioned, I do think that the eating as a family and socializing with one's family is one of the key facts explaining the Rosetans' long lifes and happiness. I highly doubt (though I do not think the text goes into this) that one would find much (or any) divorce in the Roseto. Any given individual has talked enough with their parents and grandparents (&c.) to know what is important in life, and how to pick a good husband/wife; someone who compliments, but also challenges them.

The ability to always communicate with one's elders can be a major benefit, if one listens.

As for the academic example, I am not sure it could be done given the state of most college campuses. There needs to be a balance between liberalism and conservatism, and community agreement is a conservative trait, whereas most colleges lean liberal. It could be attempted, but I do not think it would get far.

Shanna Evans said...

After reading about how the people of Roseto were not affected by the heart disease epidemic, I found it extremely intriguing that they all ate such a fattening diet and continued to thrive under their diet. The people “smoked heavily and many were struggling with obesity.” I think this shows the significance of living in a community surrounded by those who genuinely care about each other’s well being.

The power of the kindred spirit was enough to combat the physical effects of heart problems. I liken this with the “mind over matter” approach. The Roseto people illustrated that taking care of each other mentally was more viable than people who may have lived in the “modern” world but were plagued by big city stresses.

The people of Roseto’s ability to resist heart disease draws my attention because I think of the problems our current society has with heart disease. Many Americans do have heart health issues, and we know heart problems and obesity are linked. But Roseto citizens did not follow this equation.

I think this all shows how many of us take for granted the love and care a true community offers. Knowing you are truly cared and part of something bigger than yourself can make you feel as you are invincible.

Rese said...

Reading the introduction gave me a different perspective on my current research topic on health care for one of my nursing classes. The U.S. as a whole is socially unhealthy. How many times have we walked by someone, even if there is no one else around, and avoided greeting them? How many times do you greet your neighbor or stop to talk to them? Who is your neighbor? My focus was on disease prevention programs and while I still think that is very important, I will keep the idea of social networks in mind as well.

Just one more thing. I like the fact that the Rosetans informed and encouraged other people in their village to move toward a more "successful" or "rewarding" life. Knowing that others want us to succeed is motivation in itself.

Anonymous said...

Ashley O.
I thought it was interesting that this group of people had low crime rates, welfare, drug addiction suicide or alcholism. In comparison to the U.S., these are the main problems of our society. these close knot clains build respect, love and understanding that is often unheard of in many communities through out the country. With doctors and researchers looking for advancements in medical technology in regards to living a longer life i can imagine that they would be out of a job if people of the united states where to adopt this way of living. This society is the dream of many Americans, the simple life where you can eat anything you wan and your around people who care for you and ultimately have your best intrest at heart.

Ashley Obafemi said...

Ashley O.
I thought it was interesting that this group of people had low crime rates, welfare, drug addiction suicide or alcholism. In comparison to the U.S., these are the main problems of our society. these close knot clains build respect, love and understanding that is often unheard of in many communities through out the country. With doctors and researchers looking for advancements in medical technology in regards to living a longer life i can imagine that they would be out of a job if people of the united states where to adopt this way of living. This society is the dream of many Americans, the simple life where you can eat anything you wan and your around people who care for you and ultimately have your best intrest at heart.

Denita Campbell said...

I found it interesting that the Roseta community was so structured to the point that their community flourished more than any other American community at the time. The principles that this community stood for, such as respect, love, and dignity in my opinion were their key to success.The Rosetan people cared for one another in a way that most Americans have strayed away from. This introduction just shows the power of love and how it can affect your everyday life.

Rohan Genge said...

What struck me as the most interesting aspect of the Rosetans community was their civic involvement. Not only did they have close ties to their immediate family but they took an active role in the on-goings of their own community as well. In their small town they created 22 civic organizations, which many took part in. They also took the time to get to know one another. They cooked for their neighbors and stopped each other on the street to talk. A town in which its members invest themselves and lookout for each other is a town with a strong support system and this is essential to any healthy community.

Joe Hines said...

First off I definitely appreciate Ian Caveny taking it to the bible because so often we debate over so many issues and ponder on why something is or how can it be fixed when we haven't looked to the highest authority or found out what God has to say. ( we need to look to the Word for everything)

I also agree with Ashley Wilson when she spoke on how speaking to people, visiting with family, and fellowship relieves stress, takes the mind off of burdens, and is even good for physical-emotional-mental health.
I actually wrote and did a speech on that exact topic ( how fellowship/ interaction etc. affect people.) It been known for a long time now that laughing promotes health; when you laugh your body actually releases chemicals and hormones that are extremely helpful/essential for health. The same applies when someone is sad, stressed or angry, the body releases hormones that actually reduced cognitive ability, immune system, etc.

So even from just a scientific standpoint the interactions and community they had was definitely significant.

I think as far as establishing such a positive AND effective community for us, we should definitely do what I heard Obama speaking on tonight which was (take and improve/ build on what already works and fix that which doen't.) I think we should clearly look to what Roseto did and implement that within us. I think a large group, if not all of us should get together maybe online or in person, learn who each other are, find who is studying the same material, help each other, speak to those who have already been successful in whatever arena. ( Basically develop more of a community) okay i'm done sorry for talking so much. God bless

Natalia Haibibi said...

I agree with anonymous. They did not practice any different routines than other of the surrounding communites. Their closeness with their families kept them emotionally happy which maybe has an effect on their physical being.
Also not one single thing had an effect on their good health. Wolf finds out in the introduction that it wasnt "diet or exercise or genes or location. It had to be Roseto itself." Thier powerful social structure kept them shielded from the pressures of the modern world which made a huge impact on their health

Christen Maul said...

The thing that stood out to me was the sense of family importance. Most families today barely take the time to sit down and eat a meal together. I think it shows that a real sense of community and being a part of something so strong is just as important as diet and exercise. Maybe a healthy heart comes also from getting joy out of your life and those around you.
We can use this approach in knowing that it isn't just the knowledge we gain/have that makes a difference, but also how we use it. it is just as important how we use our intellect to give back in our communities and share with those around us.

LaToya Bond. said...

I found it interesting that the Rosetans did not use alcohol and ate an unhealthier diet here and still lived longer and had less evidence of heart disease. I also loved the fact that they were very close knit and looked out for each other because we do not see that now-a-days.

To establish our own healthy academic community we need to go "back to the basics" as we like to call it. We need to get help when we need it and we need to stop trying to rely solely on ourself. All students go through stress, its a way of the world, but we do not have to go through it alone. Getting help early, saying an encouraging word, or surrounding yourself in a good community can help you get through those rough times and these things can lead to a better academic community.

KaceeA said...

Isolation played a key role in the success of the Roseto citizens. I believe that in order to have a healthier academic community we should isolate students who not only want to graduate from the university but more importantly those who want to excel, stand out, and bring something to the academic community that can make a difference.

Katie Dowell said...

What I liked most about the Roseto community is the unselfishness of the individuals. Socially, the United States is centered around the individual. Individuals are focus on status attainment and self-fulfillment, because they think that it will make them have a better life.

Roseto shows that individuals lead better lives when they focus on others, live in the moment, and not for five years down the road. We should too should take life easier, enjoy the ride, and enjoy one another.

I discussed this with my dad. I explained the social structure of Roseto to him, and we both lamented the fact that people no longer care for one another as they did "back in the day."

My dad grew up on a tight-knit street. He tells my sisters and I that, as a little boy, he used to hand out freshly baked goodies to the neighborhood children, who were always at the backdoor clamoring for "Mama Kate's" food. He also tells us of his excursions to watch Saturday morning cartoons on the only colored tv in the 'hood. He talks about the pickup games vs. the next street over-- basketball in the winter, football in the fall, and baseball in the spring and summer. He tells us that the adults used to chatised every child on that street,family or not.

Nowadays, kids can't have that type of fun. They play organized sports at designated fields. Kids who play pickup games get in trouble for trespassing. I think its sad, and I wish we could go back.


I think a great way to establish an academic community at SIUE is to have scholars live together in a type of learning and living community. If that's impossible, it'll be nice if freshmen scholars lived in the same dorm wing. Living in close proximity would encourage group studies, and dining together at the MUC. Right now, it'll be cool if there was dinner/lunch dates. Also, it'll be nice if older scholars were paired with younger scholars who have the same major/career interest. I think that a movie night will also be exciting. A game night would also be fun ('jeopardy,' or 'would you rather?')-- what's that saying about learning more about a person in one day of play than in a year of conversation?

Josh Jefferson said...

I agree with Shawn that one of the most interesting facts is how the whole family looks to the head of the family for guidance. The world, especially the united states, has lost touch with this morality. This sort of family structure is nice in theory, but i do not think it will ever return. It may not even be this series of events(growing old with your family) that makes their life so stressless (If that's even a word). I'm sure there are other alternatives to leading a stress reduced life.
I will agree with Ashley W. that one of the finer things in life is good conversation and being a part of a caring community. However, who this good conversation and companionship comes from shouldn't matter as long as it is heartfelt from another person.

TaNeal Walls said...

I found the introduction to Outliers to be stunning. The phenomenon of good health in Roseto kept my attention while trying to figure out WHAT the cause was. Not once did I even begin to think that the contribution to social interaction was the reason for such excellent health.

It took decades for people to realize that being good to one another can increase the life span of an entire community. Even at the time the people of Roseto did not fully understand the effect they had on each other.

I cannot wait to keep reading!

Stevie Burgess said...

As I was reading about the Rosetans I could completely understand why they were so healthy considering their heritage and where they came from. Yet, I was under the assumption that that was that path the author was choosing to take. I didn't expect all the dead ends the researchers encountered.

I completely agree with the research that having a healthy social life and support system promotes good health and well being. I also believe and agree with some others, that today's modern society has undoubtedly taken a turn for the worse due to technology and the lack of cohesive family relationships.

Katherine Clayborne said...

I can honestly say that the introduction of this book was a true eye opener. It made me think about how unconcerned we are about the community. It makes you look around and realize that most people are only for themselves.

One of the things I found most interesting about this reading was how it related to health. They linked healthy and long lived lives to close bonding in communities.

The Rosetan people had something that most communities lack today. They cared for and looked out for one another. They worked together and in doing so obtained more success living life.

raquel davis said...

After reading the introduction, I was pleased to know that there are studies that expose the importance and value of family and community and its relevance to quality health and longevity. The Rosetan people exemplify the notion that strength of the heart stems from the strength of the family. Today, the value of the family and community has been deeply weakened and few realize the enrichment that unity brings to one's life. Personal gain is often the American lifestyle, often at the expense of family and friends. Maybe that is why we suffer from so many health problems.

Aurelia Daniels said...

The habit that the rosetan's had that stuck out to me when doing my reading is how they were isolated from everyone else in the "new world" and they operated as a family.

I beleive that the Rosetan's isolastion from all the other groups and cultures around them was one of the major keys to their health and happiness. Staying in a close and loving environment helped them to develop a stress-free culture, which allowed them to stay healthier than everyone else.

I know that this method of staying happy and family oriented works for staying healthy because there are lots of older people in my family that not only look years younger than what they are but they feel even better than how they look. I believe that this is because, like the rosetan's, my family is really close and loving which is their cure to any of their health problems.

Olufunmilola Ajala said...

An interesting part of the introduction that stood out to me was when Bruhn and Wolf had to prove to other doctors that a loving and caring community can prevent heart disease. The closeness and friendliness of the Roseto community was also very interesting to me because it helped the Rosetans stay healthy. I believe many people forget that well-being and happiness can have a strong affect on health. Usually, we believe that a genetic predisposition or high fat diet is the cause of heart disease. We hardly think that the environment that we live in can cause us to get sick or stay healthy.

Charnelle M said...

The Rosetans were a very close knit group. Although they lived in a small town, there were many various groups that the people were a part of. It showed how they took care of one another. If people were more like that when it came to academics then more people would succeed. For example, if we spend more time helping those that struggle in certain subjects we can build a stronger academic community.

N.L.W. said...

Nia Williams.

Parents are always stressing "practice makes perfect" and I realized that professors are always stressing to double the time that you spend in class on homework and now I understand why. Before reading ch.2, I had never put much thought into how much time and effort that you put into something really does make a difference in your outcome. Sure, you can be smart and really good at something but this chapter is saying that natural talent can only get you so far. You have to put in the HOURS (preferably 10,000 hrs) of practice and experience like Bill Joy, Bill Gates, Pete Best, and others mentioned in the book did in order to succeed and become the BEST of the BEST!

Personally, I feel like that's difficult and nearly impossible to reach but Gladwell states that it's easier to accomplish if you are in some type of program that allows you to immerse yourself in that particular activity and get those hours. Along with family support for encouragement.

To me Gladwell makes a lot of sense and I agree with him. If I've been taking dance classes since I was three (which I have) two times a week for an hour each day, I'm not going to be nearly as good the next dancer who's been dancing since they were three also, but taking classes three times a week for two to three hours a day.

Although, I might the ability to become as good as them because I have natural talent, but in order for me to catch up, I would put in triple the practice to reach my goal.

Which leads back to how Bill Joy got to be the computer genius that he is now. He was already intelligent especially when it came to math and science, but with nonstop practice on the computer, he strengthened his skill and excelled.

Tiffany J said...

What stood out to me about the Rosetan people was the unity and social hierarchy not only in their own household but in their community as well.

As stated by previous bloggers, unity in families is simply not there anymore. Broken homes, little to no communication, technology all effects the unity in a family. Rosetan people seemed to be like families back in the day that ate dinner together, sat and had familiy conversations engaging everyone. In todays world, who really sits down and eat dinner with their families on a daily basis...Between single parents working two or more jobs and kids engaged in after-school activities, most days are far spent without in depth conversations taking place.
Back then, people in communities knew each other. They looked out for each others kids, homes, etc.
Today, we barely know or even see the people in our communities...everyone is so busy with their lifestyles, they don't have time to stop and communicate or get to know their own neighbors let alone teach their children to respect not only their homes but the community as well