The Outsiders


Discussion Topics

1. Some scientists believe that the environment makes the person. John B. Watson, pioneer of behaviorism, is famous for saying, "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors" (Watson, 1930; p. 82). For Watson, environment was paramount.

Sometimes, however, two individuals from the same environment and with the same set of circumstances can turn out totally different. Consider Johnny and Dallas, who both came from dysfunctional homes. Johnny received his greatest thrills from saving others, while Dallas became a criminal. There were others, as well, who were delinquent despite coming from a privileged background; Bob was one example. It may, therefore, be the case that environment is not all that Watson makes it out to be. What do you think?

Possible Answer: Nature and nurture together determine who we are. More variables than nurture (i.e., environment) determine a person's destiny; character enters the equation, as well.

2. Similarly, neuroscience shows that childhood trauma can debilitate the mind, rendering one unemotional, aloof, and possibly a sociopath more readily than if he had come from a sheltered background. Some would claim that the privileges of affluence, in contrast, promote intelligence and expand one's life in all areas. Is there such a thing, then, as free will and the ability to escape one's fate (with the mantra that "You just have to work hard enough and have the will"), or do one's birth and biological characteristics determine one's destiny?

Possible Answer: Real-life accounts show us that generally speaking, circumstance and handicap (of all sorts) cannot impede a person from obtaining that which he wants to achieve, as long as he...

Sign up to continue reading Discussion Topics >

Essays About The Outsiders