Being Wrong

| October 15, 2010

Title: Being wrong: adventures in the margin of error
Author: Kathryn Schulz
Publisher: New York: Ecco, c2010
Call Number: BD450 .S3785 2010

Being Wrong

From the Publisher:

In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce; medical mistakes to misadventures at sea; failed prophecies to false memories; “I told you so!” to “Mistakes were made.” Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a gift—one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.

About the Author: Kathryn Schulz has written for The Nation, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. A former editor of the online environmental magazine Grist and the Santiago Times in Chile, she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in International Journalism in 2004. She lives in New York.

An excerpt from the book:
As a culture, we haven’t even mastered the basic skill of saying “I was wrong.” This is a startling deficiency, given the simplicity of the phrase, the ubiquity of error, and the tremendous public service that acknowledging it can provide. Instead, what we have mastered are two alternatives to admitting our mistakes that serve to highlight exactly how bad we are at doing so. The first involves a small but strategic addendum: “I was wrong, but … ” — a blank we then fill in with wonderfully imaginative explanations for why we weren’t so wrong after all. (More on this in Part Three.) The second (infamously deployed by, among others, Richard Nixon regarding Watergate and Ronald Reagan regarding the Iran-Contra affair) is even more telling: we say, “mistakes were made.” As that evergreen locution so concisely demonstrates, all we really know how to do with our errors is not acknowledge them as our own.

On the Web:

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