The Trouble with Geniuses – Part Two?

by Jeanne Bernish on April 14, 2009

Advocating for gifted education services is an interesting pastime. Driven by personal reasons and uplifted by societal ones I constantly seek opportunities to redirect, redefine and reengineer the argument. And just when I think we (a loosely knit cadre of gifted education advocates) have eked out a public education compromise that makes sense, someone pulls the rug out from beneath me. Take for instance the great gains in gifted education understanding at the state level in Ohio and the simple-minded logic that led me down the garden path to believing that funding for it was just around the corner. Or a recent encounter with an educator (who stated he didn’t believe in gifted) on Twitter which left me speechless:

Read Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated”. I don’t have to believe in gifted because we teach calculus to ALL LEVELS.

The students to whom we teach calculus would generally not be categorized as gifted & still they learn it.

None of this takes away from what you do. Some kids ARE advanced because they DO have an advantage: early intense training. Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?

So many myths abound in education circles about the gifted:

Some children are gifted because they are trained to be that way.

There is no such thing as gifted – or, all children are gifted

Or, the senseless assumption that people who advocate for gifted children do not think others are capable of learning calculus.

(for more myths, and truths, about gifted see the indispensable

A nice companion piece to my “Outliers” post on April 5th is a recent article written by Sam Knight in The Financial Times: “Is a high IQ a burden as much as a blessing?” about the life of Marilyn vos Savant and her husband Robert Jarvik. Savant has the world’s highest recorded IQ (228). Her husband (yes, THAT Jarvik), says that her gift “is to be able to approach questions dispassionately, without our usual fears of or hopes for a particular answer.” She seems happy and fulfilled – so is her talent wasted? And what of other geniuses who have abandoned the traditional path of mainstream education, eschewed college degrees and formal university training in order to pursue knowledge in its purest form, unadulterated by subjective teacher evaluations? Are they less intelligent because they do not hold lofty degrees? Or can we acknowledge that perhaps they are more so because they do not?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eric M April 14, 2009 at 11:52 am

You passion is showing through, which is good in my view. You have to keep chipping away at monolithic, uninformed and uninspired
thinking, and this blog does it . . .

There is a necessary baseline argument to make on behalf of gifted: their intelligence needs care and pruning, just as much as all other students.
We would not knowingly toss away the potential of normal students, under-achieving students, low income students, minorities, et al, but we as
a nation seemed perfectly prepared to throw gifted students under the bus in the interests of “equality of opportunity.”

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