Child Prodigies: Nurturing the Young Genius

I heard the NYT Magazine was doing a cover on young prodigies, and sure enough this morning a long article titled The Prodigy Puzzle was published this morning. It’s OK.

First, hearing about what some of these kids my age or younger are doing makes you feel quite small. If you browse this year’s Davidson Scholars, you will find 15-year-olds on a path to curing cancer, 17-year-olds writing complex novels, and a 6 year-old winning music competitions.

The meat of the article is around a booming movement to cultivate the prodigy. There was a book published a year or two ago which caused a great stir, since it said that all of our groundbreaking leaders of tomorrow were being ruined by poor education, and that we should shepard them away.

But, are overeager parents pushing too hard?

Look at eminences in the past, and what stands out in their childhoods is an animus toward school, a tolerance for solitude and families with lots of books. What also stands out is families with "wobble" – which means stress and, often, risk-taking parents with strong opinions – rather than bastions of supportiveness where a child’s giftedness is ever in self-conscious focus.

I don’t know…the odds are stacking up pretty well for me to be preeminent in something! Animus toward school, tolerance for solitude, and a house full of books.  Oh – and I’m nowhere close to being a valedictorian, which is also a good sign. I certainly ain’t gifted – dust patterns on the ceiling don’t interest me, and I would bomb the IQ test – but who knows, maybe one day I’ll be the world’s foremost authority on ping-pong.

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