Do gifted children always grow up to achieve eminence?
A number of people in the arts, sciences and other fields achieve eminence for their exceptional abilities, but what of the many more who aren’t acclaimed in public ways?
What factors may hold back gifted and talented children from realizing their abilities? Here are a few ideas about that.
Jan Davidson, Ph.D., co-founder of the Davidson Institute and its related Academy, notes:
“There is no federal mandate for gifted education and, while No Child Left Behind focuses on bringing students up to minimum standards, most gifted students aren’t given opportunities to soar ahead.”
She emphasizes it is “important that we commit the resources to ensure these young men and women have the support to develop our nation’s competitive edge.”
These quotes come from the article Prodigiously Gifted Students Honored as Forerunners for U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation, which declares that “nearly half of all gifted students are underachieving and, alarmingly, up to 20 percent of high school dropouts test in the gifted range.”
book: Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting our Brightest Young Minds by Jan Davidson, Bob Davidson.
Photo above: “Child Genius contestant Neha, nine, wants to be a scientist and has read her mother’s PhD thesis” – from article Are you smarter than a child genius?, Daily Mail (UK), 30 June 2015.
Giftedness isn’t popular
In his article Saving the Smart Kids, Time, Sep. 20, 2004, John Cloud pointed out that Americans “don’t seem to have any problem with teenagers who show genius in sports (LeBron James) or entertainment (Hilary Duff). But we have a deeply ambivalent relationship with intellectually gifted kids.”
In his article Are We Failing Our Geniuses? [Time, Aug. 16, 2007], Cloud writes about Annalisee Brasil, 14, who “not only has the looks of a South American model but is also one of the brightest kids of her generation.. with an IQ above 145, placing the girl in the top 0.1% of the population. Annalisee is also a gifted singer..”
But Cloud notes she has social problems, and trouble getting along with others.
He quotes Brasil: “People are, I must admit it, a lot of times intimidated by me.”
A culture that is ambiguous about genius
He adds, “As a culture, we feel deeply ambiguous about genius. We venerate Einstein, but there is no more detested creature than the know-it-all.
“In one 1996 study from Gifted Education Press Quarterly, 3,514 high school students were asked whether they would rather be the best-looking, smartest or most athletic kids.
“A solid 54% wanted to be smartest (37% wanted to be most athletic, and 9% wanted to be best looking). But only 0.3% said the reason to be smartest was to gain popularity.
“We like athletic prodigies like Tiger Woods or young Academy Award winners like Anna Paquin. But the mercurial, aloof, annoying nerd has been a trope of our culture, from Bartleby the Scrivener to the dorky PC guy in the Apple ads. Intellectual precocity fascinates but repels.”
That quote reminds me of a couple of comments by actor Sharon Stone: “I was, like, forty at birth,” she said.
“Then I started school and drove everybody crazy because they realized I had popped out as an adult. I had adult questions and wanted adult answers.”
She has commented, “If I was just intelligent, I’d be OK.
“But I am fiercely intelligent, which most people find very threatening.”
[From my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression]
Stone also has said she was “like, you know, that weird girl. I cannot believe I did not know that I was a pretty girl. I was so insecure and so intimidated and so introverted.”