"Too many gifted students in the world".
A searcher reached my site today with the terms: "Are there too many gifted students because of pushy parents?". The surfer was from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. I thought their question, of the internet, eminently revealing of all too common attitudes that need to be countered.
Firstly, there is the idea that giftedness is somehow created by "pushy" parents. Personally, I think this is an impossibility. The idea that one could "push" an otherwise ordinary child into becoming gifted is quite extraordinary. It would be a bit like saying that if you dunk your child's head under water long enough they will be able to breathe it. It is really quite silly.
Gifted children are the way they are, largely because of their fortuitous inheritance. The correlation between the IQ of the parents and their children (when they become adults) has been established to be 0.8. This is a very high correlation. It is actually cruel to think that one could "push" a child without such a lucky inheritance into performing as a gifted child can. No measure of demands from the parents are going to raise the ordinary child's IQ above the magical 130 IQ threshold that commonly defines "giftedness".
Then there is another assumption in their search terms that I take issue with: the idea that there are "too many" gifted students. What does this mean? This person seems to think that the world is better off without intelligent children...they seem to hold the view that intelligence is something to be minimized and contained, not encouraged and expanded. To say that a society has "too many" gifted students is a bit like saying that it has "too much money"...for gifted people comprise the intellectual wealth of a nation.
The IQ threshold of 130 that defines the "moderately gifted" is met by one child in 44 in a society with an IQ mean of 100. This means that in a Singaporean class of about 40 students there will be, on average, one moderately gifted child. Is that too many? Would it be worse for the nation were there two such students, or five in the class? I cannot think of any way in which the nation would be worse off, were that so.
Obviously, higher levels of giftedness are much rarer. The profoundly gifted (IQs of 180 or more) are usually thought of as literally one in a million. Would the world be a worse place were they one in 100,000? I cannot believe so. Were they more common, the rate at which uncommonly difficult problems in science and other disciplines were solved, would only increase. Surely, that would be better for the world as a whole.
Giftedness is present in all societies of the world. Yet, it is odd to observe, that it is misunderstood in all of those societies, too. In some societies, it is marginalized, disapproved of, disparaged, in some quarters. This is most peculiar - for the gifted among us, have, historically as a group, built most of the culture, science and technology on which human civilization rests. Are such people to be disregarded or shunned?
Sometimes giftedness is disconcerting for the less well endowed. They feel comfortable in a world filled with people as ordinary as they are. Yet, what they fail to realize is that such a world would be a very much more limited world. Science would come to a halt. Technology would remain static. Doctors would not be sufficiently competent at their jobs to save lives. Books would not be written and libraries would go unfilled. In fact, all the civilized world that we know, would cease to be. Perhaps, were this situation so, people would appreciate what the gifted among them have contributed. Perhaps, only then, would they welcome them (though too late, for they will have gone).
The welcome or otherwise, of the gifted, should not be determined by the ordinary among us, with a "democratic" agenda, of all having to be alike. The welcome should be determined by the gifted themselves. The prevailing culture should be one that affords opportunity to all who are gifted, to fully become what they may be and contribute what they may do. Such a culture does not include the idea of "too many gifted" people - nor the idea of the "pushy parents created them". Such a culture accepts gifted people for what they are - and is happy to have them.
The question is: which cultures are such cultures? My surfer suggests that Australia may not be one of them. How are gifted people welcomed (or otherwise) in your culture? What are the prevailing attitudes to them? Are they seen as "geeks" or "nerds"? Are they marginalized? Are they shunned? Or are they welcomed and valued? I would welcome your comments, views and observations from wherever you are in the world. Thank you.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.
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