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Gifted Children: Myths And Realities

Gifted Children: Myths And Realities

by Ellen Winner
Myths and misconceptions about gifted children abound and cloud our understanding of what these children are like and how they should be educated. Gifted Children examines the latest scientific evidence about the biological basis of giftedness as well as the role played by parents and schools in fostering exceptional abilities.

Most of what we know about the


Myths and misconceptions about gifted children abound and cloud our understanding of what these children are like and how they should be educated. Gifted Children examines the latest scientific evidence about the biological basis of giftedness as well as the role played by parents and schools in fostering exceptional abilities.

Most of what we know about the gifted pertains to those with high IQs, but Winner shows that children gifted in art or music face the same problems that confront the high-IQ child notably, social isolation. High intelligence has been assumed to underlie giftedness in any area, but Winner shows IQ to be unrelated to giftedness in art or music. High-IQ children are not necessarily "globally gifted," but often have sharply uneven intellectual profiles. The link between giftedness in childhood and success in adulthood is fragile and tenuous at best.

Winner castigates schools for wasting resources on weak educational programs for the moderately gifted. Instead she advocates elevating standards for all, while strengthening programs for the extremely gifted.

Editorial Reviews

Education Week
Explains clearly and engagingly the many forces that shape the lives and minds of those at the far end of the bell curve.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stephen, aged 5, fluently reads orchestral scores. Hillary, 12, ranked in the 99th percentile nationally in all subjects (math, language, reading, science, social studies) on standardized aptitude tests. Winner's case studies of exceptional children are as intrinsically interesting as her findings in this eye-opening study. Gifted children, we learn, are often socially isolated and unhappy. Having a high IQ is irrelevant to giftedness in art or music. Only a very few of the gifted become eminent, creative adults-and when parents are over-involved or push to excess, gifted children are especially likely to drop out or lose interest in their domain of talent. A Boston College psychology professor, Winner blames unchallenging, neglectful schools for wasting gifted children's time and potential. She recommends allowing exceptional students to skip grades and be given individualized instruction and advanced programs. Illustrated with remarkably precocious artwork, her survey throws much light on creativity, learning and personal growth in both normals and gifteds. (June)
Library Journal
In this examination of commonly held beliefs about gifted children, Winner (psychology, Boston Coll.) considers a number of questions: Are gifted children gifted in all subject areas? Are artistically gifted children gifted or talented? Does giftedness depend on IQ? What role do environment and biology play in giftedness? Are gifted children psychological and social misfits? In her analyses, Winner cites and explains a broad range of recent research, including extensive notes and references with each chapter. She then offers her recommendations for dealing with gifted children in America's educational systems-recommendations that are controversial and not necessarily supported by her research. She calls for elevating standards for all while cutting back on expenditures on those she deems only somewhat gifted. The value of this provocative book is in its comprehensiveness. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Kay Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, Md.
Kirkus Reviews
Winner's ambitious study focuses on the hereditary, familial, and characterological factors shared by gifted children, and suggests ways in which American educators might help such students develop their special talents.

Winner (Psychology/Boston Coll.) notes that precocious youth differ from their peers in being "independent, self-directed, willful, dominant non-conformists," possessed of a raging desire to master new skills and an ability to improvise approaches to learning and problem-solving. Winner goes on to explode some myths about the gifted, including the belief that giftedness necessarily correlates with a high IQ, particularly among artists; some extremely talented young painters and sculptors have only average IQs, while others even suffer from learning disorders such as dyslexia. Gifted children also tend to have parents who provide intellectual stimulation and emotional support. Winner also points out the alarming fact that, while girls "make up about half the population in . . . programs for the gifted in kindergarten through third grade," by junior high school "they make up less than 30 percent." But it isn't only girls that society discourages: Our educational system lets down gifted children of both sexes, she asserts, by keeping them in classes with less advanced peers out of misguided egalitarianism, or by grouping them together in superficial programs that meet just a few hours a week. Winner's best section offers a convincing analysis of why some gifted children become highly creative adults—and why many do not. Gifted children must learn how to broaden, apply, and otherwise develop a talent that has come as a gift, transforming "sheer technical skill into something more conceptual, interpretative, and original."

Written in serviceable if unspectacular prose, her book should help parents and teachers to aid the gifted as they make the often difficult transition from being brilliant children to becoming genuinely creative and fulfilled adults.

Product Details

Basic Books
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6.39(w) x 9.49(h) x 1.45(d)

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What People are Saying About This

Randy Hagerman MD
"A thoughtful and thorough book regarding gifted children, which combines detailed case descriptions and a discussion of the latest research."
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
"An indispensable benchmark to teachers, parents, and researchers interested in the ontogenesis of superior ability."
Kay Redfield Jamison
"A fascinating, wonderful and important book about children with quite remarkable minds, abilities, and temperaments. Replaces myth with scholarship in a manner that is both lucid and engaging."
M. Klatte
"Using vivid case studies, Winner paints a complex picture of the gifted child."
Joseph S. Renzulli
"A fresh perspective on the nature of giftedness by challenging nine common misconceptions. It is punctuated with fascinating case studies of gifted children."
Robert J. Sternberg
"A great book....Winner has done a first-rate job of talking sense and of backing it up."

Meet the Author

Ellen Winner is professor of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at Harvard Project Zero. She is the author of Invented Worlds: The Psychology of the Arts, and The Point of Words: Children's Understanding of Metaphor and Irony.

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