Gifted Children: Myths And Realitiesby Ellen Winner
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.
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 adultsand 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.
- Basic Books
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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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