Thursday, November 03, 2005

Talent Development

As many readers of this blog know, Jan & Bob Davidson (with whom I co-wrote Genius Denied) are helping to open a new public school at the University of Reno called The Davidson Academy.

It has been getting a fair amount of press for being the first public school for profoundly gifted kids in this country. The school opens next year.

I would not be shocked to find families moving to Nevada to enroll their children. There are just not that many schools that aim to develop the talents of children with IQs of 160+. I've been thinking about this in the context of general talent development -- there are not that many schools or programs aimed at developing any kid's profound talents. If your kid is a profoundly talented musician, for instance, you'll probably need to live near a big city or a university with a great orchestra. Often, you hear of people moving to NYC for Juilliard.

Then these parents become known as "pushy." I've always thought this is unfair. Pushiness is necessary for some fields, because it's not an option to wait until the child is older or pursues such talents as an adult. I was recently reading about the English long bow, used in the middle ages against England's rival, France. British boys were trained since childhood on how to stretch the long bow, so their chest muscles grew in a way that enabled mastery. French children didn't develop those muscles, so even when the French got their hands on these weapons, they couldn't use them to full effect.

Likewise, almost no professional orchestral musicians picked up an instrument for the first time as an adult, or even late in their teens. Our brains develop in ways where pathways are forged early. If you do not learn the skills associated with many talents when you are young enough for them to become second nature, you will never develop the talent as you might.

Yet our culture is full of stories of pushy parents who forced a child to labor at a certain skill or talent when he really wanted to (fill in the blank) instead. We don't tell stories of the kid who would have been a great musician, but never became a professional musician, because his parents didn't want to push.

1 comment:

Gifted Law Student said...

Hi, I am a law student and I am also gifted. I was in gifted education classes starting in grade school, and have always enjoyed learning. My problem is that since I started law school I just keep getting frustrated. When I was in my science classes in undergraduate, which are just as rigorous, I fully enjoyed the challenge. In law school I just feel lost.

At first I thought it was me. I tried to change my learning style, my thought processing, my study habits, and just about everything else academic that I could to compensate. I was unsuccessful. I just see the world differently than my classmates. I can't change it.

Then I discovered practical courses (Like trial advocacy, trial clinics, research and writing and the like) Throughout my career in these courses I have excelled. I am curious if my success in 'hands on' courses, and struggle in regular socratic method law courses, could be attributed to the giftedness or a learning style associated with gifted people.

Do you know of any resources or studies that have looked into gifted students who have gone on to get professional degrees? I know that several gifted students who I have known my whole life who have gone on to law school, specifically, have faced similar issues. If it was just me, I wouldn't be writing this comment. I think there might be something systemic in law schools that is eliminating or nearly eliminating some of their brightest and most promising students.

As a future member of the profession, I am researching to write an article on this topic. I don't really know where to start. Do you have any ideas?