Now, having finished David Shenk’s, The Genius in All of Us, I’d like to continue my reflection on the importance of this work to educators, students and parents.
The notes I made while reading, using that function on my Kindle, highlight that our quintessential thinkers, in Western civilisation, have always suspected that giftedness’ was a ‘process’. For example, Nietzsche described ‘great artists as being tireless participants in that process’ while Einstein claimed that it was not that he was ‘smart’ but that he stayed ‘with a problem longer’.
Is Shenk broadly correct when he says that ‘persistence can be nurtured parents and mentors’? The answer to this question is the heart of his thesis: that everything we have thought about genetics, talent and IQ is incorrect. Some have argued that persistence is an ‘inborn biological component’ but I prefer to pursue Shenk’s ideas as the potential for us all to (believe we can) grow is more than just merely important, it is essential!
Shenk says, ‘in the end, persistence is the difference between mediocrity and enormous success’. I’d suggest what many would call ‘luck’ is also a player though, in a number of guises.
A note made while reading, that is particularly important to my value system as an educator, relates to a study Shenk cites about teacher ‘praise’. One group were praised for their hard work and diligence, the other for their inborn intelligence. In follow-up tests these groups were asked to extend themselves with a choice of puzzles. More than 90% of the group praised for hard work chose the most difficult puzzles, while less than half of the ‘intelligent’ group chose to take the most challenging option.
I often say to my HSC classes, over the years I have noticed students who are ‘hardworking’ do much better than those who are merely ‘smart’. Striving is a core competency and skill.
Shenk imparts much wisdom during the course of the book. I particularly liked the notion, ‘set high expectations, but also show compassion, creativity, and patience’ as this is a set of principles that works well in any area of our culture and society. A fine sentiment, indeed!
Illustration by Matthew Richardson

The most annoying thing about the book is more to do with the format, as much as I like the eReader. The Kindle does not have page numbers but percentages read. There were many notes in this book and it led one to believe there was much more to read as it was only at about 40%, from memory, when concluded, as the footnotes were so extensive. 

The New York Times review  hit the proverbial on the head by saying, in conclusion, that Shenk’s: 

…efforts have resulted in a deeply interesting and important book. David Shenk may not be a genius yet, but give him time.



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    • Georgiac

    • 14 years ago

    I think I will put this book on my reading list. It is interesting to note that even in the most recent thinking about gifts and talents namely Gagne’s DMGT model says that gifts are an innate ability that if not nurtured will not turn into a talent. This is consistent with the views by Shenk.

  2. I call it the “turn up” principle. Our innate abilities are never realized until we pitch in with a whole mind/body commitment. Does that prioritize experiential process based learning above other multiple intelligences? If it does then I will add the courage to “turn up” as an attitude to be nurtured. I often receive compliments for being intelligent and creative. My reply is always that we are all intelligent and creative, I just practise a lot.

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