Monday, June 23, 2014
What I'm Reading: Ungifted
It's a big book with more than one subtitle: Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined: The Truth About Talent, Practice, Creativity, and the Many Paths to Greatness by Scott Barry Kaufman.
Kaufman tells a fascinating story about intelligence, weaving his own personal life story with both the history of the changing science and understanding of intelligence and the latest findings and speculations in the field. Kaufman was labeled learning disabled as a child, and became fascinated with understanding intelligence in the abstract and his own in particular.
IQ, mindset, potential, talent, creativity, effort, and the g factor are all discussed and sometimes the book gets a bit dense. I am a tad rusty on my understanding of statistics, and had to do a little refresher to figure out some of this. But although the material has serious weight to it, it is also presented in a very interesting way and I found it fascinating.
The validity of testing and the labels "learning disabled" and "gifted" are also really challenged here.
The implications for education are that we should be addressing the whole child with work on cognitive strategies, maximizing each individual's strengths, and encouraging a growth mindset and lots of deliberate practice. Intelligence is earned through effort, not fixed at birth.
Counterintuitively - and contrary to the practice in most schools - the most efficient and cost-effective route to obtaining the best academic outcomes for all students is not a narrow focus on content but a focus on the whole child, including their social, emotional, and physical development.
The deep implication here is that there should be no external pressure to realize a goal at a particular rate. The comparison isn't with others; it's with your former and future selves. If we rid ourselves of the notion that any of us ever reach a state labeled "failure", then there's no problem whatsoever in encouraging people to engage with a domain.
This suggests we should encourage children to dream the impossible, to think beyond the standard expectations, to dare to be unrealistic. Such encouragement promotes the importance of perseverance and questioning the established order. What's more, this instills in all people a mindset of lifelong learning and growth.