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Genius is play

Above all, what Shenk wants to communicate is that "the whole concept of genetic giftedness turns out to be wildly off the mark -- tragically kept afloat for decades by a cascade of misunderstandings and misleading metaphors." Instead of acquiescing to the belief that talent is a quality we're either born with or not, he wants us to understand that anyone can aspire to superlative achievement. Hard, persistent and focused work is responsible for greatness, rather than innate ability.

Shenk does have a lot of evidence for this assertion, most of it coming from geneticists and other biological researchers who are perplexed at the way their disciplines get depicted in the media. (Laura Miller, “The Genius in All of Us,” Salon, 7 March 2010)

If you right nurture them -- genius; if you well hurt them -- autism/schizophrenia: we ready for this?

Well, if things like genius are mostly environment (which is what I think it is -- but mostly about readiness to grow and play than about persisting and work harder), then things like autism and ADHD are probably environment as well. I'm fairly certain parents can put 2 and 2 together, and figure out some means to put an end to this well-credentialed, careful "nutjob."

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

I don't understand your argument. Why would medical disorders prove to be environmental if talent and ability prove to be? (Christopher1988, response to post)


The argument here makes genius the responsibility of good childrearing, not (so much) good genes. If parents embrace this new way of accounting for mental ability, they've positioned themselves so they're going to have a tough time not feeling obliged to attend to emerging arguments that make environment mostly responsibility for mental DISABILITY as well. This doesn't seem obvious to you? Maybe it's not; but it seems to me that it is. In any case, autism as mostly childrearing, not genes, is essentially implicit in everything Stanley Greenspan has written. And I really hope we haven't forgotten about dear R.D. Laing -- the guy who helped stop Britains from electrocuting their schizos, by getting people to understand that schizophrenia IS crazy (I know, I know -- he came to conclude it was actually a state of enlightenment), but still often the only available -- the sanest -- mental "response" to insane parental demands on the child.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

Sorry, just not seeing it. Deciding on the basis of this article's argument that autism and bipolar issues are a result of child-rearing is like saying being born without an arm or being born color-blind is a result of parental upbringing. There is a very huge difference between falling in the normal range of human intelligence and how the way we are raised leads this natural ability to flourish and being born with a geniune medical condition that prevents one's brain from working normally. (Christopher1988, response to post)


Re: “There is a very huge difference between falling in the normal range of human intelligence and how the way we are raised leads this natural ability to flourish and being born with a geniune medical condition that prevents one's brain from working normally.”

I hear you. And thanks for the feedback. But a good portion of what we now delineate as "genuine medical conditions that prevent one's brain from working normally," were once not so neatly tucked away into the nurture camp. Even if "it" showed up at birth, people had in mind to more investigate the nature of the womb environment than speculate about one's DNA. Regarding things like ADHD, Autism, Schiziphrenia/multiple personalities -- that is, mental afflictions a good number now are estimating all about your genes -- not just some worthy neglected psychologists/psychiatrists but a huge number of the fretful parents who've helped ensure the current predominance of (neither you or your parent's fault) nature theory at heart believe that the whole current mental-disease medical edifice is just emergent froth from our own brew of homemade deceptions and self-deceits. Not a learned outsider telling us how it is, but a (soberly-dressed) phantom of our own imagination/preference telling us what we want/need to hear, calming us down with (the equivalent of) mechanic's talk of geers and spark-plugs. Doubt it? Stand your average parents with an ADHD-afflicted child along a long wall of current books which establish beyond doubt how ADHD is all genes, along a long wall of full-agreement, confirmation and those-who-think-your-affliction-means-there's-something-wrong-with-you-personally-are-just-scientifically-ignorant assurance, and just start talking sceptic -- the likely rage you'll very quickly encounter comes from them knowing that these experts are just extensions of their own needs, that they (the experts) have not well addressed/tackled deeply felt counter evidence to everything they argue, that have left them remaining feeling vulnerable to consciousness disassembling -- overwhelming panic-attack -- should being member of the DNA club stop supplying them the elative uppers being part of the hip and perennially societally relevant provides you with.

"If parents can encourage their kids into genius, surely they can drive them into psychosis": we'll see if this prevails over your "very huge difference."

- - - - -


Re: “That's different from telling everyone, "You, yes YOU, can be a genius! You already ARE a genius!" This is just pandering to the narcissism that's been running through our culture for decades.”

Yeah, and you had add that to the "it just takes lots of hard work" idea -- a way of estimating your own life efforts that pretty much everyone subscribes to (i.e., we're all suffering and working non-stop doggedly) -- and you have an even easier time imagining this a message Charlotte would spin to keep the rather ordinary feeling extraordinary.

Re: “The truth is that the vast majority of people do not have it in their range to be a genius at anything, no matter how enriched their environment or how superhuman their perseverance.”

If you convince with this argument, I can't but help that it's because it's aided along by our tendency to associate creativity with IQ and our preference/need to believe that out there are but a few greats --who are so much greater for there being few of them -- we can attach to to breast such things as our own personal depression and fears of imminent societal collapse.

Personally, since I just think of genius as never really being cowed, as seeing/imagining everything before you as in play -- and wanting to play (and play! and play!) with them -- I think it's accessible to everyone. (What does high IQ do for you, more than add another couple of the same you might juggle with? Isn't everyone in MENSA an autistic logic-puzzle solver -- that is, lacking of nuance, too concerned with familiar repetition, and essentially retarded?) You don't tell your kids s/he's a genius, you just keep challenging them, communicating that their play and challenge is welcome and wonderful -- not by saying this, but by the manner in which you engage with them -- keep developing the "conversation," wherever it goes. These kids will delight and astonish people (or scare the hell out of them). It's guaranteed. But if we're intent on pushing them to Princeton, if we need to see them a certain way regardless of who they in fact are (leaving them ignored, and therefore, less developed), if we're actually AFRAID of the new because it has the capacity to unsettle in a way we worry we cannot handle, we'll see none of them emerge when so easily we could have seen them everywhere.

To be a genius right now means to be ignored -- 'cause we're tightening up, going into stupid trance-states, and really just want the predictable -- and so this (i.e., predictability/pliancy) is what you'll find with everyone we now tell you is beyond brilliant. If you're going to say something new and be accepted, make if the most incremental of steps forward, and crowd it with as many people as possible that assure you are saying much the same as what so many others before you have felt comfortable suggesting. If we let it stand, we'll make a very visible statue of you, not so much to salute you (though we do ever-so-much appreciate you making us feel venturesome and bold, without making us feel the least bit unsettled and anxious!) but to clearly demarcate exactly where-beyond, no one further will be allowed to pass.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

“Doubt it? Stand your average parents with an ADHD-afflicted child along a long wall of current books which establish beyond doubt how ADHD is all genes, along a long wall of full-agreement, confirmation and those-who-think-your-affliction-means-there's-something-wrong-with-you,-personally- are-just-scientifically-ignorant assurance, and just start talking sceptic”

Your argument might hold water a little better if there really was some kind of evidence and there were any books written about a proven genetic link for ADHD. There is not. You're just talking out of your ass, just as you want to believe that discovering the factors that result in talent and high achievement should somehow change conditions that children are born with into something you can blame on what the parents did after the child was born. (Angela Quattrano, response to post)


@Angela Quattrano

Re: “Your argument might hold water a little better if there really was some kind of evidence and there were any books written about a proven genetic link for ADHD” (Angela Quattrano, response to post)

Would it hold water better if not a one of the long line of books on ADHD on the shelf suggested that "your" mind went hither-tither owing to your parents never letting it know safe-harbor? I've seen and pa-roused the long line, and yet still wrote "genes": it may well have been just nerves? bio-acids? chemical? but I went with genes cause it's the "most usual" when we're retreating from mommy-didn't-love-me assessments of our mental problems.


I think what I'm saying is that right now NOT EVEN doctors can get away with explaining to patients/parents that an "affliction" is a "nature" problem/benefit, because we've so long disengaged from believing we've got to engage with our past to understand/move beyond our present -- and at some level know how disengaged, how vulnerable, this has made us at a time when we suspect whole bunches of us may not (be allowed to) make it -- that you can't suggest nature/environment in even the whitest of coats, the most affectless (blameless?) of terms but soothing of tones, without people thinking you're in mind to remind them of what it once felt like as a child to know hate and fear in the guise of love, in those you HAD to have love and want you. These same people can't handle, not just the fact of what they may have done to their own kids to create such chaotic minds, but a closer look at what-responsible? for the anxieties/fears/"visitations" that drew them to have such ambiguous relationships with their children.

Link: The Genius in All of Us (Salon)


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