You Donít Want a Child Prodigy

Posted by: Bostonian

You Donít Want a Child Prodigy - 05/26/19 08:32 AM

You Donít Want a Child Prodigy
What ĎRogerí dads do better than Tiger moms ever will.
By David Epstein
Mr. Epstein is the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
New York Times
May 24, 2019


Students who have to specialize earlier in their education ó picking a pre-med or law track while still in high school ó have higher earnings than their generalist peers at first, according to one economistís research in several countries. But the later-specializing peers soon caught up. In sowing their wild intellectual oats, they got a better idea of what they could do and what they wanted to do. The early specializers, meanwhile, more often quit their career tracks.

I found the Roger pattern ó not the Tiger (or Tiger Mother) pattern ó in most domains I examined. Professional breadth paid off, from the creation of comic books (a creatorís years of experience did not predict performance, but the number of different genres the creator had worked in did) to technological innovation (the most successful inventors were those who had worked in a large number of the federal Patent and Trademark Officeís different technological classifications).

A study of scientists found that those who were nationally recognized were more likely to have avocations ó playing music, woodworking, writing ó than typical scientists, and that Nobel laureates were more likely still.

Posted by: silver moon

Re: You Donít Want a Child Prodigy - 07/01/19 02:18 PM

Interesting book. This reminds me of the musician Tori Amos who was a child prodigy in piano. At 5, she was the youngest student ever accepted at Peabody and she had a full scholarship. But by 11 she was burned out, wanting to explore rock and her own interests in writing/composing music. After trial and error with producing music in her 20s, she eventually "made it" with her album Little Earthquakes at about 28.
Posted by: MumOfThree

Re: You Donít Want a Child Prodigy - 07/01/19 09:41 PM

Interesting article. My middle child is very musical. And this became more apparent each time she added a new instrument. She also became more willing to practice all instruments the more of them she had and did better quality practice for each new instrument added... I was so against her taking up a second instrument because she was lackluster about the first. Adding the second was a huge improvement. I argued that a third was ridiculous, but the school compulsory program was compulsory and so she took up a third and her first two benefited...

In the case of music and sport (and possibly other areas as well), talented children experimenting with multiple instruments or sports will be exposed to more variety of teachers and coaches who will impart instruction which benefits more than just the area of their own specialization. Piano, string and brass teachers will not be providing direct instruction on the other instrument classes, nor will tennis, basketball and rowing coaches directly instruct on other sports, but they will impart skills, habits, body awareness, etc which are cumulatively useful to the child's development across the domain.
Posted by: Wren

Re: You Donít Want a Child Prodigy - 07/02/19 06:05 AM

I think it is important for social factors to have a broad array of activities in youth. Swimming, tennis, horseback riding, sailing, music, skiing, camping, travel. My kid will never win a tennis tournament but she can play.

Now, in high school, she is specializing in her interests. And I think our experience with piano taught us to go with what she really wants to do. We were pushed to give her piano lessons at 3, we just put her in the group piano lessons, but they kept pushing. So we started at 4. And she loved to learn pieces but not the detail to get it exactly right. She loved being on the stage for a concert but not into the work. And you can say that many 7 year olds do not want to practice hours a day, but some do. Those are the ones that should pursue music. Not just because you have talent. And she did ballet since 2 and last year competed in a pointe competition but it took so much time and she was never going to be a ballerina, but it was an amazing experience for her to put in the work to learn Giselle and get it right. There wasn't any time for ballet this year. She comes home from the school and goes to the gym for 40 minutes to decompress and then does her homework. And she is trimming activities and focusing on the ones she likes. What constitutes a generalist? Figuring it out in grad school?