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    You Dont Want a Child Prodigy
    What Roger 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 picking a pre-med or law track while still in high school have higher earnings than their generalist peers at first, according to one economists 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 not the Tiger (or Tiger Mother) pattern in most domains I examined. Professional breadth paid off, from the creation of comic books (a creators 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 Offices different technological classifications).

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

    ...

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    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.

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    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.

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    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?


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