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And, the good news is that no-one is doomed to mediocrity!
on 29 May 2010
Shenk: The genius in all of us.
The great thing about Shenk's book is that it casts out the belief in the immutability of intelligence. I grew up with the concept of "g" (general intelligence) and saw its profound effect on education. It suited stratified societies to continue the myth of "g" but it couldn't explain away drive and motivation. Yong Zhao (2009) also warned of the educational problem of high scores, low ability.
In an equation that acknowledges that intelligence is a function of environment (G X E), the triggers for intelligence growth were identified as:
1. Speaking to children early and often;
2. Reading early and often;
3. Nurturance and encouragement;
4. Setting high expectations;
5. Embracing failure;
6. Encouraging a `growth mindset'. (pp. 39-40)
In the story of Suzuki developing a world famous violin pedagogy, his starting point was a faith that every student has enormous potential, and then with parental support that potential is developed.
Shenk says that at birth the parents of the child have two alternatives:
a. The prodigy that is pushed by narcissistic parents, and then fall back into mediocrity in adulthood; or
b. The emotionally balanced child who will gather skills and develop greatness as an adult. Walter Mischel's marshmallow experiment of delayed gratification is still as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.
Epigenetics is an area of genetic study that is developing, and it claims that the effects of events and trauma can be transferred across generations. John Cloud wrote in Time magazine- Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny (January 6, 2010).
Shenk's contribution to genetics, education and life is his belief in the plasticity of human potential. All educators need to rejoice at this conclusion, and the book should be compulsory reading for all teachers and aspirant teachers.