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Beating the Odds

The Myth of the Gifted Child

New York magazine has printed an article called “The Myth of the Gifted Child.” It tells of exams taken by pre-school children in New York. Results can go a long way toward placing a child on a track to high-level schools.

There’s just one problem with this: the test could very well be worthless. Even the people who give it think so. To predict whether or not a child has great potential, you might just as well flip a coin.

These tests are bad enough. What’s just as bad is coaches often make the same mistake. They give their own version of the early-childhood test. It comes in the form of a tryout. If the child seems to have some ability, the child gets attention. It not, then the child struggles along without the same instruction that the so-called “gifted” athletes do.

Some of these low-rated children drop out; some just get along. Others, however, produce miracles. They work in such a way that they improve mightily. Meanwhile, however, the coaches are so busy with their initial evaluations that they scarcely notice the improvement.

Remember: Whether in the classroom or in the gym, initial ability and final ability are not closely related. It is a wise teacher and/or coach who understands and uses this idea.


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