Scientific America's article by Tom Clynes, "How to Raise a Genuis: Lessons from a 45-year Study of Supersmart Children," has a somewhat misleading title. This article is not a recipe for turning your child into a genius. Rather it summarizes a study that originated out of Johns Hopkins University. A professor started with a superbright young child who was able to run circles around his undergraduate math colleagues, progressed to a small study of bright middle school students who took the SAT and emerged as a huge undertaking spanning both the country and the world. Hopkins runs the Center for Talented Youth, a program that takes exceptional young people- in the top 1% of their class- and allows them to take college classes in three week periods over the summer. [Disclaimer- my daughter has attended this program for three years- NO this is not bragging any more than saying my son had a resource room for two years is. It has been the one place where she has encountered challenge.] Holding the program has given researchers access to a unique subgroup. The researchers have followed these students beyond school and assessed their impact on society compared with the "average" American.
The results are not especially surprising to me. These students have doctorates, STEM doctorates, research journal publications, patens, and income in the 95 percentile at sometimes double the rate of the general population. This group truly represents the movers and shakers of society.
It is not enough to merely label these kids. They need the education and support to back them up. When my daughter sits in her accelerated classes, playing games on her graphing calculator because she is bored- we are not appropriately educating her. We are occupying her time. When I hear that these kids would learn in a blank room with a stick for an instructor, I agree that for some, they would, but that is not an education. For students with special needs, the law of the land decrees that they have access to a free appropriate public education. Unfortunately our gifted kids are not entitled to the same. For students with special needs, we provide additional teachers and aides. Our gifted kids sometimes have access to a teacher but it is district dependent- mine only has one for the entire five building program. For students with special needs, we modify curriculum. We need to fight for modifications for our gifted children- acceleration, the most cost effective modification available is a black sheep because it takes kids away from their age peers. For students with special needs, we have a federal testing protocol that allows for some students to be tested with alternative tests. Our gifted kids must take the same tests as their age mates- schools are greatful for the proficient scores they bring. We are not meeting the needs of our kids, we are using the cries of eliteism and fiscal stress to detract from their needs.
If we want to raise genius kids to help our society to innovate and succeed, we need to figure out who is gifted, provide enriching and challenging material, and emotional support to handle the differences they face as they move on. China, India and Singapor are doing this. We will be left behind if we neglect our great opportunities- our gifted children.