kitchen table math, the sequel: Most emailed

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Most emailed

I have no doubt Adam Grant's op-ed on raising a creative child, which ran in yesterday's Times, is being emailed to teachers across the land:
Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world....

What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.


In adulthood, many prodigies become experts in their fields and leaders in their organizations. Yet “only a fraction of gifted children eventually become revolutionary adult creators,” laments the psychologist Ellen Winner. “Those who do must make a painful transition” to an adult who “ultimately remakes a domain.”

Most prodigies never make that leap. They apply their extraordinary abilities by shining in their jobs without making waves. They become doctors who heal their patients without fighting to fix the broken medical system or lawyers who defend clients on unfair charges but do not try to transform the laws themselves.

So what does it take to raise a creative child? One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.


SINCE Malcolm Gladwell popularized the “10,000-hour rule” suggesting that success depends on the time we spend in deliberate practice, debate has raged about how the hours necessary to become an expert vary by field and person. In arguing about that, we’ve overlooked two questions that matter just as much.

First, can’t practice itself blind us to ways to improve our area of study? Research reveals that the more we practice, the more we become entrenched — trapped in familiar ways of thinking. Expert bridge players struggled more than novices to adapt when the rules were changed; expert accountants were worse than novices at applying a new tax law.


Hear that, Tiger Moms and Lombardi Dads? You can’t program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you’ll get is an ambitious robot. If you want your children to bring original ideas into the world, you need to let them pursue their passions, not yours.

How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off by Adam Grant | 1/31/2016
Creativity good, practice bad.

Oh, man.

Setting aside the mischief this is going to do, how many "adult geniuses who change the world" do we actually need?

And how often does a lone genius change the world?

Should all expert physicians "fight to fix a broken medical system"?

Should all expert attorneys "try to transform the laws themselves"? (All of the laws?)

As to the rigidity of experts, which is a real phenomenon, the solution isn't to get rid of experts.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure we'd be better off if we had fewer experts in education. Let's get creative with who is allowed to be a principal or a curriculum director.

These people are, frankly, idiots.

Let's talk Mozart. He played for the approval of the Salzburg court. He practiced and practiced and had to get patrons. The idea that his life wasn't bound by rules is absurd. Newton, Gauss, von Neumann, there is absolutely nothing like the modern free-spirit nonsense found in their upbringing.

Modern progressives are sure they are better than anyone and everyone in the past, though there is no evidence of this at all. their presentism leads them to believe all their self promoting ideas are of value, and they have defined their outcomes to prove it.

But it is far more likely that gifted children fail to be extraordinary adults precisely because randomness and "creativity" at home leads them to lack the skills required to function in the world. those skills include the ability to succeed when facing hardship or failure; the ability to get along with others, and explain one's ideas to lesser mortals, to be pleasant, and to work exceedingly hard at practice. Random family structure precludes these behaviors from developing properly, and hobbles these kids.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the lede demonstrates what the author
thinks it does.

"Consider the nation’s most prestigious award for scientifically gifted high school students, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, called the Super Bowl of science by one American president. From its inception in 1942 until 1994, the search recognized more than 2000 precocious teenagers as finalists. But just 1 percent ended up making the National Academy of Sciences, and just eight have won Nobel Prizes."

So ... out of 2,000 teenagers, "only" 8 have won Nobel Prizes. "Only" one in 250. "Only" 0.4%.

Which compares to the non-Westinghouse winners is probably only how many times greater? I'd guess about 10-12 Nobel winners per year, so around 600 Nobel Prize winners in that time (world wide)? In the time in question, Americans won about 200 of these (Westinghouse winners don't have to be US citizens, but some of these winners were born outside the US, too).

52 years worth of high school kids in the US, so probably around 100 - 125 million.

So non-Westinghouse winners: 192 Nobel prizes out of 125 million (~0.00015 % chance of winning).
Westinghouse winners: 8 Nobel prizes out of 2,000 winners (0.4%).

The Westinghouse winners are about 2,500 times more likely to win a Nobel prize. This is flaming out?

-Mark Roulo

C T said...

I just asked my children how many house rules we have. They said, "Huh?" and "I have no idea. You've never written them down."

We certainly do have rules. Don't hit. Don't break stuff. Obey your parents. Do your schoolwork in time for lunch. Don't chew on the furniture (dd4's current fault). But we don't have to write them down because our kids are smart enough to remember them.

So does this mean my children will be creative or not? (Dd4 is undoubtedly a creative child already.)