Are We Paying Too Much Attention to Child Geniuses?

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Are We Paying Too Much Attention to Child Geniuses?

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Are We Paying Too Much Attention to Child Geniuses?

by WSJ Live 3:59 mins

Are We Paying Too Much Attention to Child Geniuses?

by WSJ Live 3:59 mins

The cult of the kid genius could do more harm than good, former child prodigy turned mathematics professor Jordan Ellenberg says. Mr. Ellenberg, author of "How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking," joins Lunch Break with Lee Hawkins. In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, "The Wrong Way to Treat Child Geniuses," Ellenberg writes: "When I was a child, I was a "genius"—the kind you sometimes see profiled on the local news. I started reading at 2. I could multiply two-digit numbers in my head when I was 5. One of my earliest memories is working out a way to generate Pythagorean triples. In third grade, I commuted to the local junior high to take geometry. Kids on the playground would sometimes test me by asking what a million times a million was—and were delighted when I knew the answer. Many advocates for gifted education are similarly delighted by kids like me, seeing us as a kind of natural resource, one we risk squandering as surely as we do fossil fuels. Some educators rebrand child prodigies as "exceptional human capital" and hold us to be the drivers of global economic competitiveness. "These are the people who are going to figure out all the riddles," the Vanderbilt University psychologist David Lubinski said in a recent interview. "Schizophrenia, cancer—they're going to fight terrorism, they're going to create patents and the scientific innovations that drive our economy. But they are not given a lot of opportunities in schools that are designed for typically developing kids." Hearing this sort of thing was pretty flattering when I was a child. But today, I don't think we're paying too little attention to our young geniuses. I think we're paying too much.

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