Here is an excerpt from Sam Mcnerney on why how we explain intelligence matters followed by a little something on books such as Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin McMahon, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ by David Shenk.
In Divine Fury, Darrin McMahon chronicles the intellectual history of genius, from the ancient Greeks to modernity. In one of the earliest discussions of genius, Socrates argues that the greatest poets and rhapsodists are not uniquely talented but conduits who receive special “in-breathing,” or inspiration, from the Muses. We didn’t know how to explain creative prowess so we outsourced it to the gods.
As religion waned during the Enlightenment, the idea that genius arrived from an outside source lost its influence. The genius still possessed something special, but it emerged from the mind, and not through divine intervention.
Today geniuses are ubiquitous. David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers suggest that eminent success in art, athletics, and business is not reserved for the genetically endowed but correlates with thousands of hours of deliberate practice. “Once genius was born,” McMahon writes. “Now it is (self)-made.”
McMahon’s illustrious history nicely tracks how the perception of genius shifted from the otherworldly to the terrestrial and eventually the cognitive—some neuroscientists are even trying to explain intelligence neuron by neuron—yet it omits one of the most important developments in the science of intelligence.
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Intelligence matters – Divine Fury
Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin McMahon
Genius. With hints of madness and mystery, moral license and visionary force, the word suggests an almost otherworldly power: the power to create, to divine the secrets of the universe, even to destroy. Yet the notion of genius has been diluted in recent times. Today, rock stars, football coaches, and entrepreneurs are labeled ‘geniuses,’ and the word is applied so widely that it has obscured the sense of special election and superhuman authority that long accompanied it.
As acclaimed historian Darrin M. McMahon explains, the concept of genius has roots in antiquity, when men of prodigious insight were thought to possess—or to be possessed by—demons and gods. Adapted in the centuries that followed and applied to a variety of religious figures, including prophets, apostles, sorcerers, and saints, abiding notions of transcendent human power were invoked at the time of the Renaissance to explain the miraculous creativity of men like Leonardo and Michelangelo.
Intelligence matters – How Children Succeed
“Drop the flashcards—grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”—People
Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.
How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.
Intelligence matters – Outliers
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
Intelligence matters – The Genius in All of Us
With irresistibly persuasive vigor, David Shenk debunks the long-standing notion of genetic “giftedness,” and presents dazzling new scientific research showing how greatness is in the reach of every individual.
DNA does not make us who we are. “Forget everything you think you know about genes, talent, and intelligence,” he writes. “In recent years, a mountain of scientific evidence has emerged suggesting a completely new paradigm: not talent scarcity, but latent talent abundance.”
Integrating cutting-edge research from a wide swath of disciplines—cognitive science, genetics, biology, child development—Shenk offers a highly optimistic new view of human potential. The problem isn’t our inadequate genetic assets, but our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have. IQ testing and widespread acceptance of “innate” abilities have created an unnecessarily pessimistic view of humanity—and fostered much misdirected public policy, especially in education.