Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pure Genius [... It Doesn't Come From the Classroom]

The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQSudden Genius: The Gradual Path to Creative BreakthroughsThe German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth CenturyGenius of BritainIn the popular imagination, geniuses are a breed apart. They are capable of insights or artistic creations that no amount of training and effort could produce in mere ordinary folk. You can squander your genius or fail to fulfil it but, ultimately, you either have it at birth or you don't. Four new books about genius all interrogate this powerful myth. At the very least, they show that the soil in which genius grows matters at least as much as the seed, which is why particular cultures produce particular types of genius at particular times in history. This is the implicit message of Peter Watson’s The German Genius and Robert Uhlig’s Genius of Britain, which look at collective as well as individual brilliance. In Sudden Genius? Andrew Robinson goes further in undermining the myths of genius, suggesting that virtually none of the common-sense ideas we have about it stack up. And in The Genius in All of Us, David Shenk claims the idea that genius is dispensed at birth is still based on discredited genetics. ... All four authors converge, however, on two trends common to genius. The first, most apparent in Uhlig and Watson’s books, is that the minds of geniuses almost always first form themselves outside the confines of formal, standard education. The best education money can buy may be good for most but for true, original creativity, it is more of a hindrance than a help. Einstein was not the under-achiever of legend at school but his autodidactic pursuits were more important for his intellectual development and he only came into his own in private study. The second condition of genius is that it does not emerge without tremendous effort. Robinson describes this in terms of the “ten-year rule”, an idea which Malcolm Gladwell popularised in Outliers: The Story of Success. To achieve something truly outstanding requires about 10 years of regular and extensive work and practice. [10 December 2010 - Financial Times - More]

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