Saturday, September 8, 2007

What Makes a Prodigy?

The Daily Galaxy -News from Planet Earth & Beyond contained the article posted by Rebecca Sato on September the 6th.
clipped from

Newton’s Children -What Makes a Prodigy?


blog it
It seems to me that no progress has been done in many years.
The story contains an example of a very gifted child.

March Boedihardjo is like other boys his age in many respects, but the Indonesian-Chinese mathematics prodigy is also Hong Kong's youngest undergraduate. The 9 year-old was accepted by Hong Kong's Baptist University to study for a master's degree after gaining straight As in entrance A-level exams usually taken by 17 to 18 year-olds.

"It was too easy," Boedihardjo complained to reporters after his first day of classes earlier this week. He added that he'd already learnt all this stuff a year or two ago. Not only were the classes boring, but he thought the other students were pretty dull too. The boy pointed out that his old school friends "wanted to play", unlike the university students.

"They made no response. They just listened in the class and didn't interact with each other," March said.

Even though the university has designed a special five-year program for the child, some educational experts have been critical about the boy attending college so young. They warn he might experience stunted personal and social development as a result. However, March wants to continue learning new things—something that would be nearly impossible in a class of typical 9 year-olds.

I very strongly disagree on the worry about the social development. If this child was attending school with children of his own age he would face at least two problems. He would very possibly get negative attention from his school mates and being teased. That would not improve his social development but made him realize that he can't cope with normal people. The other result might be boredom in classes which again might cause him disturb the whole class or a serious affect on his learning habits. He would conclude that he does not have to work ever to learn something. I have come across to both problems in real life.

Some theories, particularly the biosocial theory of creativity, suggest that there is a strong link between genius and disorders. It suggests that the source of the genius abnormality lies in a physically “defective” brain, which is the result of hereditary coincidences. This theory points out the many cases of geniuses that also suffered from some form of “insanity”, as in the common portrayal of the mad scientist. People with “savant syndrome” are often considered to be geniuses, but their genius appears to somehow coincide with autisms or some other developmental disability.
This theory is very old. I somehow agree with that since many intelligent people have been considered insane. However part of this is due to the fact that people with lesser intelligence have no ability to understand the thouhgts and logic of a genius. In addition many intelligent people find it hard or even impossible to lower their explanations to the level the other people can understand. This is usually easier for women and very often women are not referred as geniuses even though they exist. Women have to create the ability if they have children.

Currently, the causes and the nature of genius are not well understood. The human brain is still a mystery in many ways, but science has unraveled a few interesting clues. Scientists don’t know exactly how the gray matter in the human brain works, but there is an interesting correlation between intelligence and grey matter. While the overall size of a brain does not appear to have much influence on intelligence, the amount of grey matter in the brain may.A 2004 study at the University of California, Irvine found that the volume of gray matter in parts of the cerebral cortex had a greater impact on intelligence than the brain's total volume. The findings suggest that specific physical attributes of certain stuctures of the brain may partially determine in what ways a person excels intellectually.
A paper published last year in the journal "Nature" also suggested that particular way a brain develops affects intelligence. A person's cerebral cortex gets thicker during childhood and thinner during adolescence. According to the study, the brains of children with higher IQs thickened faster than those of other children. Studies also suggest that children do partially inherit intelligence from their parents. Some researchers theorize that this is because specific physical structures of the brain can be an inherited trait.
I have been very interested in this. Even though there are acceptions, certain abilities seem to run in the family. In all aspects I think the development and functioning of the brain is not very well known. I trust the truth lies in biology and psychology has done more damage than improvement to some people.

The conclusion of the article gives hope to everybody:
Even “normal” people have been known to acquire exceptional talents with enough patience and perseverance.
I just hope all parents remeber that a child can not be forced to be a genius. The passion has to come from the child's own interest.

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