YOU ARE NOT PREDESTINED TO FAIL AT SCHOOL DUE TO YOUR GENES (OR BACKGROUND)

DAVID SHENK AND GENIUS

Practise makes Perfect

Comment

David Shenk in his book “The Genius in All of Us,” referenced in Michael Goves most recent speech, argues that we have before us not a “talent scarcity” but a “latent talent abundance.” Our problem “isn’t our inadequate genetic assets,” but “our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have.” Talent is not a thing,” says David Shenk, “it’s a PROCESS.” This is actually quite an arresting thought. Talent doesn’t just come from genes, says Shenk. It comes from the way your genes interact with the environment. This means that, with enough effort, some people can learn how to be excellent at things. The truth is he says “that few of us know our true limits, that the vast majority of us have not even come close to tapping what scientists call our ‘un­actualized potential’.” Shenk writes. “Genes are constantly activated and deactivated by environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses and other genes.” That means there can be no guaranteed genetic windfalls, or fixed genetic limits, bestowed at the moment of conception. Instead there is a continually unfolding interaction between our heredity and our world, a process that may be in some measure under our control. . Forget about genes as unchanging “blueprints” and talent as a “gift,” all tied up in a bow. “We cannot allow ourselves to think that way anymore,” Whatever you wish to do well, Shenk writes, you must do over and over again, even if it results frequent failures. This is known as “deliberate practice,” and over time it can actually produce changes in the brain, making new heights of achievement possible But he is careful to say that we are not born without limits — it’s just that none of us can know what those limits are “before we’ve applied enormous re­sources and invested vast amounts of time.”  He relates his own struggle to achieve. “My attitude toward my own writing is simple: I assume that everything I write is rubbish until I have demonstrated otherwise. I will routinely write and rewrite a sentence, paragraph and/or chapter 20, 30, 40 times — as many times as it takes to feel satisfied.”

Gove used Shenks book to argue that there is plenty of evidence that our children are not,  due to their genes or due to their environment (poor background broken home etc), pre-destined to fail at school .   Our children can succeed if  given the right support and encouraged to stretch themselves. Outstanding state schools can and do demonstrate this, by showing no significant achievement gaps based on their pupils background.  Maybe  we make too many assumptions about a childs potential or ‘intelligence’  based on too little information.

Advertisements

One thought on “YOU ARE NOT PREDESTINED TO FAIL AT SCHOOL DUE TO YOUR GENES (OR BACKGROUND)

  1. I always used to use the sport analogy when teaching to get this idea of potential across to kids. There are few children who don’t appreciate that repetition: physical, focused, deliberate repetition, gets results. It seems difficult for many to apply the same process to their academic studies.

    What worries me, is that policy is still hugely underestimating the problem. Some of the children I recently taught were without any capacity at all to act for themselves. It was as though they had been fed the great Dickensian lie from birth that it’s in their genes and therefore there is nothing they can do…literally!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s