- Abilities matter. They are malleable, however, and need to be cultivated.
- Society needs to provide opportunities for intellectual enrichment to all students to ferret out hidden talents.
- Psychological strengths such as persistence, social skills and strategic risk taking are determining factors in the successful development of talent.
In 1957, when Sputnik took the world by storm, the Ford Foundation was several years into a project for talented students based on early college entrance. An evaluation of that program from the Fund for the Advancement of Education read: “There are those who argue that it is psychologically unsound and politically undemocratic for one child to proceed faster or to have a richer academic diet than another…. But what is too often ignored is the greatest risk of all—the risk of adhering stubbornly to a clearly imperfect set of practices which are frustrating the development of young talent at a time in history when this nation urgently needs to develop its human resources to the full.”
The authors argued that focusing on the most able students is critical in a democracy for nurturing a cadre of capable leaders, among other advantages. The resulting infusion of attention and resources to talented youths through the National Defense Education Act led to a boom of innovation and scientific productivity in the U.S.
This article was originally published with the title Nurturing the Young Genius.