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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (this is interesting)

(5 Posts)
lijaco Sun 07-Jun-09 22:06:09

The unlabelled gifted had many fewer emotional problems and a broader span of learning and activities. In fact, strong pressure sometimes had the opposite effect from what was intended, the worst affected being the accelerated boys specialising in science. They could miss out on the healthy development of social skills and relationships and their self-images were poor. All work and no play not only make Jack a dull boy, but a sad and lonely one too. Today, in their forties, many regret the way their childhood was spent in heavy study.

The decision whether to accelerate the gifted in school is difficult and depends on the flexibility of the system, how many others in a school are accelerated, the child’s level of maturation and the emotional support received. Where the school standard is high (as in Scandinavia) there seems to be no need for jumping children up a class or two, and there are many other ways of helping the gifted without removing them from their age group. Accelerated children can have big gaps in their learning, and resulting emotional problems can appear long after the school years.

General enrichment, though, is not adequate as a blanket measure. The children who had an enriched education at the Hunter School for the gifted in New York had not achieved any differently from their social and intellectual peers at other schools – 40 years later (Subotnik et al, 1993). A clear focus in enrichment is essential. This could be, for example, a journalism course for sharp writers or photography for the visually talented. It is helpful to observe children in rich and varied educational settings; perhaps dancers in a serious dance class or future programmers with access to good-quality computers.

Teacher encouragement of play is extremely important for creativity in all fields. The great scientists, such as Albert Einstein and Peter Medawar said that they would not have gained their Nobel prizes without play. Playful attitudes to work begin from the first days of school and heavy memorising severely inhibits this.

Freeman’s sports approach
Selection of the gifted followed by special provision works quite well for children who are already highly achieving. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that we should change to a dynamic approach, flinging our nets more widely to pick up many more youngsters who have hidden talents. Given the opportunity and, with some adult guidance, children should be able to select themselves to work in any area at a more advanced or deeper level – assuming that the provision is there for them.

For talented sporting children there’s often extra tuition, equipment and transport for matches. But talented chemists or linguists often get much less support. In the same way that those who are talented and motivated can select themselves for extra tuition and practice in sport, I suggest they could select themselves for extra help in the subject area of their choice.

This would mean, of course, that the extra facilities must be open to all, rather than only to those selected by IQ tests, adult experts or the money to pay for extras. If we were to take this approach for all children, I am sure that in a few years we could have a far higher proportion of those we now see as gifted.

No single style of teaching can cater for the needs of all gifted pupils. Gifts can take many different forms and they may turn up in quite unexpected situations at different points during a life-time. Above all, to develop excellence in any area, potentially gifted children require the means to learn, which includes generous learning materials, focussed challenging teaching, encouragement and absolute acceptance for who they are.


Dahme, G (1996) ‘Teachers’ Conceptions of Gifted Students in Indonesia (Java), Germany and USA’. Paper given at the fifth conference of the European Council for High Ability, Vienna.
Freeman, J (1998). The Education of the Very Able: Current International Research. London: The Stationery Office (free on
Freeman, J (2001) Gifted Children Grown Up. London: David Fulton Publishers.
Freeman, J (2002) ‘Out of School Educational Provision for the Gifted and Talented around the World’, Report for DfES (Free on
Freeman, J (2003), ‘Gender Differences in Gifted Achievement in Britain and the USA’, Gifted Child Quarterly, 47, 202-211 (free on
Hedges, LV, and Nowell, A (1995) ‘Sex Differences in Mental Test Scores, Variability, and Numbers of High-scoring Individuals’, Science, 269, 41-45.
Holahan, CK and Sears, RR (1995). The Gifted Group in Later Maturity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Subotnik, R, Kassan, L, Summers, E and Wasser, A (1993). Genius Revisited: High IQ Children Grow Up. New Jersey: Ablex.

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usernametaken Mon 08-Jun-09 11:34:20

Do you have the internet link for this, please! Thank you!

mimsum Mon 08-Jun-09 17:58:38

Although that sports approach analogy doesn't hold up at all ...

kids who are talented at sports don't put themselves forward for extra tuition/practice etc, they're selected on the basis of their results

It wouldn't matter how motivated my ds is with his swimming - if he doesn't make the times he'll be out of his squad, so the extra opportunities aren't available to all ...

cornsilk Mon 08-Jun-09 18:07:42

Interesting. Einstein(mentioned in the article) would not have been considered G&T by the current standards.

juuule Mon 08-Jun-09 21:55:56

Thislink looks like the article which lijaco posted extracts from?

This bit struck a chord for me:-
"They can suffer particularly from other people’s expectations; perhaps the worst is being expected to be perfect all the time. Constantly high expectations mean that failure is inevitable from time to time. This brings children fears of disappointing teachers and parents. Such fears directed some of the gifted children I have interviewed to aim for unchallenging goals throughout life. Teachers can help by allowing the gifted to feel free to experiment – and fail – and still feel good about themselves."

And I think that the last sentence is particularly good advice. Learning to deal with failure and recognising it as a learning experience and not something shameful is extremely valuable imo.

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