Uncommon Talents: Gifted Children, Prodigies and Savants; The Child's Mind; Exclusive Online Issues; by Ellen Winner; 4 Page(s)
One evening a few years ago, while I was attending a concert, a young boy in the audience caught my attention. As the orchestra played a Mozart concerto, this nine-year-old child sat with a thick, well-thumbed orchestral score opened on his lap. As he read, he hummed the music out loud, in perfect tune. During intermission, I cornered the boy's father. Yes, he told me, Stephen was really reading the music, not just looking at it. And reading musical scores was one of his preferred activities, vying only with reading college-level computer programming manuals. At an age when most children concentrate on fourth-grade arithmetic and the nuances of playground etiquette, Stephen had already earned a prize in music theory that is coveted by adults.
Gifted children like Stephen are fascinating but also intimidating. They have been feared as "possessed," they have been derided as oddballs, they have been ridiculed as nerds. The parents of such young people are often criticized for pushing their children rather than allowing them a normal, well-balanced childhood. These children are so different from others that schools usually do not know how to educate them. Meanwhile society expects gifted children to become creative intellectuals and artists as adults and views them as failures if they do not.