Day #36- Genius Not Measured by a Standardized Test

Students could be motivated to expand their intellectual potential based on the research offered by David Schwenk in his The Genius in All of Us.

Schenk offers a hopeful of suggestions by arguing that an individual’s intellectual ability cannot be identified by IQ, and that intelligence is not fixed by genetics. Schenk offers clear solutions to improving student motivation in developing intellectual ability by pointing that the means of measurement, namely standardized tests, do not provide fixed results, and there is always room for student improvement.

GeniusIn The Genius in All of Us Schenk first provides the biological evidence that genetics is not the blueprint to life, but rather the means by which we can reach enormous potential. He states that even though most people’s relative intellectual ranking tends to remain the same as they grow older, “it’s not biology that establishes an individual’s rank…; no individual is truly stuck in his or her original ranking…; and every human being  can grow smarter if the environment demands it”(37).
With these conclusions, Schenk affirmed Ripley’s premise, that the environment of the American public schools has been producing exactly the intellectual product that it has demanded.

After explaining malleability in genetics, Schenk’s proposes that intellectual ability is a product of genetics times environment, a formula he terms “GxE.” The positive environmental triggers that act on genetics to improve intellectual ability are:

  • Speaking to children early and often
  • Reading early and often
  • Nurturance and encouragement
  • Setting high expectations
  • Embracing failure
  • Encouraging a growth mindset (39-41)

In making his argument, Schenk also called attention to the importance immersion in a discipline at the earliest ages. For example, he notes the early saturation in the discipline of music resulted in prodigies of Mozart, Beethoven, and YoYo Ma. Schenk sets out four key guidelines that can have a serious impact on student goals, strategies and personal philosophies. In his outline, Schenk suggests parents must first believe that each child has enormous potential. He also expresses the difference between those who support and those who smother. For Schenk, affection cannot be a reward, and failure is not punishable. He notes the need for parents to encourage students to use pace through self-control and to use persistence through practice.

In one of the book’s later chapters, “How to Foster a Culture of Excellence,” Schenk harkens back to the idea that competition and rivalry are at the root the cultural lessons of great achievement. They are also at the heart of motivating students. Schenk’s research explains that:

“Countless students fall behind in math an other subjects for exactly the same reason others generally hate to compete directly in any field; it makes them feel that their permanent limitations are being exposed” (123).

In education many times these permanent limitations named by Schenk are those that have been defined by scores on standardized tests. These tests have that have restricted or even limited views in measuring an individual’s  intelligence.

In this increasing environment of increasing standardization, Schenk’s counter-argument is a particularly attractive one…our own individual genius is not measured in a standardized test




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