Winner's ambitious study focuses on the hereditary, familial, and characterological factors shared by gifted children, and suggests ways in which American educators might help such students develop their special talents.
Winner (Psychology/Boston Coll.) notes that precocious youth differ from their peers in being "independent, self-directed, willful, dominant non-conformists,'' possessed of a raging desire to master new skills and an ability to improvise approaches to learning and problem-solving. Winner goes on to explode some myths about the gifted, including the belief that giftedness necessarily correlates with a high IQ, particularly among artists; some extremely talented young painters and sculptors have only average IQs, while others even suffer from learning disorders such as dyslexia. Gifted children also tend to have parents who provide intellectual stimulation and emotional support. Winner also points out the alarming fact that, while girls "make up about half the population in...programs for the gifted in kindergarten through third grade,'' by junior high school "they make up less than 30 percent.'' But it isn't only girls that society discourages: Our educational system lets down gifted children of both sexes, she asserts, by keeping them in classes with less advanced peers out of misguided egalitarianism, or by grouping them together in superficial programs that meet just a few hours a week. Winner's best section offers a convincing analysis of why some gifted children become highly creative adults--and why many do not. Gifted children must learn how to broaden, apply, and otherwise develop a talent that has come as a gift, transforming "sheer technical skill into something more conceptual, interpretative, and original.''
Written in serviceable if unspectacular prose, her book should help parents and teachers to aid the gifted as they make the often difficult transition from being brilliant children to becoming genuinely creative and fulfilled adults.