TERMAN'S KIDS by Joel N. Shurkin


The Groundbreaking Study of How the Gifted Grow Up
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 A revelatory report on the late Lewis Terman's extraordinary study of nearly 1,500 intellectually ``gifted'' children, a study that began in 1921 and continues today. Terman, developer of the Stanford-Binet test for intelligence, believed that geniuses were born, not made. He also believed that bright people were not maladjusted nerds but were capable of productive, happy lives. To prove his theories, he designed a study that would identify children with unusually high IQs and track them to the end of their lives. Many of the ``Termites,'' as they were dubbed, are still alive and are still being studied by Terman's academic heirs. Shurkin, a teacher of journalism at Stanford--where Terman was based--was given free access to the files, and he interviewed many of the subjects. A mix of biography, case history, and academic review, his book is also an amazing exposÇ of major flaws in this long-heralded sociological investigation. Shurkin points out, for instance, that there was no control group. Moreover, he says, over the years, Terman constantly meddled in the lives of his subjects, urging them to further education, wrangling scholarships, influencing admissions to college, and exchanging soul-searching letters with many of them. Despite these flaws, though, the sheer mass of material collected by Terman and his followers has made the study of immense value to later researchers. The study's results have in fact undermined the idea that intelligence is all in the genes--family influence has had a strong impact on Termites' achievements. The results, though, have upheld Terman's belief that intelligence contributes to a rewarding life- -rewarding, but with no creative breakthroughs. Shurkin's last sentence is telling: ``The Terman kid who may have had the greatest impact on our society was a comedy writer''--Jess Oppenheimer, the originator of I Love Lucy. Shurkin successfully humanizes the Terman study at the same time that he lifts the veil of romance from its subjects.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1992
ISBN: 0-316-78890-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1992