January 06, 2017

What makes a genius?

Camilla Benbow has spent her entire career trying to answer that question. She started out as a student of Julian Stanley, who initially devised the Study for Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). Since then, she’s taken over -- along with her husband, David Lubinski -- as director of the program. And what a program it’s been.

Spanning 45 years, SMPY is one of the longest-running studies on intellectually gifted kids. And Benbow and Lubinski have a lot to say about genius, success, and nature vs. nurture.

Three Takeaways:

  • Benbow warns that there’s a difference between nurturing a gifted child and trying to conjure one out of thin air. “It's one thing for parents to respond to their gifted children by giving them what they crave and desire and need,” Benbow says. “But it's another thing to force them to do things that go against their grain.”
  • A parent doesn’t have to be highly educated to give birth to a genius. Benbow recalls a couple of parents who only had an 8th grade education. “The mother once said [of her son]: ‘He talks so much about math and science.’ And she said, ‘I could care less. But he's interested, so I listen.’” And those are exactly the sorts of young people who Benbow hopes to unearth. “These kids can really be found everywhere. And that was our intent - to find them, even in these places where these kids are hidden.”
  • Stick around through the end of the segment. We’ve got a surprising story about one genius a similar study missed.

More Reading:

This piece was originally titled "Want To Raise A Genius? Do Nothing."

Camilla Benbow, David Lubinski. Education, Body & Mind

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