Sonntag, 27. Mai 2018

Gifted Children

Ellen Winner, The role of talent in the visual arts:


"The compulsion to draw found in precocious drawers has its parallels in many other domains. That is, any time a child is precocious in a particular activity, that child is also highly interested in and drawn to work at that activity. One can find children who spend hours every day finding and solving math problems; not surprisingly, these children also are precocious at math, and able to think about mathematical concepts far beyond the reach of their peers. The same kinds of children have been noted in music, chess, and reading."

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"even the very first productions of precocious children are advanced."

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"One cannot even cajole or force a normal child to draw or play music or chess all day, and the children I am talking about insisted on spending their time in this way. Indeed, they often had to be dragged away from their preferred activities in order to eat, sleep, go to school, and be sociable. The interest, drive, and desire to work on something must be part and parcel of the talent."

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"Of course, as I have already indicated, and as Chamess et al. and Ericsson have argued, the daily hours spent working on something lead to improvement that would not occur without the daily work. However, the desire to work so hard at something comes from within, not without, and occurs almost always when there is an ability to achieve at high levels with relative ease."

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"Occasionally one finds examples of hard work without what I would call innate talent. I refer to these children as drudges, in contrast to those I would call gifted. In the domain of drawing there exists a published record of drawings produced by a child who was obsessed with drawing, who drew constantly, but who never made much progress. This child, Charles, described by Hildreth (1941), provides us with a vivid example of hard work, perhaps one might say deliberate practice, without much innate ability."

"Another kind of example of the effects of hard work without talent can be found in any urban preschool and elementary school in contemporary China. Chinese children are given explicit instructions in drawing from the age of 3, when they enter kindergarten; and from the age of 6 they have daily practice in copying calligraphy (Gardner, 1989; Winner, 1989). These children are taught in a meticulous, step-by-step manner how to produce a wide variety of graphic schemas found in traditional Chinese painting: bamboo, goldfish, shrimp, chickens, roosters, and so on. They are taught precisely which lines to make, and the direction and order in which to make them. They learn by copying, but eventually they are able to go beyond copying and draw from life. Whereas ordinary Western children are given virtually no instruction in drawing, and are simply given materials with which to explore and experiment, ordinary Chinese children are given very detailed instruction in drawing as a skill. Thus, the drawings of ordinary Chinese children appear controlled, neat, skilled, and adultlike, whereas those of ordinary Western children appear free, messy, unskilled, and childlike. It is undoubtedly the instructional regimen imposed on the Chinese child that accounts for the difference.
One can see the same phenomenon in the domain of music. Ordinary Japanese children trained in the Suzuki method of violin begin to play the violin at a very young age and practice every day. These children play in a disciplined, controlled, musical manner at a very young age, and appear on the surface as if they are all musical prodigies.
Although Chinese drawers and Suzuki violinists perform at a level that makes them look highly skilled, they are really very different from the kinds of children I described earlier-those who not only choose to draw, play music, or solve math problems, but who insist on doing so, and all the time."

"Precocious drawers seem to be able to do things with lines on paper that are simply never mastered by ordinary children who work hard at drawing. Here are a few ways in which they differ. First, as already mentioned, they are self-taught. For example, they invent techniques such as perspective and foreshortening on their own, whereas ordinary children require instruction to arrive at these achievements. Second, they show a confidence in their line, and an ability to draw a complex contour with one fluid line. Ordinary children never arrive at this. ... Third, they can begin a drawing from any part of the object drawn, and draw objects from noncanonical orientations. This ability suggests a strong visual imagery ability (see the following for evidence of this ). Strong visual imagery is also suggested by the way in which these children often draw something vividly that they have seen months, even years ago (Seife, 1995; Winner, 1996). Fourth, these children are highly inventive, and endlessly vary their compositions, forms, and sometimes colors. ... This ability to invent and discover the domain independent of instruction has its parallel in all other domains in which one finds precocious children."

"In short, precocious children are not mere drudges. They are not ordinary children who know how to work hard. Not only can one not make ordinary children spend hours a day at drawing or chess or math, but even if one could, as in China or Japan, these children do not achieve with instruction what precocious children achieve on their own."

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