Intellectual giftedness is measurable, can be harnessed and makes a difference. You don’t loss your giftedness in normal circumstances as it remain stable all throughout life. The gifted are more likely to be successful than less intelligent beings. There are no problems due to being very intelligent; only difficulties due to lack of political will, institutional irresponsibility, family indifference and/or lack of resources.
Why should you be interested in intelligence and giftedness? Reading about it challenges you on what and how you think of your own intellect and that of others. Perhaps you want confirmation of your giftedness or that of someone you know. Even if you think that you are not gifted, your quest for understanding about it is a manifestation of your interest and intelligence. Maybe you are curious to know why you are not gifted, as why they are gifted, and would like to find out if this lack of giftedness, or their giftedness, really matters.
Intellectual giftedness affects you directly and indirectly. It is important to know if you or your partner, children, colleagues or friends are gifted to better understand them and improve interaction. In most cases, not knowing that your child, spouse, relative or friend is gifted causes misjudgement, unhappiness and failed relationship. Having more than one gifted person in the family (i.e. both parents, two or more children or one parent and a child) does not guaranty happiness. As a matter of fact, such a situation can be complicated, frustrating and not so easy to live by.
Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius in the 1860s has been heralded as a pioneering work on gifted children and adults in terms of evaluating speed, memory and mental skill. Since then, there have been significant studies on giftedness but unfortunately most of these are accessible to and have been used for academic purposes.
Very often, when we read articles about gifted people, we are told of stories of the famous and eminent, such as Einstein. There are gifted and geniuses: not all gifted are geniuses but all geniuses are gifted. The articles written about these geniuses usually focus on their successful achievements intellectually but poor emotional ability and social accomplishment. I believe there are more intellectually gifted individuals who are well-rounded than otherwise. I am particularly interested to talk about the gifted who do not make it to the international arena of geniuses. Many of these gifted, who are about 2% of our population, succeed intellectually, socially and personally – a cocktail that does not fit into the findings and thinking of some experts in the field.
First and foremost, what is an intellectual giftedness? An acquaintance believes her daughter is gifted because she reads a lot but her daughter’s teachers do not think so because she does not have excellent school grades. The BBC News reported on 30 April 2009 a 2 year-old girl who became the youngest member of Mensa, an organisation of gifted individuals. The accompanying video showed her counting in Spanish and answering correctly the reporter’s questions on capital cities. Though normally she’s too young to be IQ tested, her parents had her do it with a result of 156. Why did the BBC have this as news? It’s because it has the ingredients of something current and interesting: an unusual child, who can be anyone’s relative or neighbour, and intelligence.
This is my observation of a gifted child or adult: is self-instructing, is hyper sensitive about his ability and existence, is passionate or has an incredible interest in one area or more, is quick in mental deductions, has the ability to move from the concrete world to work with abstraction and vice versa, and exhibits traits and behaviours that average persons recognise to be typical of intelligent people (which is discussed in detailed in the coming chapters). However, what I cannot say for sure is that why one child is intellectually smarter than the other one in the same family. Why is it that not all gifted parents produce intelligent children? Why do some average parents have genius children? Some children live with their lowly-educated parents and do not have books at home but are gifted. Whereas, there are those who are surrounded with intellectually stimulating people, resources, activities and environment but do not make it to the 2% or even 5% of the gifted population. There are just some of the issues that make the subject of giftedness a constant source of curiosity and debate.
Is it heredity or environment that has more influence on intelligence? It is vital to understand the functions and activities of the brain to understand intelligence,. What is giftedness and how is it to be gifted in our current society? What are the implications of giftedness and who are responsible for what (family, educational institutions, communities, and governments)? What’s the impact of political, social and economic changes (e.g. global financial crisis) on individual giftedness? How do we ensure that intellectual giftedness translates into success for the individual and the society as a whole? Do we enhance giftedness and does not this create inequality? How do socio-economic inequality and differences in parental commitment influence enhancements that contribute to giftedness?
The topic on intelligence is like a vast ocean: it has not been exhausted and will never be. Furthermore, experiences, philosophies/thoughts, priorities and policies change as influenced by socio-cultural, economic and political circumstances. These developments create the need to continue to study and discuss this subject to ensure that gifted people justly and fairly function in our society, and for societies to maximise and benefit from giftedness. Imagine having gifted government decision makers, politicians, employers, (Introduction from Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave by Dr. Rolade Brizuela Berthier).
Real trophy in life
Two weeks ago, I participated in a club chess tournament not because I’m a naturally competitive and gifted (i.e. in chess) person, but to have fun and please my son. It’s an annual event when children and their parents join in a friendly competition. Some parents find excuse not to participate, such as “really hopeless in chess” and “can’t stay the whole afternoon due to other commitments.” I was the only female joiner. I was happy not because I got a lovely trophy for finishing 2nd among the parents but because my son was proud of me. He beamed with gladness recalling how his 3 friends had difficulty winning against his mum, especially that one of them said, “I had to use my tower and knight just to take your mum’s pawn.” Another added, “She didn’t give up at all, she kept on depending until her king was cornered.” His joy and pride was the most rewarding trophy for me.
I’m absolutely certain that if I finished last in that competition, he would still have been proud of me due to my willingness to share his interest and experience defeat. In chess competitions, everybody shakes his/her opponent’s hand before and after each game and winners often explain to his/her opponent how the loss could have been avoided (which contributes in the improvement of future performances). These two demonstrations of sportshumanship are not evident in other sporting competitions. As well, participants mingle or play together (other sports like football) during the break.
I enjoy watching children play chess and admire their ability to sit down for at least 30 minutes concentrating on moving their pieces strategically. At this period of rapid technological advancement and proliferation of electronic and video games, playing a board game (e.g. chess) with family and friends or in a club encourages positive socialisation and enhances human values, namely: respect, honesty, courtesy and discipline. Furthermore, these have intellectual benefits regardless of gender, age, socio-economic background and ethnic origin.
Family members and teachers (and friends after a certain age) influence our choice of a past time. Thus, don’t criticise or punish your sons and daughters for playing video games or finger flipping electronically and not seeing anyone for days, if you’d not exerted extra efforts in giving them an opportunity to try other interesting activities. In developed countries, especially, there are government-funded clubs and organisations whose membership is open to the public at low or no cost. Socio-economic inequalities are here to stay, and this should not be used as a scapegoat for our non-involvement in sports and associations: “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”