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At What Age? Gifted, Talented or Just Well Prepped

By Thomas J. Stanley on Apr 9th, 2013 in Current Events

At what age do you think a child’s trajectory of future achievements (or lack of) is defined?  Some people think that it is at age 4.  It must be since some of them spend considerable dollars having their 4 year-olds “prepared” for acing “the new gifted and talented test.”  If the child scores big he will qualify “for gifted and talented kindergarten seats in New York City public schools.”  It may be that the tutoring has done so well that, as the title of a recent New York Times article states, “Schools Ask: Gifted or Just Well-Prepared?”

Natalie . . . 4, spent an hour and a half each week for six months at Bright Kids NYC, a tutoring company, working on skills like spatial visualization and serial reasoning which are part of the . . . new gifted and talented test.


Why are some people allocating so much time, energy, money and emotional capital to training a 4 year-old to do a “better job” clustering spheres and cubes?  These parents believe that gaining admission to an elite kindergarten program is mandatory in order to succeed in life.  And being labeled as “talented and gifted” in kindergarten opens the doors to future gifted programs in elementary, middle, and high school, college and beyond. 


However, being admitted to a kindergarten program for the talented and gifted does not automatically translate into success in life.  Of course some of this depends upon how one defines success.  One of my current research files in entitled “Noble Prize Winners.”  Not all of the recipients of the medal are profiled. Only those who attended a non-elite, public university and/or who teach or have taught at one of those schools qualify for inclusion in my file.  Too many people think that all medalists attended top tier, private colleges located somewhere geographically between Georgtown in DC and   Bates in Maine.  Really?  The New York Times frequently publishes the bios of Noble Prize winners.  Read them and you will find plenty of people like Dr. James M. Buchanan, “economic scholar and Noble Laureate. . . ” He earned his BA degree from Middle Tennessee State University.   Dr. Robert C. Richardson, whose Nobel Prize was in Physics, received his bachelor’s degree at a state university, Virginia Tech.   Nobel Laureate, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, perfected bone marrow transplant treatments for leukemia.  He was a Chemistry major at The Unveristy of Texas and served for many years on the faculty of another public institution, The University of Washington.  And while on the topic of chemistry note that Dr. Dan Shechtman won the 2011 Noble Prize in that category; he’s on the faculty of Iowa State University.  How far is Ames, Iowa from the elite academic corridor of the Northeast? 


Today public universities are filled with scholars, both faculty and students.  As parents you should critically analyze before taking as gospel those many periodicals that supposedly define “a top rated college.”  And here is what the decamillionaires profiled in The Millionaire Mind believed: only 11% felt that “attending a top rated college” was very important in explaining economic success.  More than five times that number (60%) reported that “being well disciplined” was the key to achieving.


The race called “career building and achievement” is a marathon that begins after one receives a degree. 

4 responses to “At What Age? Gifted, Talented or Just Well Prepped”

  1. mochimac @ save. spend. splurge. says:

    We’re overloading kids today and putting too much pressure on them. Let’s not be surprised when they commit suicide.

    Being smart has nothing to do with being successful. I know plenty of smart folks who are lazy as hell, and they’ve ended up doing nothing with their lives and have the nerve to whine about it to boot.

    In contrast, those who are conscientious, hardworking, ethical and disciplined, tend to always succeed, even if they aren’t “smart”. My best role model for this is my mother, who THINKS she isn’t smart, but is smarter than others who fancied themselves brilliant. She works hard, and is a humble person.

  2. A Reader & A Father says:

    I agree that “the race called “career building and achievement” is a marathon that begins after one receives a degree.”

    My wife, 33, has genius level IQ, started college at the age of 14. By the age of 19, she had 2 BSs and a MS. She wishes that the life was not just too fast while she was a child.

    Our older son, 8, has also been tested as having very superior IQ. We have decided to send him to a public school, which has good educational reputation. We have not loaded him with extra extra extra curricular activities, etc. We want our children to be children while they are kids.

    Unfortunately, there has been a horse race going on in kids’ education. Why would a 3 years old need 3-4 extra activities per day while he/she does barely have any face-time with his/her parents?

  3. mark says:

    Certainly, getting into a “top preschool” is no guarantee of success 40 years later — no argument on that point. But parents who strive to get their kids motivated and into top programs early on aren’t necessarily fools. Being in a gifted elementary school program gives a kid a better shot at getting into (and succeeding in) an elite high school which gives the kid a better chance at an Ivy League college where statistics show that graduates earn a higher salary than those from state schools. No, not every Ivy League graduate earns more than every graduate from State U, but on average they do. And as a parent, trying to tilt the odds in favor of your kids just a little bit is really all you can do. Obviously, there are other ways to enhance your kids’ chances such as instilling work ethic, teaching the benefits of saving, helping them eschew the material trappings of life, etc.

    So there is some benefit to such efforts (whether the cost is worth it is a different argument), but the lesson for the Millionaire Next Door crowd to take away is that there are plenty of people who become financially self-sufficient without and early “leg up,” and their lessons can be emulated.

  4. Caroline Fraiser says:

    Hogwash. We are relying on our child doing well in the G&T test as our public school options in Manhattan are severely limited. Without G&T placement, we are at the mercy of our zoned school (beyond awful), and non-zoned schools that admit by lottery. I do not know of one single parent that is looking at G&T to “open doors” in the future, get into Harvard per se. All parents I know are using G&T as a desperate last ditch attempt at public school before making the decision to move out of the city. Our options are 1)G&T placement 2) win lottery in non-zoned school 3) hefty financial aid in private school. All are long shots. I am perfectly ok with the prospect of having an average happy child. I am not ok with the prospect of my child being taught by slovenly, overworked, illiterate teachers (I am not exaggerating here), and watching those teachers spend the majority of their time managing the behavioral problems of kids without parental support.

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