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Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined Paperback – March 24, 2015
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"Kaufman presents a convincing 'theory of personal intelligence.' But what emerges most clearly is how all children--gifted, disabled or simply humming with untapped abilities--need a fine-tuned, holistic education to shine in their own extraordinary ways."―Nature
"Kaufman makes a convincing case for incorporating valuable but less easily measured attributes into our view of intelligence.... Most powerfully, Kaufman illustrates the importance of uncovering what gives each person his or her own brand of intelligence, taking into account individual goals, psychologies and brain chemistry."―Scientific American Mind
"A good read...introduces the reader to the world of intelligence testing in a highly literate style and pulls back the curtain on some very bad practices in public schools.... Kaufman makes a strong case that anyone can be great, even the 'ungifted.'"―Post and Courier
"A warmly human and coolly scientific survey of both the reductive and the liberating fruits of two centuries of cognitive research."―The Scientist
"Fascinating.... A smart, lucid, and down-to-earth exposition of the underlying neuroscience and the contentious history of theories of intelligence.... Blending incisive analysis with a warm sympathy for intellectual insecurities--and potential--Kaufman demonstrates that even the most ordinary mind is a strange and wondrous gift."―Publishers Weekly
"Kaufman makes a convincing case that stereotyping students is not only unsupported by research, but also discriminatory.... An inspiring, informative affirmation of human potential combined with an overview of historical developments in standardized tests, cognitive psychology and current research."―Kirkus Reviews
"A moving personal story of overcoming the effects of having been labeled as learning disabled, and at the same time a wide ranging exploration of a set of fascinating topics related to ability, learning, and achievement. An inspiring account that should both educate and give hope to children, teachers, and parents."―Ellen Winner, professor of psychology, Boston College, and author of Gifted Children: Myths and Realities
"Ungifted provides a wealth of information about unlocking the potential of those at all levels of the IQ and personality scales. It is interwoven with the author's early life history, which was a tragedy of misdiagnosis."―
About the Author
Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his doctorate at Yale, his M. Phil. at the University of Cambridge under a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and his undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University. He is cofounder of The Creativity Post, and writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American. Kaufman lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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As for the research, this book is not an easy, engaging layperson's read along the lines of Bronson and Merryman's Nurture Shock, which I also enjoyed. In Ungifted, be prepared for some intellectual heavy lifting at times. The author is reviewing and summarizing tons of studies, painting a picture as complex as the topics he covers, as well as highlighting areas where more research is needed to answer remaining mysteries. When he was talking about something I wasn't that interested in, I became a bit bored slogging through all the material. But when it was a topic I was interested in, I appreciated every last drop of the information. Having read this cover to cover, I'd advise readers who find themselves in the midst of a topic they're not as interested in as others to just skim along a bit. You don't need to digest everything to understand the overall points he's making.
When it comes to the author's personal story and informed opinions, this has got to be one of the most likeable authors whose work I've ever read -- a mix of humility, vulnerability, compassion, determination, intelligence, humor and great accomplishment. Throughout the book are instances where what researchers know and what happens in practice to students are at odds. The author's personal story illustrates many lessons learned from the research he reviews on the landscape of human intelligence and achievement, but he's also enough of an exception to some of those correlations to serve as a vivid reminder that all should be encouraged and supported. While there are variables that increase or decrease one's likehihood of, say, getting a PhD from Yale, the author illustrates that we always need to be open to letting people surprise us.
Something I noticed is that the author seems to have come from a loving home with at least middle class, if not greater, resources. He had access to, and time to pursue, opportunities (some of which the author himself created) that helped him navigate an alternative route to high achievement as an adult. It's no secret that money buys advantage and opportunity, and such access by no means diminishes the author's achievements or the grit, creativity, intelligence and determination that won them. Lots of young people have time and resources but never do a quarter as much with them as this author.
The author's story did, however, get me thinking of the loss we endure as a society when we not only underestimate certain students' abilities but also fail to provide them -- if their parents cannot -- with opportunities and resources enabling them to navigate an alternative route to achievement. The voices of people who've "come up" through non-traditional paths, like the author's, have a lot to contribute that cannot be obtained from others. How many voices never contribute to our understanding and well-being when millions of poor children have only closed doors if they are underestimated during their school years? Existing efforts to help economically poor children level the playing field seem to focus on those who most closely fit our traditional expectations for high potential. What about all the others?
The prejudices against economically poorer students' abilities strikes me as similar to the prejudices we hold against K-12 students like the author once was. The author had one of these formidable challenges to overcome, but fortunately not both. Had the author been economically poor as well, I doubt he'd be the researcher and fine teacher he is, through both his intellectual power and personal example. What a tremendous loss that would have been. This book should go a long way in explaining what we know and don't yet know about the depth and breadth of human intelligence and achievement, how to maximize potential, and why we should never snuff out any student's dreams in service to our own preconceived notions about what's possible.