The book

The author

  • David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including The Forgetting ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS.

    More info here.

    Contact David.

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« "Gifted and Talented" School Programs, Part 1 | Main | "Welcome to Hollywood" »

January 22, 2007


David Truss

Hello David,
I just found your blog, and I look forward to reading more!
Here is a post I created that seems to fit with some of the ideas you have around education. ("Square Peg, Round Hole")
I added the Springsteen quote at the end of the post and linked to your page,


Interesting the question about "The Boss" and the score reading test. I don't imagine he reads music. I think few rock stars do. I don't imagine he ever needed to develop that skill to, for example, become a k-8 music teacher.

I think my lack of similar success has made me a better musician, not than him, but than I would have been. Sometimes rewards hold us back from developing to our full potential. I think there is evidence of this in the arc of many artists careers. Not that I've researched this, that's your job, Dave.

David Shenk

Hi Suanne -- Thanks for joining in. I'd love to learn more about your experience with your daughter's abilities:
- What is she especially good at?
- When did you discover this and what have you done about it?
- Humility aside, where does your gut tell you is the source of her giftedness?

I also would love to hear more about the testing and special classes and all that.

I have heard about the confining aspects of the giftedness label, and observed it a little bit. I'm sure you're familiar with Ellen Winner, who warns about the danger that once kids are put in the "gifted" box for their analytical abilities, they may be much less willing to stick their necks out and think creatively. The label can create a pressure to maintain the smart reputation, and a palpable fear of looking dumb. Does that sound right to you?


Hi Dave,

I'm a good friend of Francesca's and she sent me the link to your blog. I think that she thought I should check it out because I have been heavily involved in the trenches on these issues for about a dozen years. I am the parent of a "profoundly gifted" (not my term--it's the educators at work here) daughter (now 17 and a HS junior). There is some difference drawn around here in our schools between students who score above 97% on one or more of the three sections of the gifted test (quantitative, verbal, spatial)and those who score 99% in all three areas. Apparently, the latter comprise an extremely small percentage of the population. Anyway, I can probably talk about this topic forever. But just a short comment--I was struck by the Bruce S. quote. A lot of people get hung up on how folks are really talented and fall outside of the standard definition of giftedness--which I think is true. But I also think that the narrow view of giftedness can work against those who are included in the definition because they are treated like brains with legs with an one size fits all sort of approach. They are also crammed into the "machine" as Bruce puts it. These students may be no more suited to being inside the structure than someone like Bruce, but book-learning becomes the primary measure of success.

David Shenk

Narrowly indeed. Great story, Dan. Thanks for exposing that embarrassing, if ridiculous, fact about your past. One wonders how Springsteen himself would score on that test.

Since the world doesn't know Dan Seiden yet, I must rush to add that he is a superb singer/songwriter/guitar player. Check out his songs at Click on "Idly By," and close your eyes for a few minutes.

I hope we can drag more thoughts and anecdotes out of you, Dan, since you've got some life experience with talent.


When I was finishing my certificate in music ed. I took a summer course at Central Connecticut State University in conducting. We took a test which involved listenning to pieces of music while looking at a score and answering questions about it. For example, which is out of tune, Violin 1 or 2, etc. I came out in the 9th percentile. So, in other words, I was less good at this than 91% of the population taking the test.

Now, I'm not saying I'm Stevie Wonder or Bruce Springsteen but I'm a good singer and sonwriter, at least I'm not 9th percentile there (probably). But, the point is that if you define a skill set narrowly enough, anyone can seem like a special needs student. Furthermore, even though I was an adult at the time I took the test (probably), and I understood this intellectually, I still felt like a moron.

PS. This is much more exciting to participate in then the NY Knicks blog I've been posting at, thanks Dave.

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