"Accidental Genius" - A Review of "Connie S.'" Review


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3 out of 5 stars Sincere and Well Meant, August 18, 2000
Reviewer: connies (see more about me) from East coast
"The Kearney's present an honest and heartfelt picture of their struggles to raise a profoundly gifted child. Unfortunately, they proceed to make recommendations based solely on their personal experience."

"They wrongly assume that they are responsible for Michael's amazing mental development, being unaware that there have been many others like him, and that such prodigality is inborn. "

Connie, dear lady, where are you coming from? They don't "wrongly assume" anything of the kind!!! When I first talked with Kevin and Cassidy Kearney about their experiences rearing Michael and Maeghan, I had gotten the idea that maybe they had found some way to intervene shortly after birth to produce not one but two prodigiously gifted children. Kevin Kearney set me straight right away. He explained that it may be possible to boost IQ a few points through environmental intervention, but that in the large, Michael and Maeghan were born and not made. The book explains that, like "Adam Konantovich", Michael showed signs of precocious neurological development almost from birth. The book emphasizes Michael's and Maeghan's "rage to learn", and their hyperactivity if deprived of the opportunity to learn. (This seems to me to be a common characteristic of profoundly gifted adults. They have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and for problem-solving. Please see Stephanie Tolan's superb, "Is It a Cheetah?").The book emphasizes the way Kevin and Cassidy were driven by their children's "addiction" to learning, or at least, that's the way I read it.

With respect to Connie's assertion "that there have been many others like him", I'd like to know more. According to his mother, Sarah Mendelbaum Sidis, William Sidis was not as precocious as Michael or Maeghan. Karl Freidrich Gauss learned how to read somewhere between two and three years of age. The only person of whom I ever heard who rivalled Michael and Maeghan as a child was Merrill Kenneth Wolfe. Ken Wolfe first burst upon the world in the pages of Life Magazine in June, 1945, when he graduated from Yale at the age of 14. He had said his first sentence at the age of 6 months ("Put on another record"). His parents, who were Russian-born lawyers, then began to work with him. He finished his first-grade reader by the age of 12 months, and was reading math and chemistry texts at 4. When he was 22 months, his mother heard a piano rendition of "The Hungarian Rhapsody" on the radio. Then she heard it again. Ken had remembered it, and was playing it by ear. When Ken was six, he started public school, where he was placed in the upper fifth grade the first day. But after six weeks, he was withdrawn from school. His teachers said that he asked too many questions and volunteered too many answers. For the next four years, his parents home-schooled him until he was 10, when he entered Western Reserve University. He spent two years there and then transferred to Yale, graduating, as mentioned above, at age 14.

I have heard several recent stories about children who matched Michael's and Maeghan's early histories, and I've xpeculated that this sudden spate of super-prodigies might be a partial consequence of the Flynn Effect. Connie may be onto something here. There may be many others like him, as she says (although I never heard of them in the 40's and 50's). There's certainly no match for Michael among the 31 cases described in Leta Hollingworth's "Children Above 180 IQ". In his unpublished autobiography, Michael has alluded to the idea there may be a flood of other prodigiously gifted children in the offing. I've never heard any of the Kearneys, including Michael and Maeghan, suggest that they're unique.

They also equate learning with intellectual development and feel that by allowing Michael to learn as much as he wants and as fast as he wants, they have fulfilled his intellectual needs.

They also present their plan as the ideal solution, offering no alternatives for parents who may want something more substantive for their child than rushing through the educational system.

This has been an extremely controversial book in discussions among parents of profoundly gifted children. Those who wish to allow intellectual, emotional, and physical maturity a chance to develop in an integrated way are generally highly critical. Parents who are eager to see their children move as swiftly as possible through their schooling, possibly setting records along the way, and saving themselves money as a side benefit of college compaction, praise the book highly.

(To be completed)

I see it as an interesting personal memoir that has become undeservedly influential.

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Not to be "cute" but how else should one write a book about their own personal experience?