Wendy Berliner, Deborah Eyre: Great Minds And How To Grow Them

I never read any of these typical Howto books, and when it comes to raising up my child I am also quite confident that I know more or less what I want to do and what I consider good. But then, sometimes, you ponder things like how you could do better. And in one of these weak moments I started reading the book Great Minds and How To Grow Them. What a huge amount of wasted time it was …

This book is a failure from the first to the last page: It asks parents to talk to the kids and make them ask questions. That is all that is written there. There are long lists of situations, categorized into all kind of complex expressions to fake the image of being scientifically. That is probably what made me fed up the most, the aura of being scientific, quoting lots of (I guess rather dubious) research with foot notes but not proper reference system. My favorite scientific quote was:

According to Daniel Levitin (2006) it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make an expert. So children who are successful in school and beyond are those who have put in the practice.
– Great Minds and How To Grow Them, Chapter 2

which is repeated at least one more time. Checking the reference leads to Levitin, D.J. (2006) This Is Your Brainb on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Dutton: Penguin. Well, I don’t think this is a proper scientific reference, it is used only in a way to achieve the appearance of science. In addition, let us ponder on this number of hours a bit. Assuming I want to become expert in some topic, how long will it take. If I want to manage it in 10 years (!!!) I need to study 10000/3650 = roughly 3 hours a day, for 10 years. Now that is definitely incorrect. If I tell this my daughter she will simply NOT become an expert in anything …

Other things in the book is the pseudo-scientific categorization, here a few examples:

Meta-thinking: This is a set of four characteristics that relate to thinking about thinking. They consist of: meta-cognition; self-regulation; strategy planning; intellectual confidence.

Linking: This is a set of six characteristics about linking what you learn together. The six characteristics are: generalisation; connection finding; big picture thinking; abstraction; imagination; seeing alternative perspectives.
– Great Minds and How To Grow Them, Chapter 3

Aehmm, yes, lots of impressive lists. I really think that anyone who can read this book and follow the argumentation there (how thin the argumentation lines might be) is already in the state of mind that he knows what is best for kids, without having to read through these pages.

I am closing with a quote from a great review by David James, the deputy head (academic) at Bryanston School:

So, how do we grow great minds in our children? The answer, it seems, is simple: you talk to them and encourage them to ask questions. The authors are careful to avoid writing that, in essence, you grow great minds by being very middle class in possession of a significant amount of cultural capital (they reassure us at one point that a good education can be realised “even if you have to use a foodbank”), but it clearly helps.
– David James: Book review: Great Minds and How to Grow Them

Final verdict: not worth taking place in your book shelf, not even the electronic one.

5 Responses

  1. Frans says:

    Thanks! Saves readers much time.

  2. Giselle says:

    It’s funny how they make the most basic mistake in argumentation in the first quote:
    10000 hours of practice => expert
    Therefore:
    expert => 10000 hours of practice
    😀

  3. umij says:

    >If I want to manage it in 10 years (!!!) I need to
    >study 10000/3650 = roughly 3 hours a day,
    >for 10 years. Now that is definitely incorrect.
    >If I tell this my daughter she will simply NOT
    >become an expert in anything …

    Hm, not sure about this. I calculated with my wife, a professional musician, and the 10,000 hour rule definitely has some meaning.

    I’m quite sure it was picked up from the book “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise”, even though the book references this study “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.” whose authors however actually disagree with the statements made in the book “https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2012/10/29/bjsports-2012-091767” .

    There is in fact an interesting Freakonomics podcast about the whole thing here http://freakonomics.com/podcast/peak/ (The podcast doesn’t live up to the really really great book that is Freakonomics).

    While writing this I kinda lost the plot and I’m not sure what my point actually is, but maybe it’s that “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance.” is an interesting paper.

  1. 2018/10/05

    […] parents to talk to the kids and make them ask questions. That is all that is written there." https://www.preining.info/blog/?p=7837 books are a dime a […]

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