Threesology Research Journal
Talent, Giftedness, Genius
page 3

(The Study of Threes)

This is a third attempt at a topic for which the first was a knee-jerk reaction to Mr. Joseph S. Renzulli's --- Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness ---, and the second attempt was a fractionated "enlightenment" after doing a bit more research, which included a re-read of Mr. Renzulli's paper, which, after my impulsive reactions died down to some semblance of a rationally coherent accessibility; did bring to mind some of my own questions and issues. No doubt a third reading would provide me with a deeper perception of a topic that Mr. Renzulli has sincerely thought about for a long period of time.

There is indeed quite a bit of misunderstanding about Talent, Giftedness and Genius based a lot on preconceived notions. Whereas most of us may think we know what talent, giftedness and genius is, we haven't really examined what we think we know. It is a question that should not only be asked and answered as a class topic at different grade levels, but as a topic which should be discussed openly by talk show hosts. I can even visualize a motion picture whose primary focus is an attempt to address the issues of what is talent, giftedness and genius in terms of what behaviors should be encouraged by way of funding for above average social assistance in this area.

Typically, many of us would describe one of the above three labels in terms of pointing someone out such as a particular sports figure, though we may choose an individual (or group of individuals) from either a contemporary or past era in terms of art, invention, science, warfare, music, architecture, religion or politics. And it is of some interest to note that a group such as those involved with the Manhattan Project (where the atomic bomb was developed), may be recognized as having performed a great deed, but they are not typically assigned the labels of talented, gifted, nor genius, in any collective way. While some writers may selectively name a particular person of the group as being talented, gifted or a genius, all of them together are not given these labels. And for that matter, neither is all of humanity. We must stop using the labels as extensions of personal biases and prejudices.

Thomas Edison might be said to exhibit any or all of the three labels, but he is also quoted as saying something to the effect that his inventions are 3% inspiration and 97% perspiration... meaning he has to work at developing his talent that others, due to his wide and lengthy productivity, might be labeled giftedness and even genius. The people who worked with him worked on the ideas with a frame of mind involving discovery, and not with a mentality being exhibited by so many workers today who look upon a task as job security the longer they can stretch out (i.e., colloquially called "milking") the job... like so many government employees do... including those in the military. One good example is when there was a sort of race between government and private scientists involved in mapping the human genome. In order to downplay the ineffectiveness of the government workers involved in the race, the private sector scientists were offered funding in order to claim that their efforts were greatly assisted by the government scientists and that there was a tie. The definition of the word "tie" in this instance was that the true result was tied up, gagged, and locked away from public scrutiny. Government workers are very often over-weight sloths.

Government workers very often have their heads so deep in their rear pocket not only when it comes to innovation and task completion, but in funding necessary programs as well. Very often the only thing they care about is how to make another buck or to insure that their retirement monies are in place and growing, as well as verifying the existence of medical insurance. If Edison's workers had this mentality, we still wouldn't have the light bulb. In their frame of mind, if completing a task by way of giving out a government contract (to a specific contractor) is best suited for their immediate greed, than so be it. On the other hand if an uncompleted task provides them with more money, than so be it. Their view is to not be an advocate for justifying the usage of public funds, but to spend a certain allotment in a "Use it or Lose it" based governmental philosophy. No one gets penalized except the public who never got to vote on whether a project was either feasible or warranted for public funds. To many government workers, public funds is a no limit ATM machine and the public itself is a stupid guinea pig.

Time and again the government worker frame of mind is first and foremost on job security and everything else is secondary or tertiary... and is sometimes not rated at all. Innovation most often comes from the outside of the government mentality, but it takes credit in order to bolster its own public ego or cause the defamation of another when something they have been instrumental in engineering, fails to live up to their myopic desires. Present government organization is so stifling it tries to choke everything into submission either by force/threat, manipulation/deceit, or bribery... Like a cart driver wielding a carrot dangled from a string attached to a pole sprouting a flag that is wafting to a wind of hot air coming from an old megaphone in which a national anthem is being spewed with spittle and expects the public to step in tune with as it is being privately labeled a mindless draft-animal-jackass that must do the driver's bidding or be sold for leather shoes, dog meat, and soap ingredients... very often in the form of a government instigated military conflict.

But the present topic is about Talent, Giftedness and Genius and should not be used as a podium to voice public distrust of government workers whose main talent, giftedness and genius is to maggot their way into positions supported by a public that, in many cases, is not provided the same benefits. Likewise the three terms should not be used as acronyms for Communism, Democracy or Socialism, nor any religious or business philosophy. Because once we start to label something with that which is thereafter defined as a representative superiority, it becomes standardized into a tradition of expectation.

Most people will not make the effort to look elsewhere; that is, beyond a tradition of expectation. They will not take the time to analyze their presumptions. For example, if we name a charity as being good, in the minds of some, the actions of the charity become an expectation for the charity to continue its performance, whereby it becomes an institution. The public doesn't look into solving the problems which address the reason a charity came into being in the first place. Thus, the social problem persists, the charity persists and the mentality of the public gets wedged into another stupidity of tradition. The same thing occurs with respect to all institutions, be they oriented towards religion, politics, education, science or some social gathering... concerts, fairs, clubs, organizations, associations, gangs, games, etc...

Our minds become traditionalized into defining terms such as talent, giftedness and genius and we don't take the time to examine whether or not such words are appropriately applied or even appropriate for a given or collective instance. Not only do words become used to label a specific approximation, but as adjuncts to defining a particular culture. No doubt many are specific to our species (as opposed to a presumptive definition of the same that would have been used by an earlier born hominid if such a sophistication of language could have been employed). While such may be said to be necessary for us to communicate similar ideas to one another, they also cause our minds to be placed into positions of cognitive alignment akin to the chess playing notions of check and check mate. Similarly, whereas we think that the word Love has a universal meaning or at least a generalized description, most of us actually don't know this to be true. Likewise, fore example, we can not be certain that what we individually taste as being watermelon, is the same taste being experienced by everyone. We generalize and seek out verbal or non-verbal information which is interpreted to mean a confirmation. With respect to species specificity, we can only wonder what sort of dictionary terms an earlier hominid might or might not have had in their mentality, or what a later hominid will have.

An earlier hominid might well have said that someone who could wield a large bone was very talented, gifted and perhaps even a genius, if they could use it to kill an evening's meal. However, they might not think too much of Einstein's scribblings. And a hominid of the future might well view Einstein as a sort of tribal "keeper of the fire" or "path finder", but they would not describe him as being what they consider to be talented, gifted nor a genius. So, if we of today stop placing Einstein, Leonardo, and Edison on the three-tiered Talented, Gifted and Genius podium, as if the podium was commensurate with an Olympic's Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals giving ceremony, the accomplishments of future "athletes" might well exceed all past records.

Those involved with varying forms of talented, giftedness and genius "training" programs need funding. But we as a nation must decide what sort of talent, giftedness, and genius we want to support. For example, do we need more chess players, or more Jack and Jill of multiple trades? Do we need more boxers, ballet dancers or rocket scientists? Do we need to teach elementary school kids how to balance a budget, or old people how to play a guitar? Do we encourage the talent, giftedness or genius of one subject area and not another?

  • Do we encourage only those we think are A and B level candidates, or do we include C, D, E and even F level candidates based on some sort of "give them a chance" doctrine?

  • Can all students... above, below, as well as average students benefit from "extra" above-average assistance?

  • Do we deny some students the chance to go beyond themselves in ability by focusing limited resources on those we judge as being most promising?...

  • ...Most promising for what end and will we expect accountability?

  • Is funding of a person to be viewed as a type of education loan that must be repaid sometime in the future and there will be consequences for failing to do so?

  • Do we gather up all the upper level candidates from around the world and develop a type of Manhattan-like Project Commune specifically for them, with funding acquired from their respective country of origin?

  • Would these "Manhattan-like Project Commune" individuals come to be viewed as freaks... a sort of "Village of the Damned" repository of misunderstood individuals?

  • If not an international assemblage, then perhaps a national, regional or territorial form of Manhattan-like Project Commune?

  • Will the MPC's be encouraged to work on solving a specific social problem such as poverty, etc., or will they simply be permitted to focus their energies on whatever they want without an accountability for all the resources expended on them?

  • How often should pre-students, students and/or post-students be tested and what sorts of tests should be used?

  • Should funding be limited to the young with an arbitrarily set cut-off age such as that employed by (U.S. funded) Job Corp candidates?

  • Should we expend resources for training those after the maximum Job Corp age of 24 or 25?

  • Are age limitations a way of stating that only the young have potential abilities and that all other age ranges are not worth a nations' time, effort and resources?

  • Will we be looking for specific, general or adaptable skills (behavior)?

  • And what if a student is not interested in that which they are identified as being talented, gifted or a genius?

  • What if such behavior is little more than an elaborate form of attention getting activity, and when "above average" attention is rendered, they settle into a mediocrity?

  • Are we to use manipulative behavior modification techniques under some assumption of benefitting the person, the nation, or humanity?

  • What if the exhibited talent, giftedness or genius is an extended flash-in-the-pan expression brought on by particular (peculiar) circumstances?

  • Do we seek to produce certain talented, gifted, or genius behaviors by artificially introducing talent-specific, giftedness-specific, or genius-specific environments?

  • What if an individual's (or group's) talent, giftedness, or genius is toward implementing the destruction of a given race, economy, gender, age, socio-economic status, government, religion, business, profession, art form, culture, scientific endeavor, etc., either directly or indirectly through an act such as subjugation?

  • What if the "group" is a religion, business, or government that wants to fund only that and those which best serves its desire to subjugate everyone to do its bidding and it will use anything and everything at its disposal to get its way?

In funding a facility focused on nurturing talent, giftedness or genius, is the variable of time and effort to be given to be time dependent? In other words, will it be for a year, two years, or the entire range of a student's academic years, which may or may not include college? What about adulthood? Will "above average" nurturing lead to a type of dependency, whether or not we can readily identify it? In other words, will the institutional setting of such facilities, regardless of the philosophical decorating techniques employed, nurture a form of institutionalized mentality in one or more individuals... such as a person who spends a lot of time in institutions; like some we find in various social service programs such as youth services, youth corrections, adult corrections, mental health services, welfare, or city- state- federal government employment, government contracted work, University tenure positions, fleet maintenance, etc., and now... a beginning national health insurance program, (irrespective of the rationale used to justify the usage thereof)?

The government, religions and various businesses have bred a nation of dependents hooked on one or more "needs". The social environment that breeds such needs likewise becomes part of the overall structure— thereby contributing to the climate that fosters the dependencies. Humanity becomes unable to fend for itself and is forced to rely on institutions which perpetuate circumstances that assist with maintaining the viability of the institutions. In short, they become a pulled-back draw-bridge to keep humanity from advancing beyond its guarded, ever-increasing higher walls. Imagine the withdrawal symptoms to be experienced if a person undergoes an abstinence of these narcotics! Such an abstinence is experienced by way of war, disease and famine... not to mention unemployment.

But the reality of the situation doesn't change the need for funding talent, gifted and genius programs. We just need to do a much better job at it. We must call upon the talented, the gifted and the geniuses to develop the criteria for a National, if not International effort for the sake of humanity. We must ask and answer pointed questions regarding who, what, when, where and why. For example, do we expend resources on nurturing someone's talent in chess playing to a point we come to define them as being gifted, and then nurture them some more with additional resources to a point we define them as being a genius? To what end? For some silly pat-on-the back self-devised honor of being able to claim some stupid distinction which does not benefit humanity?

We must subject every single behavior to a microscopic examination. We must devise categorical distinctions of talent, giftedness and genius. For example, those which solely benefit the individual, those that benefit the individual and/or their immediate culture (city, state. country/nation), and those that benefit the individual and/or their immediate culture and/or all/some of humanity beyond their immediate culture. Funding for categorical distinctions could then be allocated accordingly. A larger funding base would thus be coherently defensible since it would be all- inclusive and address arguments revolving around forms of talent, giftedness, and genius recognizable from all perspectives which can be defined... while at the same time flexibly lending itself to the perceptions of those who have a difficulty articulating a perceptual sensitivity to a given individual others may not be able to recognize. In other words, such individuals would be given an opportunity to advance the subtle expressions of a talent, giftedness or genius into a more mature representation that others would be able to easily recognize and not remain in a vague state of imprecise form or function.

Some people see talent, giftedness or genius where others do not. In the field of sports and acting for example, they are called talent scouts. They can sometimes see potential where others do not. The same can be said for horse trainers, dog trainers, and other animal trainers... even though B.F. Skinner used operant conditioning to teach chickens to play ping pong and he might have argued that what we see as talent, giftedness and genius behaviors are the result of certain kinds of behavior modification. Be this as it may, there are lots of people who perceive subtleties of human behavior that others do not. They see potential in their own or a neighbor's child, a co-worker or even a stranger they see from time to time while riding a bus, shopping, or walking down a street. This perceptual ability might thus be called a talent, giftedness and genius as well. A national or international talent, giftedness and genius "training/nurturance" program must provide a clause in its working philosophy to give everyone the benefit of a doubt regarding their choice of who they think "may" have some underlying (necessary to be nurtured) potential.

Some people claim the existence of talent, giftedness or genius in someone that they are using as a vicarious extension of themselves. For example, they want to believe a child of theirs or a family member is "creative", thus acquiring some semblance of uniqueness to themselves due to proximity... in a sort of reverse form of 'being guilty by association'. In other words, to be associated with someone viewed as being "special" in some way, they in turn are also special because of a close approximation there-to or there-with. But this not only occurs by an association with people, but animals (such as those winning blue ribbons), vehicles (expensive, or those said to be a classic), places (usually a city or country defined as having some uniqueness such as Paris, France, Scotland, China, Russia, etc...), or having a college degree, a particular employment position such as Doctor, Lawyer, etc., or wielding some personal physical strength, beauty, charisma, etc...

In order to appreciate the talent, giftedness or genius of some individuals, it is necessary for the observer to be able to visualize a particular individual in multiple contexts. Just because they aren't measuring up to some expected standard in one circumstance doesn't mean they are a failure. Some individuals exist out of the element (environment) they are best suited for. In short, they don't belong where they are if they are ever to realize their greatest potential. While a person can be placed or place themselves in conditions best suited for their potential, the condition of time is a little more difficult to assist them with. In other words, some individuals are best suited for an earlier or later time period. This is why you find some who find their "niche" in life many years in the future. For some, it is only when a complex array of experience, maturity, and knowledge come into play in a given context do they exhibit a talent, giftedness or genius that they themselves and/or another may have acknowledged they harbor and can express "if they would only be given a chance". In such an instance, the "chance" required a lot of differing circumstances to inter-play. Some circumstances we can supply by way of sponsored resources, others require events beyond our present control.

Our efforts (i.e. "tests") for identifying talent, giftedness and genius must be very flexible and modifiable. Yet, even if we identify a certain individual having a particular Talent, Giftedness or Creativity, we nor they may not have the Understanding of how best to utilize the quality for present or future circumstances. For example, if we identify someone as having a talent for collecting examples of stamps, coins, butterflies, etc., is the behavior transferable to a skill that is marketable for the purpose of enabling the individual to be self-supportive? Or is the ability something more suited for a future day and age? Then again, do we simply say such collecting behavior is best suited to be categorized as a hobby-talent, hobby-giftedness, or hobby-genius is not deserving of any "above average" support? Another example would be an individual exhibiting talent for making spear and arrow-heads out of stones. Or someone that has a selectively prodigious memory for catastrophic environmental events. Or someone who collects pictures of Crop Circles, trees or waterfalls. All such behaviors must be included in our efforts to establish a categorization of different forms of Talent, Giftedness and Genius. And yes, I think it is necessary to specify every activity and not just generalize or "lump" them with regards to personalized notions of some representative similarity even if the task would seem to present us with a daunting challenge. A taxonomic approach used for animal classification would be insufficient. It may take us several centuries to begin getting a grasp on the categorization, but it should nonetheless be done. Whom amongst you would like to be in the history books for beginning such a task?

  • Included in our categorization will be all the so-called "fringe" topics such as, for example, perspectives involving the paranormal (ghosts, banshees, poltergeists, vampires, werewolves, etc.), alien encounters, extra-terrestrial encounters, science fiction (teleportation, time travel, etc.), shape-shifting, Astrology, divination, tarrot card and tea leaves reading, palmstry, fortune telling, etc...

  • We also need to include the various behaviors associated with the playing of different games, be they electronic, board, card, betting or those involving chance; and whether or not they are geared for being played predominantly by one age group or a particular gender.

  • Additionally, we need to include ideas involving perceptions which may or may not be defined. For example, when we say someone has an "old soul". Are people who are said to exhibit an "old soul" merely those who are particularly sensitive to incorporating behaviors and/or ideas related to observed older people? For example, is a child who is said to have an "old soul" merely someone who is adopting the ideas of older people whom they consider to have some especial attribute that is not identified in other adults such as parents? And yet we must ask, how does the child know that one older person has an especial attribute while another older person doesn't? And why don't all children exhibit this same ability? Do all children possess the potential but their particular environmental experiences don't selectively train them to realize the potential? Is a larger expression of the presumed potential to be described as a talent, giftedness or genius? And then what of those whom I describe as having an even rarer "Ancient Soul", to be distinguished from the words Soul and Old Soul?

It matters not whether some people believe in a given topic or if they never heard of it, the topic should nonetheless be included... even if they are fanciful notions made up by a single person at a given moment of impulsive interjection. All the so-called strange ideas must be removed from their typically placed esoteric repositories (dictionaries, encyclopedias, pop-culture paper-backs, bibles, manuscripts, word-of-mouth descriptions, etc.,) and placed into an effort for categorizing talent, giftedness and genius behaviors. We must also include what behaviors are prized more than others and attempt some explanation for the reason thereof and question whether or not social approval is actually warranted.

In attempting to realize a categorization of all Talented, Gifted and Genius behaviors, we need to develop a concomitant scale of being able to reliably determine how to categorize them according to a valuation. For example:

  • Are they useful for everyday application?

  • Are they useful only for a rare and specific application?

  • Do they represent bias or prejudice?

  • Do they help in acquiring one or more other resources (money, food, blood, arms, metal, soil, water, clothes, position, prestige, etc...)?

  • Do they represent an exploration?

  • Do they represent a challenge?

  • Are they original or innovative or merely mimicking and tradition oriented?

  • Is our evaluation biased by our culture, religion, race, gender, or fiscal orientation?

  • etc...

If we say that a person is talented, gifted or a genius because they develop an item or idea that comes to be used by many others, are we to be biased towards a definition of these three labels by such a standard of usage? Take for example Freud's idea of the Id, Ego and Superego. What if it was a notion that was developed and never entered into public or private usage? Does the lack of usage diminish Freud's presumed Talentedness, Giftedness and Genius? To such thoughts must be added the question of how many original ideas have and are being developed that never reach the light of day in terms of public, private or professional usage? While some may at a future time, what of those that never do because the whole of humanity is directed along a path similar to the impulsiveness encountered when seeing a herd migrate... whether due to food, water, or weather conditions? We must wonder what ideas are or will be developed but never employed by humanity in order to lead it along a better future's pathway? Perhaps the development of a categorization of Talent, Giftedness and Genius will assist humanity in developing, at the very least, a signpost in order for humanity to be able to make a more informed decision of which direction to navigate... even if no distinct objective is outlined.

Is any collecting activity a talent or trained obsession? It matters not if the collection is of old tools, old cars, stuffed animals, paintings, poems, string, aluminum cans, etc... Likewise, is hoarding, no matter what is hoarded, a talent, a giftedness, or the activity of a genius? Clearly, it would be helpful if a manual would be developed which made an attempt to describe (categorize) behavior in terms of talent, giftedness and genius, similar to the idea in which a manual was developed for those interested in an analysis of human behavior in terms of mental health. Humanity would thus be able to develop a comprehensive appreciation of statistical variances related to what types of talent, giftedness and genius were showing themselves in (or absent from) separate and overall human populations. We need a manual that not only categorizes in technical, but layman's terms as well. One that is not only written for those with "expertise", but the do-it-yourselfer mentality as well.

In devising a three-column categorization of what is meant by Talent, Giftedness, and Genius, the way we use categories to define other things is illustrative. For example, the types of vehicles being designed exhibits an attempt by manufacturers to capitalize on divergent tastes of what people think are the qualities most amiable to their perspective. It will not be too difficult for some readers to superimpose the qualities of a particular vehicle with the words talent, giftedness and genius. For example, an off-road vehicle may be described with any or all of the three terms if the reader takes the added initiative to view the vehicles as the characteristics of different individuals. And the usage of colloquial expressions such as hot rod, grocery getter, buggy, Navajo Cadillac (pickup truck), classic, wheels, baby, honey, hippie wagon, clunker, etc., only highlights how one type of vehicle (viewed as a person), can be defined differently from various perspectives. Whereas mom and day use the family vehicle to run family errands, a teen-aged son may use it as a race car or off-road vehicle, and a teen-aged daughter may use it as a taxi-cab so that she and her friends can socialize at different venues.

In terms of funding programs meant to enhance the potentials of an individual's talent, giftedness or genius; larger public support can only be garnered when the underlying philosophy exhibits itself to be talented, gifted and genius when categorizing human behavior in such a way as providing everyone with an opportunity to not only voice, but put into practice their unique perspective of what they think talent, giftedness and genius are. No doubt it will be found that a lot of ideas need to be refined because most people have not really taken any concerted time and effort to analyze their definitions. Present programs are too elitist because they are not only forced to be subject-area-prejudicial due to limited resources, but those in charge have not fully permitted themselves the luxury of applying much broader definitions without distracting themselves too much from goals derived from a need to work within limited budgets. If we as a society wants more talent, giftedness and genius to be exhibited by our Talented-Giftedness-Genius programs, they need the funding to be experimental, to adapt, adopt and grow. Such programs are like individuals that can only prosper if they are given the right encouragement.

Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland