Prodigy: Nature vs. Nurture?

May 22, 2013
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Oxford Dictionaries defines a prodigy as “a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities.” That was how I thought of prodigies: highly talented young people who exhibit an outstanding aptitude in a certain category. Kylie's article “Prodigy: Nature vs. Nurture?” provided me insight about how these extraordinary people came to be.

I have not met a “child prodigy,” yet Kylie allows me a glimpse into what some of them have experienced and done during their first few years. She mentions her mother, who excelled at playing the piano from a young age, the story of a boy named Drew who has exhibited an amazing gift on the piano, the famous pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Akrit Jaswal (a child surgeon), and William James Sidis, who has an IQ of 250-300. All of them, although different as people, all have a special gift. Kylie’s mother, Drew, and Mozart all had a love of the piano that they morphed into melodic piano-playing. By the time her mother was 13, she had mastered the piano. At age five, Drew mastered the playing of Beethoven’s sonatas. Mozart wrote his first concerto on the floor with chalk when he was four. Jaswal has an exceptional ability in the medical field: he performed successful surgery at the age of seven. Sidis has an IQ that trumps that of an average human (who usually has an IQ in the region of 90-110) by a huge margin. All this made me reconsider what I knew about childhood in general.

Rather than simply explaining their talents, however, Kylie adds in something more: How did these prodigies become, well, prodigies? What made them different from the average human being?

Kylie says that the “nurturing” from parents is not the cause. Most prodigies, she says, demonstrate talent even before their parents acknowledge it. Environment is not the answer: her mother did not have the best childhood and adolescent years, yet she still surpassed many pianists who had more years of experience. Emotional maturity is not it either: it is not that large of a factor in determining whether someone is considered a “prodigy” or not. Kylie says that the true answer for their talent stems from something we can all give: love.

A strong love for something, stronger than some of the things that we love: that is what sets prodigies apart from others. Their passion for a certain topic gets them extremely interested and then pulls them in. They begin to crave learning about this topic and attempt to master it. They want to do something with the thing that they love. Children all have the capacity to do that. Loving comes easy to kids. But it is up to them whether or not they want to use it in this manner.

After reading Kylie’s article, I feel that I have been taught something about prodigies, who are much more than I thought. I have never really given much thought to the topic until this issue of Teen Ink. Now, when I walk on the streets, I will wonder if any of the children I see are prodigies just waiting for that one love that will start their journey.

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