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It's Dumb To Tell Kids They're Smart

timothy posted about a month ago | from the converse-is-also-true dept.

Education 243

theodp writes Over at Khan Academy, Salman Khan explains Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart. "Recently," writes Khan, "I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach." According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who Khan cites, the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are. A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life.

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No no (2, Funny)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a month ago | (#47736797)

Your children are precious and if unable or unwilling to achieve things for themselves we must institute a quota system in order that they can bring their unique life perspective to various public and private roles.

Re:No no (3, Insightful)

penguinoid (724646) | about a month ago | (#47737011)

"No, son, you're not smart. Everyone else is stupid, and they're interested in boring things, and they always take the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance is mostly safe, but if you want to be anyone you have to make your own way."

Re:No no (5, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a month ago | (#47737401)

Praise the kid for good ideas, but also ask your kid - how do you think this or that could be better?

To be smart means that you don't stop thinking of how things can be better.

And don't get angry at your kids because they take things apart - they learn from it. Pulling apart a cheap mechanical alarm clock to learn how it's made is part of the learning process. Unfortunately most modern devices are just bricks - there's nothing to learn from taking them apart.

It's also part of the learning process to know how hard you can pull a screw before it breaks. You can list and use all the torque numbers in the world, but sometimes having the right feeling for how hard you can tighten a screw - and how it feels when it's done right is worth a lot more than having an advanced torque-limiting tool.

They always told me I was so smart... (5, Interesting)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about a month ago | (#47736799)

The funny thing is I was told all the time growing up that I was "extremely smart" and "gifted", when in reality, I didn't FEEL like I was.

Sure, I could do things with computers that few of the other kids could do, like program and build things. But I don't think I was "smart". I just LIKED doing those things, so I did them all the time, and thus became really good at those things.

Meanwhile, you could ask me to cook a meal at the time and I'd completely fail because I never cooked. I didn't enjoy it, and was thus lousy at it.

I don't think I was unusually "smart" or "gifted". I just got obsessed with computers and technology, so I got good at those things.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (3, Interesting)

Livius (318358) | about a month ago | (#47736845)

I figured out I was smart as a kid.

I also figured out that intelligence was a liability, and I've still seen very few environments where that wasn't true, and all of those only well after childhood.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47736949)

I also figured out that intelligence was a liability, and I've still seen very few environments where that wasn't true, and all of those only well after childhood.

Intelligence isn't a liability. Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability.

Intelligence isn't a liability, but the interpersonal skills you developed around your intelligence might be. (If you're so smart, you should have figured this out by now. Maybe you need to work harder).

Definition of Irony (5, Funny)

Wraithlyn (133796) | about a month ago | (#47737073)

Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability [...] If you're so smart, you should have figured this out by now.

You literally just did this with your own post. You told the parent he was wrong, and then implied it was because he wasn't smart enough.

Re:Definition of Irony (1, Offtopic)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737095)

Beautiful, isn't it?

Re:Definition of Irony (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737207)

I concur. His use of 'literally' was precisely correct.

Re:Definition of Irony (1)

Wraithlyn (133796) | about a month ago | (#47737675)

It is, actually. You don't often see such an efficiently self-demonstrating explanation. ;)

Re:Definition of Irony (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737723)

When I wrote it I thought, "um, maybe I should change that.......nope, it's too good, I'm leaving it in."

And since it motivated a great comment from someone else, it was worth it :)

Re:Definition of Irony (1)

BitterOak (537666) | about a month ago | (#47737139)

Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability [...] If you're so smart, you should have figured this out by now.

You literally just did this with your own post. You told the parent he was wrong, and then implied it was because he wasn't smart enough.

WHOOOOSH!

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

Livius (318358) | about a month ago | (#47737135)

Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability.

I'll have to take your word for it; I wouldn't know since I never did any of that.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737275)

I'll have to take your word for it; I wouldn't know since I never did any of that.

Good for you. I am proud of you.

So what did you do? What kind of interpersonal problem do you have that makes it difficult to interact with people?

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737243)

I also figured out that intelligence was a liability, and I've still seen very few environments where that wasn't true, and all of those only well after childhood.

Intelligence isn't a liability. Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability.

Intelligence isn't a liability, but the interpersonal skills you developed around your intelligence might be. (If you're so smart, you should have figured this out by now. Maybe you need to work harder).

you're not using quotes for that last bit, so i guess you're telling people you're smarter than them so they're wrong?

Effort education can be done very wrong (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737295)

I met a kid that transferred from one of those "grade on effort" rather than "grade on accomplishment" schools. They rewarded kids for how hard they tried, not how well they did, and the kids did exactly what any self-respecting sociopath would do: they pretended to try hard.

This kid was raging at her teacher for giving her an F on her spelling test. She kept saying "i tried as hard as I could, and the teacher KNOWS I am a bad speller!" But (as far as I know) the kid had not spent a single minute of her week actually studying for the test. She tried during the test, which does no good at all. And, in her prior environment, she would have been given an A and the teachers would have been patting their own backs at what a good job they were doing at encouraging a learning mindset.

I agree in principle....the value of "its ok to fail so long as you try" is very worthwhile to instill in the kids. But the value of "I get away with failure if I convince people I tried" is pure poison. One must be very careful not to instill the latter when aiming for the former.

Re:Effort education can be done very wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737393)

Except nobody's suggesting that we should "grade on effort." They're saying, instead, that we should be instilling in kids the notion that "you have to work hard to master the difficult things" is more important than instilling in them the fear of failure and challenges - "People think I'm smart, what if I fail at this thing and disappoint them, or it's revealed I'm NOT smart?"

In other words: you encourage your child to work hard to master the topics that give them trouble, and praise them when they actually do so. Nobody has suggested giving kids an A+ - Gold Star! - for pretending to think REALLY REALLY hard to solve the "2+2 = jello" brain buster. In fact, you would fail that child and tell them they need to try harder - and when they demonstrate mastery, you praise them for sticking with it, and give them a good grade if they've actually mastered the material.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a month ago | (#47737301)

I also figured out that intelligence was a liability, and I've still seen very few environments where that wasn't true, and all of those only well after childhood.

Intelligence isn't a liability. Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability. Telling people, "I am smarter than you, so you are wrong" is a liability.

You don't have to tell people you are smarter directly. I spooked the hell out of a girlfriend who had a crazy 3 on 5 off (with other kinks in the pattern) schedule because, after 2 weeks, I had it figured out and when we were making plans for something next week, I told her when she was working and when she was free: "how'd you know that?" "Well, you're working tomorrow and it's time for the 4 week long break..." "I only know my schedule by looking it up..." "Oh...."

People who perceive you are smarter (whether you are, or not) will often treat you as a threat. http://abcnews.go.com/Business... [go.com]

Icahn has called CEOs the survivors of the corporate world, but says it's the "survival of the unfittest": "[The CEO] would never have anyone underneath him as his assistant that's brighter than he is because that might constitute a threat. So therefore, with many exceptions, we have CEO's becoming dumber and dumber and dumber."

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737339)

You don't have to tell people you are smarter directly. I spooked the hell out of a girlfriend who had a crazy 3 on 5 off (with other kinks in the pattern) schedule because, after 2 weeks, I had it figured out and when we were making plans for something next week, I told her when she was working and when she was free: "how'd you know that?" "Well, you're working tomorrow and it's time for the 4 week long break..." "I only know my schedule by looking it up..." "Oh...."

Once you realize that being smarter doesn't make you better, then you'll be fine.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a month ago | (#47737467)

Intelligence isn't a liability. Trying to tell other people they are wrong all the time is a liability.

Mmmm.... no. Anything that makes you stand out in any way whatsoever is a liability, since it makes you a target. Intelligence is especially bad since it marks you as a potential future rival but won't boost your current ability to defend yourself.

Childhood is a jungle, and children are beasts.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a month ago | (#47737499)

well, yeah, children are dumb; even, or especially, the smart ones.

however, Livius said "I've still seen very few environments where [intelligence isn't a liability], and all of those only well after childhood."

for a grown adult, this is just pathetic (without mitigating factors, at least). even Spock could occasionally pretend not to be autistic when it was to the advantage of his commission.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a month ago | (#47737001)

Then, I'm afraid, you're doing it wrong.

Or maybe you're not actually that smart. Or maybe you never bothered to learn how to change things, perhaps due to some inefficient ethics you were indoctrinated with?

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737639)

Are you INTJ?
Explained a lot for me. I totally agree with you. Not like this asshole Phantom Five below.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736895)

I had a similar experience. I excelled at math, science, computers, anything like that. I maintained good grades and was consistently at the top of my class. I was always praised for being smart and my future with a great job and a nice house was all but assured. After graduating college with an engineering degree and a 3.8 GPA, I was practically unemployable. I was either told I had no experience or was seen as a flight risk. So here I am on the backside of thirty, stuck in a dead-end job making drunken posts on the internet about how much I hate 3D printers and Space Nutters. Hell, it even got me banned from FARK.

I wish no one ever set me up to fail. by telling me I am smart, giving me such high expectations. I wish someone would have slapped my 4-year old head and said "good grades don't put food on the table, go get a real job!"

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737303)

You should have exercised some critical thinking and realized that good grades are irrelevant when it comes to finding work, thereby coming to the conclusion that you should really get some experience of some kind. The fault is your own.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a month ago | (#47737507)

uh-huh, there are plenty of other folks with engineering degrees and good grades who are doing great at life.

it should be obvious to anyone with intelligence that intelligence is not in itself sufficient for, well, pretty much anything. why don't you tell us what the real problem is?

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737555)

was either told I had no experience......stuck in a dead-end job

At least you have experience now

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47736965)

Yeah. And now look at you. Slashdot. Saturday morning.....

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a month ago | (#47737365)

So to hear you tell it, you aren't very smart? I'm not going to argue with the veracity of your conclusion, but you came upon it by accident.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (2)

alvinrod (889928) | about a month ago | (#47737007)

To some degree there's a difference between ability and capability. If you absolutely needed to learn how to be an excellent cook, would you have the capacity to do so? Being a good cook takes work, much like anything else, and I believe it extends beyond simply being able to follow a recipe that perhaps only a genuine passion for cooking can engender. However there are a lot of people who struggle to program and often it goes beyond coding ability and has more to do with fundamental problem solving skills.

Another aspect of your feelings may be related to knowing enough to know your limitations. At least for me personally, the more I've learned, the more I've realized that there's so much more to learn and that all of it comes with an opportunity cost. Sure, I could learn how to repair my own car and fix any of the problems it might have, but I'd much rather just know enough to take care of the basics and leave the rest to someone else who's more interested in that line of work while I stick to computers. Meanwhile both my mechanic and I are enabling someone else who's really interested in curing cancer to devout more of their time to those pursuits.

In the modern world it doesn't really matter if you're terrible at 99% of things if that 1% of things that your good at is valuable to everyone else. Most people are smart in some regard and likely choose to specialize in it. Sure there might be people who are more capable than others in terms of acquiring degrees of proficiency in arbitrary areas, but more than likely they'll end up specializing in a particular field and have a few hobbies on the side. If you can add value, does it really matter what percentiles you fall into?

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (2)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about a month ago | (#47737059)

I didn't need anyone to tell me I was smart. I figured it out myself. As you say, I was "smart" at the subjects I loved and not so much at others. Now, as an "elder", I tell those coming up If you want to be rich and-or famous, develop your talents. But if you want to be happy, work on your weaknesses: Become round.

BTW, If someone had told me life could be so good at 71 years, I'd have had more courage in my youth.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

tylikcat (1578365) | about a month ago | (#47737103)

I got enough feedback when I was young that I was unusually smart that I did eventually accept it in a provisional way as part of the social reality. (As in, it was a pretty consistent part of how people responded to me.) I also got a lot of very mixed feedback about it - from my standpoint, I did well in academics mostly because I enjoyed the topics. (All of them. Which mostly left me with the sense that I wasn't particularly good at anything.) But it took me quite a while to find a social group,* I was alternately told what a freak I was and then expected to perform on cue, and then there was my mother's complaints about how I failed her by not being the normal popular daughter she wanted. (My mother was also pretty epic when it came to incomprehensible judgements. I think my favorite, in retrospect, is how she told my I was a lazy procrastinator who would never manage to complete anything or amount to anything - just like Leonardo da Vinci. Wat?!) In school I had a few really great teachers - like the one who finally more or less forced my mother to put me into the gifted program - but even in the gifted program the material was often not challenging,** and I was stuck between being pretty bored and being able to skate by, and having total shit study skills. And then I was put into college when I was thirteen, and started off with twenty credit hours.

Being encouraged to work hard, and encouraged to try things that risk failure would have been really, really good for me. (Not that I didn't try things that risked failure - see again obnoxious kid - but it would have been useful to have a framework to see that as not being totally stupid.) I ended up being so weirded out by the whole "child prodigy" bullshit that after a somewhat wild ride (mostly for reasons not academically relevant) I ended up getting my undergrad degree in Chinese Language and Literature. And I think a lot of that was that it was the first subject I'd found where I could absolutely work my ass off... and get a 3.6. So I suppose I did eventually get to that focused hard work point, but some guidance and mentorship along the way might have been nice. (And some mentorship about what to do about things like math, where I was strongly self taught but had no idea what to do in a college setting would have been stellar.)

* Well, a "peer group", anyway. Say, not my dad's grad students.
** Okay, to be fair, most of it was okay, except I maxed out the math they offerred in the first year - my dad had been buying me college text books since I'd was fairly young - and math was a required subject, so I kept on having to take classes I'd already tested out of. And I was an obnoxious kid.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

suprcvic (684521) | about a month ago | (#47737213)

I was in a similar situation. My parents always told me I was so smart because I could do some things on the computer so I pursued a career in IT. Most miserable 10 years of my life. What was once a hobby, became a chore that I wasn't any good at because I only enjoyed doing the things I was interested in. If I wasn't interested in it, like networking, servers, and such, I completely lacked motivation to do it. I've since found my passion and am on my way to working in that field.

Re:They always told me I was so smart... (1)

Technician (215283) | about a month ago | (#47737265)

How smart you are depends on whose Kitchen you are standing in at the time. Sub Shop for kitchen and you get the idea. Put a BBQ chef in a bakery and watch the failure.

A movie I really enjoyed about not telling students how good they are is "The Paper Chase" A student feels pressure to not flunk out as a failure. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... [imdb.com] Older film, great drama.

So, I'm doing it wrong (1)

Livius (318358) | about a month ago | (#47736807)

...when I tell my cat she's cute.

Re:So, I'm doing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736839)

And I was right. I always tell kids they're idiots.

Now get off my lawn!

Re:So, I'm doing it wrong (1)

slugstone (307678) | about a month ago | (#47736847)

Cats are not cute, dogs are cute.

Re:So, I'm doing it wrong (2)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a month ago | (#47737015)

Dogs are cute cats that are also dumb. Encourage your dog with a growth mindset and one day he may be a cat.

Re:So, I'm doing it wrong (3, Insightful)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a month ago | (#47737291)

A cat's purpose in life is to wage psychological warfare upon you; it's only right and proper that you retaliate in kind.

Dogs are for companionship. Cats are to keep you on your toes.

Re:So, I'm doing it wrong (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a month ago | (#47737429)

Cats do as they please, just get used to it. It doesn't matter what you say to them, they are the ultimate animal of don't giving a damn about what others think.

They only care about things that are really uncomfortable as a result of their own action - like slipping on the bathtub edge and falling in might keep them from doing it again.

So... (1)

thieh (3654731) | about a month ago | (#47736817)

Just tell your kids that they are ugly (or don't tell your kids they look good) to raise prettier kids? That was easy.

Re:So... (1)

ESD (62) | about a month ago | (#47737081)

No, you tell them that you appreciate the effort they took to look good, you don't tell them they're beautiful or handsome. This is by the exact same reasoning: should they get badly hurt in an accident, you'll also have given them psychological issues because they'll have lost a part of themselves (and some people don't have many other parts of themselves to fall back on, while everyone can work hard to improve.)

You don't praise your kids for things that are part of who they are, you praise them for the efforts they make.

What about Confidence (4, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about a month ago | (#47736825)

But if you don't puff up your offspring with enough praise early one, how will they have the iron-cast confidence to windbag their way to the top in todays bullshit world? Again, what use is true intelligence if you don't have the bellicosity to shout down all gainsayers?

Re:What about Confidence (0)

war4peace (1628283) | about a month ago | (#47736853)

Big words appeared in your post "early one".

Re:What about Confidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736859)

Sadly, true. People tend to view those who speak up as leaders, even if they end up being frequently wrong. There have been studies that show this, in fact. I think the idea is that we're wired to listen to people will confidence, the positive part of that is often that usually even a poor action may be better than none at all.

Unfortunately, sometimes the action is catastrophically worse than no action at all.

Re:What about Confidence (1)

radl33t (900691) | about a month ago | (#47736883)

that is what leaders do; they loudly attract support usually in incredibly primitive [yet effective] ways. being a leader has nothing to do with being intelligent; we aren't going to follow the meekly supported brilliant plan of a introverted super nerd unless advanced by his belligerent screaming champion. And there isn't anything wrong with that. It takes all types.

Re:What about Confidence (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47736915)

But if you don't puff up your offspring with enough praise early one, how will they have the iron-cast confidence to windbag their way to the top in todays bullshit world?

You didn't read the articles. The point uncovered in the research is that telling kids they are smart gives them less confidence (presumably because they are afraid failure means they are not smart, so they are afraid to try).

When you are raising kids, and he accomplishes something, you have two options (actually more, but these are under consideration here):
1) Say, "you succeeded! You must be so smart!"
2) Say, "you succeeded! You must have worked hard!"

Eventually your kid is going to fail, because we all do, know matter how smart we are, and kid #1 is going to say inside himself, "oh, I am not smart. Maybe if I don't try next time, no one will notice." Kid #2 will say inside himself, "oh, I failed. Maybe next time if I work harder, I will succeed."

Re:What about Confidence (4, Interesting)

sunhou (238795) | about a month ago | (#47737153)

Unless kid #2 in fact had tried very hard but still failed, and says to himself, "Even my best attempt was not good enough. Next time I won't try so hard; that way, if I fail, I can just claim/believe it's because I didn't try my best." There are many ways to try and protect one's confidence in the face of failure.

Not that I disagree with the basic premise here, that it's better to praise kids for effort (something they can control) than intrinsic talents.

Re:What about Confidence (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737247)

Unless kid #2 in fact had tried very hard but still failed, and says to himself, "Even my best attempt was not good enough. Next time I won't try so hard; that way, if I fail, I can just claim/believe it's because I didn't try my best."

That's a hypothesis, but in the actual studies it didn't seem to happen.

Re:What about Confidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737383)

Don't be so quick to make blanket statements. I was of the "unsatifactory results => must try harder" mindset all through undergrad despite triple majoring and graduating in 4.5 years.

I basically decompensated thanks to the "I failed because I didn't try hard enough" mindset when I ran out of "try harder" (staying up 40+ hours at a time studying, etc). Of course, failure was a 3.75 GPA, but like I said, "decompensation"... bad enough I needed psychiatric help and tranqs.

So, that's my anecdote where "doesn't seem to happen" actually did.

Re:What about Confidence (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737449)

Your problem there was you were too afraid of failure. Failure is perfectly acceptable, as long as you pick yourself up. Watch this for inspiration. [youtube.com]

Re:What about Confidence (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737465)

Don't be so quick to make blanket statements. I was of the "unsatifactory results => must try harder" mindset all through undergrad despite triple majoring and graduating in 4.5 years.....So, that's my anecdote where "doesn't seem to happen" actually did.

btw, you didn't give enough details here to compare to the study. There are two ways to motivate a kid (more than two, but let's consider these):

1) When he succeeds, say, "good job! You must have worked hard!"
2) When he fails, say, "Lousy! Why didn't you work harder?"

Can you see the difference? Positive reinforcement is important, but it's also important to let kids know they are acceptable, even when they fail. Because once again, we all fail.

Re:What about Confidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737703)

I grew up in a household with loving, encouraging parents. I never experienced the latter form of negative reinforcement.

I was the one that correlated increased effort with improved outcomes and then decompensated when there was no more increase possible while my results remained unsatisfactory from my perspective. Even thinking about this now makes me want to smoke again, and I quit years ago.

FFS, all through college my parents were begging me to take fewer classes, relax, etc.

Besides, it's specious to assert success is due to hard work when there is an intellectual component as well. I could have parsed this distinction by the time I was 7, as that was when I decided to become an intellectual.

How do I cope now? Well, I certainly don't expend such extreme effort trying to succeed, though when I fail I still believe it was my fault for not trying harder. I can add that to the intrinsic belief that such failures are evidence of a substandard intellect.

My point is that one should be careful dispensing advice about how to mold a child's perspective. One size certainly does not fit all, and the consequences of imbuing the incorrect associations can have deleterious unintended consequences for the psyche.

Re:What about Confidence (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737711)

Besides, it's specious to assert success is due to hard work when there is an intellectual component as well. I could have parsed this distinction by the time I was 7, as that was when I decided to become an intellectual.

A person with average intelligence should be able to get a 4.0 in college without any problem. It's not like undergraduate classes are hard.

Re:What about Confidence (3, Insightful)

eulernet (1132389) | about a month ago | (#47737203)

"oh, I failed. Maybe next time if I work harder, I will succeed."

And this is why we have so much people working too hard and filled with stress, because they hope to "succeed".

The idea is to replace "I can do it because I'm smart" with "I can do it if I put more effort".
Frankly, both of these are beliefs, and dangerous ones at that !
What happens when you realize that you cannot do it, no matter the amount of effort ?

Why not simply encourage curiosity and open-mindedness, instead on focusing on results ?
Is the result so much more important than the way to do things ?

Re:What about Confidence (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737261)

And this is why we have so much people working too hard and filled with stress, because they hope to "succeed".

To counteract that problem, make sure your kids know you will love them no matter what happens.

Re:What about Confidence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737205)

“Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.”
- Jack Handy

Re:What about Confidence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737225)

You didn't read the articles.

And your sarcasm detector needs improvement.

Classic Khan pseudoscience (0)

tulcod (1056476) | about a month ago | (#47736877)

Your brain doesn't "grow" when you exercise it. It develops.

And to dispel another myth: your brain cells die and divide like in any other organ. But "growth" is definitely the wrong word here.

These kinds of mistakes are why you don't use Khan academy, and the old-fashioned sources are just more precise.

But congratulations on figuring out yet another key to life, allowing you to tell other people exactly how to live theirs - after all, that's really the only purpose of science, isn't it?

Re:Classic Khan pseudoscience (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about a month ago | (#47736979)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the "growth" that they are referring to is the "growth mindset":
http://www.austinclub.cz/dorp/... [austinclub.cz]
http://www.mrscullen.com/image... [mrscullen.com]
http://scholar.google.com/scho... [google.com]

The short version of the "growth mindset" is: "the children who believe that their brain grows in response to effort/stimulus have a tendency to perform better at cognitive tasks". The alternative to a "growth mindset" is frequently self-defeatist ("I'm not smart enough to do math", "I'll never get it", "I already know all of the information I can and cannot handle anymore", etc.). The "growth mindset" is independent of any neuroscience, and doesn't pretend to be related.

From a recent conference: "it is actually unimportant whether the brain 'grows' as it learns more or not, the children who believe that it does learn more, quicker".

Re:Classic Khan pseudoscience (1)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month ago | (#47736981)

so... instead of appreciating the insight from empirical study on learning methods, you're criticizing it based on semantics. you have some weird hater thing going on.

Re:Classic Khan pseudoscience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737065)

It's a metaphor, stupid. I'm sure the kids understand that they won't get hydrocephali from learning too hard.

this is how video games work (1)

alen (225700) | about a month ago | (#47736893)

you might have a hard part it will take hours of practice to pass and you get a nice cut scene as a reward

i do the same thing with my kids. i'll help them with video games but after a while make them figure it out themselves. and they get a nice reward after they figure it out

The real secret we knew all along (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736925)

The offspring should have at a minimum.
2 parents. Of the opposite sex. With a little faith.
10,000 years of imperical evidence shows this is the model that introduces the least entropy to the system. You have to be a Liberal democratic fucktard to deny reality.
Of course, being black or yellow still wipes out a lot of the advantages, but still puts you miles ahead on the societal evolution scale. Basically things break down when you do weird things to your penis.

Re: The real secret we knew all along (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736989)

What the hell? Being yellow is a HUGE advantage! Smarts, musical ability, karate, is there nothing yellows can't do? And blacks have some advantages too, like being taller, faster, and getting more girls because they have a big dick.

Still not adding up (1, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a month ago | (#47736931)

If this is true, why do psychologists continue to focus so much on IQ? Why do they insist there is a strong, undeniable link between IQ and success that must be catered to? Why has funding for students who, as they say, "are merely bright, but not gifted" entirely disappeared in favor of a fully mainstream approach? Why are the hard working students who achieve but who are not obvious savants lumped in with the merely average, and worst, the probably hopeless (whatever the reason)?

Is this real science, or feel good "also-ran" science for the ignorant and unspecial, as one might be led to believe if one actually believed psychology was anything like actual science? We all want to believe articles like this are true, IQ is a bitter pill to swallow and one that seems even murkier the more one reads about it, however it represents our cultures mindset towards success. No company wants a merely bright hard-working person, they want a genius, they worship that genius. Give an academic institution a test, and they will run off with the truly exceptional students (the SATs allegedly correlate to IQ at 0.82, so they actually DO this). Give a corporation that test and they'll probably rather do without than hire anyone with an IQ below 120, which of course, represents the majority of people.

I prefer to believe what is in this article in the same way that I prefer to believe in Free Will, but, however disappointing this may be, this does not reflect the prevailing attitudes of people that matter. Nothing in this article is substantial enough to use as a weapon to change education, and ultimately it's just feel good drivel, much like I think the IQ studies to date are, although sadly they represent the established convention. From a magazine like Scientific American I want something I can USE to make change.

Re:Still not adding up (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737179)

If this is true, why do psychologists continue to focus so much on IQ?

I don't know what psychologists you're hanging out with, but the field has moved on at least twice from IQ in the last 30 years. Which isn't to say IQ is worthless, it still measures of ability.

Is this real science

Yes.

No company wants a merely bright hard-working person, they want a genius, they worship that genius.

This is definitely not true lol, companies mainly want someone who can get the job done for the smallest cost. That's why we have outsourcing, etc. The only ones seeking raw intelligence are research labs, and even they tend to want a PhD or evidence that you actually know things.

I prefer to believe what is in this article in the same way that I prefer to believe in Free Will,

If you actually want to find out, instead of 'believing,' then go read the actual studies, for that is where knowledge is to be found.

Re:Still not adding up (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a month ago | (#47737587)

If you actually want to find out, instead of 'believing,' then go read the actual studies, for that is where knowledge is to be found.

I am not a psychologist, where do I find such things? Even the responses to my post are all over the place. I'm not doing a "citation please" troll, but all I have found in my searches is very contradictory evidence and in PRACTICE IQ is the gating factor in most texas school districts, and several others I've looked at. IQ continues to be seen as the gold standard practice, or metrics that amount to the same. Innate ability is preferred over achievement. Yet any time you look at IQ results you see it strongly correlated with things that clearly have nothing to do with intelligence (race, upbringing, background, flynn effect, etc.). If psychologists have deprecated IQ or related metrics (i.e. g, and others), why do they still exist? My opinion is it has more to do with money than actual science, but it remains in belief until I can justify it to myself.

I disagree about what companies want, at any given time I am usually employed by one of the top end tech companies, they're all relatively similar. Companies still being seen in a growth phase (which are companies I try to be at, because $$$) tends to want to hire geniuses, we set the bar extremely high and effectively administer an IQ test (granted a very narrowly focused one). We don't make you demonstrate experience, we make you solve problems on the fly, under pressure in a test-taker format. Companies that have peaked want to hire the cheapest person they can find who is fit to do the job, but give them a way to quantify that and I assure you they'd be all over it and make spreadsheets with a red line on it.

Re:Still not adding up (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47737691)

I am not a psychologist, where do I find such things?

Start by reading the article.

in PRACTICE IQ is the gating factor in most texas school districts,

Texas school districts are decades behind the latest scientific research? Shocking.

I disagree about what companies want, at any given time I am usually employed by one of the top end tech companies

Your experience is not representative of the mean.

Re:Still not adding up (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a month ago | (#47737211)

If this is true, why do psychologists continue to focus so much on IQ? Why do they insist there is a strong, undeniable link between IQ and success that must be catered to?

Because there is a strong, undeniable link between IQ and success. Unfortunately the second article is partially paywalled, but I don't see anything in it that asserts otherwise. Do not misconstrue the following excerpt:

A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life.

One could read that and jump to the conclusion that this means that intelligence is not related to success. But that is not what it is saying. It is merely saying that if you butter-up an intelligent person, they will be more likely to fail. That is not the same as saying that IQ is not related to success.

Re:Still not adding up (2)

m00sh (2538182) | about a month ago | (#47737231)

If this is true, why do psychologists continue to focus so much on IQ? Why do they insist there is a strong, undeniable link between IQ and success that must be catered to? Why has funding for students who, as they say, "are merely bright, but not gifted" entirely disappeared in favor of a fully mainstream approach? Why are the hard working students who achieve but who are not obvious savants lumped in with the merely average, and worst, the probably hopeless (whatever the reason)?

Psychologists said that over 50 years ago but they do not say that all anymore. There was a famous experiment where the kid's IQs were tested and later on after 20-30 years their success measured. The higher IQ were no better off than the average IQ. In fact, a randomly selected group of kids were as successful as the high IQ group.

Psychologists actually say there isn't a strong link between IQ and success. There is a minimum IQ (which is fairly low) and above that IQ everyone has an equal chance. The most used analogy to this is height in basketball. There is a certain height after which height is not an advantage. Basketball is not full of the tallest people and successful people are not the people with the highest IQs.

Is this real science, or feel good "also-ran" science for the ignorant and unspecial, as one might be led to believe if one actually believed psychology was anything like actual science? We all want to believe articles like this are true, IQ is a bitter pill to swallow and one that seems even murkier the more one reads about it, however it represents our cultures mindset towards success. No company wants a merely bright hard-working person, they want a genius, they worship that genius. Give an academic institution a test, and they will run off with the truly exceptional students (the SATs allegedly correlate to IQ at 0.82, so they actually DO this). Give a corporation that test and they'll probably rather do without than hire anyone with an IQ below 120, which of course, represents the majority of people.

Companies do not want geniuses, they want people who are team players and will fit in the company culture. Even Google has published reports that they cannot correlate the success of an employee to any measurable metric like GPA, or how good they were at the brain teasers. It has been well known that the highest IQ, GPA or what-not employees are not the most successful.

I prefer to believe what is in this article in the same way that I prefer to believe in Free Will, but, however disappointing this may be, this does not reflect the prevailing attitudes of people that matter. Nothing in this article is substantial enough to use as a weapon to change education, and ultimately it's just feel good drivel, much like I think the IQ studies to date are, although sadly they represent the established convention. From a magazine like Scientific American I want something I can USE to make change.

If you have a really low IQ, you're too dumb to care. If you have a medium or high IQ, it does not affect your chance of success.

Another analogy is that IQ is like speed. A higher IQ can person can get somewhere faster than a person of lower IQ. It does not mean a higher IQ person can get to places that a lower IQ person cannot. So, what is more important is the direction that you go rather than the speed.

Re:Still not adding up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737273)

Intelligence matters. For the person doing the work, focusing on hard work is more important than focusing on his or her own intelligence. These are not mutually exclusive. It makes sense: you can't change your intelligence, so focusing on it isn't useful when you're doing work. When you are evaluating candidates for doing something, focusing on intelligence (among other things) is useful because you CAN do something about it: you can pick candidates with higher intelligence. It's all about focusing on the thing that you actually have the power to do something about.

If you tell your child to focus on intelligence, your child will learn to sit around and wait to be rewarded for innate intelligence. If you tell your child to focus on hard work, your child will work hard to be rewarded, which will enable your child to realize the maximal return on whatever intelligence they do have. Yes, intelligence is important, but that doesn't matter for this. The main point is that focusing on hard work doesn't decrease your intelligence, but focusing on intelligence does decrease the amount of hard work. In the same way, teaching your child to focus on how tall they are won't make them taller, so it's not very useful.

So yes, intelligence matters, but no, you don't want to make too big of a deal out of that with your children, because hard work matters too.

Re:Still not adding up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737455)

Social science has been working with this shit for a long time. In the field of music researchers work on mapping developmental progress to when it's best to change from "You're really good!" to "You worked really hard!"

People researching intelligence have pointed out flaws in IQ for a long time, and argued over just what "intelligence" is.

Correlating IQ to success presumes a lot about "success" and cultural influences of such.

But social science rarely gets a fair shake on Slashdot, and people here never seem to take cultural bias into account when looking at research.

You don't need to tell a smart kid they're smart (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736935)

They figure it out on their own. Once their exposed to other children in a learning environment, it becomes evident that they're different. Same as if your kid is a good athlete. Once they start playing sports, they'll figure out pretty quickly if they're better than average.

Re: You don't need to tell a smart kid they're sma (1)

Chriscypher (409959) | about a month ago | (#47737063)

It hurts me to watch /. slowly die like this. Used to be only the editors sucked, but I never came here for the articles but for the discussion. Used to be, there would be a zillion well thought and documented responses illustrating all angles of a topic. I found this site to be an excellent forum to expand my understanding of issues surrounding a topic through informed, rational discourse. But the quality over the last few years has just trended ever lower and lately the quality of comments have just gone through the floor. If anyone knows where all the smart contributors went please consider throwing me a link. I'll keep it a secret from all these bigoted morons.

Re: You don't need to tell a smart kid they're sma (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737239)

I would propose an alternative theory - that Slashdot sucked this much all along, and your standards have been slowly rising.

Re: You don't need to tell a smart kid they're sma (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about a month ago | (#47737697)


If anyone knows where all the smart contributors went please consider throwing me a link.

http://soylentnews.org/ [soylentnews.org]

Re:You don't need to tell a smart kid they're smar (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a month ago | (#47737267)

They figure it out on their own

This is one of the differences between intelligent and unintelligent people. Intelligent people are more likely to judge their own skills.

1. There was a study performed where they assigned people various tasks to perform in isolation. Then the researchers asked them to weigh how well they did compared to the general public. In the absense of information, the more intelligent people assumed they did average or below. The less intelligent people thought they did above average. The bad news about this is it means less intelligent people might not actually realize it.

2. I had a neighbor whose son was truly stupid. He was a pre-teen, and his mom was using drugs and alcohol during the pregnancy. Sometimes we would play Dance Dance Revolution together sometimes. No matter what the result of the game, he would always think he did great, or at least was really close to beating me. His responses were completely unrelated to how well he actually did. It was a bit awkward actually.

Smart. Dumb. Doesn't matter. (5, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a month ago | (#47736985)

Success is about being in the right place at the right time with the correct skill set to take advantage of the situation. Hard work is the way you maximize your skill sets to that should you find yourself at the intersection of time and place you take advantage of it. The thing is, not only can't that intersection be anticipated, it can't be identified even when it's happening. Only in hindsight can you look back and realize where the critical moment was when your success actually started. Sadly, most people can't even do that. They believe that climbing the mountain of success was solely the result of having applied their skills and hard work, never realizing that - as the result of fortuitous time and place of their application - they were actually running down hill from that point on.

Re:Smart. Dumb. Doesn't matter. (2)

E-Rock (84950) | about a month ago | (#47737329)

Don't forget knowing the right people. In my experience, that matters a lot more than what you know or what you're capable of doing.

Probably true in America... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47736993)

Probably this is right in America.

As a European, living in the US(California, Washinton State, Chicago,Boston) I was surprised to see how kids were told they are so smart, so gifted, so talented, so much potential.... for doing nothing at all.

So probably it is ok some reward for doing some work and struggling there.... but in Europe, or worse Asia, it is quite different.

I was never told that I was smart, quite the contrary, and I have a ph.D in civil engineering and a master in economy.

I would have loved to be rewarded like Americans are and not punished so much by my environment. It would have given me more confidence.

But I was so lucky, I have seen how kids are educated in Germany, Japan, China or India. There people are punished real hard.

Specially Japanese and Chinese people. They crush individuality like no other. You are nothing without the group there. If you show "non compliance" they will use a big stick to "fix it".

Once you get out of this system you are basically incapable of doing something on your own, like Americans are.

Having said that, I don't consider the act of struggling to be a good objective. If you reward this, this is was you get: everybody not solving any problem at all, but "doing their best".

In Soviet Russia, "effort" was rewarded, basically because of communism envy system: It was not ok to be better to someone else just because you were. The only important thing was effort, so a 40 tons tank was better than a 20 tons one, double price and double the people was double times better because the effort doubles.

In the US, less effort and struggle to get to the same result used to be better. If you could screw something with a tool without damaging your hand it was much better than using your bare hands. But times change.

Probably true in America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737023)

I wanted to say "Like Americans are capable of".

Americans are always trying new things, and probably it is the "stupid" confidence they have.

They don't know they can't do things, so they do it. It does not work most of the time, but sometimes they get to do something interesting.

Nothing wrong with telling you kid they're smart (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a month ago | (#47737025)

Just don't sing their praises and make sure they understand it's only one component of who they are and can easily be out-balanced by bad traits. Or, similarly, as it once told my daughter "Remember, a pretty bitch is still a bitch."

The goal should be guiding them towards being a decent and well-adjusted individual.

Dreadful English... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737029)

"the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are."

That they are what? Smart? Kids?

This is stupid advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737061)

I'm going to stick with the approach that split the atom, put men on the moon, and formed the strongest nation in the world; not the approach of the people who have turned that nation into a bunch of pussies.

Re: This is stupid advice (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737193)

Import talent from abroad? Yes, it definitely works. You only need someplace to dump stupid americans into, to make room for the talented immigrants.

Re: This is stupid advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737685)

Import talent from abroad? Yes, it definitely works. You only need someplace to dump stupid americans into, to make room for the talented immigrants.

^^^^ Awesome!!!

The secret to raising a smart kids... (1)

fraxinus-tree (717851) | about a month ago | (#47737133)

The secret to raising a smart kids is being a smart parent in the first place. If you are not smart enough, well, ... no one is. But you can still try harder. Learning is cheap. Consequences are not.

Kind of like the butterfly and the cocoon. (1)

alx512 (194670) | about a month ago | (#47737219)

Without the struggle to get out, the butterfly can't develop strong wings to fly.

Tell your kids they're smart (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a month ago | (#47737255)

You forgot about the importance of "self esteem" and feeling that you can do something.

Too many kids eschew math, because they think they're not any good.

I say... tell them they're good.

"You're pretty smart for a kid, keep studying and you may have a great future. Keep up the good hard work though, if you aren't careful, the average students can still catch up with you and leave you in the dust."

It's hard to be rich (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about a month ago | (#47737281)

I think Khan is being a little too cautious. However, being a millionaire, he probably is more careful to instill certain values in his children, since they'll never do without for lack of money. I often read on the internet about how parents too often praise their kids for being smart, but I've never seen this in real life (except for my children, who are brilliant ;) I wouldn't take the research literally. I think people should take all the good lessons learned from their parents, along with some common sense, and pass them on to their children.

Re:It's hard to be rich (1)

mrbcs (737902) | about a month ago | (#47737713)

The problem is, common sense is so rare now that it's considered a super power!

The problem with telling kids they are smart... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a month ago | (#47737287)

..... is that when they don't succeed at something, believing that they should have been smart enough to succeed, they can easily come to the conclusion that others are to blame for their failure, and can discourage them from trying again, believing the deck has been stacked against them all along.

Khan Academy isn't smart. (0)

Animats (122034) | about a month ago | (#47737305)

Khan Academy isn't smart. I watched one of their "courses" on moments of inertia. It's a colored etch-a-sketch of someone writing, with voiceovers. There were major factual errors and wrong signs. It's low-budget content with no proofreading or editing. Subjecting kids to that is just wrong.

If we're going to have have massive online courses, the quality needs to come up to at least History Channel level.

Re:Khan Academy isn't smart. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737491)

Agree, 100%. In addition, I know groups that have approached Khan Academy with solid technology or content that would have vastly improved KA's outreach. Those groups were turned away with nary a listen. KA are very "not invented here, we don't want it"; it's unfortunate, because the outsized claims they make are not backed up by the data. They hide beneath all the hype created by Gates Foundation and education bureaucrats who jump on bandwagons.

I tell them they are dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737317)

Am I smart?

logical conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737321)

so since we love our children we want to praise them thus we have to make evrrything hard for them?

Another misleading title (1)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about a month ago | (#47737347)

The author didn't say he avoids telling his kids that they are smart, he said he was careful about it.

One of the main secrets to raising smart kids is setting high but achievable standards and providing life experiences where they can succeed.

Here is an example. When I was a cub scout leader our boys made model rockets. We also taught them how to use trigonometry to calculate how high the rockets went. With calculators, it was easy for them to master something that many adults would assume only smart kids could do. In this way each boy was taught that they were smart.

Yuo Fail It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737381)

numbers continue the reap3r BSD's

It's STUPID (and wrong) to use the word DUMB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47737727)

DUMB means unable to speak. The article is about the ability to learn, therefore the title should use the word STUPID, no?
I bet dumb people are smarter than the one who submitted this!

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