Can early education literally create geniuses?

I’m interested in this question, and I am asking in order to be enlightened by you, dear reader.

Suppose you had twins, separated at birth, Norman (for “normal”) and Gene (for “genius”).  Norman receives an ordinary middle-class upbringing, without much special early learning.  Gene gets the most effective early training that you can imagine, whatever you imagine that looks like.  Next, suppose that Norman, after an ordinary, decent education, has an IQ of 100 (i.e., average).  I’m guessing that Gene would have an IQ slightly higher than 100, and that he would do better and be more motivated in school than Norman.  What I am not convinced of is that it is even in the realm of possibility that Gene will become a certifiable genius, with an  IQ of 140 or higher.  The only circumstance in which Gene has an IQ over 140 is if Norman’s IQ is well over 100.

In other words, while certain kinds of early education can have salutary effects, one of the possible salutary effects is not to give a genius-level IQ to a child who would otherwise not have a genius-level IQ.

Am I wrong?  Can you point me to any discussions, books, or studies on the question?





Please do dive in (politely). I want your reactions!

4 responses to “Can early education literally create geniuses?”

  1. aangeles

    Great question, DadDude, and one that I have been pondering and reading up on for the past several months now. My 2.5 year old daughter is in daycare and I’ve had no less than 3 different teachers approach me suggesting/insisting that she be tested for giftedness because 1) she is reading at a 7-8 year old level. 2) she can do addition and subtraction in her head and is starting to do multiplication 3) she can read simple books in 3 other languages 4) she can play several beginner’s piano pieces on the keyboard. I, on the other hand, knowing how much time and effort I have invested in her early learning programs, tend to be more conservative in my assessment. I guess it all boils down again to the age-old question of nature vs. nurture. After all my reading, I am still undecided, but am inclined to answer No, early education cannot create geniuses. This article uses a rubber band as an analogy for intelligence. A medium sized rubber band that is stretched may end up having the same size as (or even bigger than) a larger rubber band that did not have anything done to it, but, ultimately, intrinsically, they remain different. Although this may sound trite, I have decided that the most important thing for me to do is to simply make the most out of my child’s innate intelligence without worrying whether she is a genius or not in order to fully maximize her potential.

    What do you think?

  2. Annette

    Most young children are unable to read early, which is why, even with the popularity of Your Baby Can Read type programs, there are still few children reading before 3 years old. A child must be intelligent enough to grasp these concepts early, and most children are not.

    That said, the most reliable indicator of a highly-gifted child is very early reading. Numerous studies on gifted children document this pattern. Hollingworth, et. al.

    If the twins had average IQ’s, other students with less exposure would easily catch up by 3rd grade (or so the studies say). Gifted children, however, always stay ahead. Thats why many Gifted programs don’t test until the 3rd or 4th grade when it’s easier to tell which children are truly intelligent and which ones simply had more exposure to academics.

  3. I think economist Bryan Caplan’s book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids may address this question.

  4. nee1

    Hi Larry,

    Yes, I feel early learning can create geniuses. Check out the book ‘Give your child a superior mind’ by Engelmann. An abridged copy of the book is available on his website: He is the author of the best-selling classic `Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons’ with loads of positive raves on

    Remember, this book (Give your child a superior mind) was originally published in 1966, hence some of his views, e.g., that children cannot learn the alphabet before age 2, are a bit dated. (He has explained some of this on his website.) I know from your story with Baby H. that children can, with lots of exposure, learn the alphabet before age 2. But he has convincing points that to an extent, early education can create geniuses, giving examples of historical geniuses who were created through intensive early education.

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