I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw right now and on page 305 he brings up a fascinating issue in regards to late bloomers.
Essentially, Gladwell speaks to the idea (I am paraphrasing) that recognizing the brilliance in painters like Picasso is a no brainer. They show their aptitude early and it is so evident that missing it is harder than identifying it.
However, identifying the brilliance of people such as Cezanne is another matter entirely.
As Gladwell says, “Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.”
And then he continues with what might be my favorite part of the entire book. Gladwell writes, “Let’s just be thankful that Cezanne didn’t have a guidance counselor in high school who looked at his primitive sketches and told him to try accounting.)
It seems as though Cezanne was a classic late bloomer, a person who did not step into his own until he was much, much older. And of course Gladwell simply takes it for granted that our schools are just so terrible at recognizing late bloomers that the power of our own inability as educators has undoubtably tainted the lives of scores and scores and scores of kids.
Oh, not a whiz at the 5 paragraph persuasive essay by the age of 16? Nah, AP science classes couldn’t possibly be right for you. Why don’t you take oceanography for woodworkers instead?
I mean come on, isn’t that our mentality?
“Whenever we find late bloomers, we can’t help but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents.”
How many F’s have our schools given to kids before they turned the age of 18 that have stained their own self-belief to the extent that they believe they were always doomed to be “F type students” for the rest of their lives.
How many Cezannes have we squashed? Or worse, how many more will we continue to squash until we find a way to validate the late bloomer?