Worse yet, he demolishes some of the foundations of my higher education in Psychology as recent as 1993 when professors still taught that intelligence was an inherited trait, just like eye color and height. Worse yet, some insisted that intelligence varied by race, a shock to my liberal left leanings.
Shenk approaches the issues surrounding talent, giftedness, IQ as if most of us were born as equally clean slates, full of potential only needing development. But it is a special kind of a process that produces the high achievers (or any achievement?) If anyone can develop any talent (like one for taking IQ tests, no matter if they measure nothing definable) by dint of a lucky coincidence of genetic and environmental interactions, then anyone can qualify for Mensa — but they don't. Less than 98% of any population that takes any standard IQ test measures higher than the arbitrary cutoff score for membership.
Shenk might argue that they just didn't try hard enough — needing the special training and "deliberate practice" he lists as key factors in developing high achievers, along with a mysterious superdrive like Ted Williams had for practicing hitting baseballs. He might also suggest that those who don't hit the 98th percentile in IQ just haven't tested their limits yet. (How many IQ tests would it take? How do you study for an IQ test?) And how does this notion of limits square with Shenk's initial arguments that most all of us have endless potential?
Indeed, after demolishing the ideas that outstanding talent and IQ are inborn, then describing how anyone can achieve greatness, he ends with this cryptic statement:
"Somewhere in a freshman writing class, a kid with more ability than I'll ever have is wondering if he could ever write books for a living. The answer is yes, if he never gives up and is lucky enough to get with the right people." (Italics mine.) It seems that words like "ability" and "limitations" have rather vague, shifty definitions, given their various uses.