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Children Above 180 IQ - review

I'm reviewing a very old book today, which I just saw advertised online as available for nearly $500. It's Leta Hollingworth's “Children Above 180 IQ Stanford- Binet Origin and Development. Why talk about an old, out of print book which nobody can afford to purchase? Well, I think if I didn't own the book, I might hear the title and be curious about it. I might appreciate some kind soul taking the time to fill me in on what it's all about, and why some people might actually want to pay $463.60 for it. Mine is a reprint from Ayer Company Publishers, 2002. (Ayer says that they are currently not printing this book, but if they have enough requests, they will consider another run.) The original book was printed in 1942, a few years after Hollingworth passed away. The book was put together from a manuscript begun in 1924 and additional case study notes complied after that time.

Leta Hollingworth was one of the pioneers of gifted education. She credits Francis Galton, Alfred Binet, and Lewis Terman with establishing the foundation upon which she began her life's work. Hollingworth's work with profoundly gifted children is what she is best known for, but originally, she worked with hospital patients at the other end of the spectrum. While teaching a class on mentally deficient children at Columbia's Teacher's College, she sought a very bright subject to provide a contrasting example to her students. The year was 1916, and Leta Hollingworth was so excited by her observations of child “E” that she continued to seek similarly extraordinary children to study.

I believe that some of the data in this book is incorrect, for instance, as far as how many children born in a given year might test over 180 IQ on the “old” Stanford Binet test. Her personal feeling was that there were more extremely gifted children than statistics indicated, but she still appears very conservative in her estimates. In chapter three, she writes that, “There may be one, or two, or three, or more children among every million born in the United States under present conditions who test at or above 180 IQ.” Numbers aside, this is a fine book, full of extremely interesting case studies and anecdotes about profoundly intelligent children and popular opinion on them. It also provides a nice historical perspective on the study of giftedness.

Case studies follow 12 children and record such things as their family heritage, physical and behavioral development, character traits, and school history. Her finding was that these children were physically large and strong, as compared to age mates. Of course, her sample size was ridiculously small, but it is an interesting contrast to the image of the brainy weakling that has existed for at least the last hundred years. Hollingworth describes the notion of “optimal intelligence” in chapter 19. Her premise is that the most favorable range for development as a “successful and well-rounded personality” is between 125 and 155 IQ (on the old SB test). Sadly, she goes on to say, “ ...But those of 170 IQ and beyond are too intelligent to be understood by the general run of persons with whom they make contact. They are too infrequent to find many congenial companions. They have to contend with loneliness and with personal isolation from their contemporaries throughout the period of immaturity.”

It is very fortunate that today, highly gifted children are able to connect through various organizations and to meet online if not in person. In the society of Leta Hollingworth's time, it was probably very rare indeed for these kids to find others like themselves.

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