Excerpt from Coloring Outside The Lines by Roger Schank, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Coloring Outside The Lines

Raising a Smarter Kid by Breaking All the Rules

by Roger Schank

Coloring Outside The Lines by Roger Schank
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2000, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2001, 272 pages

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Chapter One
What Is a Smarter Kid?

"SMART" is a relative term. School smarts are different from street smarts; the nerdy science genius and the savvy gang leader demonstrate distinctly different abilities, but they are both smart. Or think about where the boundary of intelligence ends and natural talent begins: Was Michael Jordan a smart basketball player or a talented one? It's also instructive to note that some of the most brilliant people do some of the stupidest things. I have a friend who refers to people who are so smart they can't function as suffering from "200 IQ disease."

A book by Howard Gardner called Multiple Intelligences proposes that there are myriad forms of intelligence -- musical intelligence, athletic intelligence, and so on. In Gardner's view, many people are intelligent in some way, and so the term "intelligence" becomes virtually meaningless. In this politically correct view of intelligence, most of us are smart at something.

Even the educational system's definition of intelligence is relative. Its definition of smart-getting straight A's -- is often an indicator of hard work and conformity rather than massive intelligence. We all know students who receive great grades because they are diligent and give teachers what they want; we also know other students who have brain power to spare but receive worse grades because of their indifference, eccentricity, and rebelliousness. While straight A students might actually be quite intelligent, many waste much of their intellect on doing what they're told rather than on exploring their own interests. These people are smart, but they're smart without intellectual passion and original thinking.

"Smart" becomes an even more problematic issue when we factor in genetics. The grand dream of teachers is to take a person who seems hopeless and turn him into a rocket scientist. Or if they can't make that 180-degree transformation, they can at least strive for the more modest goal of taking kids with average intelligence and turning them into college professors. Is this a pipe dream? What about the blue-collar kid with the low IQ who grows up to be a highly successful auto parts entrepreneur? Is he smart about selling auto parts and stupid about everything else?

Given these questions, I would ask that you consider another definition of smart besides the one schools mandate.

Smart Is As Smart Does
Here is what I mean and don't mean by "smarter kid." First, I don't mean you can turn a dummy into an intellectual dynamo. Excuse my bluntness, but it's important to be clear about the issue of genetics. Like it or not, some kids are born with superior intellects. This is Just the way things are, and if you happen to have a child who was not blessed with a great mind and you hope this book will turn him into the next Einstein, stop reading now. If, however, you have a reasonably bright child, then you can help him become smarter by developing six real world abilities:

  • Verbal proficiency. Every parent can help his children learn to speak more convincingly and eloquently. Most kids aren't born with a gift of gab; most aren't destined to be captain of the debate team and a brilliant lecturer. This ability is usually developed, and parents are in the best position to develop it by engaging them in conversation as early and as often as possible.

  • Creativity. Originality, innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and other qualities prized in our society aren't conjured out of thin air (or instantly acquired by adults when their employers demand they start thinking out of the box). Parents can encourage creative thinking in kids (or learn to stop discouraging it) by pointing out anomalies, encouraging classification, and taking other, similar steps.

  • Analytical skill. Contrary to popular opinion (or at least the school's opinion), you don't become a great analyzer by solving lots of math problems. Math does not teach you how to think; it merely teaches you how to do math. If you want your kid to become skilled at sizing up situations and coming to logical conclusions, you need to put him in complex situations and help him work his way out of them.

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    Coloring Outside The Lines. Copyright (c) 2000 by Roger Schank. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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