Sunday, October 1, 2023

Talent: a myth to deconstruct

What is your talent?

How to grow it?

10 personalities who reached the top with their genius

If you have even browsed the Internet you have probably seen these types of titles that revolve around talent, success, merit or even virtuosity. According to many media, we are surrounded by geniuses in our cultural, corporate or political landscape. Enough to believe yourself immersed in the tales of the Arabian Nights.

This passion for extraordinary personalities is not new, but there seems to be a renewed interest in these high-potential people, these incredible success stories, etc. An obsession with inspiring biographies but an interest that, however, harms the common good.

The problem of “geniuses”

As soon as an individual is considered brilliant, he acquires almost invulnerability in all subjects. Many virtuous people have committed atrocities that are forgiven in the name of their creations, their importance, etc. Picasso was a misogynist who mistreated almost all of his wives and even captured in paintings moments in which they cried and yet he seems untouchable.

One of the problems with the myth of the solitary genius is that we forget that this success is much more collective than we believe. So that the author or artist could carry out his work without being disturbed, he often needed assistants; Sometimes, small anonymous hands helped the “artist” in making the fresco or sculpture of him. This myth has repercussions today. People under the command of a hateful genius will not remain in his service or his company for long. This would explain the frequent turnover of personnel in companies owned by certain “virtuosos”…

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Especially since the question of merit also collapses in the face of reality. Despite good intentions, it is the children of richer families who benefit from the private system (better financed than the public) and will have access to better training and jobs. Nepotism, luck, and other factors are often what will differentiate a rich person from a pauper. American universities are encouraged to register different profiles and yet recent figures show a very large disparity between men and women, as well as between candidates of color compared to whites.

The talent? No, the environment creates success.

Samah Karaki, a doctor in neuroscience, published a striking essay titled: “Talent is a fiction” in early 2023. It was enough for all the media to invite him. In this world that thrives on the search for these talents, saying that the concept does not exist is an enormous challenge. This concept of “talent” does not have, for Karaki, a scientific basis. It is already difficult to notice the appearance of a positive genetic trait in plants. This turns out to be even more dangerous in humans. In both cases everything depends on the environment in which these living beings are found. Studies have shown that twins will not necessarily have the same pathway or reactions.

Taking this into account, we can take many geniuses off their pedestal. Mozart certainly began composing at the age of 6. A phenomenon… helped by the fact that his father was a renowned composer who forced him to play the piano for about 3,500 hours before he turned 6. If Wolfgang had been born at the same time into a peasant family, he probably would never have made music and his name would not be in the collective imagination.

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Consequently, focusing everything on individual achievements and omitting the environmental issue allows authorities to avoid their responsibilities in reducing inequalities. By relegating everything to the genetic question, the scientist says, it is easy to fall into a dangerous game that then classifies humans. Wasn’t colonialism built, in part, on racist ideas of “white physiological superiority”?

This also influences students. Instead of wanting to reduce the factors that harm the success of some, the school crosses its fingers and hopes that its geniuses will “hide the fools.” Therefore, millions of children find themselves categorized and will not necessarily seek to escape these labels. Furthermore, even “high-potential students” are neglected, pressured, or showered with resources when they really need attention, room for error, and moments of relaxation.

Samah Karaki will cite, among other things, that this talent myth has harmed girls in the fields of science and mathematics. In fact, environmental stereotypes continue to have effects on students who often choose colleges based on gender-specific qualities. Therefore, this has nothing to do with skills, but simply with the fact that, by treating the female sex as “sensitive” or “irrational”, young women find it difficult to project themselves into careers perceived as Cartesian and cold

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Image: Night Owl / Pixabay


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