Spotting Kids’ Talents

By Shlomo Maital

  I am listening to an NPR podcast Open Source, hosted by Christopher Leiden, about Mozart.

   Mozart was a wunderkind – a child prodigy.  He was the son of musician Leopold Mozart.  That was fortunate.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s dad spotted his little son’s talent early.  Mozart was improvising, composing, sight-reading well before he was eight years old.  He travelled through Europe with his dad, displaying his talents. 

    What is Mozart had been born to a non-musical family?  Would his genius have been spotted and encouraged, developed, expanded?

     My wife and I have four children and 17 grandchildren – and a little great granddaughter.  Every human being on earth is unique, with unique talents.  But more often than not, people themselves are not fully aware of either their passions or their talents (the two sometimes diverge).  You need to experience the world to find out – yet we are channeled into ‘bins’ at an age few have full self-awareness. 

     So, my wife and I spend time with our grandchildren, helping them identify their passions and talents and opening windows for them.  Sometimes, the process is easy. Mostly, it is a long winding road. 

     Like my own.  I chose at random a profession unsuited for whom I am – economics – simply because I got a good grade in Econ 4.  It has given me a great life.  But at age 80, I am about to write a novel – which is what I wanted to do when I was 18. 

      Mozart died at 36.  He left an incredible legacy for all of us.  That was fortunate.  His brilliant musical light might not have been exposed had he been born to a different dad or mom.  

         In general,  there are lots of kid Mozarts out there.  Some get lost in the rigidity of schools.  I had a student in Shantou, China, father of two little girls, who saw this clearly and tried to start a less rigid school so his daughters could fulfill their talents.

           Nietzsche once wrote, “become who you are”.  Are we doing all we can to help our children and grandchildren become who they are?  And what they want to become?