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All local meetups cancelled for the duration of the pandemic, but there are still regular Zoom meetups and Mozilla Hubs meetups. A few months ago, I learned about Laszlo Polgar, the man who trained all three of his daughters to be chess grandmasters.
He claimed he could make any child a genius just by teaching them using his special methods. I was pretty upset because, although he had a book called Raise A Genius , it was hard to find and only available in Hungarian and Esperanto. Many SSC readers contributed money to get the book translated, and Esperanto translator Gordon Tishler stepped up to do the job. Thanks to everyone involved. You can find his full translation here: Raise A Genius!
It does so only in very broad strokes. Nor does he seem to be holding much back. The first characteristic of genius education — I could say the most important novelty distinguishing it from contemporary instruction — and its necessary precondition, is early specialization directed at one concrete field. It is only important that by the age of some physical or mental field should be chosen, and the child can set out on their voyage. And maybe this stuff deserves some attention. A lot of his pedagogical philosophy and personal philosophy of life come out in the way he answers these questions, and given how few specifics he gives, maybe understanding his broader worldview is the way to go.
But what can we glean from this book in terms of how one can educate a child in the Polgar method? In genius education it is necessary that the pedagogue whether the parents or professional teachers or tutors stay in direct, constant and intensive contact with the child.
Because of this we imagine groups of only members. Esperanto in the first year, English in the second, and another chosen at will in the third. At the stage of beginning, that is, intensive language instruction, it is necessary to increase the study hours to 3 — in place of the specialist study — for 3 months.
In summer, study trips to other countries. The division of study hours can of course be treated elastically. All of this cries out for more explanation in particular, the humor lessons sound fascinating , but the only part he really explains is the foreign language.
He also thinks languages are nice because they have a defined end-goal speaking fluently and obvious progress along the way, so children feel good about learning them. This idea that children should learn things they find exciting and enjoyable — and where they keep making measurable progress — recurs throughout the book. In conditions of intensive instruction a child will soon feel knowledgeable, perceive independence, achieve success, and shortly become capable of independently applying their knowledge.
Let us take an example from language learning. Let us suppose that someone visits a class for interpreters at a school for geniuses, where they are occupied for hours with a first foreign language, Esperanto if possible. Why precisely with this language I will clarify below. After some months they are already corresponding with children in other countries, they participate in meetings in and outside of their country — and longer-lasting — where they experience serious successes, and they converse fluently in the language they have learned by then.
Is this a nice feeling for a child? Yes, it is nice. Is it useful for the child? Yes, it is useful. Is it useful for society?
It is useful. In the following year one can do the same with another foreign language — let us say English — and in the year after that another. The same is valid for any field of life. In this way a child really enjoys what they are doing, and they see that it makes sense. In contemporary schools students do not understand why they are learning. But in genius-education schools the children know that after a few months they will speak Esperanto, in the following year English, in the following year German, etc.
Or in the field of chess; in the first year they play at level 3, after the third year at level 1, after five years as a master candidate, after years as a master, after years as an international master, and after the 15th year as a grandmaster. So the child sees the goal and meaning of their work.
One thing is certain: one can never achieve serious pedagogical results, especially at a high level, through coercion. One can teach chess only by means of love and the love of the game. We should make sure not to always win against the child; we should let them win sometimes so that they feel that they also are capable of thinking. In this way we should bring them to a feeling of success.
At the start it is most important to awake interest. We should make the child aware that who learns this knows this. And chess is learnable. If we educate the child such that they can be a partner, can accept, create, and initiate, then we can always entrust them with more independent tasks. We should get the child to love what they do — to such a degree that they do it almost obsessively.
The Hungarian psychologist Tamas Vekerdy warns of the same thing, that infants more easily master things that awake and draw their interest, their attention. And even at the beginning, the child should feel joy. We should not be angry, if they jump around here and there during a chess game; indeed, it is a known fact in psychology that even though a child might frolic aimlessly because of their age-appropriate character, their thoughts can still stay on the task.
We should not tell them everything; we should try to get the child themself to say something! We should not ourselves make all the moves; we should try to get the child themself to make the moves!
This is the so-called Socratic method, and the essence of instruction in problem-solving — projected onto chess. Of course great success is not achievable without motivation. At the age of , if the activity is sufficiently interesting, success can also function as a strong incentive. Stimulation, encouragement, and instilling passion and trust are very important. If the parents and tutors tell the child that they are foolish and bad, the child will probably truly believe this.
But the opposite also applies: if we say that they are clever and skillful, they will believe that as well. They often truly believe that, and try harder to actually become so. I consider it a basic principle that success is extraordinarily important. When I began the experiment, I thought that although I would not let my daughters avoid failure, they would nevertheless need to grow up accompanied by success.
The proportion of failure to success should be 1 to The experience of success or failure, as Adler demonstrates, greatly influences the self-confidence — or uncertainty — of the child. According to P. Michel as well, the experience of success, the admiration of others, and the recognition of teachers, significantly stimulates further action, increases the trust of the child in their knowledge and ability to a high degree.
According to Frank, failure, suffering, and fearfulness decrease achievement. Following a number of successive failures, even a damaging inhibitory complex can be created. With an increase in stress, action becomes more superficial and behavior less calm. Similarly, in the opinion of M. Juck, success experienced in one area increases and failure decreases the level of aspiration in other areas. One should have great patience. We should let the child arrive at a sense of success, but we should not handicap ourselves we should not give up major pieces or an advantage in pawns , because in that case the structure of the game changes.
Preferably the parents or teachers should provide a temporal handicap, or weave intentional mistakes into the game, so that the child can use them for themself.
During the game the tutor should organize their position on the board intentionally as is appropriate for the student and the development of the child at their age. The child should like what they are occupied with, that is, be interested in it.
One must little by little accustom them to the work and create in them the unification of work and play. It is important as well that the child become accustomed to learning and working.
Particular training is necessary for the workload. I call well-organized and age-appropriate work active rest. Students, for example, who must attend lectures which they then enjoy, feel more rested afterwards than before.
And if the speaker lectures inexpertly, they almost fall asleep from boredom and fatigue after half an hour. Some of this seems apparent in his section on play:.
I think of play as a very important phenomenon, perhaps more important than do many of those psychologists who put it on a pedestal. But play is not the opposite of work. Play is very important for a child, but in play there is an element of work. On the contrary, it is my opinion that a child does not like only play: for them it is also enjoyable to acquire information and solve problems.
A child does not need play separate from work, but meaningful action. Children already enjoy doing meaningful things in infancy. They like solving problems during play, even pleasurable play. The more meaningful and information-rich the problems they solve during their activities, the greater is their enjoyment and sense of success. In the end it is most important at this age to awaken enjoyment and good feelings in them. Regarding my daughters, it is my experience that learning presents them with more enjoyment than a sterile game.
I have the feeling that play deprived of information often plays only a surrogate role, of surrogate action, of surrogate satisfaction. This is proven also by the fact that when we examine the biographies of exceptionally capable children, we find that they played much less than their peers.
The profound and lengthy research of L. Turman in California in uncovered many differences between the play of unusually capable children and their peers.
Bring up Genius
The original book is written in an interview form, with questions and answers; to keep it short, I am rewriting it as a monologue. I am also taking liberty of making many other changes in style, and skipping entire parts, because I am optimizing for my time. Instead of the Hungarian original, I am using an Esperanto translation Eduku geniulon as my source, because that is the language I am more fluent in. This is my book written in about 15 years of pedagogic experiment with my daughters. It is neither a recipe, nor a challenge, just a demonstration that it is possible to bring up a genius intentionally. The so-called miracle children are natural phenomena, created by their parents and society. Sadly, many potential geniuses disappear without anyone noticing the opportunity, including themselves.
Bring Up Genius! (Nevelj zsenit!)
Judit is widely considered to be the greatest female chess player ever as she is the only woman to have been ranked in the top 10 worldwide, while Susan became the Women's World Chess Champion. He has written well-known chess books such as Chess: Problems, Combinations, and Games and Reform Chess , a survey of chess variants. He is also considered a pioneer theorist in child-rearing, who believes "geniuses are made, not born". Frankenstein" and viewed by his admirers as "a Houdini", noted Peter Maas in the Washington Post in
Book Review: Raise A Genius!