Interesting Statistic about Valedictorians

by phil on Thursday Jun 9, 2005 9:44 AM

The New Yorker quotes a study about valedictorians:

... few of the valedictorians seem destined for intellectual eminence or for creative work outside of familiar career paths. Dedicated to the well-rounded ideal to be a valedictorian, after all, you must excel in classes that don't interest you or are poorly taught; the valedictorians had used their strong work ethic to pursue multiple academic and extracurricular interests. None was obsessed with a single talent area to which he or she subordinated school and social involvement. This marks a difference, Arnold said, "from what we know about many eminent achievers, who tend to evince an early passion for a particular field." For these people, Arnold writes, "a powerful early interest evolves into lifelong, intensive, even obsessive involvement in the talent area." She goes on, "Exceptional adult achievers often recall formal schooling as a disliked distraction." Valedictorians, by contrast, conformed to the expectations of school and carefully chose careers that were likely to be socially and financially secure: "As a rule, valedictorians relegated their early interests to hobbies, second majors, or regretted dead ends. The serious athletes among the valedictorians never pursued sports occupations. Most of the high school musicians hung up their instruments during college."

I seem to fit the cast of a general achiever more than that of the single-passion specialist. I've developed skills in sublimating my short-term interests for the sake of long-term goals, such as good grades or expanding my knowledge base. I don't have an object fetish, wherein I can relish in a single field or task. I tried to get into writing for its own sake, but neither the process of writing nor its aesthetic inspires me for long. I found the same is true with my fleeting interests in painting or music.

These two pages are also interesting: Generalist or Specialist? Which do I consult? and Creative Generalist (a blog).

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