An Interview with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

In June of 2013, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman released his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and a review appeared here on GPS. At the time, I wrote, 

"Why should the gifted community take notice of this book? We always talk about how we think our children should be challenged; so, why not all of us? This book challenges many long held beliefs. It should ignite a discussion on the potential of all children. Proponents (myself included) of the message that “giftedness is as much about who you are as about what you achieve” need to make a reasonable and intellectual assessment of Ungifted."

Since that time, I have had the pleasure to meet and talk to Dr. Kaufman. One cannot come away from a discussion with him without being impressed with his intellect and passion for the well-being of all children. In March, Ungifted was released in paperback. If you haven't read it, you should. 

Recently, Scott agreed to take time from his busy schedule to do an interview for Gifted Parenting Support. 

GPS: A lot has happened in your life since you wrote, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. Can you bring us up to date?

SBK: Indeed. Since the release of the hardcover copy, I moved to a new job at the University of Pennsylvania. The founder of the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, hired me to be the scientific director of the newly minted Imagination Institute. Our mission is to advance the science of imagination by investigating the measurement and development of imagination across all sectors of society. Toward those aims, we held a grants competition to fund research, and we will also be having discussions with some of the most imaginative people across domains to get a better sense of the domain-specificity of imagination.

GPS: In your announcement of the release of the paperback edition of Ungifted, you stated, “I’m not as bothered as I used to be about how we define ‘intelligence’." Could you elaborate?

SBK: That’s correct. I used to be obsessed with literally redefining intelligence. But I’ve come to realize that what I really want to do is broaden our conceptions of human potential. I want to show that many of our crude measures of potential don’t fully capture what people are capable of achieving, and leave out many important ways that people can mix and match their unique temperament to realize their personal goals. I’m OK defining intelligence as the capacity for learning and adaptation, but I would argue that there are multiple paths to intelligence— even by that definition.

GPS:  Last year, I witnessed two standing ovations when you spoke at two major gifted conferences. What has surprised you the most about the reception you’ve received from the gifted community?

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, Keynote at the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Annual Conference

SBK: Yes you did, and it was lovely seeing you in the audience! It really gave me greater confidence! When I first set out to write Ungifted, I expected to be embraced by the learning disability community, but I had no idea my ideas would receive such a warm reception from the gifted community. What I’ve come to realize is that most gifted educators have the same goals I have— to cast a wider net and reduce the number of highly capable children who fall by the wayside in this standardized testing culture. So many more kids would benefit from more enriched resources than those we currently single out, and that’s very problematic. Many members of the gifted community are just as interested as I am in finding the less obvious kids who could really benefit from our support.

GPS:  What’s next for Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman? What’s your vision of your future self?

SBK: Oh gosh, I’m just happy when I get through a long day of work. I guess most immediately, look out for my new book on creativity, co-authored with Carolyn Gregoire: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.

My thanks to Scott for this interview. My respect for his work continues to grow. I look forward to reading his next book and you can look for a review here when it is released! 


SBK Graphic and picture via Lisa Conrad.