Friday, 7 October 2011

Are we born to be great?

When we are born, we are like seemingly small and empty vessels with the ability to learn and develop skills which will help us in our day-to-day life. We learn to walk, we learn to talk. All of of the basics. But what about everything else? What about a top scientist? A doctor at the height of their profession? An Olympic athelete? Where do all of their outstanding skills come from? Is it something they have learnt over time by being influenced by the world around them or were they simply born to do what they do?

You often hear people say that someone was "born" to do something. Born to be a writer, a singer, a mathematician. But is this really the case? Can you really be "born" with all of these abilities already in you?

Imagine two children. One of the children has attended state schools all of their life from pre-school up to secondary. The other child has attended a private school for the same time. Which of the children then is most likely to leave school with the highest grades and level of education? Possibly the second child, who has had the best education that money can buy, attending a succesful school where they will have most likely encountered stricter rules and more one-on-one tutoring, you might think. But I actually believe that both children have every chance of achieving high grades regardless of their school. That is because I believe that a child has a natural ability to learn. If the first child is naturally bright yet attends an ordinary state school, they will achieve good grades because they have the intellect to do so. Similarly, if a child with little capacity to learn attends an expensive private school, they may not achieve good grades because if you don't have that capacity, you cannot force it upon someone and make them intelligent.

I used to have this argument with my daughter's father. He wants her to attend a private school and I want her to stick to state school. I find the idea of private schools stuffy and quite devoid of reality. I went to state school and, although I'm not the brightest person in the world, far from Oxbridge standards at least, I left with fairly good grades because I enjoy learning to a degree. There were people in my classes who were hopeless and no amount of money poured into their education would have made an ounce of difference.

Which brings me on to my original statement; are we born to be great? In a word; yes. In my opinion, you cannot create a great person. You cannot take someone who is a terrible singer, give them a few lessons and expect them to end up as the next Celine Dion. They can either sing or they can't. I think this is the case with pretty much everything that I can think of. I am very interested in space. I love everything about it and I have even visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. One of my "things to do before you die" is to go to a rocket launch. I watch programmes about space on TV sometimes, about the big bang theory, star formations and far-off galaxies. It is all really fascinating. However, I could never be say, an astrologist. As much as space and all it comes with amazes me, I don't have the capacity to do it. I have never been very good at science or maths, no matter how hard I tried. It doesn't come naturally to me, numbers confuse me and I couldn't tell you the names of any chemical reactions. Even if I studied those subjects for years (which I did) it would never come to me because I wasn't born with the ability to understand it.

I have always been good at English. Literature in particular. When I was in my first year of Primary school, which would have made me about 5/6, I had the reading age of a sixteen year old. The year after I was given the reading age of an eighteen year old. Since I was about 7 or 8, I have written stories. I wrote a full story when I was just 9 (which I have still got as it is written in a notebook) When I was in Year 8 of secondary school when I was about thirteen, we were given the task to come up with and write an extra chapter for a book we had been reading in class. When we all got given ours back, my teacher made me stand up in front of everyone to tell me she had graded my work with a 7 even though the highest grade you could get for our year was a 6 because she had been so impressed. Another old teacher of mine once asked my mum if I had taken English Lit at University and was surprised when she told her I was doing Philosophy. Give me a pen and some paper and I can write pretty much anything. Give me a calculator or a test tube and I will most likely have a nervous breakdown.

I suppose it's all down to our want to embrace our abilities. If you grow up with a particular gift but you don't act on it then it can easily go to waste. Some skills can be learnt and built upon but there always has to be a passion for it. Your natural ability to do calculations could make you a good accountant. Your natural ability to run could make you a good athlete. But even if you have the ability, if there is no passion then the talent will go to waste. If you don't enjoy sport, it makes no difference if you are a fast runner because you will never put it into practice.

To put it more plainly, I believe we are all born with our abilities, skills and intellectual capacity already built within us. It is then up to us to use them and express them so that we can fulfil their potential. I do agree that our surroundings, the way we are brought up and the paths we choose will have an effect on them to a certain degree. But the basis of it is always there. Everybody has a natural-born talent whether it be that they can dance down to their ability to listen well to others, it is only when you embrace it that you will truly know what yours is.

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