Can you make a student brilliant?

Today’s paper has an update about a Norcross native, Deep Shah, who was a class valedictorian. He went on to UGA and is now a Rhodes scholar studying at Oxford University.

His story is interesting. But what stands out is that his two older sisters also were class valedictorians. Both girls earned perfect scores on the SAT and are now doctors.

Their parents were highly successful students and now own a medical enterprise.

One can say these kids were destined to be great considering the parents they have.

But many of us have met students whose parents are just as impressive but the children have not excelled academically.

What makes a student high achieving? Can this be taught or must there be some natural brilliance?

16 comments Add your comment

jim d

May 1st, 2009
9:14 am

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Mahatma Gandhi


May 1st, 2009
9:53 am

Hmmmmmm. Interesting. You imply that these kids actually went to PUBLIC schools and succeeded? But, how is this possible if GA really does have crappy schools and crappy teachers? Things don’t add up here.

Too many quickly blame the education system in GA without considering other factors – like parents, home life, etc.


May 1st, 2009
11:03 am

Oops. Hey Reality, if you actually read the article, you would find that this student attended Greater Atlanta Christian School – a private school.


May 1st, 2009
11:23 am

Let’s see…

BOTH parents were doctors, which implies a higher than average IQ. Statistically, when both parents possess higher than average IQ, their offspring will inherit that trait.

The parents came to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs. Through hard work (and probably some government handouts because of their minority status), they built a successful business. They obviously passed along their work ethic to their children.

The parents also sent him to Greater Atlanta Christian School – a PRIVATE school. One has to wonder what the public school model would do – you know, sit him down beside some special ed kid on one side and some chronic troublemaker with an 85 IQ on the other, and then teach to the lowest common denominator.

“Can you make a student brilliant?” Brilliance equates with intelligence. Mom and Dad are primarily responsible for that. Now, there are those individuals who, through hard work and perseverance, exceed their natural abilities. Everybody, including teachers, can influence that.

End of the day, the high achievers have a high degree of inner drive that will not let them accept substandard work.


May 1st, 2009
11:58 am

There are many geniuses among us. But genius, without application of effort, is useless. Obviously, these parents were successful in creating an environment that encouraged a superb work ethic and took steps to insure that their child’s efforts were supported in a demanding academic environment. Smart and hardworking will succeed every time.

Given two child, the main learning differences between them will be found in their personality (perseverance, delayed gratification, attitude, etc.) and their ability to process information.

Schools can’t make kids brilliant – in fact, IMHO, most public schools inadvertently do everything they can to suppress it, by teaching to the lowest common denominator in the interests of “fairness”. There’s nothing “fair” about being a genius. Parents give them a good shot with a good gene pool, and a home environment that, for five or six years before they ever step foot in a school, teaches them to stick with a task, and gives them oppotunities to exercise and develop reasoning skills. Knowing your alphabet and numbers before you start kindergarten is NOT a sign of genius. It’s a sign of a good memory — which is a start, but only a baby step.


May 1st, 2009
1:38 pm

O.K…..what is up with this comment….I am not a regular blogger on getschooled but I am wondering where Anderson ( from Delta) gets his facts? If you go to, you will see that there are metro Atlanta public high schools that rate a 10 and this is the highest rating available. We knew someone who moved to metro Minneapolis several years ago with a son who was to be a senior.
The real estate agent showed them homes in the BEST school districts. When they went to enroll, the child was told that he was ahead of all of the classes in their school….he came from Gwinnett County Public Schools.

I am tired of Yankees telling us that our schools are not good….there is not state that has ALL good schools. I have visited 49 states and work with educators all the time.
I am proud to report that a neighborhood senior had a PERFECT SAT score and he is a product of our public school. Kudos to him and his family! I am proud of him and I am not even his mother!

Anderson — who himself moved from Minneapolis to take the top job at Delta in 2007 — said some ex-Northwest workers will look for private schools for their children. He said improving education is an area Atlanta should focus on to improve its appeal.

“I think the high school graduation rates and the quality of the graduates that we have coming out of the schools in Georgia needs to be a lot higher,” Anderson said.

Anderson praised Minnesota’s education system, adding that public schools around the Twin Cities “are like the private schools here.”

Harper's Mama

May 1st, 2009
2:10 pm

I have taught students from GAC, and I have found them lacking in many areas, but I digress.
Parents must have high expectations of their children and not only hold their children accountable for their education, but also model a love for learning and a drive for success. I do not expect my children to be Rhodes Scholars, but I do expect for them to do their best at all times in all circumstances. If parents held teaching and education with a higher esteem, then their children would be more inclined to take learning and education more seriously.
So brilliance cannot necessarily be “made” brilliant, but they can have a love for learning and education instilled in them.


May 1st, 2009
4:25 pm

The close proximity of this thread with the one on behavior is striking. Add to it the Momania thread on parental culpability.

V for Vendetta

May 1st, 2009
10:51 pm

Let’s stick with the original question:

“Can you make a student brilliant?”


Well, my work here is done. :-)


May 2nd, 2009
6:46 am

V for Vendatta…as I mentioned on Momania….a neighbor ( of mine0 also has a perfect SAT and I believe that his parents and their environment had a LOT to do with it. I am also a patient of the parents above and it is striking that he would grow up in an intellectual environment and be where he is…so while you and I may not be able to give this gift to our children ( mine are bright but not brilliant) I feel parents do have a hand in it. Perhaps the work ethic IS important too!

V for Vendetta

May 2nd, 2009
9:52 am

motherjanegoose, I think you’re missing my point. You can’t MAKE someone brilliant. It is a combination of two primary factors: the child’s inherent IQ and the environment in which he/she is raised. When I said “no,” that’s what I meant. I can’t MAKE someone brilliant, but I can teach him/her how to use his/her intelligence to the best of his/her ability.


May 2nd, 2009
12:58 pm

If you’re really interested in the initial question instead of just talking about how neighbors’ kids did on the SAT, take a look at Malcomb Gladwell’s “Outliers” (2008). See what factors shape those who are set apart from the normal bell curve.


May 2nd, 2009
5:26 pm

So….the parents DID have a hand in “making” him brilliant if they reared him in their environment and if their genetics ( parents who appear to be bright) belong to their child.

You cannot make an ugly child cute ( realistically) but if two very attractive parents had children, they might stand a better chance to MAKE a cute child….right? The Shah’s created 3 very bright children both with their genetics and with their environment and that is awesome. Most parents are NOT even aware of what it takes to MAKE a brilliant child and are certainly not up to the challenge.

I understand what you are trying to say but it is more likely for these parents to MAKE a brilliant child than for high school drop outs who sit around watching TV and living on welfare … to make a brilliant child…genetics and environment simply do play a role.

If this is not true…then WHERE do brilliant children come from? Is it simply the luck of the draw?

Maybe you are missing my point or maybe there is not one. Re: DB’s comment with gene pool

V for Vendetta

May 2nd, 2009
8:18 pm


motherjanegoose, you are CLEARLY missing my point. I am answering Laura’s original question: “Can you make a student brilliant?” The answer is “no.” I never said you couldn’t “make a brilliant student.” I figured the answer to that question was obvious. DB also said the same thing near the bottom of his/her post.


May 3rd, 2009
7:07 am

I agree… you can make a brilliant student but you cannot make a student brilliant.

William Casey

May 4th, 2009
10:24 am

I don’t believe that parents or teachers can make brilliant students. They can, however, lay the foundation for brilliance… resources, debate, competition, good habits, work ethic and much more.

Genetics plays a role. Culture plays a role. Political correctness downplays these factors but they are there just the same. Money also plays a role in success.

By the way, GAC isn’t “all that and a bag of chips.” My son received an excellent education at Northview.