I’m really getting tired of the whole view of giftedness as being an elitist thing. It’s oddly paradoxical that some want to consider themselves as gifted (as though it is some prize bestowed) or they are deeply prejudicial and determined to tear it all apart as if it doesn’t exist. To contain my frustration, I choose to view it as an opportunity to enlighten ignorance.
A friend recently passed along this article that ignited my (written) firestorm called Gifted and Talented Programs Dumb Down Our Students. Since then, my frustration has slowly turned to embers; quiet in strength, but still a fire, nonetheless. She warned me that I needed to put on my “patient hat” and so I did, determined to see both sides of his viewpoint after having been in education for more than two decades. Though I’m well aware of the many atrocities that all children experience in our current education system through the current egalitarian nightmare, I was ready to be forgiving and supportive in seeing both sides. I was mostly prepared for not rage, but sadness and the perpetual ignorance that continues to be attached to the often despised and also envied gifted label. This is how it all jelled in my mind.
In this world of constant envy, the “I want it all” mentality is well recognized. Whether it’s the latest iPhone or house you can’t afford, our society has a stranglehold on keeping up with the Joneses. Okay, I can accept this, but envy has turned to jealousy and the attempts to even the playing field don’t include lifting others up, but instead, bringing some down.
“Envy is when you want what someone else has, but jealousy is when you’re worried someone’s trying to take what you have.” ~ Vocabulary.com
Giftedness is similar in many ways to physical characteristics that are given special treatment. It’s something you’re born with. Yes, it can be improved or neglected, but it’s there and there’s no losing it. It’s different than just being a high achiever and that’s where the definition of giftedness in education has gone wrong. Schools focus on the achievement part of gifted testing because it’s the easiest to measure. I bet even Binet himself would have to admit he never imagined his IQ tests would deteriorate into a fight for a label. Giftedness is MUCH MORE than IQ. It’s merely the most easily measured aspect (and even that is up for debate).
That being said, intelligence is not fixed and is malleable. There really is no reason not to change the way we educate ALL children and I don’t take offense with that part of the article. I do take offense that the author chooses to name his company after the label he seems to want to remove. He doesn’t seem to understand that the gifted approach in learning does not work for all. It can be tried and should be tried, and that in itself may provide us with many more children who DO fit the category of gifted. That recognition would make a difference in the lives of many more children, but in most schools it hardly qualifies for much special treatment. Football players in high school probably get more opportunities not open to others than do the gifted students. Advanced classes are open to all as are creative opportunities (when and where available). The issue is availability and though I think the author has bypassed the numerous differences between gifted and not, his idea is not without merit.
Giftedness is drastically different in areas not directly linked with intelligence. That is a defining part of giftedness that is rarely addressed in terms easily understood by all. It’s an overdrive, an appetite rarely satiated with typical classroom instruction. It’s a creative burst of insight that propels an artist to focus voraciously on an idea, an inspiration. Sometimes the artist forgets to eat and ignores the outside world because to get the “just right” word or brushstroke, you must honor the muse. There’s an internal desire to edify, pacify, or satisfy some deep missing piece of themselves and others. Yes, it really IS that important and that is giftedness.
According to Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, the gifted are insatiably curious, divergent, idea people who often ignore authority. Combining a few of her listed traits either paints a rare and exhilarating opportunity for living or a huge chance that you’ll be ostracized for those same cocktail of traits.
The characteristics of the gifted that are the underpinnings of excellence (e.g., extrasensitivity, intensity, complexity, and above-average energy and drive) are the same ones so often criticized by others as excessive or annoying.
~ Mary-Elaine Jacobsen
Why do those who are not gifted want access to gifted services? Many, for the same reason they have the latest iPhone- it sounds cool. True gifted services are more than acceleration. They offer divergent thought processes most people naturally find strange, uncomfortable, and choose to resist. Take a look at the onset of Common Core. It was so “different” that immediately a campaign was waged to abolish it. In recent years, it has been transformed and altered because (I believe) it used such a radical (and wonderful) approach through conceptual development that specifically targeted gifted students. Instead, it had to be made accessible to all and now, no one benefits. Trying to open up opportunities to all is a wonderful idea and I do believe the criteria for giftedness needs a drastic update, but that doesn’t mean that all will be able to, nor will many desire the opportunity they believe they now want. Giftedness can’t be taught or earned in some way. It just is.
The unpretty truth is that we, as gifted, have to live in your world and you probably don’t want to live in ours. Our world is full of nights of uncertainty mulling over things like how to handle the person who stole our yogurt from the office refrigerator, the over-abundant guilt of receiving too much change from the cashier, and the extreme emptiness of feeling alone when someone doesn’t understand our sense of humor and instead sees it as an opportunity to attack our differences. Our world is full of being accused of laughing “too loud”, being “too quiet”, dressing “too weird”, and thinking “too bold”.
How often have you worried about college, your life, your career, making enough money to take care of your family all while wondering if you were more interested in experimental or theoretical physics………..when you were nine years old? Yes, I’ve experienced many of these late night conversations with my own gifted child.
- sleep through the night when they’re little.
- don’t mind that foods are different colors and textures.
- won’t remember the day you uprooted their favorite tree from the yard when they were 5.
- are okay with the answers in the back of the teacher’s edition and don’t have 4 alternative answers that could be substantiated with evidence if they had the chance instead of being told they were wrong.
- want to solve childhood poverty in Uganda when they’re 6.
- find The National Geographic Channel and most documentaries fun.
- often know what your true thoughts are when you lie to them.
- often feel like aliens in a world and system of education that you designed without them in mind.
Yet, you think by taking away those measly 2 hours a week in which gifted children often describe as “life saving” and “heavenly” that you’ll prove other kids are pretty much the same if they just had the chance?
You have no idea.