When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Not Every Child is Gifted

Today I read a post written earlier this week by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery titled "Every Child is Gifted and Talented".  In it, Ms. Melton responds reassuringly to the story of a friend (whose daughter seemed disappointed when she wasn't identified as a "gifted kid" at school) with the emphatic statement,"Every child is gifted and talented. Every single one. Everything I’ve ever written about on this blog has been open for argument, except for this one. I know this one is true." The conflicting reactions that this post has received suggest that the idea of "giftedness" is not as simple as Ms. Melton would have us all believe, and that there is room for some discussion on this topic after all.  From my perspective, perpetuating the blanket notion that "all kids are gifted" actually hurts those who are, by definition, "gifted", and contributes to them not receiving the support or the resources they need to develop to their full potential. 

While I understand the sentiment behind Ms. Melton's conviction, and I agree with her wholeheartedly that all children have unique gifts and talents, I think it's very important to make a distinction between what it means to "have gifts" and what it means "to be gifted" as is defined by psychology.  (I think we would all find it easier to agree on this point if society could simply come up with a less emotionally loaded term than "gifted" to describe those individuals who have advanced cognitive abilities.)   Certainly every single child has a wonderful set of traits and abilities that make him or her special and all parents should believe, as Ms. Melton says they must, that their children "are okay".   But to "be gifted" means something different:

"Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."

~Columbus Group, 1991~

In testing administered by a psychologist, individuals must score in the 98th percentile or above to be considered "gifted" (and these high intelligence test scores very often go hand in hand with unique ways of experiencing the world physically, socially, and emotionally as well).  Children whose scores place them in the light blue and gray areas on the far right side of the graph below (as much as children whose scores are in the areas on the far left of the graph) will almost certainly find a school system that is geared towards the average learner (represented by the dark blue area) a poor fit for them.


I think almost everyone agrees that students who are significantly behind their same-age peers at school should be identified and given special education support that allows them to develop to their full potential. There is no concern that extra attention paid to these children will make others feel that they are not "special". Yet often when we suggest that students who are significantly ahead of their same-age peers be given the educational support they need (through identification and placement in special programs), we are accused of being "elitist" and making other children (and their parents) feel bad somehow.  This negative feeling towards our brightest students is not lost on gifted children, either; many of them learn to hide their intelligence as they grow older as a means of protecting themselves from cruel teasing and criticism from others who are uncomfortable with the idea that someone might be more cognitively advanced than they are. 

What puzzles me is that it seems it is only in regards to cognitive ability that our society needs to reassure itself with the "all children are gifted" motto. We don't seem to have the same issue when it comes to gifted athletes, or musicians, or actors; we recognize and celebrate the achievements of those who have abilities well beyond our own in those areas, rather than diminishing them by suggesting those people's "gifts" aren't worthy of any special attention.  For example, a graph that represents scores of athletic ability would likely be very similar to the graph above showing the distribution of IQ scores.  Only a small percentage of people are truly gifted athletes who can compete at a very advanced level; most of us would fall somewhere in the "average" area of the graph.  But that doesn't stop us from being thrilled for those athletes who have the potential to achieve such amazing physical goals; we cheer them on as they strive hard to be their absolute best.  An athletically gifted child is encouraged to train at a higher level, to be part of an elite team, to have opportunities for growth and experiences that most other kids wouldn't ever be offered, because he or she has demonstrated a rare ability.  I'm not sure why we can't also recognize the same high level of ability in kids who are gifted cognitively, and agree that they should also be given opportunities to flourish without worrying that they're "accidentally suggesting that [other kids are] not okay" by simply being who they are. 

In her post, Ms. Melton states that we need to erase the idea that "education is a race" and we'll all feel better about our kids.  I agree that education is not a race; it's a unique journey that each of us travels throughout life.  I don't see gifted children as trying to win a "race" by being identified and having their learning needs met, though it may seem that way to those who don't understand them.  (Contrary to popular belief, some gifted children are not even among the high achievers in their classrooms.)  These children are just trying to be themselves; they are searching for understanding and meaning in life in ways that  most of us can't imagine, and sometimes they are travelling a very difficult road.  If we truly believe that all children have gifts that are important, then it's imperative that we allow the ones whose "gift" happens to be advanced cognitive ability to feel okay about themselves, too. Acknowledging, encouraging, and celebrating exceptional ability of all kinds in others doesn't make any of us less special or important; it should inspire each of us to use our own gifts to be our very best self.

40 comments:

  1. Thank you. I read Glennon's article a couple of days ago, and found your article today through SENG's Facebook page. You very eloquently spoke what many of Glennon's commentors, including myself, tried to explain. We parents of gifted kids are so tired of having to keep our mouths shut while everyone else is allowed to brag about their child's athletic, artistic, musical, or other accomplishments, even though those accomplishments are often held in higher esteem than academic accomplishments.

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  2. Highly gifted athletes, artists, musicians and actors hardly get their needs met at school, either. They reach their potential largely because their parents provide them that opportunity outside of the regular school day - on travel teams, in galleries, orchestras and on community stages. Along with their talent they must apply a heavy dose of grit practicing their crafts. I believe it is the combination of practice and talent that is celebrated. Maybe the cognitively gifted students should expect the same - that their libraries, robotics competitions, gifted camps and their parents will provide the venues where they, too can be cheered on for applying grit to reach their potential. I cannot imagine a community not celebrating the child who works really hard studying to win a spelling bee, national math award or works to create a prize winning science fair project. Your argument that no one feels less "special" when low IQ students receive remediation falls flat. Of course they don't! Those low IQ children need every bit of help we can give them so that they stand a chance of functioning autonomously in society. It just does not seem right to cheer someone on and give them special considerations simply for being born smart. Why should that be celebrated at school? That is like saying the stunningly attractive girl should be singled out for being born with big eyes and thick curly brown locks. Within reason, I do believe teachers should allow some differentiated work in their classrooms to meet the needs of students with differing abilities - but I see that reasonably occurring within the orange range. Why do you think our scarce public education dollars should be spent benefiting the cognitively gifted children when they are not spent to benefit anybody else's advanced abilities? Have you noticed that there are almost no IB or AP classes in the arts? So already there is a propensity at the High School level to allocate money and resources to programs that allow the cognitively gifted to reach a much higher potential GPA (IB and AP classes are on a 5 point scale) then their less fortunate artistically inclined peers who have to settle for the max 4.0 classes because there is no High Jump or piano AP exam. Our community has a public high school for students advanced in science and technology. There is no such counterpart public music or art conservatory. I have a cognitively gifted child and I am so thankful that her natural curiosity propels her to get her needs met inside and outside of school. She will certainly reach her full potential because as a family we are seeing to that. I really hope your children have the opportunity to be with like-minded gifted children where they feel they fit in. If a child’s environment is what allows a them to feel OK about themselves, then perhaps they need to learn that they should not give away their power so easily. Children should learn by being responded to empathetically that they are worthy and not deserving of humiliation, so when someone attempts to ridicule them they are protected by a heavy dose of indignation. This is independent of IQ. I find highly gifted kids sometimes need help with social pragmatics or conflict resolution and all children would benefit from more social and emotional growth opportunities in our schools. I think what Ms. Melton meant was that all children should be valued as equally worthy human beings despite their differences. The sooner we recognize that no superior quality in a child makes them any more valuable than any other child, the sooner we will focus our attention on the things that really need improving across the entire spectrum of talents - connectedness, belonging and worthiness. In an ideal world every child's individual gifts would be fully nurtured in our schools, but that is unrealistic to expect in public education in austere times.

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    1. I want to clarify that in no way to I expect the school system to meet all of the needs of gifted children. I spend a great deal of time and effort seeking out enrichment opportunities for my own children in places other than school, so that they do have the chance to be with like-minded children where they can explore their interests in a challenging way. (I have written about this several other times elsewhere within this blog.) But I still believe that schools have a responsibility to do what they can to provide an appropriate education for all students (and that includes the cognitively advanced ones).

      I find your statement that we shouldn't give students any special considerations simply for being born "smart" as offensive as if you had said that we shouldn't give students any special considerations simply for being born "dumb". Neither adjective is an accurate description of the much more complex reality of being an exceptional child.

      Of course all children should be valued as equally worthy human beings despite their differences. School curriculums are designed with the average learner in mind, though, so in order to show those who lie significantly outside of the norm that they are valued and that they belong, too, we need to at least make an attempt to meet some of their needs.

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    2. I don't think you've done much AP/IB research if you believe this. AP offers studio art (2D & 3D) for the talented artist and Music Theory, which any advanced pianist or musician should find sufficiently challenging. But what about your dancers? IB had a whole group dedicated to the arts. These course, which are offered at higher and standard level include: dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. The main problem is that not a lot of schools offer these programs, but that doesn't mean there are no classes offered. You have to acknowledge that it takes a lot of money to offer courses like this. Barring even the costs to maintain a proper theatre, you need to train the teachers and go through the rigorous proces to get your school credited as able to offer this program. And as many gifted artists as there are out there, they don't always flock together in neat groups. Let'a face it, only the parents of highly gifted/motivated children want their kids taking arts classes because society has been indoctrinated to believe that arts are for the 'stupid' kids, even though we readily line up to buy the next Beyoncé album or installation of The girl with the dragon tattoo books. But on the whole, you're more likely to find a good drama program than Gifted one. Any program with the words 'pull-out' or 'enrichment' is kidding themselves. These kids require accelerated material because they get it once, or latest twice. They don't need 20 extra worksheets, and while museum trips are cute, any kid can enjoy them. It doesn't take a 130+ IQ to enjoy staring at dinosaur bones. The kid with an encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs might enjoy it more, but that doesn't remedy the fact that the kids are bored with regular classes and are ready for algebra or Pride and Prejudice while their 'peers' are mastering counting and struggling to read The Cat in the Hat. These kids require a fast-paced curriculum and independent study. They require mentors to get a more indepth knowledge of quasars or the semantics of High English rhetoric. Gifted kids are not being served properly, even though it's no secret what they need. People keep complaining that they're 'too expensive' but that's because they're doing it wrong. A gifted program could run out of a computer lab. Set the kids up with Khan Academy and give them test scores on the material they covered to ensure they get it. If they do, give them the appropriate credit and let them move on. Once they exceed high school curricula, set them up for dual enrolment. How difficult is that? How much money does it cost? An arts program costs more money than that- hell, a single teacher costs more than that. ( on the topic of magnet high schools for arts, they exist. Again, do your research. They might be far and in between, but they're most likely more ubiquitous than an accurately run gifted program.)

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  3. 'Why do you think our scarce public education dollars should be spent benefiting the cognitively gifted children when they are not spent to benefit anybody else's advanced abilities? ' - What about cheap interventions like grade skipping?

    'It just does not seem right to cheer someone on and give them special considerations simply for being born smart.' - I do not believe in singling out gifted children for special privileges, merely that they should be given work at a harder level (which is something that most children would not want). Society could be losing some of its greatest future scientists because they weren't challenged in school and started underacheiving.

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    1. I think that is true that society fails the child whose parents do not have the means or do not recognize their child's gift - the underprivileged and underrepresented children are the ones falling through the cracks. If anyone reading a SENG blog has a child whose school destroyed their chance of being one of our greatest future scientists or who regularly is underachieving then I agree it is a shame nobody intervened on behalf of that child to seek a different path for them. I see that primarily as the role of the parents.

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    2. As a parent it is an up hill battle to get the public school system to consider a different path... believe me, I'm doing everything I know to do and yet my son is under served in school every single day and I lose time from my much needed job in my continual attempts to advocate for my son's needs... the school focuses on his poor behavior allowing his academics to fall without even considering the notion that meeting his academic needs will more than likely correct the behavior problems. When intervention is met with extreme resistance (an in a magnate school for HGT students no less) then what is a parent to do? Because my efforts are met with deaf ears, am I not performing in my role as you suggest?

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    3. @S~, we are confronted with the same issues you are. It is increadibly frustrating. I don't knwo what the solution is, but I am greatful to know that we are not the only alone in our frustration. I too feel sure that if something, anything, were being done to meet my child's academic needs, that behaviour would simply fall off the radar.

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  4. Plus it's not about being born "smart". The definition of gifted describes something else and the writer certainly doesn't say that any other learning differences are bad or should not be supported. It's more a matter of recognizing each child has different needs and meeting those needs individually - something public education (in my experience) doesn't currently provide, though it is better in some areas than others. Asynchronus development is one of the big differences. Why should parents of any kid, stand back while their child's needs are completely ignored and even shamed (often resulting in absolute boredom and difficulty with behavior- they are children after all) because their child is "gifted" and therefore incorrectly labeled as "smart". I can tell you it is not an easy row to hoe for many of these kids. Educating adults about it is a big missing link to changing things. Great article!

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    1. My point is that it is elitist to expect special treatment for advanced cognitive abilities but not champion better environments for ALL children. So many other kids also appear bored - but for different reasons - but likely their needs are not being met either. There are many students with stealthy LDs who have a high enough verbal IQ to mask it but are not considered "gifted" because they are in the orange range and are offered no real assistance with what makes their road so difficult. Cognitively gifted children do not have a corner on the market for boredom or behavior issues due to their needs not being met. The gifted athlete might be bored because they would rather be running. Do you think they should be allowed to run an hour every day on the playground? The introvert might appear off task or misbehaving because their classroom favors those with extroverted personalities and they internally feel totally lost and act out. My daughter is twice exceptional and has sometimes been considered "lazy" for not doing her homework but I was right there to tell the teacher we were not interested in her "grade" but in her mental health and her intrinsic learning which was obviously happening despite her poor homework performance. I specifically taught her teachers what kind of praise was what she needed (and spelled it out on her 504 plan) - for her to do ANY homework was to be seen as a triumph because it was if she wrote that paper with her teeth! It was my job to raise their awareness. Shame on any parent who sits by while their child is completely ignored or humiliated! I never thought my daughter was any better than anyone else or was a martyr for oh how what a difficult row to hoe she had navigating through society's deep sea of average-ness. She will be hard pressed to find a world that always accommodates to her needs, so we taught her to be resilient, we got her extra help with her LD issues, we expected her to show compassion for all of her classmates, we encouraged her to use her strengths to overcome her normal uncomfortable feelings because EVERYONE has to learn to cope with feeling different or know what to do in the moment when they are bored or misunderstood. When the environment was so invalidating that it continually negatively affected her mental health we pulled the plug and moved her to another environment.

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  5. The problem is that we could make the same case if there were an assessment for innate musical, kinesthetic, or artistic ability. What is considered gifted is political in nature, shaped by what society values. Who are we to say that academic ability is more important than any other ability? Who are we to decide that science benefit society more than art? In fact, art is often more responsive and current that science. It also involves an emotional intelligence? Playing a sport or an instrument involves just as much thinking as solving a complex algorithm! EVERY CHILD IS GIFTED! IT IS ELITIST TO THINK THAT AN ACADEMIC GIFT IS MORE IMPORTANT OR SOMEHOW DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER GIFT! IT IS TOTALLY WRONG TO THINK THAT OTHER CHILDREN'S GIFTS ARE NOT WORTHY OF SPECIAL PROGRAMS AND THAT ONLY THE ACADEMICALLY GIFTED SHOULD BE SUPPORTED!

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    1. Nowhere in my post did I say that academic ability is more important than any other ability, or that science benefits society more than art. I was discussing the difference between children "having gifts" (which I believe ALL children do, and those gifts can be in a wide variety of areas), and "being gifted" by definition (which refers to advanced cognitive abilities, and which is much more complex than simply "being smart" or doing well in academics). I agree that schools could do a better job of recognizing different gifts and offering a wider range of learning experiences to nurture them in children. But not every child is in need of advanced programs,whether it be in academics or arts or athletics. Many children who "have gifts" of intelligence, of athletic ability, of musical talent, of drawing or painting skills, will thrive in a typical school setting because they still fall within the range of "normal". When we talk about the truly "gifted" of any field, we are talking about those who are the real "outliers" (for lack of a better word), the ones whose abilities deviate significantly from the norm in an advanced way, and according to that definition, no, not every child is gifted.

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  6. All I know is this: From personal experience, my son was failing and hated school since Grade 1. Can you imagine hating school in Grade 1? His teachers were all irritated by him so he ended up being depressed and losing himself by Grade 2. He was close to being catatonic. The teachers were disturbed by the fact that they were told that he was smart but he didn't demonstrate it. They refused to listen to me because I wasn't as experienced as them in their world of education so they didn't believe me when I was telling them that he was lacking motivation and that they should enrich his assignments in order for them to fulfill his potential.

    Since Grade 3, he's been in Gifted education. We've seen dramatic changes in his engagement to education. He now cares about his academic success and he wants to learn again. His personality has come out again which is not always a good thing ;) but at least his true colors are showing and he's no longer in a depressed state. This is why the recognition of gifted is important to me. A child who excels in Music, Sports or Arts also need enrichment of course but it is not like he will lack recognition from his peers. A child who's gifted intellectually beyond his age, will not be praised at school for his talents. He will be bullied by his peers and sometimes even by his teachers. He will be looked down upon and neglected. He will not be praised for his knowledge but instead is often treated as a class nuisance.

    GIFTED is as much of a need as the other side of the spectrum because of all the above. A child who's intellectually challenge will not succeed in life without proper support and so will a child who's not challenged intellectually. I think that this is where people are missing the point. The "Gift" is not necessarily a "gift" unless it's being addressed and supported.

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    1. Sounds like a really sad state of affairs for your gifted child for never being praised, bullied by his peers, teachers and also berated and neglected. Wow. My cognitively advanced child has been in 6 school systems and although usually not understood by her peers her teachers have ADORED her curiosity and intellect and the connections she brings to classroom discussions. They are sometimes confused that her grades are not higher (she has a LD which prevents her from completing most home work) but what she brings to the classroom is cherished - one teacher said he wished he could clone her to have one or more of her in every class he teaches. Very sad indeed that all children are not cherished for what they intrinsically can offer to a classroom group. Oh, she has been depressed alright - and we had to move her out of a public high school and one time home schooled for part of middle school but that is what parents do when their child's health is negatively affected by their environment. You sacrifice, advocate and change environments if need be. T. Bird

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    2. Well Lucky YOU AWIV! How special of you to tout your successes and assume that the rest of us haven't changed schools, haven't advocated for our child who struggles as Anonymous' does - YOU are what is wrong in "gifted parenting" - you are just as arrogant and elitist as you accuse those of us working tirelessly for the riches you've been fortunate enough to find. Bravo! My son has struggled similarly to Anonymous - has been suicidal as early as age 8 - we have advocated for different teachers, we have switched schools, we have fought with principal after principal, we have advocated for his needs til we are blue in the face! The closest we've gotten is a SPED label to "deal" with his behavior issues. We supplement what he doesn't get at home and in after school programs - you are piece of work to sit back and assume that those who are still struggling haven't worked as hard and as tirelessly, and haven't sacrificed as much as you simply because we haven't had the results you've been fortunate enough to find. You are what is wrong with this world you self serving, judgmental POS!

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    3. Anonymous, I am sorry to hear that your son's experience in school in his early years was so difficult, and I'm very glad that things have become so much better for him now that he is receiving an appropriate education. I can relate -- it was in Grade 1 that my youngest son started experiencing a great deal of anxiety about school, and we sought a private psychoeducational assessment because we suspected he was gifted and his needs weren't being met. Being identified and receiving enrichment opportunities at school has made a world of difference for my son as well -- he is happy and engaged in learning. I think it's difficult for people who don't have experience with a struggling gifted child to understand how crucial that support is to their development and mental/emotional well-being.

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  7. Thank you so much for this fabulous article. And amen. I also love that you pointed out that gifted students are not always the highest achievers in class. I am seriously considering pulling my 3rd child out of Jr. High, so that he can pursue his interests rather than being forced to go along with everyone else. He's been in gifted programs since 3rd grade, but I can't tell you how few teachers--even gifted endorsed teachers--know what to do with his kind of giftedness.

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  8. It sounds like the highly gifted bullied and misunderstood child does need counselling and resilience skills building in order to survive as a cog in the wheel of public education. But I also know a kinesthetically (sorry if that is not a word) advanced teen who had always hated school and by his Senior year of HS was depressed and suicidal. He was a State level competitive runner and amazing receiver on the football team - the only things he credits as beneficial of the torture he endured sitting in a box for all those years is that the same institution gave him athletic outlets after school once he got to HS. It had nothing to do with his cognitive needs not being met - it was because he was born to move. He said it was torture to have to sit still in a desk with 4 walls all around him every day. His mother recognized his distress and pulled him out of high school where he finished up the only 2 actually required by law classes he needed to graduate (history and english) as a dually enrolled community college student while also getting a part time job. Since then he has never been depressed but he has walked the Appalachian, Pacific Coast and Continental divide trails in the last three years - while working at a grocery store in between to make enough money for his next walking adventure. His next conquest is in Europe. I do not think you realize just how elitist your piece sounds when viewed through a different lens. No children should be humiliated or ignored or bullied! None. Other children suffer when their needs are not met in school, too and we really need to be begging for more empathy from teachers and EQ awareness so that no child has to endure bullying or depression starting in 1st grade! If they are, then it is the parents duty to advocate and create a better path even if that means homeschooling or private school. Yes, that is a sacrifice - but expecting the public school system to accommodate the needs of such a small percentage of kids just seems as unrealistic as expecting the musically advanced to be afforded the opportunity to play the piano 3 hours a day and learn classical music composition at school starting in 1st grade. If school is making your child mentally ill - then get them out of there! T. Bird

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    1. FYI, I did homeschool and pull him out in the middle of second grade. I had to sacrifice my job that I loved as an educational assistant to do so and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I've also met teachers in another public school where I no longer live who could manage to fulfill the needs of these kids as well as other kids. My personal experience is more to put an emphasis on the fact that no child should be put down because of a talent even an intellectual one. Also as an educational assistant, I loved the children like your son who needed to move around. I would tell them to do exercise in the classroom if they needed so that they could focus on their academics afterwards. It shocked the teachers but they actually appreciated the outlet so they could spend some of their excessive energy. Please let me know how someone like me for a child to a person looking in with different lenses because I agree with you, no child should be left behind, not even if it's only 2% and I refuse to think there's no solution.

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  9. Sorry for all the typoes. I've never been a good emotional writer. My question to you was: Please tell me how I can advocate for a gifted child to a person looking in with different lenses if you still think I sounded elitist in my opinion.

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    1. I was talking about the original piece sounding elitist. It is the "superiority" thing that bothers me the most - as if the suffering of a cognitively gifted student is more important than other children's suffering. Suffering is universal. A shame response is the same for the kid called stupid as it is for the kid called nerd/geek. Nobody's suffering should be held in higher esteem. It is as if the champions of the cognitively gifted think these kids should live in a world devoid of struggle and bending to their needs and that is unrealistic. I have one highly gifted child so I needed support and information in order to understand, advocate for and meet her needs but had to stop getting articles delivered to me by the Hogies site because they regularly had me puzzled. I felt like I was being told to beat my head against a wall. I do now totally get why so many teachers cringe when they have to deal with the parents of highly gifted children. Here's the thing - they are not paid enough nor do they have the resources or even training to accomplish what you are asking. Please give them a break. My 18 year old child has had exactly two teachers that truly were themselves gifted in teaching and managed classrooms to cater to multiple intelligences. They are a very rare breed indeed! The majority of teachers simply cannot meet each individual child's different needs and it is elitist to think they should. It is unrealistic with the child/teacher ratio and all the fiscal and common core constraints on our public school teachers to expect that they should be superheroes. It is not going to happen in school and it is not going to happen in life that the world will cater to everyone’s every needs. These kids need strong resiliency, grit and emotional coping skills to survive and this world. The parent who has to step out of their chosen profession to home school their child is not much different in my opinion to the one who cannot work because their paraplegic child needs care at home 24/7. Should society pay for a full-time round-the-clock care provider for that family? Maybe so - so that parent can fulfill their potential in the world and have more to life than being a nurse. But do you see that happening in America? What works is advocating for raising awareness of how that gifted child is similar to (not different or superior to) any other kid who is suffering under the school's roof - so they are met with EMPATHY and not ridicule. If there was a reasonable way for all children to get their needs met in the traditional classroom I am all for it – and I have dreamed of moving to Finland. Perhaps you are a better champion for the 2% highly gifted population because frankly I never have had enough energy to fight an un-winnable battle or the audacity to ask a teacher to fully accommodate my child's special extraordinary needs when they had hardly enough time, energy or resources to accommodate kids in the classroom who couldn't read or do math on grade level. The elitist’s cry sounds like this: “My child might be the next Einstein, Lincoln, Jobs or Picasso, so meet their needs!” In actuality, these men did not reach their achievement levels due to their public educations! Google says they are not interested in SAT scores or GPAs as these markers do not equate to success in their company. 10% of their hired and highly paid workforce did not even graduate from High School! What I am trying to say is there is a different path and it is highly possible these highly gifted children and their parents will do better to realize they will not ever really "fit in" or get their needs met in the ways society traditionally meets children's needs because they are profoundly different than the norm and that is OK! Stop blaming the system for not meeting their needs and teach that child how to use their strengths to overcome their struggles living in a world that will likely never fully understand them. In THAT they are not so profoundly different at all.

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  10. I think the biggest problem to this entire debate is the word gifted. I hate the word and go out of my way to not use it. Being an abstract thinker, I have to say that having a higher intelligence is often the very opposite of a "gift".
    No one wants to be less than someone else. No one wants to believe that there are others who can do things easily that would be a struggle for them. When our children and our schools are involved even more feelings get hurt.
    As for separating out particular groups in school for more assistance, we test students on many levels. Children who have reading disabilities are given closer attention so that they can learn to overcome their difficulties and find a better way to learn. We don't put a 4th grader who reads at a low first grade level back into first grade just because of a developmental disability.
    Children who are clearly not being challenged in class are also at a disadvantage. A 3rd grader that can do 6th grade level math and read at a high school level can't just be tossed into 6th grade or high school; that child may be able to handle the academic work but their child's body and mind isn't ready to be hanging out with hormonal teenagers.
    As I see it, the responsibility of schools is to educate each student to the highest level that they can achieve. In order for this to happen we will have to sometimes separate out those at the lowest and the highest end of the spectrum to make sure that they get extra care. This isn't because they are special but because there are much fewer of them and they have different needs from the mainstream.
    I do agree that our educational system is falling down for everyone and that we need to push all our students to work harder.
    As for the everyone is gifted part.. if you agree that gifted is the WRONG word for children with higher cognitive abilities then yes, I could say that everyone does have a talent, something that sets them apart. But that doesn't mean that we can ignore or expect kids with those higher cognitive abilities to just get by doing more worksheets or helping other students in the class. Pretending that those kids will do just fine is not going to make their lives any better.

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  11. Anyone who disagrees with this argument has clearly had no significant interaction with a gifted child and is ignorant of the definition and implications of the word "gifted".

    For those who don't understand, "gifted" is ENTIRELY based on IQ. The identification test is an IQ test. Being gifted is entirely INDEPENDENT of the child's aptitudes (music, math, arts) and learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). The identification as gifted means that a child has the capability to understand, accept, process, and apply information at a SIGNIFICANTLY higher rate when the information is presented in their learning style. This is especially true when the information is in the child's area of strength. The average student needs information to be presented to them 6-8 times before they fully comprehend and remember it, while gifted children only need 3-4 repetitions. So when the average student is complaining on the third day that all the work is just busy work, the gifted student has been bored in the back of the class since the day before.

    How do I know? I WAS IDENTIFIED AS GIFTED IN KINDERGARTEN. My mother was a trained and certified gifted teacher. My brothers are both gifted and I was in a gifted class with nine other gifted students. I am a visual learner with strengths in mathematics and english. My younger brother is an auditory learner with strengths in math and computing. My baby brother is a kinesthetic learner with strengths in language and athetics. One of my best friends is an incredible musician who was accepted to the country's best jazz music program. AND WE ARE ALL GIFTED. Gifted comes in a variety of types and is simply a POTENTIAL.

    If I was not accepted into a gifted program and allowed to accelerate my learning, I would have learned at the same rate as every other student, average or not. Success is a balance of hard work and potential. Those who work hard always have the potential to beat out those with the greatest innate potential. However, those gifted students with the greatest potential who make themselves work just as hard - and often harder - have the ability to reach even greater success. This is just like Hussein Bolt vs the average person. If the average person trained incredibly hard they could make it into the Olympics. However, Hussein Bolt was born with a natural aptitude and trained that aptitude even harder to become the fastest man in the world. But just imagine if he had never started running, or worse had been told on the track team that he was only allowed to run as fast as the second or third fastest person on the team.

    Are gifted programs a drain on the system? I skipped two grades in math and one grade in english. My brother skipped a grade in math and a grade in science. I was the youngest member of my graduating class. My brother is graduating a year early. That means both of us SAVED the country tax dollars.

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    2. Do you realize how elitist your very first sentence sounds? Using hyperbolic wording like "anyone" and "no significant experience" and resorting to demeaning name calling like "ignorant" means you argument will likely fall flat so instead of having an open discussion with those whose awareness you might want to raise and to persuade to think differently, you are now in an "us" (the elite) versus "them" (the stupid) battle which I guess you will always win. Congratulations.

      btw I had to correct a typo in my original comment for fear you would ridicule me for a misspelling. I felt bullied by you but am happy to say it did not prevent me from letting you know how your first sentence made me feel.

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    3. "For those who don't understand, "gifted" is ENTIRELY based on IQ." Then you go on to yell, "AND WE ARE ALL GIFTED" so now you do have me confused. We do not all have a very high IQ. I think fighting over semantics is missing the point. I get the IQ piece. I also get that there is no comparable tests used to allow differentiation in the classroom for the gifted musician that leads to a path where their needs are met in regular public school.

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    4. And what is your point in bringing up Usain Bolt's achievement? Did he have differentiated classroom education that assisted him in achieving his world record? His example actually is evidence for my argument - he got his needs met outside of the classroom and is not on a platform to ask public schools across the world to create highly develop advanced running programs for elementary school students.

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  12. In regards to the arts and athletics, those talents will be identified and rewarded by those who understand and can help students develop those talents. There are talent-based scholarships, athletic scholarships, and music scholarships. All of them require auditions. Also, every college or education program requires EXTRACURRICULARS and a student A with a 4.0 and in incredible piano talent will always be chosen over student B with just a 4.0. AP and IB classes are offered in the arts - in language and culture, art history, studio arts, and music theory. For both athletics and music, there are competitions and awards through the public school system like All-State band or Nationals for athetics. It is unfortunate that not all talents can be funded through the school system, however, when students graduate all talents will become valuable and valued by those who actually understand what is required of developing them. (ie the admissions program to a Piano performance program at a college will hear a student's audition and be able to rate and reward it accurately) If you are dissatisfied with your child's education, you should look into finding the best opportunity for them. My family moved so that my brothers and I could switch into a school which better addressed our educational needs.

    Do we need gifted programs? YES. Gifted programs allow students to save the country money, pursue their education at a more comfortable rate, and achieve their greatest potential. Also, gifted students often cause trouble in average classrooms because they get bored, Gifted kids often struggle with being bullied or having poor social skills, and gifted classrooms allow them to be around their peers. Lastly, gifted students have the greatest potential to change the world and do incredible things (a huge RESPONSIBILITY) and it is in the best interest of the country and the world to allow them to progress at a faster rate. (Again, like Hussein Bolt)

    Elitism? Gifted students may have a higher IQ, but that does not mean that we all do not have our weaknesses as well. I could never compete with my gifted friend's ability to play jazz music or my gifted baby brother's ability to play soccer. (In fact I am awful at athletics) In addition, gifted students as a whole often struggle with inadequate interpersonal skills (which is why gifted students also need to interact with each other and average students). And lastly, we have elite sports teams and elite music groups in schools. We even have honor societies for high-achieving students. There is nothing wrong with elite academic groups.

    Finally, if you are not intimately familiar with something, please do not attempt to post or say anything about it. Especially something that could negatively affect people who are actually affected by the situation. You only succeed in embarrassing yourself, offending the people actually involved, and - in this case - minimizing the talents and gifts of other people.

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    1. You do not think this statement is an elitist one? "gifted students have the greatest potential to change the world and do incredible things (a huge RESPONSIBILITY)"

      I am assuming here you are using your own definition of gifted as being those with high IQ. Really?

      And how does raising a well balanced profoundly "gifted" or very high IQ (whatever label you want to give it) child to the age of 18 in 6 different public school systems in addition to home school and private school experiences not qualify me for having "intimate" familiarity with something and be entitled to my hard earned opinion? Wow! How dare you minimize my experience as being less informed than yours! My child is negatively affected by people like you who miss the fact that Usain Bolt gained LITTLE in the classroom that contributed to his world record and that there is NO AP test that has a child sit down and paint a picture. That runner and that painter grew their talents outside the classroom - and so should those with profoundly high IQs.

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  13. The two comments above are one long rant by the way.

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  14. Thinking gifted classes are elitist is like saying someone else's success means that you are a failure. Sounds like you need to reexamine your self-esteem.

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    1. Who said gifted classes are elitist? Ideally there would be some classes for the gifted. What is elitist is considering yourself superior for being more/better informed than someone else (without a clue as to their experience - only that you differ in opinion with them on solutions) who has a different opinion. An example of someone acting as an elitist would be one who in order to look more superior would put another down for having a low self-esteem, claim they are embarrassing themselves or for offending even themselves (because they actually ARE involved) in stating a logical argument that is different. For the record I am indignant but NOT embarrassed at all no matter what level you stoop to in an attempt to demean me. You are so unaware of how you are meeting the definition of an elitist AND a bully. I am profoundly grateful to not have membership in your society.

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  15. If everyone would simply understand that "gifted" is not a synonym for "smart", many of these arguments would never occur. Most people would love for their child to be "smart", but many of us with "gifted" children know that life would be so much easier for them if they were "smart" instead of "gifted".

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  16. I'm glad that my post has given us all the chance to share our opinions and have some healthy debate on this issue, but I think it's important that we do so respectfully, without resorting to the name-calling and personal attacks I've seen in some of the comments here. Thanks!

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  17. YESSSS
    If we changed the title "Gifted" to a title that was synonymous with "wired differently" there would be no accusations of being elitist!
    A child of lower cognitive ability NEEDS extra support and has a different learning style due to how HIS brain functions. Swing to the opposite side of the bell curve and you have the same amount of differences but without understanding, support or even recognition. These children (and adults) are DIFFERENT, not better, not superior, but human beings that fit a different support model, learning style or simply just a different shape than the standard round hole in which they are being forced to fit!

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  18. Newsflash: There is more than one dictionary definition of "gifted." Glennon was referring to a different definition than you are.
    The "gifted" community needs a better clinical term -- one that doesn't ooze "better than."

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    1. Glennon started her post with the story of a friend whose daughter was not one of the children at school identified as "gifted" in the clinical sense. That is the context within which she framed her entire post. If she had simply written about how all children have gifts and talents without mentioning that detail first, I don't think anyone would have taken issue with her post.

      I agree that there should be a different term than "gifted" used to describe children with advanced cognitive skills (and I said as much in my post). No matter what we call it, though, I think there will always be people who don't believe that children with high IQs deserve anything outside of the regular curriculum. I wish more people understood that when we recognize gifted students' rights to special education support, it doesn't mean those kids are "better than" anyone else -- it just means that they're different from the norm.

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  19. So many comments here, some I agree with and some I do not. But I can say this. I am a parent of two gifted children who struggle with their overactive minds every minute and hour and day of the week. The problem with being gifted is the mind is far too active, and it makes it very hard for them to just let go and try (without annalysing). It is a very difficult existance and can cause great anxiety. Their minds are just far too mature for their age and social abilities. There is a special need here that needs to be addressed, it is not just 'being smart'.

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