Thursday, December 18, 2014

Being gifted is not a choice

Being gifted is not a choice.

Yet another article has been published implying that parents can determine whether their child is gifted. In "Why I won't call my daughter 'gifted,'" the author claims that "gifted children are as common as muck...hailing from the leafier suburbs," and goes on to pronounce, "I don't want a gifted child."

While the author later points out the importance of "grit," helping a child learn to fail successfully, and attribute success to effort rather than innate ability, his inflammatory headline and dramatic initial statements perpetuate misconceptions and stigma against gifted children.

You don't get a choice. You don't get to decide whether your child is gifted any more than you can choose eye color or athletic ability. Giftedness is a mixed bag of strengths, multipotentialities, and social/emotional challenges that are far from easy. You might decide not to "label" your child as gifted; however, your child's academic and emotional needs will not magically disappear.

Giftedness is rare. Only 5% of the population have an IQ at least two standard deviations above the norm. Hardly "common as muck." While some schools may label advanced tracking as "gifted programs" and there is still a tired debate from some who claim that all children are gifted, the reality is that only a small segment of the population fits this criteria.

Giftedness is everywhere. It is not limited to wealthy suburbs, as the author proclaims. Probably the most offensive aspect of the article is how it perpetuates the widespread myth that giftedness is a middle class construct. It implies that privileged families shepherd their children into gifted education programs, serving as a badge of accomplishment. Perhaps if gifted education and identification improved in schools with lower socioeconomic populations, this myth would eventually vanish.

While the article makes valid points regarding the importance of hard work and effort, and taking risks rather than relying on innate abilities, its false assumptions and initial generalizations are misleading and damaging. Yes, it is important to help your child learn from failure (although other opinions exist on how to implement this in the classroom). Yes, it is necessary to explain giftedness to your child. However, denying that giftedness exists, or making false, flippant and classist statements is pointless and harmful.

Make the "choice" to call gifted what it is. Don't muddy the waters any further. And help your child and others get the education they deserve.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a concise article explaining the true incidence of giftedness, especially in our schools. "Common as muck"--I found out recently exactly why some people believe this, and also why they believe that giftedness in children is "a middle class construct." I live near a very wealthy school district which, I just learned, enrolls approximately 25% of their students in their gifted program! I was shocked. This percentage of a school district's student body being labeled as gifted of course confounds the already difficult lives of our truly gifted. Thank you, Gail, for another excellent article!

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    1. Celi, Thanks for your comments. That is so unfortunate that the school district near you labels what is essentially an advanced track class as a gifted program.This confuses parents, teachers and students, dilutes the meaning of giftedness, and sets up unreasonable expectations.
      Gail

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  2. Great article. So tired of opinion articles where people make statements about gifted children that just make things worse.I don't know why a parent would want to ignore that his child is gifted. It doesn't make any sense and does nothing to improve her education.

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    1. Thanks, anonymous. I think the assumption is that not naming it will allow a child to push him or herself and take risks with learning. What this fails to recognize, though, is that most gifted children are not able to push themselves in learning environments that lack any stimulation, and that gifted identification creates opportunities (sometimes) for developing an educational plan that might help them.

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  3. I wonder how much economics drive this in schools. The more gifted kids that are 'identified', the more funding is possible due to the 'prestige' inherent in having so many 'gifted' attending.

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    1. Good point. It certainly may make a school district sound appealing. It's just not accurate!
      Gail

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  4. Choice. If people had a choice with giftedness, many would opt out. It's not all rainbows and unicorns. In addition, if it's not a choice and the gifted do not receive support, they are not changed; they are stagnated. Lack of support only denies a gifted soul his identity, himself.

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    1. Atlas, You described it so well. Thanks for your comments.

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