Mar 22, 2014

Every Child is NOT Gifted. A Look at Giftedness and Insecurity.



Recently I read a post on the blog The Momastery.  The post was entitled "Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One."  She went on to make a grand sweeping statement that said every single child is gifted and talented, in response to her friends' daughter's misunderstanding of the results of their school's G.A.T.E. test (where she discovered that she wasn't "gifted").  Near the end she concluded "...education is like Christmas. We’re all just opening our gifts, one at a time. And it is a fact that each and every child has a bright shiny present with her name on it, waiting there underneath the tree. God wrapped it up, and He’ll let us know when it’s time to unwrap it. In the meantime, we must believe that our children are okay."
Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

At this point in the post I started understanding what she was saying, and found something I can agree with whole-heartedly.  Up until this point in her post, I was struggling (maybe even yelling at my computer screen) with her faulty logic and "everybody's a winner" idealogy.  I absolutely agree with her that every child has value and potential.  I believe that every child has a capacity to learn, grow and express their unique skills and internal beauty... but I do not think that every child is "gifted". I. do. NOT.


I am a gifted adult.  My kids are gifted.  My husband is gifted.  It is not a "you are winning" type of label, but rather a "you are different" type of label.  While it is absolutely true that every child has a gift waiting to be unwrapped from a loving God who created them, so true (and beautiful too), giftedness suggests 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)
 There is a reason that many of the greatest minds of the past have been thought to be "gifted" (From Ben Franklin to Einstein; from Bill Gates to William Shakespeare), because historical accounts of them have revealed the "oddness" and "extreme creativity" and "obsessive or hyper focus" that are typical of gifted people.  Many of those people struggled in their personal life, school life and professional life because of their giftedness.



In my experience, I knew I was "different" before I was tested.  Not because I was so much "smarter" than other kids my age, but because the games I wanted to play, stories I wanted to write, and questions I asked and was shushed set me apart from the other boys and girls my age.  They were all cubed pegs fitting in square holes, and I was a cylinder that just didn't FIT. In the same way, it was a relief when my son was labeled and shipped to the gifted class, because his differences were becoming more and more pronounced as he grew.

I fully embrace Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, but disagree that the "Gifted" label only addresses the types that are valued by standardized tests or WORSE "one sort of intelligence".  In fact, I struggled in school because my strongest intelligence is not the "Verbal/Linguistic" or "Logical/Mathematical", and yet my internal experience through-out my childhood and on into my adulthood has been extreme... and so very (very) different from the majority of my peers.  Even though I was fortunate enough to be tracked with gifted and high-achieving kids from 3rd through 12th, my unique, er, atypical neurological development caused an internal war inside me that was (and continues to be) at times, debilitating.

Being "Gifted and Talented" has very little to do with being "brilliant" or how well you can do school work, it has to do with the way the person relates to the world around them (think the autism spectrum).  Often the label may mean a child is better able to grasp the simple concepts taught in school faster than the average child, it is not a type of "intelligence", but what a child can DO with their intelligence that is different.

The comments on the post were a mismatch of gifted offense  (read about Dabrowski's Theory of Overexcitability to better understand the over-reaction) and non-gifted misunderstanding and hostility.  Here's the deal, education should not be a race, but it is (hence the bell curve, awards and letter grades), so many people see "gifted" education as a label that creates "elitism" and is an unfair advantage over kids who didn't get labeled, in this mama's opinion it absolutely IS NOT.  So much comes with that label, you should not wish it for your child unless they are actually gifted.  I can still remember one mom who was so offended that her child didn't pass the test, that she lashed out at me and another mom.

The fact that my child passed the test doesn't make him better than her child, it makes him different.  In the same way it would be absurd to get angry if my son was not as naturally good at sports as another child, giftedness is genetic, and you can't make your child gifted any more than you can make your child a natural baseball player.



Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
The acknowledgement of giftedness seems to wound, even if it's not the label but the institution that is doing the wounding.  When G from the Momastery said "all children are gifted" she may have been trying to heal one wound, but was making another wound worse by minimizing and erasing the experiences of those labeled as "gifted" and (in a sense) denying their existence.  The sooner we stop taking the label personally, or reacting with fear or insecurity, the sooner we will begin to truly develop these amazing, beautiful and unique minds in a healthy and productive way.

 Pearl Buck said it best (this quote makes me tear up every time because of it's TRUTH)

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him...
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - - - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating."

(Sidenote: Shortly after finding this quote, I had my 10 year old son read it and asked him what he thought.  He asked why I was writing about him in a random article online. I promised him that I didn't write this, but found it and he said "that is really strange, it's like she was describing me.")




If you think you or your child might be gifted and would like to read more information on the topic, here are some links to helpful articles and websites:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Characteristics of Gifted Children: A Closer Look
SENG - Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted
More about Dabrowski's Theory of Over-Excitability and Existential Depression
Hoagies Gifted Education
 
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2 comments:

  1. Well done. For tackling a topic that I think a lot of parents think about and feel to be truly, but then feel guilty because they don't see their kiddies as being gifted. The thing is - we are all ordinary, normal created-by-God creatures living on this earth. And every now and then, someone will show a skill in dance, sport, or academics (or whatever) that places them at a level above the norm. And that is perfectly okay. And it is perfectly okay to be part of the norm as well. You've just got to be who God created you to be. And if it is gifted, great. And if not, then great, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi AJ,

    This is all new and unfamiliar to me. Thanks for sharing your heart and experiences. What does it look like in your family? How is it different, would you say? :)

    I'm naive about this topic.

    Happy Easter, AJ! I've missed being here.

    Jennifer Dougan
    www.jenniferdougan.com

    ReplyDelete

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