Did you know that there is a National Association for Gifted Children? I didn’t, but there is. I started searching around today for some information about the effectiveness of these Gifted and Talented programs (which I didn’t find) and came across the NAGC website. This website is very….thorough. (Actually, this website makes me want to vomit, but I’m trying to be diplomatic) At the top of the website it reads: “What is Gifted? Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.” So, you mean, everyone? Because I think all kids, if given the opportunity, will exhibit ‘outstanding levels of aptitude or competence’ at something. The people at NAGC anticipated this response, and they address it in their “Common Myths in Gifted Education”. You think that all children are gifted? Wrong!!! That is one of the ‘Myths’. According to the NAGC, “All children have strengths and positive attributes, but not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word.” Ohhh, so when, on the homepage, they refer to ‘domains’, they actually mean ‘academic subjects as taught in school.’
I really loathe this website. What makes it particularly insidious is that some of the things they say when it comes to how children learn are correct. Such as “…we usually perform at our highest level when we are interested in, have an ability for, and see a purpose in what we are doing.” This is in a section titled, “Keeping Your Child Challenged” and if you changed some of the terminology, the first two paragraphs sound a lot like what unschool parents say when they talk about being ‘facilitators’ and ‘strewing’. Find out what your kid likes and give them the opportunity to explore it. Of course, I don’t know why this should only fall into the domain of the so-called ‘gifted’ child; the example they give is that of an Olympic athlete, directly contradicting their own definition of gifted. It’s not supposed to apply to anything outside the academic realm. Get your story straight, people!
Then the Keeping Your Child Challenged section talks about how a complete education can be obtained through guided pursuit of a childs’ interests. So if you like baseball, you can learn math and research skills, etc. Again, straight out of unschool 101 (except the parent would not be hovering over the kid, pointing out all the opportunities for ‘learning’, as I envision parents who buy into this whole gifted thing would do.) This website absolutely does NOT advocate for homeschooling or unschooling. The part where they talk about learning through interests is called, “Linking Interests to School”. So a kid who is bored in school suddenly won’t be bored in school if he finds out he can learn all the math he needs to know by calculating baseball stats? I don’t follow that line of reasoning.
They even have a magazine, titled Parenting for High Potential. The latest issue has an article called, “Parenting Perfectionists: Encouraging Healthy Risk-Taking for Risk Evaders” You can download it. And then if you do, you can tell me what it says. I did, however, download the Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights. Want to hear it? It reads,
“You have a right…
—to know about your giftedness
—to learn something new every day
—to be passionate about your talent area without apologies
—to have an identity beyond your talent area
—to feel good about your accomplishments
—to make mistakes
—to seek guidance in the development of your talent
—to have multiple peer groups and a variety of friends
—to choose which of your talent areas you wish to pursue
—not to be gifted at everything”
To use the Valley Girl vernacular; Gag me with a spoon! ‘Talent areas?’ ‘You have the right to know about your giftedness?’ Can’t you just hear some parent sitting their kid down and telling them, “Susie, we want you to know that you are gifted. You are not like most children. Your giftedness is something you should acknowledge and be proud of. We’re going to work on your talent areas. Don’t ever feel you need to apologize for being passionate about those talents, honey.” Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. These are not ‘rights’ for the gifted few, these things are true for all children. (Although I beg you not to start using the terms ‘giftedness’ and ‘talent areas’. It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.)
Somewhere in this website it says that ‘gifted’ does not mean ‘better’. Really? You could have fooled me. If gifted is not better, then what is it? The rights are not, “Children’s Bill of Rights” but “Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights”. If all children are not gifted; if all children should not be encouraged to follow their interests and learn through them; if all children should not be allowed to have a variety of friends….then what? What is left for the ‘non-gifted’ among us?
If the word gifted were removed from this website, and the lexicon in general, we might make more progress in understanding that all children, not just those who score high on some stupid test put together by ‘experts’, learn better when motivated by their interests. They don’t need to sit in school to do that. This website even says as much.
Why can’t it be the National Association for Children? That would be a first step in the right direction.