Can someone please remove ‘gifted’ from the lexicon?

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.

17 comments on “Can someone please remove ‘gifted’ from the lexicon?

  1. Miriam Brougher AKA Mom says:

    NAGC: another example of insidious media propaganda that invades everything these days.

  2. My 17mo old daughter eats dirt and dog hair as a pastime. She’s TOTALLY gifted.

  3. Darlene says:

    There is a difference between normal kids and gifted kids. Those with an IQ above or below 2 standard deviations have needs that an ordinary educational setting rarely meets.

    Yes, all kids deserve a quality education. But kids who are starting college at 12 have extra needs. We don’t have to call it “gifted”, but there is a difference…

    We are okay with a kid with great athletic talent being singled out, or a music prodigy, but being really, really smart is still a target. Too bad. Maybe the geeks and nerds and other “gifted” kids who are marginalized and bullied along with all the other different groups might not be so excluded if the adults appreciated that different doesn’t mean being mocked.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lenore Skenazy, Sarah Jane and others. Sarah Jane said: I loathe the word "gifted" & I loathe people being sorted as gifted/normal. Good read. (via @FreeRangeKids) […]

  5. harryfiddler says:

    I was recommended various books about parenting gifted children when one of my kids scored highly in an IQ test. Without exception, they were all about how to ‘cope’ with giftedness, how to survive this great life challenge. I did the only sensible thing I could. I fought back the urge to vomit then yelled at my so-called gifted child to get her nose out of her book and put her underwear in the laundry basket, brush her teeth, clean out the guinea pigs and find her homework. Did I do wrong?

    • Miriam Brougher AKA Mom says:

      No. Those that are ‘gifted’ still need to live among the rest of us and have clean underwear to wear, and all the other mundane things that make the world go.

  6. Carey Evans says:

    There needs to be some word for children like my 4 y.o. who’s reading at adult level and doing maths at 3rd grade level, or my 20 m.o. who’s learning her letters as she learns to talk, both of whom have very few peers their own age. (And don’t tell me that he needs to go to school and be bored out of his mind to “socialise”.) Maybe it shouldn’t be ‘gifted’, since that’s been taken over by parents who think that sending little 85th percentile Johnny to an extension class designed for 95th percentile or higher will magically improve his grades. But there’s definitely something different about some children, and people like Vi Hart:

    @harryfiddler: If your daughter is testing in the 95th percentile or higher, isn’t a perfectionist in everything she does, and doesn’t need help with the points that Amy listed, then I’m honestly very happy for you.

  7. m says:

    Some people are smarter than others, and some people are dumber than others. This is not fake. Not to say that the magazine isn’t total rubbish. A gifted child will learn in any situation, he/she doesn’t need a special school or program.

  8. Mommy says:

    You have done some creeping around a website designed for families in a specific situation different from your own and then you harshly judged the people involved, using schoolyard bully words and phrases.

  9. Mommy2 says:

    The commenter’s point that a gifted child will learn in any situation is unfounded. Simply put, how might a child learn the grade 7 math he/she is prepared to learn if forced to sit through grade 3 math classes that present no new information whatsoever? Gifted children do suffer from boredom, stifled potential and bullying. They deserve attention and advocacy, regardless what other parents think.

    The blogger’s excellent point about helping all children reach their potential could be made without ridiculing the group of parents who have stepped up to advocate for their own.

  10. m says:

    Both of you make very good points. Gifted children DO suffer from boredom, and dtifled potential and bullying, just like other children, and I 100 percent agree that in the case of education, the “squeaky” parent gets the grease-so we should all advocate. Noone is ridiculing here.

    I know that a giftecd child will learn because of personal experience. I am “high IQ”, ESL, and have a form of autism that wasn’t known or treated back then. Did I sit through a lot of very boring repeated info? YES. Could I have graduated early with a specialty program? YES. Was I bullied mercilessly for a small time because I was socially retarded (yes, I will use that term, because that’s what I am-I’m not embarrassed)? YES.

    However, I did learn a LOT, especially about social skills which I would not have learned if not for those obnoxious bullies in middle school. I still have a long way to go, considering I am still rubbing people the wrong way.

    Also, Mommy-what are my needs, exactly? You seem to know them very well. Do I not have children? Do I not raise them? Do I not like to learn from other parents new parenting techniques that I had never heard of before? Do I have to agree with all parenting techniques, all the time in all situations? I’m on the computer because I’m in the market for good advice. So far I have found a lot of it.

    My point is that unless the kid is neglected or abused or has a specialty problem (autism, dyslexia and AD/HD come to mind but there are many others) they can do well without a specialty program. If children are not challenged in school then they will get that challenge in university or trade school for sure. I’ve seen parents get very, very nervous over children that are doing well.

  11. Rosalyn says:

    The problem isn’t the word gifted, the problem is the attitude of some parents. My daughter is what is labeled ‘twice exceptional’ in one area she has always been well ahead of her peers, and in another she struggles with even simple things.

    Every child is a person, and every person is an individual. we all need, and deserve, to learn to play to our strengths and find ways to deal with the problems caused by our weaknesses. No matter what those are.

    You’re child isn’t inherently superior to mine just because she mastered certain skills at a younger age. She just has different gifts.

    Because you know what? We are all, each and every one of us, gifted in some way, shape or form.

  12. Terry says:

    Amy~ Please remember that this time of year is for peace and good will among all. I hope you are a positive advocate for your own children’s individual needs and can appreciate the efforts of others who do the same for their own children when their needs are not being met in traditional curriculum classrooms. All children deserve to learn something new every day–at every level. Not everyone has the resources their children need; many can use the help of others. Your blog could help. I wish you and your family well.

  13. cheryl says:

    The problem is not with the kids, or even the parents. The problem is our industrialized school systems that do not allow different ages to work together. Everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses. But our schools expect all kids of the same age to learn the same things. Kids who are not developmentally ready (or need a different approach) fall behind. Kids who are smart but bored will tune out or act out unless given opportunity to do more (and many teachers don’t want that extra work.)

    If 10 year old kids could be in the same geometry class as 16 year olds, they all might learn something. (I have a friend with a 10 year old doing geometry, the same class as his 16 year old sister. But because of state laws, he has to do his totally online and not in the classroom with the older kids. He tutors his sister. She helps him with his composition, because that is her strength, his weakness.) Same for kids who are older being in younger classes. If all classes were based on ability, kids would be all over the place higher and lower, and there would not be this issue.

    Because in reality, very few “gifted” kids are gifted in all areas. Some do well at math, other at reading and writing, and some at art and music. But most are age level in some areas.

  14. Samantha D. says:

    “There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequal people.” Thomas Jefferson

  15. senior in high school says:

    I remember elementary school, up to 5th grade, when I was in AG–I don’t remember but I suppose it stands for “academically gifted.” In kindergarten a few other kids and I would go up a few grades to join them in their reading time, which I really enjoyed because I got to be with the older kids and actually read interesting things! We had a separate class that met a few times a week and I loved it. It was so frustrating and boring to sit around for hours with kids who really didn’t “get it,” and so I would have to respectfully disagree with some of the points in this article.
    Maybe you could use a different word in place of “gifted,” but I think taking out the smarter children in each class to learn more advanced topics is a great idea for those who would otherwise become frustrated and develop bad study habits. I’m homeschooled now, partly because of the need for more advanced study, but for those who don’t have that as an option I definitely support gifted and talented programs.

  16. sex says:

    I really enjoyed the blog post. It is always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!

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