Why the Word “Gifted” Still Matters

Why the Word Gifted Still Matters by Pamela Price for Gifted Homeschoolers ForumPhoto and styling credit to my son.

This post is part of the September 2014 Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop. Details are at the end of the post.

Gifted.

One word.*

Many nuances.

Depending upon with whom you are speaking, “gifted” can be about intellectual ability. Or a collection of talents or traits. Or both.

The slippage around the word in educational circles is maddening.

Yet we need the word. We need the word,and we need to explore all of its connotations and denotations.

We need the word until we, as a culture, can see the distinct and varied permutations of human intellectual difference without feeling fear, threat, or envy for those whom the word “gifted” fits.

Gifted advocates need the word in order to articulate the real and profound challenges faced by kids in classrooms driven by standardized testing, places where these children struggle to maintain their intellectual curiosity.

Therapists, doctors and parents need the word in order to find common ground so that they can address the unique socio-emotional concerns that affect kids with high IQs who are as different from “normal” as those children deemed “mentally retarded.” (Both are identified as having IQs at least two standard deviations from the mean.)

Gifted kids themselves—and adults, too—need the word to understand that their sense of being “different” is, while legitimate, not a matter of superiority but rather indicative of a precious complexity waiting to be nurtured carefully into something rich and meaningful and satisfying. We need the word as long as there are kids who taunt 2E kids struggling with socio-emotional challenges, calling out “If you’re such a smarty, then why can’t you [fill-in-the-blank]?!?!”  We need the word to help members of the gifted community who, due to their hypersensitivities and asynchronous development, may be at greater risk for suicide or, at a minimum, suicidal ideation. We need it for kids like Cassie and others who seek comfort through harmful addictions.

Gifted matters because giftedness matters.

No one would dare deny a “special word” to designate children at the opposite end of the spectrum of human intelligence. Why, oh, why is it still socially acceptable for prominent public intellectuals to question publicly the use of a distinctive word for kids with high IQs? Such behavior is just one more manifestation of our cultural inclination to “cut down the tall poppies” or reach for a convenient cliche to dismiss differences. More than that, our refusal to push back collectively on such ignorance validates the intolerance.

Gifted. One word. So many connotations. It’s as diverse and interesting as the people for whom it represents.

Long may it stand.

***

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum board member Pamela Price is a Texas-based writer and author. Currently she’s researching a book forthcoming from GHF Press on the impact of bullying and relational aggression upon gifted children and their families.

"Why the Word 'Gifted' Still Matters"  by Pamela Price of RedWhiteandGrew.com for the September 2014 Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog HopFor more posts in this month’s Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop, please click here.

*Originally I had written “noun” because I was thinking “the gifted” as a population (like “the French”) but later I swapped it out for “word” for greater clarity.

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Book Review in a Nutshell: “Dumbing Down America” by James R. Delisle

"Dumbing Down America" by James R. Delisle reviewed by Pamela Price of RedWhiteandGrew.com

Recently Prufrock Press sent me a free review copy of James R. Delisle’s new book, Dumbing Down America: The War on our Nation’s Brightest Minds (and What We Can Do to Fight Back).

Long-time readers of this blog know that I serve as a board member for Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. As you might guess from that volunteer work, I have encountered a lot of the information that Delisle parses through in his latest book. The individuals with whom I work at GHF and through my private work and life know first-hand that America’s school systems are coming up short in serving gifted and twice-exceptional (2E) kids. It’s a primary reason (if not the only one) that families in GHF have opted out of the system, even if only temporarily.

Therefore, the facts and narratives that Delisle shares are more than familiar; they are “our” collective stories.

Yet reading them in this new book left me gobsmacked. The author and long-time gifted education advocate has pulled from many sources a story that lays out brilliantly (and painfully) the willful and unintentional slights woven into our educational infrastructure that harm gifted and 2E kids. All the landmark moments are here: the debate over NAGC’s definition of “gifted,” the controversies surrounding Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligences,” and the No Child Left Behind Act.

Thankfully, Delisle doesn’t leave the reader in a state of anguish about the past but rather offers up an array of hyperlocal and broader solutions to changing the narrative to one that better serves the educational needs gifted kids as well as other stakeholders in their education. Although the “Dumbing Down” bit of the title is provocative, the most engaging and exciting part of the book’s name is the “what we can do to fight back” part. Yes, homeschooling is included as an option–but it doesn’t work for everyone. Which is why it’s exciting to see so many ideas on the pages of this book.

Delisle deserves kudos for his plans. If you care about gifted kids–your own or others, then read the book to learn more about his suggestions and pass it along to the education change agents in your community.

Because for this “war,” it’s time to raise an army.

To purchase a copy of the book reviewed in this post using my Amazon Affiliate Link–and for which I receive modest compensation for my time reviewing it, please click here.

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Pamela Price is a Texas-based writer and author. Currently she’s researching a book forthcoming from GHF Press on the impact of bullying and relational aggression upon gifted children and their families.

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