Finding a term for giftedness

I sat down to write this post last night and received a surprise gift. A comment from a former student that reminded me why I love working with children. Here is a little taste of her incredible insight (and yes, she is still a student – in high school)

There really isn’t a lot of material like this (book) out there, and parents of gifted children can feel overwhelmed. Even more so, it becomes alienation. The kid can’t relate to the parent and the parent doesn’t understand their child.

Amazing!

Anyways, back on topic…giftedness.

It’s a term that means so many different things to so many different people.

For some it is a label used to describe a specific group with a specific set of characteristics. For others it is an elitist term that segregates kids.

Regardless of where you fall in the debate, few can deny the rush of emotions that tends to occur whenever gifted and gifted education is mentioned – emotions that fuel the myths surrounding giftedness and take away from the very real issues faces this unique population.

So, how do we solve this? How do we educate others on the true needs of gifted children without sounding pretentious? Is it all about the term? Really?

I have heard in #gtchat conversations on twitter, in conversations amongst writers, and in conversations with educators, a reluctance to use the term giftedness and the need for a new label for these children. Some have tried “advanced learner” or “academically advanced”.

These are inadequate, in my opinion, as they speak only to one aspect of giftedness – and not necessarily a universal aspect. Such a label further justifies many of the myths surrounding giftedness and does nothing to speak to the intensity of both thought and emotion that is such an integral part of what it means to be gifted.

So what other term should be used? What other label captures the full meaning of giftedness – the cognitive and emotional intensity, the passion, the asynchronous development?

I have to admit, I don’t have an answer. So I am turning to all of you. What do you think? Is there a label that can capture the essence of giftedness without inflaming others and perpetuating the mythology that downplays their needs and hurts this group of kids?

 

9 thoughts on “Finding a term for giftedness

  1. Interesting Christine. I will think about this for a bit and get back to you about another term for it. There is a program in our schools here that was once called “The Gifted and Talented Program” but is now being called “The Discovery Program”, same kids, same testing to get in, still only for those students who are gifted/exceptional. I wonder if the reason for the name change is that segregation/elitist notion.

    I can appreciate the elitist piece. My kids are bright although not “on the gifted spectrum”, if you will. Several of our friends’ kids are in this program and it is the parents, not the kids, who sometimes go there, comparing their amazing child to all of the rest of the lowly masses, which only serves to alienate their child. Especially in Elem school where parents have more control over where our kids hang out, who they spend time with, etc. The schools are also perpetuating this in an unexpected way that we just recently experienced here. With budget cuts and the resulting cutbacks, programs are being removed from the schools (foreign language, music) but not for the gifted/talented children. The announcement of this caused an instant rift and feelings of segregation.

    You have piqued my interest… will get back to you.
    Corinne

  2. Benoit

    Hello Christine,

    Here, in Belgium, we use “HP” standing for High Potential. In France, Jeanne Siaud-Facchin named these special kids “zèbres” because they’re all different and unique, like little zebras.

    Both are far less elitist terms than giftidness, and less emotionnally charged for non gifted people.

    As a new term, why not divergensity ?

    As a highly gifted (or so they said ;-)), what’s most

  3. Benoit

    Sorry, iPhone and fingers incompatibility😉

    …so…what’s most defining myself is my divergent way of thinking.

    And that’s maybe what’s more alienating in my giftedness.

    Benoit

  4. The first thing I thought of when I read your post was “geek.”

    It’s a term that has lost its sting — in fact, for many adults it’s a badge of honor — it’s short, and it’s both a noun and verb. You can append it with a particular subject. Math geek, English geek, Music geek, all-around geek. If you’ve got a kid who’s profoundly gifted, let’s call him or her an uber-geek. And there are so many fun t-shirts. . .

    Continuing to use these heavy-handed bureaucratic terms is what makes it sound so elitist and diagnostic. Let’s capture the fun, quirky nature of it instead. Everyone knows what a geek is, and no one’s going to try to co-opt it like “gifted” and say “Geeky? But all children are geeky in their own way! Harumph.”

  5. bf4tbrainy

    To my mind, asynchronous development seems to capture it best, though I wish there were away to incorporate the emotional intensity and sensitivity as well.

  6. I like Benoit’s divergent idea, even the term zebras. As an informal group in college, we called ourselves hedgehogs (we were anti-hegemonic education), but you’re right in trying to break down the “elitist” separation. It’s difficult enough when gifted kids (and adults) enjoy using their large vocabulary or doing things others perceive as showing off, but is actually very “normal” for them.

    There was a great image of the island of misfit toys (from the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) I had for a while, but that isn’t quite right. Sorry I can’t help out so much right now, but I’m with you in the desire to improve the situation.

  7. ok – so not offering a new term, but thought you’d find this interesting, as it was timely.

    Back to my earlier comment (in this post) about how the elitist thing is going on in my area due to the schools cutting programs for all but the gifted children… A mom of a gifted child was defending the school’s decision because the gifted children are special needs children, and so they require these programs in order for their gifted needs to be served. The response to this was, yeah – your child might require higher learning in English, math, science, and all the other mandatory areas of study, but that should not entitle your kid to have foreign language and music when the rest of the students must do without foreign language and music as it is no longer available to them outside the gifted program. What an interesting debate this turned into. So, for us here in my area, the gifted thing causes big issues because we are seeing the haves and the have nots.

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