I wonder why so many people become belligerent when they hear the word “gifted.”

When I say I’m an educational consultant, people often become wary.  It’s clear that any second I’m going to launch into a marketing pitch.

But when I say that I’m an educational consultant who works with gifted kids, people frequently become downright hostile.  I wonder why that is.  Perhaps they take exception to the very concept of giftedness: to some, it might seem to imply a value judgment – as if the kids I work with are in some way “better” than some other group of kids.  Or, given the circles in which I tend to move, perhaps people find “gifted” too soft a term.  The problems with IQ testing are well understood; is there, in fact, a better metric for “giftedness”?  What is giftedness anyway?  Or maybe they think it’s an indulgence, a form of bragging – that these kids are, in my privileged world, special little snowflakes.

When my son was little he attended an independent school for academically gifted kids.  On the sidelines at soccer games and similar places where beleaguered Moms mix and mingle, I became so tired of the antagonism I encountered that I started telling people that he attended a special needs program.  And it was true – my son really needed that school.  But I wondered then and I wonder now: why, when I told people that my kid had special needs, did I get sympathy; but when I implied that my kid had special strengths, why did people get angry?

Perhaps I do see gifted kids as special little snowflakes.  Indeed, I’ll have to confess it: I see every kid as a special little snowflake.  I simply don’t assume that the purpose of education is to fix, remediate, or provide that which is broken or lacking.  Rather, I envision a learning environment in which strengths, passions, and talents are celebrated and nurtured.  This isn’t in any way antithetical to the need to build core skills, require mastery, adhere to standards, and so forth.  Most of us need both.

 


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