How does our culture form our view of giftedness?

Shameless Plug: On Sunday March 20th at 9pm ET the #ohiogtchat will be doing their chat on the fomation of identity in gifted children and adults. I hope that you can join us for this timely chat.mar20 ad

One of the questions that we are talking about for our chat is: How does our culture form our view of giftedness? I think this question has many different aspects to it. There are positive aspects and negative aspects to what our culture believes about giftedness. What I think it boils down to is the perception of what giftedness is. I believe those who have a negative view on giftedness doesn’t understand what it is, or believes that it doesn’t exists.

What is giftedness? There are several known definitions on gifted. Here are a few:

From the Ohio Department of Education:

“Gifted” means students who perform or show potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience or environment.

From NAGC:

Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, or sports).

From the Columbus Group:

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Each of these definitions are a reflection of what our culture believes what giftedness should be defined as. If we look outside of our American culture and look to what other countries believe what giftedness is I believe there are things that would reflect their culture as well:

In the United Kingdom giftedness includes:

  • who are generally recognized by their school as being of superior all-round intellectual ability, confirmed where possible by a reliable, individual intelligence test, giving an IQ of 130 or more; or
  • who exhibit a markedly superior developmental level of performance and achievement, which has been reasonably consistent from earlier years; or
  • of whom fairly confident predication are being made as to continual rapid progress towards outstanding achievement in either academic areas or in music, sport, dance or art and
  • whose abilities are not primarily attributable to purely physical development.

The NAGC of Britain has the definition of giftedness as:

Highly gifted children tend to be those who demonstrate asynchronous development – the process whereby the intellect develops faster and further than other attributes such as social, emotional and physical development. Due to their high cognitive abilities and high intensities, they experience and relate to the world in unique ways.”

Looking back at our culture again, where do we come up with our own perceptions of what giftedness is, and how do foster the idea that giftedness is an important area in education that can’t be ignored.

There are many people who believe that giftedness is something that is a child is born with and some believe that it something that can be developed over time. I believe a child is born gifted, and that the talents that child has can continually be developed. I feel that if you look at the other side of this coin can a child be born with a disability, or is that disability developed over time?

Some are under the perception that every child is gifted. This is not so. Many children are smart, and creative. That doesn’t make them gifted. I have several teachers I work with who have trouble distinguishing between smart and gifted.  By claiming that all children are gifted they are essentially saying that there is no such thing as gifted, and that all children are the same. That is just no so. The perception has to change, but that perception is what is what our culture uses to influence the idea of giftedness.

Finally, the perception that being gifted is an elitist idea. Being gifted is a condition in which the child has no choice to be. Just like a child who has an I.Q. of 70 had no choice in it. The idea that we should help children who are gifted succeed in to school and in the community at-large is not elitist. It is necessary. Once these children have been identified they need to have the right tools for success.

Our culture changes how we look at individuals who are gifted. When Terman did his study of gifted individuals our culture looked at them as though they were different. Once our society saw that gifted children were an asset during the 1950’s and 1960’s the view of Gifted Education changed, along with how we saw giftedness. From there through the 1970’s and 80’s researchers started to look at giftedness a condition. Renzulli and others started to look at gifted children so they could further understand them. All that research helped us get to where we are today.

I hope that you take time out of your busy day to join our chat and see where this question leads us. Again, #ohiogtchat is Sunday March 20th at 9pm ET. You can follow me at @jeff_shoemaker and Heather at @HeatherCachat for further details.



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