Grow a Pair, NAGC

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Here we go, again. Every child is gifted.

It’s bad enough when I hear the school superintendent say that in an address to the county parent’s gifted association. But, for the president of the National Association of Gifted Children to essentially make the point as she suggests a new course for the organization . . . Come on. Enough already.

Let me begin by saying: NO. Every child is not gifted.

Yes, every child is special. Every child deserves to be honored for the unique person they are. Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive. Most children have the capacity to develop a natural inclination into a meaningful talent.*

You have to keep in mind, no matter how much time and money you invest in children, they will not all achieve the same goals. Some children simply possess prodigious innate abilities that make the rest of us stand in awe.

Look at Michael Phelps with swimming and Mary Lou Retton with gymnastics. Maybe you heard of the 11-year old football player banned from playing in games because he scores too many touchdowns.

These are gifted athletes who we look up to as role models and heroes.

Look at the little Mozarts whose fingers seem to fly across the keyboard as they compose and perform beautiful music with their feet dangling from the piano bench. Remember Hillary Hahn? She left public school at the age of 9 to embark on an award-winning career that, at age 31, makes the rest of us look lazy.

These are gifted musicians who take on rock star fame as they bring beauty into our lives.

No matter how hard they try, my kids will never attain such achievements. They have heart and enjoy acquiring basic skills so they can hold their own on a basketball court, for example, but their interests and abilities simply don’t lie in those domains.

My kids are academically gifted.

While your teenager is up until 1:00am struggling to finish AP Physics, my 12-year old finished his college physics homework before supper and has been on Xbox for the last 2 hours because he also finished his chores, IMing his friends, and walking the dog.

I’m not bragging. Trust me, I would love to see my kids actually meet a subject that makes them stop and scratch their head and struggle to learn. Heck, I just wish they could go to high school and participate in all those fun afterschool activities.

The reality is, some kids just learn different from most. They are academically gifted children, but they don’t get the same respect as their peers gifted in other domains. Just because they learn fast doesn’t mean they don’t need to be taught or academically challenged.

NAGC’s president, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, says “a major problem for gifted education is that we have often been marginalized as a field within education”. She goes on to explain that she believes this happens because the gifted community has an identity crisis. Her answer: Try to serve more children by broadening our scope. She suggests making talent development, rather than advocating for the needs of gifted students, be the focus of the professional organization responsible for setting national educational standards.

Identity crisis? You betcha!

When I think of the hundreds of millions of dollars that NCAA sports have at their disposal for high school and college talent development – and I compare that to the pittance budgeted to gifted education for an entire K-12 program . . . Well, call me selfish, but I’m not feeling like I want to share our meager resources with others when we can’t even take care of our own, to begin with.

Sure gifted education has an identity crisis. But, aligning ourselves with the cool kids in school and sharing everything in our lunch bucket won’t solve the problem.

As a community, we need to stand up to society and change the perception of academically gifted students.

We need to hold our heads high and demand that we be treated with the same respect as other individuals.

We need to stop the name-calling and bullying that happens to gifted students at school

We need to help create higher standards for teachers so they actually know the subject matter they’re hired to teach and they understand the needs of gifted children in the classroom.

We need to create inroads to educational administrators and counselors to help them learn how to put best gifted practices into action.

We need to unapologetically demand that gifted kids be allowed to learn something – anything – every day when they go to school, rather than sit there bored, or worse, tutoring one of their peers.

We need to make good use of our limited resources and implement more ability-based grouping and leave age-based grouping behind.

We need to focus on nurturing the whole gifted child because they are more than the sum of their IQ scores.

Finally, we need to look in a mirror and proudly say, “I’m smart and I will no longer hide or be treated as a 2nd class educational citizen.

For a well written academic response to NAGC’s Bold Step proposal, see Mary Codd’s response posted by Rhode Island Advocates for Gifted Education.

* I say most children have the capacity to develop a natural inclination because some children face multiple disabilities that limit their innate skills. These very special children, through no fault of their own, face tremendous obstacles to achieve the most simple of daily life skills.

  1. There is a huge argument going on right now on talent vs. genetics, where talent is defined as display of ability. I support the genetics side but I understand after reading some further stuff from the NAGC why they are doing this. The problem I think they are trying to deal with is that there is a lot of screaming that says that gifted classrooms are socio-economic and racially unbalanced. There are all kinds of nasty arguments surrounding this and my impression is that NAGC is saying that by making the criteria simply the display of talent, many of these issues go away.By being more broadly inclusive, they also hoped I think to rope in more support and funding and secretly that maybe that funding and support would trickle down to 2e gifted, who tremendously affected by the shift to a talent based definition. The trouble is that they have walked into the middle of a nasty political battle. If the different brain wiring definition of gifted stands up or even something like what another poster said “Asynchronous Development Syndrome” then like a mentally disabled person, funding becomes required. If things get defined as talent, then funding is not required because those become nice to help things but not required to help. With education money tops on the budgetary chopping block, talent is a definition that is very helpful to the current politics of eliminating federal funding. Plus I think the NAGC is probably being sensitive to the extremely hostile stance that articles in magazines like Psychology today have published recently which give the impression that genetics is a minor role and that environment is everything.

    I think the NAGC runs the risk of massive disengagement by the parents of gifted students and older gifted students themselves, all of which they are supposed to serve. I think genetics side works best for the entire spectrum of gifted, from profoundly gifted who may not display talents early but need to be identified in kindergarten before they are damaged by the psychological dynamics of a regular classroom to 2e who need to be identified before they give up trying to use their talents.

    I think to fix the socio-economic and racial inequalities of gifted education they need to improve the identification methods and not capitulate to the talent argument.

    One footnote: Outside the US, talent can be taken to mean genetic based so this just adds to the confusion. Also, outside the US, this does not seem like as big an issue since teachers tend to just take all this stuff as information and formulate their own strategy for dealing with the gifted verses in the US where this may determine whether or not there is a gifted classroom in the first place.

  2. And another note, I’m for changing the word “gifted.” This word automatically brings with it a whole tone that is generally perceived as elitist. Personally, I think I am going to start using “Asynchronous development syndrome.” At least this way I can say “Well, he has a delay with large and fine motor development, and his brain makes information connections quicker than average.” See? Totally better. I mean, this way opens the dialog to what a child is about and does not take the conversation to how smart my kid may be.

  3. Thanks to the above person, I found this blog. Could not be happier I did.

  4. Wow, I had no idea this was going on, but then again, my kids are in middle school and I’ve realized that despite my earlier efforts and advocacy, public school is what it is and I don’t see it getting any better for gifted kids, esp. HG and PG ones.

  5. Wicked Smart Mystery Mom,

    Welcome to blogosphere. I’ve enjoyed your posts so far. I’m glad to see what you’ve done with your son. Being part of the 1/10% myself, I wonder what how my life would have been different had I been challenged instead of being allowed to coast through school.

    I very much related to your comment ‘I would love to see my kids actually meet a subject that makes them stop and scratch their head and struggle to learn.’ I’ve written on my blog,, how kids need to learn important skills in school – how to study, how to work hard, and how to overcome obstacles. These skills are more important than the particular academics taught. It is much easier to learn more about a particular school subject later on than to develop these skills.

    While the NAGC has become sidetracked, it is involved parents like you and I who will make a difference. Keep on being a voice for gifted children!

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