The word "gifted"
I had spoken about this blog with a reporter for a journalist trade magazine recently. The resulting article gave the blog a nice mention. One thing that did surprise me, though, was that the author put "gifted" in quotes. You rarely see quotes around "special" education, though that's a coined term as well. I guess what made it jarring is that I view quote marks as a way to sneer at something. Strunk & White's Elements of Style notes on colloquialisms, "If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better."
I don't think the reporter was inviting us to join her in a select society, though. There's simply a fair amount of trepidation about using the g-word. We all have gifts of some variety or another. You can be a gifted athlete, a gifted conversationalist, a gifted liar. Why use the word just for children with high IQs?
From what I can gather of the history of gifted education, Lewis Terman coined the term gifted child in the early 1920's. He used it to refer specifically to those with high IQs because, well, that's what he studied. He believed people with high IQs would be the movers and shakers of the future, and were thus gifted with abilities that needed to be recognized. Leta Hollingworth used the phrase "gifted children" in a book title in 1926. It caught on. Most of us use the word without dwelling on it because it makes as much sense as any other word. It's a euphemism, sure. But it sounds better than "brainy children" or "High IQ children" or other phrases I could put in quote marks because I don't like them. It's also a nice metaphor. A gift is useless unless unwrapped. Likewise, being gifted won't do a darn thing for you if you don't develop your talents and work hard.
But a lot of schools don't like using the word. We've grown accustomed to acronyms, rather than simply calling something the gifted program. Think TAG, GATE, etc. In schools with lots of ability grouping, the more advanced groups are usually called the "apples" or the "blue jays" or something else that doesn't imply a value statement. Indeed, I've often joked that schools should call their gifted programs something perjorative. The clowns. The dunces. The remedial program. If parents were still willing to put their kids in there, you'd know they really needed the intervention, not that it was a prize to brag about to the neighbors.
I wonder if any blog readers have examples of euphemisms their schools have used, or ideas for what gifted education should be called.