Monday, April 25, 2011

If Not Gifted, What?

There's an interesting discussion going on in the Title Nine post that I thought deserved its own thread. Namely, what word or words should we use to describe giftedness? Many people (including people who advocate for gifted education) don't like the word "gifted" though it's short and, at this point, pretty universally recognized for what it is. The word does invite criticism -- aren't we all gifted in some fashion? Other kinds of giftedness are sometimes qualified, like "athletically gifted" or "musically gifted" or perhaps for the models among us, "aesthetically gifted." Some folks use "intellectually gifted" to qualify it, or "academically gifted" which is probably the least offensive, though it raises questions too. After all, some gifted children aren't actually that good in school.

I've long blogged about using the words "readiness grouping" instead of "ability grouping" to talk about organizing classes into people who are prepared to handle certain material. It has nothing to do with age or innate talents. We all work at different paces and should be challenged to the extent possible. But I'm not sure what word is better than gifted, which is why I use it, and I'm sure many others do, too. I'm curious if people have great suggestions for other phrases that convey the same point.

13 comments:

Stefany S said...

Of course it is only when a child is academically gifted that the accusations of elitism arise - call a kid athletically gifted and there are no hard feelings. I have found that I use the word gifted carefully and only in certain circles. When talking about specific gifted issues, it is the only word to use.

Perhaps education on what giftedness really is and emphasizing that a gifted program is an academic intervention (I love that term) would soften the stigma. I know one parent of gifted children, that refuses to put her children in their school's gifted program (and they are lucky they even have a gifted program offered at school) because she thinks that the kids in gifted programs have "chips" on their shoulders and feel superior to the other students. Crazy, but goes to show that the "marketing" of gifted programs is poorly executed and seems to perpetuate the negative label of giftedness.

Jen said...

Stefany, I LOVE the phrase "academic intervention!" And it is now going to be part of my toolbox of phrases when we start a new school in a new state next fall. THAT is the best descriptor I've heard.

Stefany S said...

Jen, unfortunately, I can't take credit for the phrase academic intervention - I picked it up one of the gifted blogs. But it does truly describe the purpose of a gifted program and I can't see how anyone could take it as a boast or a slight.

Good luck in the new school - I hope you can find the appropriate "intervention".

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I've never cared for the term "gifted". I prefer to call smart kids "smart" or "intelligent". If they are advanced for their age, then "advanced" or even "precocious" might be ok.

Generally I prefer not use labels at all, but to put each child in a class at the right level and pace for that child in that subject, independent of age.

Anonymous said...

Hi All, a little help please! We have just had my 9 year old son tested and he had a good WISC-IV score. Am very new to this and need some help. We are living in Dubai, Middle East and although my son attends a private American School, the schools here are not really great for helping if anything is out of the ordinary. My son has not wanted to go to school recently, he gets on well with the teacher and all the other children and of course does not struggle with his school work but often says to me that he is more stimulated being at home than at school. We have been struggling for the last 2 years with him and have moved school 1 year ago. He started off great but now is showing reluctance to attend school. I had a feeling that he was not being stimulated enough so last week we had him do some psychometric testing and it came out that he was "gifted" (don't actually like that word either).
Any advice from experience parents would be fantastic. AD

Lori said...

I sometimes think we should all use the term "asynchronous development" when describing our kids. It's accurate, but it sounds like a diagnosis and doesn't evoke reactions that way "gifted" does. People understand when children have disabilities and need IEPs or special accommodations in school, and in many ways, giftedness is similar. Maybe we could coin a new acronym: AD. As in, "My daughter is currently in a program that is equipped to handle her AD."

On the down side, though, is that "medicalizing" giftedness isn't necessarily good either. An ideal term would reflect these kids' needs - intellectual, social, and emotional - without sounding pejorative or negative. Since there is no ideal term, we don't use any with our own child. We have simply explained to her that she tends to pick up new concepts quickly, which is why she was bored in the neighborhood school, and that her new school moves faster so it stays interesting. There's no value judgment there, no suggestion of any sort of superiority. Just the truth.

I just wish that all schools were able to meet all kids' needs. Then perhaps people wouldn't feel like our kids are getting something "special" or "better" than what's offered to everyone else. It's not better; it's simply appropriate. That's what we all want for our kids: an appropriate education.

Anonymous said...

The problem with "asynchronous development" is that it could apply to children in the normal or even subnormal ranges of intelligence (although that's part of why it sounds neutral). I personally like the term "accelerated cognitive development." That said, I think any term used to mean gifted will tend to develop a negative connotation after a while (kind of like terms for "retarded" have to be changed every so often because they always end up being used as insults, even if they were originally neutral). I think the real solution is not a change in terminology, but a more accurate psychological understanding of the specific types of cognitive abilities that are more advanced in the gifted student, and what these abilities can (and can't) do.

Anonymous said...

I like "readiness grouping." Let all kids study the material they are ready for, in all their subjects, no matter what age they are. That would help a lot.

Of course, different children learn differently, not just faster or slower, so it wouldn't solve the problem entirely, but it would surely help!

Anonymous said...

How about advanced learners? Or advanced level learners? I've seen that used in schools sometimes and it seems to be less upsetting.

I've seen accelerated learning to refer to bringing below grade level kids up to level by teaching them faster. So that's not a good option.

Anonymous said...

@gasstationwithoutpumps -- very well said! !thank you!

Twin Mom said...

potential post topic
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/us/01ttcollege.html?src=rechp

Anonymous said...

Anonymous in Dubai; have you considered homeschooling? There are a number of secular, academically-rich programs right there that are "homeschool in a box"; they send you what you need for the year and provide support. (Disclaimer: I do not work for any of these companies; I was simply forced to go that route to get academically-appropriate education to my child.)

Anonymous said...

How about high IQ? It's clear and doesn't apply other things. It is a matter of fact. In fact, people relate much better when I use high IQ whereas everyone is gifted.