Thursday, April 21, 2011

Title Nine and Gifted Kids

I get lots of catalogs in the mail, one of which happens to be Title Nine, a maker of women's athletic clothing. I opened the current edition to see founder Missy Park listing "My definition of insanity." It was an 8 part list, with such things as "Any diet with one ingredient," and "our tax code" and... "'Gifted' children...How do they know??"

It's a bit puzzling, really. I mean, there are several ways they know. Some children really do exhibit exceptional intellectual abilities, at a very young age. And if that's not enough, there are multiple tests that have been rigorously prepared and studied that can ascertain when someone's IQ is outside the norm and there is a high probability he/she will need accommodations to meet her academic needs.

But of course, I think Park was coming at this from the perspective that it is patently absurd. Who could fathom such a thing as "gifted" children? I am quite curious what she thinks of the comments that several Davidson Institute bulletin board readers left on the online version of the list. I can sympathize to a degree. When I worked for Reader's Digest, writing the "Only in America" section, I once made a mocking list of "Museums Not To Build Your Vacation Around." I included a mustard museum, with the snarky line "thousands of mustards, not a hot dog in sight." Suddenly, there was a letter writing campaign to Reader's Digest from fans of this particular mustard museum. Dozens upon dozens. I kid you not. I was surprised, and I imagine Park is surprised that what she considered a throwaway line drew such ire.

On the other hand, I think giftedness is well enough established in educational research and pedagogy that it doesn't need quote marks around it. I do wonder why a catalog going after women who think it's OK to bust the norm (on the athletic side of things) would insult children who are busting the norm on another side of things. It's as if someone scoffed "Athletic children... how do they know??" Well... look at someone like Tiger Woods. That's how they know.


Jen said...

OMG. I'm really glad I tossed that catalog just now before seeing that. It was more of a "having a bad day, don't need to see a catalog with absolutely NOTHING in it I could possibly wear" than anything else. I probably would have gone off the deep end.
How do we know? We live with these kids. We scratch our heads at them so often and so hard we have bald spots. We need a PhD in astrophysics to tell bedtime stories when they're three. It's not "why?" it's "how's it work?" It's having a question regarding black holes and magnetism thrown at you before you've poured your first cup of coffee. And it's having your 2e kid's awesome 4th grade teacher (who GETS it) tell you point-blank that public schools aren't set up for this kind of kid.
THAT'S how you know.

Anonymous said...

How do you know? Sometimes they do well on a test, and sometimes it's just dead obvious.

"Public schools aren't set up for this kind of kid." That was me. Things would have been a lot nicer for me had my parents heard that, or better yet, listened.

'Nother Barb said...

When I read Park's comment, I thought "they" referred to the children, not to the people applying the "gifted" tag. That like Jen, YOU know that your child is gifted, but how does SHE know the things she knows?

I'm optimistic about Park. I still wonder how my child knows things I could never teach him.

Anonymous said...

Another reason why the term "gifted" needs to be dumped.

It's just offensive to people who don't have intellectually talented or high ability children. Gifted implies a gift that was given. By a higher power? Was one child more deserving than another? You almost never hear the term gifted alone unless it refers to intellectual ability--for music and athletics, there is always a qualifier.

People already believe super smart kids have somehow won the lottery. Calling it gifted just emphasizes that. It makes it sound they were chosen for some special reason. And as everyone here knows, being super smart is nothing like winning the lottery.

The term itself has become the object of ridicule. Stop using it and it will be less easy to mock.

Stefany S said...

I agree with the previous post about using the term "gifted". I struggle to talk about my "gifted" kids' issues because it is always interpreted as elitist. What word(s) do you use when referring your child's giftedness?

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't have a good answer for what to call it. I'm no expert. High intellectual ability?Intellectually talented? Super smart? Good bubble filler?

I generaly don't talk about my child in those terms. But it's easy for me to say, as her needs have been met until this point.

I admit it's not a simple solution to simply stop using the term. If we don't use gifted, then there isn't a clear label--without which it makes it harder to argue for services, funding and accommodation. I don't have the answer.

Paula said...

My child's school district uses the term "highly capable".

InTheFastLane said...

I read it like Barb did "When I read Park's comment, I thought "they" referred to the children, not to the people applying the "gifted" tag. That like Jen, YOU know that your child is gifted, but how does SHE know the things she knows?"

And also - I am not ready to trash an entire catalog that promotes healthy activity and life balance for girls because of one statement.

Jen said...

Sadly, "gifted" as a descriptor of these kids is here to stay. Trying to change it will just increase the cries of elitism. When someone tries to claim that gifted kids have it easy, or are better than others, I politely cut them off (which, if you knew me IRL, I never interrupt people) and lay it out. Gifted is wiring, nothing more, nothing less. It's how a person is wired to interpret and respond to the world him or her. It's just wiring.

Anonymous said...

Based on the fact that Ms. Park put the term "gifted" in quotes, I'm thinking she's skeptical of the whole concept that anyone is gifted, not wondering how gifted kids know the things they know.

K-Man said...

On a related note, it's a little surprising that the term "gifted" hasn't been co-opted by the advocates for the intellectually challenged. Other terms once used for the highly bright have been: "exceptional", "special". Those terms now strictly refer to the retarded or those with significant learning or other disabilities, and never at all now for the really smart.

I agree. Junk "gifted". But no matter what term replaces it, remember that all too many people have a deep disdain for—and dislike of—the highly intelligent, and no change of label will stop that. This holds true whether dealing with the antipathy of society and legislators who control pursestrings for educational programs, or for teachers who in education school took to heart the leftist indoctrination of any or some combination of these: "gifted children don't exist"/"all children are gifted"/"gifted programs are elitist"/"the bright will be all right without help".

We face uphill battles. Another word to replace "gifted" might help, but don't expect miracles.