Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, director of Northwestern's Center for Talent Development, recently took over the reigns of the National Association for Gifted Children. In her first address, she called on the field to take a "bold step" toward focusing on talent development, rather than giftedness. Focusing on "giftednesss" has led to marginalization, she says (and given that the spell check on this blogger software doesn't even recognize "giftedness" as a word, I'd have to agree that the field is not exactly central to much of education).
This announcement has been controversial for several reasons. One is that parents of highly gifted children often have to fight to convince schools that there is anything different about their children and their children's learning styles. Olszewski-Kubilius's point is that the field has been focused too much on identification -- sometimes a bit of an angels dancing on the head of a pin type question of whether a tested IQ of 129 vs. 131 means anything, and on which test, and at what age, and then nothing happens to the kid anyway except getting 45 minutes of enrichment once a week. But after decades of work, at least many school districts now try to identify gifted children. Clearly, people would be a bit miffed to have the head of NACG say that's not so critical.
I have mixed feelings about this myself. Regardless of whether children grow up to do anything remotely high-achieving as adults, they deserve to have their educational needs met. Sure, some gifted kids grow up to win Nobel prizes, write great symphonies, etc., but others live quiet and normal lives. One's temperament has a great deal to do with these things too -- one's level of ambition, one's level of self-discipline, competing priorities like family obligations, etc. I don't view the quiet and normal types as failures.
On the other hand, Olszewski-Kubilius is correct that identification is only the very, very start. Personally, I'd rather live in a world where there was no identification, but all children were challenged, stretched, and had their talents maximized, vs. a world with perfect identification but none of the above. The question is whether this "all children challenged" vision is too utopian for the world we do live in, where the educational establishment likes to ignore high-achievers as a matter of policy with NCLB, and sometimes just for sport (cutting down the tall poppies and all).
What do you think? Should the field talk about "giftedness" or "talent development"? Is there much of a difference in focus, or is there plenty of room for both?