Wednesday, February 06, 2013
If not 'gifted,' what?
News flash: many people don't like the word "gifted." Even if they recognize the concept -- that some people have swifter cognitive processing power than average -- they dislike the word. I was reminded of this while reading Stacy Hunt's column in a New Zealand newspaper (the Otago Daily Times) on how 'Gifted Should Be Retired For Good. Some of the column is just puzzling. Hunt writes that the whole gifted concept leads to separating a group of people off, which is news to me. If only modern gifted programs actually separated children into homogeneous groups for any real period of time! The reality is often small pull-outs which cause the problems of separation but give none of the benefits. Other parts of the column rehash the usual arguments (yes, motivation matters. And so does intelligence -- these are not either/or concepts). Others are a bit more sensible ("some children show unusual aptitude in specific areas of learning. Our society should provide support and resources to give them the chance to realise their potential.") Anyway, this piece -- and the many, many others like it I've read over years of looking at gifted education -- got me thinking again about the word "gifted." Is it helpful or not? There are certainly other ways to describe the same idea of helping children who can learn swiftly be challenged and reach their potential. One can talk about talent development. One can talk about "readiness" for different levels of challenge. One can talk of being accelerated, or advanced. Or then there's the euphemism of "special needs," which could certainly be adapted to other contexts. Perhaps, if there is broad adoption of "personalized learning" then giftedness will simply manifest itself in kids moving forward in progression much faster than their similarly-aged classmates. She's in level 10 and someone else is in level 4. Ho-hum, just another day of personalized learning. But here's a question for people who don't like "gifted" -- is there another word or concept you would use? Or no? "Gifted" is, of course, not perfect. But I suspect many people who don't like the word don't like the idea of gifted education in general, and so this is not an easily mollified problem. Is there a word you like better than gifted?