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Your children are phenomenal, yes, but that doesn't mean they're gifted!

As I read class assignments for my foundations class in gifted education, I noted a small number (but larger percentage- it's not a huge class!) wrote something to the effect of "all children are gifted". While this is not necessarily an uncommon idea or philosophy, it was a little surprising to read at the end of the module, rather than the beginning. I addressed the students individually, making comments on their assignments, but yet I was still compelled to "say it loud". I wanted to take a moment and address the whole group, and then thought, hey, why not just make it a blog post? Just like with my "what do you mean, I can submit as any creative product" post, this way I have a reference point in future semesters.

It's not laziness, it's forward thinking.

So this was my reply. Possibly with some added gifs to make the blog more fun (plus I can't do that on my LMS). And I've maybe got a thing for gifs.

First, this is not an uncommon idea or philosophy.

It seems "fair", "loving". I don't begrudge you these feelings, of wanting to love all your babies. And it depends on how you use the word gifted. If you mean that all children are special, YES. If you mean that all children are capable of doing something amazing in their own right, in their own time, YES. But if the definition of gifted on the table, which is what we discuss in my class, is that students have advanced academic abilities for which differentiated or advanced support services in the field/domain (not necessarily academic) are needed in order for them to meet their full potential... that's not true of every child. And it's OKAY that it's not true of every child. We don't expect Michael Jordan to sing like John Legend, score goals like Mia Hamm, paint like Frida Kahlo, shred a guitar like Jimi Hendrix, adjudicate like Sonia Sotomayor, or play like Yo Yo Ma. I certainly can't do any of those!

This is often cited as one of the "myths" of gifted education.

You can read a full article here, but there are many such lists. I've provided the relevant Myth text from NAGC below:


All Children Are Gifted


All children have strengths and positive attributes, but not all children are gifted in the educational sense of the word.  The label “gifted” in a school setting means that when compared to others his or her age or grade, a child has an advanced capacity to learn and apply what is learned in one or more subject areas, or in the performing or fine arts.  This advanced capacity requires modifications to the regular curriculum to ensure these children are challenged and learn new material. Gifted does not connote good or better; it is a term that allows students to be identified for services that meet their unique learning needs (NAGC, n.d., para 6).

There's a curricular "test" that is a simple set of questions for the measure of a gifted activity, credited to A. Harry Passow.

"Could all children do it? Would all children do it? Should all children do it?" If the answer is yes to all three questions, it's not differentiated for the gifted. That's a simple measure of activities, but it's also a simple way to see- not all activities benefit all children, not all children are gifted.

We can also look at this from an IQ model.

The bell curve picture I used in class was from Envision Gifted. I like this bell curve because it removes the numbers, and as tests vary, so do the numbers/scales. But while I can link to her site, the permissions only grant access to share for single classroom use, such as mine, so I can't share the picture on the blog. So instead, we have the graphic bell curve from Home Speech Home.

On the bell curve, in the middle, the largest section, labeled "average", you can see a central line plus one standard deviation- that's the "core curriculum" for many students according to the Envision bell curve, or approximately 70% numerically. The next standard deviation above and below are labeled above/below average, or per Envision site/bell curve wording, "needs strategic instruction". I like Envision's bell curve because it recognizes that at both ends of the bell curve, what is needed is strategic instruction. Some programs identify giftedness in the range of 1.0-2.0 standard deviations (SD) above the mean, frequently thought of as an IQ range of 115-130 (this does vary by test!). More often, it is above two standard deviations, or "needs intensive intervention" according to Envision's labeling- numerically significantly above/below average. Saying all children are gifted while using the definition of gifted to mean those with an IQ two standard deviations above the norm- this is purely inaccurate. In fact, less than 3 % of the population is in this numerical range. Using a broader range (all starting at 1.0 SD above the mean)- this is still approximately 15% of the population. I'm not arguing for a purely IQ definition of giftedness, by any means, but I'm using this one facet of identification to show that we're not talking about "all children".

And sometimes, it's helpful to hear it from the kids themselves...

(if you're short on time, 3:21 is where this myth is "busted")

But still, everyone has their perspective.

Here's an article that argues FOR all children are gifted.  In response to this article, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman tweeted, "To suggest that "all children are gifted actually discriminates against those who would truly benefit from advanced curriculum. Instead of scrapping gifted ed, let's improve our selection methods to make sure all children are having their needs met." His tweet brought about quite a few comments, and reactions to the article, one of which is the "gifted/nongifted" binary. The discussion brought to my mind the "good/bad" binary described in White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. You can read a brief description of the book and an interpretation of the good/bad binary here, and learn more about Robin DiAngela and the book here. Back to the twitter discussion: Dr. Kaufman goes on to clarify, "Giftedness is not binary; people aren't either gifted or ungifted. That way of thinking by teachers ruined my childhood. Children can flow in and out of giftedness depending on stage of development, environmental advantages/disadvantages, opportunities, and even subject material." If you have "the twitter" as I call it, you can follow along the thread here, it was an interesting conversation to read. (Does the twitter ever feel like you're barging into other people's conversations? But then you think, if they didn't want people commenting, surely they wouldn't have put it on a wide open social media site? Clearly they want random strangers input! I'm still grappling with the twitter!)

But, since you asked, here's what I think.

Okay, you didn't ask. But here goes:

I strongly believe that every single one of our babies (yes I call them babies) has wonder, excitement, value, worth. That every child deserves to learn. Every child deserve to grow. To be treated like a tiny human/person rather than a trained animal (don't get me started on some of the classroom management systems I've seen). And I believe that every child is special, but not all children are gifted, by the definitions we study in this class, and in (most) gifted education courses (I must add the caveat...I haven't seen every syllabus out there!).



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