Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Right Word

The following is a modified version of the comment I posted on Stephanie Tolan's post, "Are We Redefining the Wrong Word?"

There is so much that is right on point in this article that I don't know where to start. I'm so happy that the "Honors Education" group on Facebook shared it and that I saw it.

First, I understand and appreciate the need for a different word than "gifted," especially since it gives a lot of people a way to dismiss gifted persons' needs because they'll take care of themselves. My skin crawled to read that "Talent Development" was what was suggested, though, because it seems to dehumanize the person in favor of what they might be developed into...or what they will offer to society. The first time I realized this was reading James Borland's chapter in Conceptions of Giftedness titled "Gifted Education Without Gifted Children: The Case for No Conception of Giftedness." While I differ in opinion from Borland in that I think that giftedness is more than a chimera (I do not disagree that the construct, as it has been applied is flawed), I really like his focus on providing an appropriate education for all learners.

While I try to avoid deficit models whenever possible, Michael Rios' characterization of giftedness as "asynchronous development syndrome" (Understanding Our Gifted, 1999) is probably the best example I've seen of creating a term that understands giftedness as psychological difference (ala the Columbus Group definition) and communicates that the difference doesn't necessarily make the person better.

I also love the idea of reinforcing the idea that learning ought to be a lifelong endeavor. I work in a university environment and feel like I'm fighting a losing battle sometimes to encourage us to operate as a learning organization. Learning is messy sometimes and doesn't necessarily fit a business model.

Kudos, as well, to the young person who advocated for membership in NAGC. While we're asking questions about re-definition, how about an NAGP: National Association of Gifted Persons? Focusing on giftedness in children plays into a talent development paradigm where the push is to focus resources on developing a person's potential in enough time that they can make significant contributions to society. Broadening the scope of the organization would not, I hope, diminish the need for developmentally-appropriate education at all levels, but it might create some room for more research and understanding of giftedness as a lifelong phenomenon, which seems likely if it truly is a psychological difference.