When it comes to education, our culture is crazy. A Gifted and Talented professional, for instance, will tell you that if your child “shows learning needs” such as:
- intensity of focus on an area of interest,
- willingness to forgo social time to pursue talent areas,
- high levels of perfectionism,
- extreme sensitivity to right and wrong,
- early concern for global issues like poverty, war, world hunger, etc.,
- curiosity, originality, imagination,
your child might be gifted.
Does your child seem over-excitable or intense? Are her abilities developing at an uneven rate? Does he dominate others? Does she show originality, or reveal the ability to handle complexity? Possible giftedness.
“Some children as young as three notice their difference from others, struggle to figure out what that means, hide their abilities in order to conform or rebel by treating others aggressively.” This is a sign of giftedness according to one professional. Children with disabilities are often also gifted, sometimes.
Some official lists of indicators of giftedness have over a hundred items and cover every possible ability from the intellectual to the physical and artistic. Chances are your child will show up with some of these symptoms.
If you talk to a friend, teacher, psychologist, or doctor, they might tell you that you should get your child tested because they might be gifted. If you have the money, go ahead. It is always good for you to know a little more about your child.
Just remember two things (1) you know 1000 times more about your child than the test and (2) you will be essentially engaging in a learning exercise I call: “My child’s not weird, he’s gifted.” It may make you feel better.
But if you want to save your money, I could tell you the same thing without a test. Your child is gifted. I haven’t even met him yet, and I know it’s true.
Our culture is nuts when it comes to education and parenting, and I can prove it. We talk and act as if there are three kinds of kids: gifted, disabled and normal.
There are roughly 55 million school children, and there are only three kinds? If there are 55 million children, there are 55 million kinds of children. Grouping them into subgroups according to a few criteria is arbitrary, if not capricious.
Each child has a unique set of abilities and weaknesses. They all have gifts, they all learn differently, and “normal” is a term borrowed from the medical profession and meaningless in the field of education. The average child doesn’t exist.
But so far I have only proven that our culture is crazy when it comes to education and parenting. There is still the issue of how to behave in this crazy culture. For instance, there might be another reason you want to test your child. If they test positive for giftedness, you might be able to get them out of a “normal” school into a gifted and talented program. In such a program the curriculum would challenge them appropriately with activities that are complex and address multiple intelligences. In such a program each child would be treated as unique. Your child will be challenged more and learn more.
Here’s a crazy idea: what if all schools respected each child’s “intensity of interest,” their “need to be alone,” their passionate pursuits, their perfectionism, their sensitivity to social issues, their concern for global issues, their unusual behavior, their struggle for meaning, the pressure for conformity?
Every child needs a school like this, a school that acts as if each child has a genius, and doesn’t sort out the geniuses.
The field of giftedness has shown us what good education entails. Whether or not a child is identified as gifted they all need good education, all teachers need the training, and all references to normal or average need to be abandoned.
All children should be treated as if they are gifted–because they are. This applies even to the children who “don’t stand out,” who don’t “present” as unusual—their genius needs to be noticed. In schools and day care centers the only conformity should be conformity to civility.
Come to think of it, if civility were really required at all schools, that would make a huge difference. Isn’t’ respecting each other for their uniqueness at the core of civility? Isn’t civility about loving others as you would love yourself? Doesn’t loving yourself include appreciating the peculiar, weird individual that you are?
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