Gifted is an Oxymoronic Word
I think back before my youngest gifted son was born and I too did not understand how difficult the journey of parenting a highly gifted child could be. Before, I was a mom, an aunt, and a public school teacher. And yet, like many people, I assumed, wrongly, that having a gifted child was a joy and a gift. Sadly, this is not often true.
I do need to make a clarification here before I go on: bright, high-achieving students are many times not gifted learners. Gifted learners don’t always make good grades, excel in school or become valedictorians. It is common for gifted children to struggle in the traditional classroom which can lead to underachievement, depression, poor grades, dropping out and sadly, suicide. My experience has been that the more gifted a student is and the higher their IQ, the greater the chance of social and emotional issues–most often in a traditional classroom setting.
Recently, I have been reading a large, new crop of news articles, professional journal articles, blog posts and various editorials about giftedness from around the world; they all proclaim that our gifted children are misunderstood, educationally neglected, often bullied, ignored in the classroom, and a source of societal envy. Wow. Having a high IQ sounds like a curse, and being gifted does not seem to be a gift at all, does it? With programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, educational focus and funds have been slathered on efforts to bring lower-performing students up to minimum standards. These programs have crushed our gifted learners–our tall poppies–by focusing on grade-level standards and taking away funds for educational programs once dedicated to meeting their special educational needs. As parents and teachers of the gifted, we work hard to advocate for an appropriate education for our children. The usual misguided refrain then echoes in our ears: Heck, these kids are SO smart, they don’t need anything more, or anything special, right? They’ve got it made!
As parents of gifted children, we struggle to make sure our gifted children receive an appropriate and challenging education that is rightfully theirs. As parents of gifted children, we try to be vocal, to be heard, so that our educationally-underserved gifted poppies don’t wither away in the field of education. We try to be vocal, but not too vocal lest we stir up envy and the fear of being accused of elitism.
Parents, teachers and others who understand our tall poppies know what a tragic problem these negative attitudes and educational inadequacies have been to our gifted children. Research studies, standardized test scores and educational data have all evidenced the following trends among our gifted learner population:
*gifted children have shown the least amount of year-to-year learning progression
*gifted children make up a relatively higher percentage of high school drop outs
*gifted children make up a relatively higher percentage of suicides and children with depression
*gifted children make up the largest percentage of students recently turning to home education
*underachievement and failing is a critical issue among our gifted students
*gifted individuals make up a relatively larger percentage of the prison population
So after a deep breath and a long, thoughtful reflection, I summarize my thoughts: Being gifted is a huge hypocrisy of facts and myths–ahead but behind, advantaged but disadvantaged, smart but failing, envied but crushed.
Gifted is an oxymoronic word.