#7 Gifted Students are Culturally, Racially, and Socially Diverse

In my recent blog post A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers , I listed ten basic characteristics and traits of gifted children intended to help teachers and others to identify giftedness in all children by providing a list of gifted traits and characteristics which aren’t always so well-known, easily recognized or widely understood.  I also hoped my checklist would dispel some myths and correct some incorrect information about giftedness.

#7 on my list was the fact that gifted students are a culturally, racially, socially and ethnically diverse group of students which is not widely recognized or practiced.  Too many students from families of a lower socioeconomic status, and students from cultural, ethnic and racial minorities are often never identified as gifted likely because of beliefs in unfortunate myths and incorrect information about what giftedness is and what giftedness can look like in the classroom.

MYTH 1: Gifted – It’s made, not inborn.  

Giftedness is a characteristic that is gained through practice, effort, hot-housing, tutoring and other forms of extra educational enrichment and effort.  You are not born with giftedness, you work to become gifted.

TRUTH 1: Gifted – It’s born, not made!

Gifted people ARE born this way; you cannot force or gain or earn or groom giftedness.  It is a trait, a genetic characteristic that is present at conception and spans a gifted individual’s life span.  No one can become gifted through effort or nurturing.

MYTH 2: Gifted students come from white, middle- and upper-class families.  

Since giftedness is made, not inborn, a higher-than-average socioeconomic status provides a family the education and means to provide all the resources needed to nurture their child into giftedness, and into the gifted program at school.  Families of a lower socioeconomic status, and students from some cultural, racial, and ethnic minorities are believed to not have the means to provide these resources to their children in order to enrich and promote their child’s education.

TRUTH 2: Gifted students come from all walks of life.

Gifted children are represented in all cultural, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups.

THE  TRUTH: Giftedness is Innately Diverse

 Intellectual giftedness is inborn, and therefore cannot and does not discriminate racially, culturally, ethnically or socioeconomically.

Of all the myths and incorrect information that impedes a true understanding of giftedness in children, the myth that giftedness is inherent among only certain cultures, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses is, without a doubt, the most detrimental and discriminatory; and it does a tremendous disservice to the children who are never identified and to society as a whole.

That’s my opinion, but holding to the fallacy of the stereotypical gifted child – the privileged child of white middle- and upper-class families – especially when it hinders identification and nurturing of giftedness in any child is simply wrong, so destructive, and shameful.  The underrepresentation of gifted children from overlooked cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses, and the subsequent miseducation of these unidentified gifted children is a significant educational issue that needs to be addressed.  Those of us who have gifted children know there are major inadequacies in public gifted education, and our gifted children are educationally neglected; the neglect of the unidentified gifted children from overlooked cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses is painfully multiplied.

Teachers should be knowledgeable of all gifted characteristics and be able to recognize these traits in ALL children, especially when they are young, despite their cultural, socioeconomic, educational and racial backgrounds!  When gifted students’ unique learning needs go unmet, underachievement, delinquent behavior, depression, suicide and dropping out of school occurs.  We cannot let unidentified gifted children just fall through the cracks and neglect their right to an appropriate education which they need to fulfill their potential to become successful adults.

There is so much to be said on this topic that I couldn’t possibly do it the justice it deserves in one blog post, so I’ve gathered what I think is a representative list of resources which touch on the many aspects of the racial, cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of giftedness.  We all need to do our part to advocate for these underrepresented and unidentified gifted children because we can no longer morally or ethically stand by and allow this educational neglect to continue.  These are our children, our future.

There is so much societal bias against giftedness, but inborn giftedness has no bias.

ARTICLES, BLOGS AND RESOURCES ON GIFTED DIVERSITY

HOAGIES’ GIFTED EDUCATION PAGE: “Gifted Students at Risk” (resource page)

WE ARE GIFTED 2:  A website dedicated to advocating for underrepresented minorities in gifted education.

DUKE TIP: “Minority Children in Gifted Education: A Problem and a Solution”

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: “Where Are the Gifted Minorities?” 

DAVIDSON INSTITUTE FOR TALENT DEVELOPMENT: “Gifted programming for poor or minority urban students: Issues and lessons learned”  

ASSOCIATION FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT “Poor and Minority Students Can Be Gifted, Too!” 

MID-ATLANTIC EQUITY CENTER “The Over-Representation and Under-Representation of Minority Students in Special Education and Gifted and Talented Programs” 

#8 Up Next

9 Comments on “#7 Gifted Students are Culturally, Racially, and Socially Diverse

  1. Well said. As a former teacher, in the thick of the classroom, it is very difficult to identify gifted children who don’t “present” in the stereotypical fashion. It can take months to get to know such students and see their true giftedness (which may be masked by any of these factors you’ve mentioned), by which time, they’ve moved on to another teacher, another classroom. This is not an excuse. Gifted children of all ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds deserve to receive the services they need, and our society is certainly poorer for neglecting this group. I guess I can just identify with the guilt over possible lost opportunities. Great post.

    • Thank you, Stacey, for sharing your thoughts! When I taught in the inner-city, at-risk schools, I saw how easily these children can slip through the cracks without support, attention and nurturing both at school and at home.

      • Sorry…I just keep thinking about this. I guess when I say stereotypical presentations, I don’t mean race or socio-economic status, I mean, students who behave in the way our society expects gifted children to behave. (Which I realize is what this whole series is about – that teachers should look a little deeper and see that giftedness does not always look the way “we” expect.) Most of my teaching experience was in rural areas in the South, but one year I taught in a school in England with a majority population of 1st and 2nd generation children from Pakistan. Speaking personally, I actually found it easier to identify the gifted children from “minority” populations when they were in the majority. I still had to fight battles with the school for some of them, who had been overlooked because of behavior issues (which drastically improved once their gifted needs were met), but I could SEE them. But in the rural schools, I’m not sure I did as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is, do you have any suggestions for how teachers can see through poor school performance to identify a child as gifted. Or maybe that’s a topic for a different post. I have so enjoyed learning more about giftedness through your blog.

        • Stacey, I do understand what you mean. In my mind, most people see gifted children as this stereotypical smart, straight-A, well-behaved and mature child from higher socioeconomic families breezing through school. When a gifted child does not fit into this stereotypical mold, and most probably don’t, they go unidentified and/or underserved. I think maybe a key to identifying any gifted child is to first train ALL teachers about giftedness – what it really is and how it can look in the classroom – and dispel the myths and erroneous beliefs, and correct the misinformation. Secondly, I think teachers need to listen to parents more. Parents know in their gut when their child is gifted. Sure, there are the parents who want to believe their above-average child is gifted and as teachers, we tend to want to roll our eyes at these parents, but are there really that many parents that are like this? Third, I believe that nearly every school has first-time Kindergarteners go through a Kindergarten screening/testing process before school starts. This is a great opportunity to note any above-average skills incoming Kindergarteners already possess such as reading, Math skills and verbal skills. A simple parent survey about their child’s skills before entering Kindergarten could be of help, too.

          Personally, I think teacher training is the key to gifted identification in the classroom. It can be simple, time-efficient and cost-effective, and it can significantly reduce the number of unidentified and underserved gifted students from falling through the cracks!

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Stacey! The more people who speak up, the more likely our voices will be heard because we need to end this neglect of our gifted children!

  2. Celi! I so appreciate your work to help the world understand that giftedness is inborn and NOT something you can buy. I was once a poor, hispanic gifted student, I know that I was not offered the types of educational options that I needed. I know first-hand how that negatively affected me. I want to do everything I can to make it better for the next generation. Again, thank you. <3

    • Jade, you are an inspiration for all of us in the gifted community with the work you have done and continue to do! I so understand the plight of minority gifted students; I spent all of my years in public school teaching in at-risk, inner city schools. I saw how easily these gifted children were overlooked and underserved! This topic needs more attention as we advocate for all gifted children! So happy to have the privilege of advocating with you! <3

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