Gifted Children: ‘Tis Folly to be Wise?

 

 

Ignorance is bliss.

 

I’ve come across this snippet of a quote through the years without more than a few seconds of consideration to its true meaning or origin, I simply thought it referred to those who know less and are probably happier for knowing less—simple as that.

As the mom of gifted children, my newfound clarity of this quote and its relevancy to the life experiences of my gifted children was, to describe it accurately, a staggering revelation for me. An a-ha moment of sorts about an age-old quote which I now realize acutely represents a reality within my gifted family, and probably many others as well.

I got it.

So, what about that quote? Thomas Gray was an English poet who lived from 1716 – 1771. In his poem, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742), he writes about his former all-boys boarding school and how school is a carefree time in one’s life in which little thought is given to future worries. He states that the boys attending Eton should be allowed to remain innocent and ignorant, and not be told of the pain and stresses their futures will inevitably bring. The last two lines of Gray’s poem state,  “No more; where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

 

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis oft unpleasant to be gifted.”

 

I’ve taken the liberty to modify Gray’s quote and adapt it for gifted families: “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis oft unpleasant to be gifted.” Unlike most of the boys Thomas Gray was writing about in his poem, gifted children are most likely already wise to the worries and pain their futures may bring. It is said that gifted children have wisdom beyond their years, or are too smart for their own good—both sayings illustrating why ignorance may be bliss and knowing too much can be a burden to bear. You may be asking yourself, “how can knowing more than others be a bad thing?” and before I understood giftedness, I probably would have also asked that very same question.

 

They know more, but yet not enough.

 

How Is Knowing Too Much a Bad Thing?

Gifted children see and understand the world around them with exceptional comprehension, intuition and intensity, and they easily make emotional, social and factual interconnections with the information they take in. This level of understanding and extrapolating is usually beyond their same-age peers, and this knowledge is often more than a gifted child can emotionally assimilate. This can result in overwhelming fears, anxiety or sadness. They know more, but yet not enough.

To a gifted child, knowing more may feel as though they are peering into the crystal ball of life, seeing their entire world laid bare; yet, they do not have the life experiences or the emotional maturity needed to temper the stark realities they see and the connections they make.

Gifted children often have the extraordinary ability to accurately size up people, social situations, and concrete events accurately. They often know immediately if a teacher dislikes them, if a friend is to be trusted, or if a parent isn’t being completely honest. Gifted children can be given facts or be taught a new skill and they can immediately connect, build upon, or apply the new information in advanced or unexpected ways. They can use newly-acquired skills for creative, unusual purposes, and they will interconnect information they learn at advanced levels. It seems like they view life through a microscope while others see life only through the naked eye.

 

It seems like they view life through a microscope while others see life only through the naked eye.

 

So, they have advanced or unusual insights, intelligence and abilities—again, how can that be a bad thing?

 

Two Ways Advanced Intelligence Can Hurt Gifted Children

First, gifted children can experience negative emotional repercussions from what they see, understand and intuit. Because their emotional development is often lagging behind their intellectual development, gifted children may not be emotionally equipped or have the life experiences to appropriately handle some of the information they take in—much like a 3-year old gifted child who understands that fighting in a marriage can lead to divorce, sees her parents fighting, but does not have the emotional maturity or life experience to realize this information does not mean her parents’ fight will lead to a divorce. Having advanced knowledge without the emotional skills to deal with the knowledge sensibly can lead to anxiety, depression or other psychological issues.

The second way a gifted child’s advanced understanding of the world around them can cause them unhappiness is through the reactions of others to their degree of knowledge, level of intelligence or verbal acuity beyond their years. Yes, other people exhibit envy, resentment or even anger when gifted children are just being themselves when voicing their knowledge or displaying their intelligence. This can manifest itself in a gifted child correcting their teacher, telling an adult they are wrong, or explaining to their 1st grade classmates how the world’s depletion of helium can be devastating to the medical field. Teachers can and do get angry when a well-intentioned gifted student corrects them, and some may even retaliate against the child. Some adults don’t take well to children telling them they are wrong, even if done politely. And classmates may react with boredom, confusion or teasing when a gifted child goes on and on about advanced topics.

 

Life’s Crystal Ball is Not a Textbook

One last point I want to make about giftedness in this regard is that a gifted child’s advanced intelligence and high IQ should not always be tethered to his education and achievement in school. The ability of gifted children to see and understand the dynamics of humankind and the realities of life on Earth far beyond their years is often not associated with their education, school achievement or classroom performance. Life’s crystal ball is not like a textbook. Understanding the truths and realities of life is not really the same as learning facts and figures from a school textbook.

Why do I bring this up?

My goal is that those who are not familiar with giftedness begin to understand that giftedness and advanced intelligence is not achieved through studying, memorizing or the level of effort in school. Giftedness is who a child is, not how well they do in school. Negative reactions to a gifted child for just being herself happens much too often because giftedness is seen as a much-desired ability gained in school—hot-housed through enrichment or tutoring, or groomed by pushy parents. I can assure you, it is not. From my own experience, the uncomfortableness, envy and resentment many gifted children and their families often face results from interactions with teachers, classmates and other parents at school who do not understand giftedness.

 

Yes, ignorance can be bliss, and to many a gifted child, being wise can be more than folly. They do know more, but yet not enough, and we need to understand how this can hurt our gifted children.

 

 

19 Comments on “Gifted Children: ‘Tis Folly to be Wise?

  1. Just watched the BBC Imagine documentary on Alma Deutscher. That’s what it looks like when gifted children get what they need. The video is available on iPlayer but you have to sign up and I don’t know if it’s available outside Britain. How high do you think her IQ is? I reckon 180+.

  2. Hi Celi;
    I had to give this a lot of thought, even though your points are so straightforward. You raise two reasons why gifted children (and trust me, gifted adolescents and adults also) have problems. The first is most likely to apply to pre-teen children, somewhat likely among adolescents, and — hopefully — the least impact on gifted adults, and that is the difference between a person’s intellectual development vs. their emotional development. As adulthood approaches, that gap gets — or should get — narrower and narrower. But the thing is with that problem is that it can be ameliorated, minimized, but never eliminated. It’s just part of the actuality of growing up gifted.
    The part that is particularly frustrating is the second issue, that is, how others react to gifted children (and adolescents and adults). It’s what I term the cost of being gifted — and they are external costs, created by society and the individuals around the gifted person, not caused by the gifted person themselves.
    North American society (Canada, USA and Mexico) seem to have really negative attitudes towards the particularly gifted. This attitude comes out different ways in the different countries, but the attitude is still there, and still negative.
    Well, in other comments on other articles I have certainly laid out the nature of this negativity.
    In the USA, it comes out as:
    – An amazingly great love of sports, which is fine unto itself, but seems to have with it a concomitant distrust of intellectual/academic/scientific endeavours
    – A political Left obsessed with equality and especially, equality of outcome
    – A political Right (establishment) which has, of late, become distrustful of science and academia (no doubt due to the takeover of social sciences and humanities by Marxist Post-Modernists, and the science depts. by an obsessive belief in the absoluteness of Global Warming, to the exclusion of any contrary data)
    – A part of the Political Right (rural and grass-roots) that is very ultra-conservative, traditionalist, focused on modesty, hard work, and a general distrust of ANYTHING intellectual
    – A misinterpretation of the phrase from the US Constitution that “All men are created equal” means that everyone is the same, which they most assuredly are NOT.
    My wife is from Mexico, and she has added a few ideas to my list specific to her homeland:
    – Intense class competition for a scarce resource: quality education (the rich usually win this)
    – A cultural tendency to drag down and malign successful people via gossip and slanderous talk
    – A distrust of things intellectual due to the poor rates of those with a quality education
    – Lack of resources for special needs children, and especially for those seen as not needing it, i.e., gifted children and adolescents
    In Canada, there are sections of the country (e.g., Cape Breton, the northern parts of all provinces that have a north (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador [the last of which is one province in two parts]). The north of these provinces is exceedingly rural, the population very sparse and spread out, and is very focused on resource-extraction (or in the case of Native Indians, what we call First Nations peoples, simple survival). In the three northern territories (Yukon Territory, Northwest Territory, and Nunavut Territory), the situation is easily twice as harsh as in the northern parts of the biggest provinces. Remember, these are areas that have snow until early JUNE. Getting an education for the First Nations people — and getting them to NOT drop out of school — is a tremendous challenge, let alone dealing with special needs students. For non-First Nations people, the barrier to a good education is small town populations, and very considerable distances between cities/towns/villages. Without the large populations, there isn’t enough resources to offer special needs resources to children/adolescents.
    Culturally, in small-town Canada, it’s not as parochial as some small towns are in the USA, but that’s not saying much. The differences can be measured in millimetres, as it were. Some parts of Canada are so insular, that if you haven’t lived in the town for at least four generations, you’re from “outside”. The sorts of eccentricities and unusual behaviours that gifted people show are typically very frowned upon; and (like parts of the USA), where livelihoods are made up by resource-extraction, fishing, forestry, or agriculture (and in the USA, one can add industrial towns and cities), norms are very much enforced, and eccentric or odd behaviour very discouraged.
    Many new university students who come from small towns in the middle or north of a province, after having gotten an education, find themselves returning and being treated as alien, different, and in some ways, stigmatized. Sometimes this happens in the person’s family, when the family members do not know what to talk about with their educated relatives. Most of these people have told me, they just want to talk about what they’ve always talked about, and don’t expect their family and friends to launch into discussions about Quantum Mechanics, Marxian Theory, or the poetry of Shelley. Since most university students who come from such small towns tend to be the very smartest, it’s not too much of a leap to expect that most of them, if not almost all, are gifted.

    That’s a long-winded summary of other things I’ve listed as explanations for the negativity or even outright hostility gifted people encounter, though it is by no means a complete list.

    In north america certainly, there is a cultural expectation in all three countries (outside of the very largest cities) for conformity, and sameness. As much as we three countries vaunt our dedication to freedom (especially so in the USA), there is, at the same time, a strong cultural “push” and a “pull” towards averageness, sameness, conforming. The push comes from the influential people in society; the pull from those in the average middle-range, who distrust non-conformity.

    This is unlike places like England, where eccentricity is just accepted as part of the social fabric of English society, and unlike the big cities in North America, which doesn’t accept eccentricity and non-conformity, but at least puts up with (tolerates) it.

    There is also, in North American societies, a deep distrust of education that isn’t practical and profit-oriented. Not that there’s anything wrong with making a profit, but being overly pragmatic and obsessive about every activity having a “payoff” can lead to certain activities getting severe short-shrift, even in areas where one would normally (and normatively) expect there to be some degree of intellectual freedom. When I was working in one company as a computer and network tech, I remember my boss (who had no idea how to handle computer techs) telling me, “Don’t play around and experiment, just get the problem solved!”. I was shut down/shot down pretty quickly when I tried to explain that figuring out what the problem was with a computer or network often involved trying different solutions to see which one stuck. In that company, it was all about making a buck, but good, quality problem-solving took a back-seat to my boss’s need to blow people’s socks off., i.e, to impress the hell out of them.

    As a set of societies, the three NAFTA countries show a strong distrust of the unorthodox, the eccentric, the orthagonal, and, despite the commitment to freedom, a distrust of dissent. Oh, dissent is permitted, socially, it’s just not trusted.

    As to what, on an individual basis, motivates various adults to mock or bully gifted children/adolescents, the reasons are innumerable. And some go after adults, which was my case, I was bullied incessantly from late 2010 until my hospitalization due to exhaustion and Lymphoedema in September 2013; I spent 9 weeks in hospital recovering. I would assume it’s either jealousy, envy, or malicious ignorance, or a combination thereof that motivates adults, as well as some children.
    The issue of jealousy or envy speaks for itself. That was the motivator for my tormentors in 2010-2013. “My” primary bully, whose name is Bill — I say “my” because I didn’t want him, believe me — being a narcissistic a$$hole, decided that only he could be the only genius in his social circle. (He’d found out many years earlier when I confessed to having an IQ 4 standard deviations above average; I did so at Bill’s family dinner table at age 17. The how of that is a long story I don’t want to get into here).

    Since he thought it unfair that I had the title “genius”, and he didn’t, he sicced his sister, my then-friend on me. Her job was to force me to surrender my “genius” status to Bill, and proclaim him “the” genius. At the end, in 2013, I must have surrendered that thing about a thousand times, but by then Bill’s goal had changed. Not only did he want to force me to surrender my “genius” status to him, I was to stop being a “genius” altogether. Short of intentionally inflicting massive brain damage, I have no idea how one goes about doing that. And I tried — G0d almighty Himself knows how much I tried to un-genius myself, but it was not to be.

    Finally, I had to end the friendship completely between me and Cheryl, whereupon a few weeks later, I was hospitalized. I have had three different therapists (two of whom were for 10 and 7 sessions respectively only, due to agency constraints); the third one, I’ve been seeing since February, and have been making great progress, Hey, I don’t get nauseous at the prospect of having to say “genius” anymore.

    The malicious ignorance thing is a little harder to understand. Too many people don’t believe that there are such things as gifted children; or they believe, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that giftedness is due to parental helicoptering and hot-housing, not genetics.

    What I don’t get is, how can one deny the existence of a top 2% of the IQ population? Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Psychology knows that the overwhelming majority of (normal, non-pathological) human traits fall on a bell curve. Whatever “x” happens to be, some very few people have very little “x”, most people have some degree or another of “x”, and an equally small group of people have a great deal of “x”. I put people who flat-out deny the existence of very or extremely high intelligence to be in the same category of flat-earthers and 9/11 truthers.

    In order to justify their foolish ignorance of the very obvious, some people go out of their way to attack not just the concept, but the people identified as “gifted”. That is not just ignorance, it is malicious ignorance.

    The other thing that still leaves me gob-smacked and wordless — which is hard to do to me — is the obsession over outcomes, at the expense of merit and ability. It’s a current political “fad” to argue that because merit has been applied unevenly, favouring white European males over minorities, that therefore merit has no … well, merit.

    So strong is the current obsession with outcomes that university admissions in the US are actually intentionally stacked AGAINST Asians. This is to allow other minorities to enter Ivy League schools, even if their academic performance wouldn’t otherwise warrant admission. Normally, one would call the stacking the odds against Asians (mostly of Far East origin) as being racist. I’ll not get into the discussion for or against affirmative action (personally I like the idea of hiring non-traditional job candidates. But I am against quotas). My concern isn’t if it’s racist or not, justifiable or not.

    What’s really concerning is the idea of trying to create a society that is a perfect mirror image of ethnic population ratios, and how that affects the gifted, Because at the same time as there is this absurd demand, there is also the pretense that ability should play no part in making these decisions. So the Hard Left wants a colour-coded America, and to hell with whether or not anybody can actually *do* something, just so long as the do-nothings are of the “correct” diverse mixture of races, ethnicities and genders.

    In a society where outcomes are pre-determined to be universally equal, how can a creative person, or an exceptionally analytical and perceptive person get a break and flourish to the best of her or his abilities?

    The answer is, they can’t. Very exceptional people — that is, the ones at the “top” of the bell curve, not the poor unfortunates at the bottom cause huge headaches for those who seek a colour-coded utopia. In a dictatorship, the problem(s) can be solved, as they were under the Pol Pot regime (in Cambodia/Kampuchea), with a bullet to the back of the skull. But for the moment, we still live in three liberal democracies where that sort of thing is still frowned upon. At least, for the time being.

    In our present day environment, the “solution”, if you can call it that, is to hold back the best and brightest, so as to reduce the difference between the lowest achievers and the highest achievers. After all, nothing beats joyful and joy-filled excellence like misery-creating equality.

    The adult’s reasons are clear, even though they aren’t logical. But what about children and adolescents, whose world-views are a good deal more constrained? Children’s reasons have also to do with jealousy or envy, for the simple reason that children are human (some parents might disagree, occasionally). But there is another factor at work, and that is the level of cognitive development of the child.

    Jean Piaget was a French developmental psychologist, who studied children from earliest infancy right up to very early adulthood. Or rather, what he studied was how children and adolescents utilize various cognitive strategies to try and understand the world around them.

    More information about Piagetian psychology can be found here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget).

    PIaget divided intellectual/cognitive development into four stages: Sensorimotor (birth to age 2); preoperational (age 2 to 7), concrete operational (age 7 to 11 or so), and finally, formal operations. Elementary age children are in the concrete operations stage. At that stage, children are first learning how to develop logical thinking. But they aren’t yet capable of grasping more complex abstract thinking. So in this stage, classifying things into relatively tight groupings means that they sometimes have a hard time with exceptions. Gifted children by themselves, are exceptional. So for children to grasp the idea that a kid could talk and think like an adult is something that is quite difficult to wrap their heads around.

    The other way in which cognitive development creates problems is the fact that in all likelihood, a gifted child at age 13 or fourteen may already be starting into the last (adult) stage of formal operations, while her peers are still in concrete operational thinking. This disparity can only cause conflict, which is why I agree with you, Celi, that bunching kids together based on age rather than — and here’s that political hot potato word again — ability.

    But any attempts to redo the school system will leave “social justice warriors” up in arms, because some ethnic groups (Asians, South Asians, Jews) might well do significantly better than other ethnic groups, such as working-class Blacks and Hispanics. So if one were to group by ability, there are minefields aplenty — almost all of them political — that have to be overcome. Ability-grouping is the right thing to do, it just needs the right means of being applied without stigmatizing the intellectually … less well off.

    Lots of abstract, intellectual hoo-hah. But on a personal level, I agree that it’s entirely possible to be wise beyond one’s years, or too smart for one’s own good. That’s been too true for me.

    Being too smart for my own good earned me teachers who hated me, bullies who made my life miserable in school, and adult bullies, including an entire NGO, who wanted nothing more than to humiliate me, to bring me to my knees. Fortunately, (a) there aren’t that many such entities in the world, and (b) I’m quite resilient. Knocked onto my keester, I pick myself, dust myself off, and carry on. It would never occur to me to do otherwise.

    Celi, thank you for this article. It’s important that influential people, like teachers, administrators and politicians be educated about giftedness. Keep at it, please.

    • Yay, John! So, so happy to hear from you and read your insightful and informative ideas! I agree with all that you have said, and you always give new ideas to ponder. I have just two thoughts that jumped out at me:

      1. Malicious ignorance: “The malicious ignorance thing is a little harder to understand. Too many people don’t believe that there are such things as gifted children; or they believe, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that giftedness is due to parental helicoptering and hot-housing, not genetics.”

      Yesterday, I posted this article about giftedness on my Crushing Tall Poppies Facebook page, “Gifted vs Gifted” The author realized that many people who talk about giftedness have a completely different working definition of giftedness and this may not be malicious. Excellent article, by the way. So, I’d like to give some people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they don’t know what they don’t know.

      And..

      2. Ability grouping: “So if one were to group by ability, there are minefields aplenty — almost all of them political — that have to be overcome. Ability-grouping is the right thing to do, it just needs the right means of being applied without stigmatizing the intellectually … less well off.”

      As a teacher, I have often thought of this. Kids develop in different areas, in differing ways and on differing timelines whether they are gifted or not. Why can’t schools utilize this scientific fact in education as much as we do during a child’s early development as an infant, toddler and before he/she enters school?

      My vision for education would be loosely based on the Montessori approach–let each child work on his own level, moving as quickly or slowly as he needs. This would indeed make grades non-competitive among classmates and only have the students compete against their own personal progress and achievement. Less competition among classmates may reduce the envy among students and parents. And ALL students are given the opportunity to excel and feel successful. This would also reduce feelings of being a failure. But of course, schools need documentation (test scores) of achievement which has always been based on a grade-/age-level standard/average. Maybe achievement can be measured by each individual child’s percentage of growth at given intervals. Ahhh, only in a dream world, right?

      John, can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have you comment again! Always love your thoughts, insights and ideas!

    • Great article, John.

      There is another dimension to the Tall Poppy Phenomenon: one that exists in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – and a lesser extent “flyover” America..

      It is the belief that your country / society / community has given you an opportunity, and that you need to return it, in as direct and concrete a way as possible. Such a becoming a dentist or accountant, and going back to your small town to practice your profession. Or at least finding a career you can reasonably practice in your country.

      If you, say, would rather have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, and scoot off to Switzerland in search of Higgs Bosons – that’s a no-no. It might as well be treason. And, in the eyes of small town pooh-bahs, it *is* treason. Don’t ask me how or why. A person doing that is betraying no secrets. He owes nothing to anyone. Why do you think so many thousands of well-educated Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders have left their possessive homelands? It is only just partly for (more) money and (better) opportunities. It is also for the better attitude they find in London, Hollywood, Rochester, “Noo Yock”, etc.

      A argument can be made that because higher education is government subsidized in some countries more than others, pursuing a career (and paying taxes) elsewhere is not paying back your debt. That is a flimsy excuse. First off all, why subsidize programs that are not likely to result in productive careers in your country? And second of all, how is spending the rest of your life driving a taxi in Flin Flon supposed to “pay back” your Ph.D?

      No, it’s not treason: despite what legions of parents, relatives, “friends”, gerontocratic small town pooh-bahs, and potential Berlin Wall builders might say.

  3. I happened across a Wiki reference to Jante’s law and I think it describes how non-Gifted feel about gifted sometimes. The original entry is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante

    Of the ten “rules” I found these to be most likely to apply:

    1 – You’re not to think you are anything special.
    3 – You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
    5 – You’re not to think you know more than we do.
    7 – You’re not to think you are good at anything.
    10 – You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

    I’m not saying all non-gifted hold these notions towards the gifted but there has to be some that do.

    • Hi Douglas,

      I’m pretty sure some people do think this way. I’ve often wondered why these feelings most often in regard to intelligence, but not other talents or gifts like athleticism, beauty, musical ability or creativity. And you are right, not all non-gifted hold those notions, but most likely it is those who don’t understand what real giftedness is and is not.

      Thank you for sharing this. Always interesting to delve deeper into the impetus for the push-back against giftedness!

  4. Again, thank you!
    Unfortunately that article reflects the current mainstream in gifted education ( in Us and abroad) and the intent of Nagc’s bold move. Here’s a wonderful response from Jim Delisle.
    You certainly know better than me that the Nagc has jumped on the bandwagon of talent development , promoting a “school smart” concept of giftedness and de facto denying the existence of giftedness as a form of asynchronous, atypical development. It seems that gifted education over time has begun totally detached from the reality of gifted individuals and their needs. Is gifted education serving actually gifted children? I’m not sure, at all. And it’s disheartening.
    It reminds me of your post about students sitting on bean bag chairs, most of whom were probably only above average but not real gifted children. Giftedness is, as Annemarie Roeper stated, ” a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity,and a greater ability to understand and to transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences ” not only an ability in a specific domain and of course not a resource to exploit at all costs in the scramble for the next Sputnik era. Ignorance is a bliss for this renowned scholars, it conveys a comfortable, simplistic and narrow view of the complex, invisible reality of giftedness.

    • I totally agree with Jim Delisle’s statement. I believe the crux of the problem is that belief in the philosophy that giftedness is inherent would mean there is a finite number of gifted students in need of gifted education.

      If you are a proponent of gifted education and caught up in the competition for high scores among schools and for funding, then you would naturally want high-achievers in your gifted education programs. Gifted students are not always high achievers. Some gifted education programs accept only students with high scores, whether they are gifted or not. Aligning with the talent development philosophy is necessary if your career depends on gifted education programs with a large, high-scoring enrollment.

      Thanks again, Asteroid!

  5. The greatest issue comes when so called gifted experts write things like This, a masterpiece of ignorance and neglection. Insulting, insulting, insulting. What can we do when even those who should educate professionals about giftedness are fiercely disrespectful to gifted individuals? How can we demand compassion and empathy from the layman when there is a plethora of policy makers, educators, “talent developers” that work against us, gifted people, fostering an achievement based definition of giftedness? I read your posts almost everyday, Celi. Keep going with your awesome and precious work, thank you!
    A.

    • As much as I appreciate you reading my blog and how I love your words of encouragement, I’m truly floored from reading that article you shared! Wow.

      I knew that there were those in the talent development community who choose to sit on the fence about whether giftedness is inborn or developed, but this article was quite eye-opening and somewhat disturbing. My first thought was, at what point did Albert Einstein “develop” his giftedness and did he ever lose it? Do people flow in and out of giftedness? Can we also flow in and out of having a low IQ? If giftedness is developed and is demonstrated by achievement, then how do we account for high IQ children in some marginalized and impoverished groups who usually have no access to tools to develop giftedness?

      In my “lab”, I’ve heard from 1,000’s of gifted individuals and only one individual has spoken out against the belief that giftedness is inborn, and he was solidly in the talent development community.

      Many, many thanks, Asteroid, for sharing thoughts here! By the way, I shared this article (Steven Pfeiffer) on my Crushing Tall Poppies Facebook page and asked for feedback. Curious to see what others say!

  6. It can also set up a negative pattern of second guessing yourself even when you are correct. I had the ability to size things up from an early age and could not figure out why things that were blatantly obvious to me about certain people or certain situations weren’t obvious to the adults around me. Then you wonder if you are really right or simply prejudiced, critical, cynical, etc. I was well into adulthood before I truly understood this part of my makeup.

    • Sallie, you bring up an important point about gifted children being wise beyond their years! I’ve seen that happen in my own family–my kids wondering how an adult could not figure out what they had already figured out. It never ended well when they tried to help that adult out by lending their knowledge 😉

      Thanks, Sallie!

  7. What are the implications for gifted education from the fact gifted children learn so fast and can extrapolate and make connections from even basic information?

    One thing is whilst it seems obvious that they will benefit most from going on to advanced training, they would also benefit from a wide spread of basic knowledge as long as they are then left to their own devices and not forced to repeat it to the point of madness.

    Does the fast learning also extend to physical skills needing fewer repetitions to master as well?

    I wonder if the saying ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ applies more or less to the gifted? I know I’ve unsettled first aid and fire marshal instructors with the ideas I’ve come up with (and actually done to put out a real-world car fire) after reading a couple of books and a day or two of training.

    • Ooo, lots of questions there 🙂

      1. The implications for a gifted child’s ability to learn quickly and extrapolate is to allow gifted children the time to delve deeper into the topic at hand. My youngest son, once learning about addition, was able to immediately extend that to subtraction, multiplication and addition. In school, a student once learning about addition in 1st grade would have had to wait until 3rd grade to be taught multiplication. I let my child hurdle through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division at his own pace. I agree we need to give gifted children a good, solid and wide basic set of knowledge and not force them to repeat it–just get out of their way and let them delve as deep and as fast as they need to.

      2. From personal experience, I think quick learning and reaching developmental milestones sooner does extend to physical skills. I can only say from my own experience, that one of my sons had extraordinary physical talents like learning to ride a two-wheeled bike in under an hour at just 3 years old. I’ve read that babies who meet developmental milestones much earlier than average, like sitting up, crawling and walking, are demonstrating the hallmarks of giftedness–an identifying factor.

      3. I think sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous, but I don’t think it can be said for every situation. Sometimes a little knowledge can be helpful, wonderful and exceptional in many situations. I think with gifted children, when it’s a little knowledge in their area of interest, it would be a good thing, not dangerous. Now, a gifted child who often has the ability to see the bigger picture and a desire to dig deeper into what he is taught would probably not be confined to the “little knowledge”, but would have propelled themselves into a level of greater knowledge.

      Thanks again for your insights and thoughts! You always keep me on my toes! 🙂

  8. Celi, this is a fantastic post. I feel like I have been a real slacker for not taking the time to comment more. I will try to improve! There are so many points to touch on here. From my own experiences, I realize now that the overexcitabilities (OEs), as conceptualized by Dabrowski and Piechowski, are particularly relevant to this topic. For instance, you wrote that “Gifted children see and understand the world around them with exceptional comprehension, intuition and intensity, and they easily make emotional, social and factual interconnections with the information they take in.” Piechowski has described the OEs as channels of experience, and modes of mental functioning, and the relationship between overexcitability and asynchronous development is what I’m going to be discussing at SENG. One reason for the way that gifted children know too much, too soon, is due to overexcitability, and while this helps them apprehend with great depth it also means they sometimes struggle. Like you, I also believe that we must stress the importance of differentiating these issues from the lens of talent development and achievement.

    • Thanks, Chris, for your insights! You are hardly a slacker!

      I can’t wait to see your work with Dabrowski’s and Piechowski’s take on OE’s! And I so wish I could see your presentation on the relationship between OE’s and asynchronous development at SENG!

      Talk to you soon!

      • It felt so strange to not use citations. 🙂 But I thought I would follow up with this, from Piechowski’s chapter in “Off the Charts”: “Because they can be so greatly stimulated, and because they perceive and process things differently, gifted children are often misunderstood. What is normal to them is not perceived as normal by others. Their excitement is viewed as excessive, their high energy as hyperactivity, their persistence as nagging, their questioning as undermining authority, their imagination as not paying attention, their persistence as being disruptive, their strong emotions and sensitivity as immaturity, their creativity and self-directedness as oppositional disorder. The more gifted they are the farther they stand out from the norm.” (p. 99)

        I wish that you could be at SENG too. Maybe next year! It’s the type of situation that really challenges my own OE issues as an adult, that’s for sure.

        • True–every word.

          OE’s definitely add another layer to a gifted child’s ability to comprehend life at higher levels than their peers. Thinking about gifted children peering through life as though through a microscope, along with OE’s, one can see how their behaviors can easily, but very unfortunately be pathologized or misdiagnosed.

          Thanks, Chris!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *