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If 'gifted' is a bad word, what term can we use to describe the highly intelligent and creative members of our societies?

The word 'gifted', technically meaning intellectual giftedness, has become a terribly misused term.

'GIfted' has been used to refer to anything from any kind of elitist, socially challenged group of people, to a type of characteristic of a person or object that varies even slightly from the norm.

Many intellectually gifted people refuse to attend gifted programs in their local schools because they don't want to be labeled with something so many people think to mean 'better than others'. Then they don't get the help or varied learning experiences they need to make the most of their abilities, and therefore in essence 'waste' their talents and skills that could so definitely be used by the world.

So what word can we use for the 'learning enabled' individuals so that they can feel confident in their strengths and abilities but still get the help they need? What kind of phrase can be used to refer to the gifted that everyone will find acceptable and satisfactory?


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    Mar 9 2011: In 1995, Bedford County, VA wanted to rename the Extended Curriculum Program to Talented & Gifted. Here's an editorial excerpt from then...

    "What will be the result of mere children carrying such a lofty title through their formative years? Arrogant adults is the answer. All of us can accept being different - for the very reason we all have talents and gifts. But no one will accept we're inferior. And this is precisely the problem, for calling impressionable little children by such a superior title will surely result in their believing they're better than others. The result of those childish conclusions? Lost friendships and lost opportunities are just two of the certainties. Ultimately, even happiness may be at stake."

    ....So the school board decided to have concerned parties vote. Every principle voted to keep Extended Curriculum Program and every coordinator voted for Talented & Gifted. The tie was decided by the Advisory Board (14 parents, all with kids in the program). Except for me and one other parent, all voted for the god-like description.

    This all goes to a point: Give up on an easily identifiable label and make it non-descript in spite of some parent's objections - which will never go away. You wouldn't call football teams the "real" men or cheerleaders the "real" women. G & T labels are just as asinine and you can't be timid about calling them out for it. Keep fighting for the sake of the children's long term mental health and good luck with a new name for your company and the programs you administer.

    On a side note, you stated: "Many... gifted people refuse to attend gifted programs... because they don't want to be labeled as "better than others" My experience was very different. Few were uncomfortable with the name and all attended. Mommy and Daddy wouldn't have it any other way, boasting to anyone they could corner, "Junior's in the Gifted and Talented program blah, blah, blah..." You need to admit to yourself how most of the parents really are.
    • Mar 9 2011: I appreciate the information you've shared here and your experiences as well. It seems like this is a subject you take significant interest in.

      I have two points to discuss further here:

      1. If you're suggesting to "Give up on an easily identifiable label and make it non-descript in spite of some parent's objections" then how would the needs of the gifted be addressed? If the name is watered down to mean nothing then I would guess that the assistance available to this group of people would eventually end up the same way as well. Perhaps not, but the possibility exists. So then what term is appropriate without being offensive? There must be one, or do we just have to work on the meaning we've associated with what we've already got?

      2. My point about gifted people not attending gifted programs because of the attached stigmas was more in reference to those who make their own decisions, or at least influence them greatly, when it comes to schooling. Of course many parents want to show that their kids are smart, but what do the kids, particularly the high school aged ones, think? Maybe in your area of the world is different, but I know of a lot of turmoil around the issue over here.

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