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Sonia Dabboussi

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

    I'm not sure that it is all that misused, to be honest. Intellectual giftedness is only one type, and while some people have kept it restricted to intellectual (or academic) applications, the term itself has been more broadly applied, whether in the report in the United States in 1972 from Marland or Thorndike's descriptions or a host of others.

    I've seldom hear it used for something "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.

    Most schools don't have a gifted program. Most gifted programs are barely worth the word "program." Seldom would a gifted kid actually get the help or varied learning experiences there, either. But it is unclear to me what exactly constitutes waste - if a person chooses not to go off to save the world, but instead to be, say, a classroom teacher, are they wasting their abilities?

    > 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?

    Not going to happen. As I noted above, kids - and adults - can tell sharp kids from not-so-sharp kids with or without a label. Separation happens. Resentment happens. Even adulation happens. All with or without the label.

    Confidence in strengths and willingness to get support are different issues - but I can see that removing the stigma of advanced studies would help. Try full individualization.

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