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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: To be sure, I'm not a fan of the 'gifted' nomenclature. 'gifted' implies 'by God', and therefore it does not perfectly fit everyone's needs. My husband adds, "It implies that something is given with no expectation of return." This may very well be the source of charges of elitism.

    But unfortunately for the anti-label contingent, I can't call my kids BOB and expect them to receive the accommodation from the school board that they so desperately need.

    I wonder if the queer community has a body of literature that could be mined for the development and embracing of terminology that serves a genetic minority population. In common parlance we've recently embraced 'geek' and 'nerd'. As profs, we call our bright kids 'keeners'. But obviously these won't work for an identification and placement committee.

    On the other hand, perhaps we can embrace 'gifted' instead of running off to hide because it makes others feel bad. Advocate and educate the public that gifted = special needs, and that gifted kids are students who are at-risk without social interaction with like children and space to develop intellectually despite our frequently comorbid issues (ASD, emotional delays, depression, anxiety, ADHD, LD, and Tourette's to name a few that show up frequently.) The gay and lesbian population didn't run away from 'queer'. They educated and advocated, and they continue to do so quite effectively. It's a long road, and we may be shooting ourselves in the foot by abandoning it.
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      Mar 9 2011: At a certain point the label doesn't even matter. When it's not simply a matter of being "slightly ahead" of the class, or better equipped to handle a particular subject, the other students KNOW - and usually long before the teacher figures it out, unless they have the information handed to them from previous years. I remember standing in a yard of my new school, surrounded by grade 8 students asking me to spell things out of their text books and feeling slightly annoyed by the simplicity of the questions they were asking and wishing I could just go play. Fortunately or unfortunately, as a black child in a Catholic school in that neighbourhood of Toronto in that year I was already going to be "unusual".

      Left to their own devices, kids know and they don't care. The problem doesn't start until the adults get involved and start making distinctions. Going to an enriched or even full out autonomous program isn't the issue. It's the behaviour of the adults and perceived favouritism that they feel the need to "balance out".

      It's the adults who do not have the time and/or skills to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses that make the overlooked children jealous. Often, it's the adults' own jealousy that instigates and enables the problems between kids.

      It's not the program or the label at fault. It's the idea that there is a mythical swath of "normal" and anyone outside that must be placed either above or below, rather than accepting that everyone is different and has strengths and weaknesses. There is no "normal". The education system manages to fail everyone in their own unique way.
      • Mar 9 2011: I can understand your point of view, and agree with much of it, though my experience, my daughter's experience, and my father's experience have been a bit different. Left to our own devices our extreme boredom and the bullying that goes on (because oh yes, kids DO know) led each of us to dangerously low self esteem and extreme risk-seeking behavior including delinquent behaviors (you name it), life-threatening behaviors (you name it), and dropping out of school. For the sake of these kids identification and intervention is ideal at an early age.
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          Mar 9 2011: Oh, I totally understand the boredom and the dropping out. It took me five years before deciding to go to university after high school - much to my family's horror. I only went because I kept getting the same story about how *different* it would be- it's not like the rest of the education system at all. They painted such a picture that they may as well have thrown in that unicorns would come lie beside me as I wrote essays.

          Needless to say, I quit university before finishing (it was also the Great and Wonderful Tech Bubble where money rained down like cherry blossoms in spring).

          I only meant to say that my experience with the bullying didn't start until the school system clued in to the "gifted" factor. Prior to that, I was just odd, not somehow threatening.

          I was also lucky in that we moved often when I was small, so I learned to hide certain things - like not sticking your hand up too often.

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