The Label of Gifted Child—Is There a Better Way?

Recently, I was with a group of gifted education specialists and our discussion revolved around the meaning of the label “gifted.” One person commented that we (being specialists) all knew what the term meant. I questioned that. So, we went around the group and asked just what “gifted” meant to each person. Very quickly it became obvious that we all had very different views of it. This went way beyond the common definitions of gifted children and ventured in to its subtleties.

Some people feel that all students have gifts. Some people feel that being gifted requires a high I.Q. or an exceptional analytical ability. To others it is a student who earns straight A’s or it might be a person who has social problems because he is so smart. There are many definitions of the word and many different interpretations of those definitions.

The question is: Should we use the term “gifted” at all? Is it a useful term? Rather than label students as gifted, would we not be better off using more specific descriptors? As an adult, wouldn’t I understand more about a child knowing that she has great insight into her reading or has the ability to solve complex math problems in creative ways or that he is a great public speaker? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to know a student is highly organized and goal oriented or is very sensitive to the feelings of others or is a wizard at science? If we need to use some general term, would we be better off using “smart” or “high-ability"?

Since writing this blog entry in April 2005, NAGC came out with a position paper (March 2010) titled Redefining Giftedness for a New Century:Shifting the Paradigm. The paper met with some controversy. I personally think that the position moves towards a more useful/helpful way of looking at gifted individuals.

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