Every Child is Gifted

“Every Child is Gifted”

No. Not true.

Perhaps you have heard “every child is gifted” before. Who says such a thing? It may be a rallying cry by those who are anti-elitist and who don’t like the idea that somebody is identified as “better.” (If you read last month’s post, you will recall that we must guard against any perception that gifted equates to better.” Those who believe that “every child is gifted” may say it as a balm for those who are disappointed that Johnny did not get identified. Or they may succumb to anti-intellectual prejudices.

And yes, there is prejudice against gifted people and even against the concept of giftedness. I recall manning a silent auction table that we had set up in the lobby of one of the big oil companies across the street from Rainard’s old campus. It was lunchtime, and one of the employees was having fun perusing the auction items and adding her bids to the bid sheets. “Who is this for?” she asked. When I told her more about Rainard School, and that it was for gifted learners, her expression hardened. She clenched her pen and crossed out every one of her bids. “If I’d known it was for gifted children, I never would have bid.”

In the world of gifted education, our leaders have struggled and debated over the use of the word gifted. The word is loaded, both politically and emotionally. Politically, the word flies against the American credo that All Men Are Created Equal. Why should some students be given special treatment? Shouldn’t all students be given enriched and accelerated opportunities? The word gifted suggests that somebody has been given something special that others were not so blessed or privileged to get, and that emotional baggage inspires jealousy, skepticism, and resentment.

Have you found the following to be true? When we pair the adjective gifted with specific nouns, the discomfort and resentment seem to ebb. If we talk about gifted learners, we can envision children who are good at school. Folks can readily admire gifted artists and cheer gifted athletes. But if we simply refer to the gifted, the reaction changes. It is as if we had referred to the anointed.

But that loaded word gifted can have positive mojo. Hearing that somebody is gifted may conjure up high hopes and expectations. If we find that our child is gifted, we may feel spurred to find stimulation or mentoring or coaching to draw out and shape those gifts. Hearing that somebody is gifted may inspire a sense of awe at the person’s prowess.

While not every child is gifted, what is true is that every child has gifts. They have each been endowed with something to contribute to the world. Every child deserves a supportive environment to help them discover, uncover and use those gifts. With luck and grace, the child will grow to use those gifts for good purposes.

What is also true is that every child *is* a gift. A child is a catalyst to inspire their adults to be their best selves. A child motivates us to protect and to guide us to be good people. A child stretches us – sometimes to the point of frustration, but sometimes to the peak of our wits. A child is a gift that can help us to experience the world through fresh eyes.

Next month, I will share what I have observed over the last thirty-five years about parents of gifted children. Will you see yourself?