A Letter to Gifted Children - some thoughts

Linda Silverman from the Gifted Development Centre has penned a letter to our gifted kids. In it, she eloquently puts paid to many myths of being gifted.

It isn’t easy being different.  We are taught that it is bragging to say—or even think—that we might be smarter than other people.  Doesn’t everyone have gifts?  Yes, everyone on the planet is a gift to humanity.  Being gifted does not mean being better than anyone else.  So what does giftedness mean?

To me, the gift in giftedness is the potential to make this a better world for everyone. Every person on the planet has a different job to do.  Some jobs require more years of school than others—like doctors.  Some require greater knowledge of mathematics or computers or science or languages or art or music or poetry or mechanics or people. You need to learn all you can so that you can do the life’s work that awaits you.  Only then can you make a difference in the world.

When you hold yourself back from learning all that you are capable of learning so that you won’t be ahead of your friends, you not only hurt yourself, you hurt the world.  For the world needs you to fully develop your talents and abilities so that you can do that special job that only you can do.

Giftedness is not about competition.  It’s not a comparison between you and others.  It just seems that way when you are in school and everybody is expected to learn the same things.  As you get older, you learn different things from other people.  You learn what you need to learn to do your own special job in the world.  Some of that learning you do on your own in books, via internet, or just by living.

If you dream about doing something important in your life, you can fulfill that dream. Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, and work toward making them a reality. When you face roadblocks, ask for help around them.  And help others who need you and ask for your help.  Realize that you are not alone, that there are others like you all over the world.  Work together for the good of all.

Linda Silverman

There are some great things I love about this letter:
  • She clearly outlines that being gifted is not about being "better" than anyone else
  • She states that giftedness is not about being in competition with others - that is just a construct of school
  • She states that there are many types of learning - and that we just have to find out what it is that we are meant to learn
  • She is big on believing in yourself and chasing dreams
But there are some things that either sit uncomfortably with me or I felt she has not addressed:
  • She couches our purpose in life in terms of "work" "jobs" and economics. That raises questions for me of "what is the meaning of life?" - surely it's not just to be a cog in the economic wheel. 
  • Many of us (and gifted people too - because we can see so many options) will do more than one "job" or career. I've been involved in environmental science, travel, retail, education and the most important job of all - raising children.
  • She states "you can fulfil that dream" - but for many of our gifted kids, they still need more support at school, home and in the wider community if they are to reach for the stars - because there are many out there who believe the gifted do OK by themselves and don't need extra help. I quite enjoy reading Richard Glover in the Sydney Morning Herald, but I'm less of a fan after reading this article in which he questions the need for gifted programs in schools:
"What do you offer for advanced children?" This is asked by the woman at the back of the parent information night at the local school with a tone of concerned entitlement, as if she didn't ask for a gifted child, but that's her lot in life, especially as being as gifted as her Samantha is virtually a disability and so should be resourced accordingly. Other parents may have to resist the urge to take up a collection.

Yeah, you'd have to be an idiot to utter that phrase. Guess I am! 
  • And she does not touch on the issue of giftedness plus learning difficulties (yes, they exist). It is near impossible for those kids to fulfil their dreams without proper diagnosis and support - it is more than a "roadblock" and for many of those kids, they are lacking in self-esteem after many years of being told they are lazy, stupid and should just "work harder". 

I think as a society it is high time we started valuing our smart people more. They are more than just "geeks" or "nerds" - they are the ones with the complex, creative thinking that can do good things for the world. We need to value "difference" and move past adolescent thoughts of fitting in and being cool - the opportunity to be our authentic (gifted) selves would be a gift in itself.


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