Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seth, mate, actually it goes the OTHER way!

Some dude called Seth Godin waded into the Gifted world this week. According to Wikipedia (the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom...hang on - that was the Encyclopedia Galactica), Seth is "an American entrepreneur, author and public speaker" and knows a bit about marketing and advertising and how the Internet is impacting the economy. Oh and he wrote a 30,000 word manifesto about education and what it's for, which I freely admit I haven't read in detail, but which, upon scanning, I mostly agree with (perhaps that's another post for another day).
Seth also has a blog. And earlier this week he wrote a little, inconspicuous post entitled "Actually, it goes the other way" which I will reproduce in full: 

Wouldn't it be great to be gifted? In fact...
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labelled gifts.
You're not born this way, you get this way.

Oh Seth. You had me until "wouldn't it be great to be gifted?". You waded into the Gifted waters, but you are out of your depth.
You see, mate, it's often not great to be "gifted" (unless that gift is being a gifted swimmer or footballer, but in the case of James "the Missile" Magnusson or Ben Barba, not even then, on reflection).
It's not great to be so far to the right of the bell curve that no one "gets" you, except maybe your mum. It's not great to feel different from all your age peers. It's not great to have to deal with the expectations of being "really smart". It's not great to deal with the heightened nervous system that has you feeling everything so intensely and questioning everything so thoroughly.
And don't even get me started on exceptionally/profoundly gifted kids, twice-exceptional kids or God forbid, EG/PG 2e kids!
Seth, it turns out you aren't really talking about "Gifted", just "gifts". Everyone has "gifts" - those areas in life which we are good at, have strengths at, be better than other people. Might be speaking in public, might be swimming, might be pretending to be someone else. But "Gifted" - that's a whole other ball game! It has NOTHING to do with choices, habits, talents and skills. It has EVERYTHING to do with what you were born with.
Sure, we can work hard, persist, develop strengths. But I'm telling you - I can run until I collapse, and am never going to be an Olympic runner. I'm not going to "get this way" in running, despite all my best efforts. I am not and never will be, a "gifted" athlete.
And, try as they might, flashcards and all, some kids are never going to be cognitively fast, or connect the dots or think outside the square. I'm sorry Seth, that is gifted - it is wiring and it is why our intellectually Gifted kids need something else educationally. 
Hopefully our Gifted kids find their passion, develop good habits, work hard and develop their talents. But it is never about the Product. Gifted kids and their education is about dealing with their very different wiring. It is about helping them through the maze of childhood and adolescence in which they don't fit and getting them through to adulthood relatively intact and maybe, just maybe, happy! And if we are super-lucky, someone may one day invent a cure a cancer, but it's not a given.
So, I'm sorry,Seth, maaate, buddy, pal. Whilst you may know a lot of stuff about a lot of things, and even have some great ideas and are lucky enough to live in this day and age where technology can help you disseminate these ideas via a range of media, your ideas about Gifted are off the mark. Maybe you got your terminology a bit mixed up. That's OK - happens to the best of us. But me and a few other people who blog about gifted are here to make sure that those words and the baggage they carry are made clearer.
Now, my little blog and Twitter account may not be as big-time as yours, Seth. But it's big enough that I can add my voice to the outrage and rectify the situation in my corner of the world and I'm joining in with a lot of others in the gifted world:


  1. I'm glad you've written this post to point out the difference between "gifts" and "gifted". It seems hard for some to accept that there may be people who are just wired differently from birth.

    1. Thanks Hwee - I think that difficulty comes from the word "gifted" - it seems elitist and implies that gifted = better. It doesn't imply worth (as our fallen sports stars attest to!), but it does mean our kids are different and require different education.

  2. I have learned so much from you about this topic, Ingi. Thanks for opening my eyes.


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