Monday, November 14, 2005
In the gifted forums I've participated in, the topic of Renzulli's Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness usually comes up at some point when talking about identification of gifted kids. This model really gets me steamed up! I have heard some people say it got their kids into gifted programs when they are not globally gifted, but obviously gifted from their performance on an IQ test or another assessment method. I've heard others say that the model has been misapplied to get kids into programs that were not really suitable for them. But what if a kid is gifted but not showing any task commitment because of social or emotional problems? Or a kid isn't showing creativity because of a lifetime's experience of being squashed whenever they think outside the box?
I greatly dislike the implication that the system needs to provide services because of the potential productivity of these individuals. I also dislike the focus on "gifted behaviours" and the implication that people are only gifted when they are behaving in a certain high-powered, socially accepted manner. This is not an ethical position in my opinion.
Gifted people come out of the box with a different experience of the world and a big contribution to make. How or even whether they choose to use their gifts to serve a society which is largely hostile to them from day one is really their own business. There are many gifted mothers raising children, unappreciated and unacknowledged for their awesome contribution. People are still gifted if they choose to take a non-challenging job and live a quiet, unremarkable life. They still need support and help to deal with their intellect and special sensitivities even if they choose to do nothing creative with them. It's when they don't get it that they turn away and begin to harm themselves and their communities.
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Like you, my concern is for those gifted who aren't "producing" according to the standards set up for them.
Most of the psychological models are based on highly productive gifted people. It’s hard to see a gifted person with an output failure…. How do you tell if they are gifted if they aren’t producing? They hid in plain sight.
I know a perfect example; Keith is a man who had articles written about him in Time magazine by the age of ten. Science wizard of sorts, he can do what most can’t, he can see it in his head. He corresponds with Hawking but won’t use this gift in his “waking life.” He takes jobs that offer free food and/or a pool as a fringe benefit. To look at his life, you would never realize he is gifted. Unfortunately, this, in my experience, has been the majority with the gifted.
"There are many gifted mothers raising children, unappreciated and unacknowledged for their awesome contribution." I have some familiarity with this situation! Who better to raise children, gifted or otherwise, than an intelligent parent? Too often society encourages the best and the brightest to only use their gifts for paid labour. What a misguided waste of potential. Although I do sometimes refer to myself as the best educated toilet cleaner on the block, raising my sons has been a highly rewarding task and I know they appreciate the benefit of having me at home all the time. My husband and I worked hard in the early years of our marriage to build a stable home base which would allow us to have a stay at home parent.
I have been told that I wasted my talents by staying at home. I need only look at the happy stability of my family to know what a crock of **** that is. Life changes all the time and who knows what the next stage will bring for any of us. I'm happy to have the freedom to use my gifts as I choose, not as some societal "norm" dictates.
My son is gifted, but has a learning disability (dysgraphia) that affects his output, and results in low task commitment for any activity that requires writing or drawing (which is most activities in the classroom!). I wouldn't classify it as "social" or "emotional" (I guess it's "physical" in the sense that brain wiring is physical) but I really identify with what you are saying here.
Creativity is also a big problem for my son, not because it's been squashed out of him, but because he needs to have problems framed for him in an analytical way. Most grade school art assignments aren't structured as analytical exercises -- but as soon as you recast it for him, he will become engaged with "solving the problem." Unfortunately, not all teachers are able to do that naturally, so I usually have to teach the teacher how to teach my son.
Everyone sees the world through different lenses (I should say, their own unique combination of lenses). It seems to me that Renzulli's method expects that only those with the intellectual equivalent of better than 20-20 vision deserve to be identified as gifted.