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The Evolving Definition of Giftedness


This is somewhat short notice for y'all, but I thought I'd mention it for those of you who don't subscribe to the EdWeek updates (which I know a number of you don't). So FYI for anyone interested who doesn't already know...

Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 19th), EdWeek will be hosting a live chat with the three authors of a new book, titled "The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span." I haven't read the book yet myself, but there is an article about it here that you could read to get some idea of what it's about.

EdWeek's publicized info about this live chat:

This Week's Live Chat: The Evolving Definition of Giftedness
When: Wednesday, November 19, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time
Where: go to http://www.edweek-chat.org
To submit questions in advance, click here.

"For years, giftedness was considered to be a static category, with children either possessing the trait or not. But developmental theory has now led to more nuanced view of what makes some people gifted. Instead of being innate and immutable, giftedness can be nurtured and even taught—and if ignored, it can also be lost.

"Please join our guests, the three editors of the upcoming book "The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span," who will talk about what researchers currently believe about giftedness, and its implication for classroom practice.

"About the guests:

"Frances Degen Horowitz is a university professor and president emerita at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

"Rena F. Subotnik is the director of the Center for Gifted Education Policy at the American Psychological Association.

"Dona J. Matthews is currently a visiting professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, engaged in several writing projects, and working with families and schools on issues relating to gifted education. From 2003 to 2007, she was the director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Education at Hunter College, the City University of New York.

"No special equipment other than Internet access is needed to participate in this text-based chat. A transcript will be posted shortly after the completion of the chat."

I'll post a link to the full transcript after it's finished in case anyone is interested in reading it.

I know the readers of "Unwrapping the Gifted" have a variety of ideas, opinions, and questions about the nature of giftedness, so this would be an opportunity for y'all to pose some great questions!


A child's intellectual potential ("g") can't be changed. Environmental factors can only either help or hinder the child from reaching his/her maximum potential.

I could be exposed to the best possible music or athletic instruction but I'm never going to play the violin like Midori or golf like Tiger Woods because I simply don't have that kind of talent.

"A child's intellectual potential ("g") can't be changed." Ah how we do love our tests, labels, and categories. They allow us to determine who among us is more deserving than the rest, and excuse ourselves for not providing the best and most appropriate education for all of our children.

Tags not withstanding, not only can I never play gold like Tiger Woods or the violin like Midori, but I will never have Einstein's intellectual abilities. I've said it. Live folks, teach, love and enjoy us all for our abilities and/or lack thereof.

Actually, a child's potential can be changed. In particular, it can be REDUCED. Every day that that child is held back, stagnated, unappreciated... every day that child is not fulfilling their potential... their upper limit is FALLING.

Gifted or not, we cannot put child a child on the shelf and forget about them because 'they can always realise their potential later.' It has to be TODAY, and EVERY DAY, or the moments are lost forever.

One cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Schools have an obligation to help each child reach his/her full potential, but giftedness cannot be taught.

Crimson Wife, have you practiced 10 hours a day every day since you are 3 years old, like Midori or Tiger Woods did? All that Talent/gift does is lower the barrier to entry a bit. It's the hard work that makes the talented great. We have great deal of kids who are rotting in the class rooms thanks to the stupidity of our education system. It is the same system that believes kids' intellectual capabilities are determined when born.

Only those with a natural inclination for music or golf would be willing to put up with the kind of training regimen of a Midori or Tiger Woods. Hard work is necessary, absolutely. But hard work alone isn't enough.

It's not nature OR nurture but the interaction of the two. Nurture either helps the child to maximize the potential given to him/her by nature, or else it hinders him/her.

A closely related issue: giftedness in boys vs. girls. The latter form a much smaller group among those identified as gifted. A new plan in Israel proposes to change the screening tests so as to allow more girls to pass it. Is this a justified move?
The details here:

What I was afraid of after listening to the chat was that this evolving definition of giftedness would eliminate the idea of the underachieving gifted person. We all probably have more potential than we ever develop, but I find it especially disturbing when a gifted child becomes so turned off to school and society that s/he becomes an underachiever. I was taught that these were the students who needed our services the most. With the definition of gifted evolving to whether the child is producing, I am afraid the underachieving gifted child will be further at risk for not using his or her potential.

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