The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Gifted and Talented, All Children Have the Potential

Linus, the character in the “Peanuts” comic strip, announced
after  his first day at school that he had the worst thing a  kid
could  have—potential.   This scene may be playing out in  many
families  when  young children come home and announce  they  have
been declared Gifted and Talented.

In  some states,  children are declared forever  gifted  and
talented  by  means of an individual I.Q.  test usually given in
first grade.   The children who achieve a score of 130 are  given
this  distinction  even  though I.Q.  tests are not  measures  of
children’s  native  intelligence but are measures  of  children’s
performance  on  that  particular  test.   This score  is  not  a
permanent,   unchangeable  figure.    Children’s  motivation  and
ability  to  concentrate are only two of the variables  that  can
change scores.

Children with lower scores are  denied this distinction, and
therefore,  must be ungifted and untalented.  These  designations
can  be  a  burden  for both groups and  has  the  potential   to
discourage  families  where one member is  designated  G&T  while
another  member  is  not.   Again,  we are  in  the  business  of
labeling children.   Labels tend to stick and children live up to
our  best and down to our worst expectations.   Families tend  to
say sentences like:  “This is Mary,  she’s our brain and this  is
John, he’s our athlete.”

 Parents  do  not need a score on an IQ  test  to  encourage
their  children.  Adults need to express  confidence   in   their
children  to  do their best and they will not   be  disappointed.
Suppose   a  parent did have her children tested  and  one  child
scored 100  while  another scored 125  Does this mean she should
steer one away from calculus while encouraging the other to excel
in it?   IQ scores do not give that kind of information.

Some  children  do very well on  tests  because  they   have
learned  the  lessons  in the  textbook  well.    Other,  equally
talented children,  score lower on  tests because  they  approach
problems  in another, perhaps more creative way, but  which  does
not yield the  textbook  answer.   Both groups should be rewarded
and encouraged.  Sometimes the maverick thinker is discouraged by
schools because only those who give the textbook answers  receive
the”A” and   recognition.  

Luckily,  most  children   in supportive  families  who  act
creatively,   continue to do so in spite of what schools  do   or
do  not  provide for them .   Adults  can  be  most  helpful   to
them  by not standing in their way and  by  providing  them  with
the materials, the time and place they need in order to carry out
their projects. 

Schools  should avoid labeling children. Such labels  become
self-fulfilling    prophecies    which    constrict    children’s
development.   Some  children   whose  self-worth   is    closely
attached   to  the   label  of   Gifted   and  Talented,   become            
afraid  to take chances because they might  be “found-out”  to be
really  un-gifted.    In   extreme   cases,   they  stop   trying
because  of fear of not being perfect.   Getting less   than   an
“A”  is  considered failure by  some   very   talented  students.

Since  all children have the potential of being adept or skillful
at  some  level  in some area,  that potential   deserves  to  be
nourished, nurtured, and encouraged. 

All  children, not only those labeled gifted  and  talented,
deserve and can profit from an education that includes individual
attention,  emphasis  on  critical  thinking,  encouragement   of
creative  potential, high expectations, and  exciting  enrichment
experiences.  In the right kind of atmosphere, all children  will
be  ready,  willing and able to show us how gifted  and  talented
they really are.  No child should be denied that opportunity.

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