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MYTHS ABOUT GIFTEDNESS

The myths surrounding gifted children are more than just inaccurate; they are destructive.
They prevent the gifted child from being understood, accepted, and served appropriately by the school system.
Below are compiled a few of these misconceptions surrounding gifted children from various sources,
followed by evidence-based arguments that work to dispel these myths.

MYTH #1

"A gifted child must be gifted in everything."

Most gifted children are talented in a special arena, not in all areas of accomplishment.  Arguments such as, “If you’re so gifted, why can’t you tie your shoes?”, “Why can't you read if you’re so smart?” humiliate gifted children and undervalue the special talents they do possess.  A musically talented student may find spelling very challenging; likewise, a gifted math student might feel so bored and misunderstood that he looks like a lazy underachiever.  Giftedness does not mean that everything comes easily.  Likewise, this myth has made it especially difficult to identify twice-exceptional children (gifted children with learning disabilities).

MYTH #2

"That student can’t be gifted; he’s receiving poor grades."

Underachievement describes a discrepancy between a student’s performance and his actual ability.  The roots of this problem differ, based on each child’s experiences.  Gifted students may become bored or frustrated in an unchallenging classroom situation causing them to lose interest, learn bad study habits, or distrust the school environment.  Their boredom and frustration might make them act out in class, becoming labeled as the class clown or the disruptive one. Other students, particularly girls, may mask their abilities to try to fit in socially with their same-age peers.  No matter the cause, it is imperative that a caring and perceptive adult help gifted learners break the cycle of underachievement in order to achieve their full potential.

MYTH #3

"Gifted children can make it on their own.  They don't need special attention."

There exists a common and mistaken belief that children endowed with remarkable intelligence and/or talents have no special educational or emotional needs.  The facts indicate that giftedness needs nurturing.  A large percentage of drop-outs are gifted students (Marland, 1972); a number of gifted youth find their way into juvenile courts (Seeley & Mahoney, 1981); and underachievement is a pervasive problem (Whitmore, 1980).  There are countless cases of unidentified giftedness—those children whose talents are not given the chance to blossom through lack of detection and development (Gallagher, 1979).

MYTH #4

"All parents think their children are gifted."

In fact, parents ARE excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children, but although many parents see their children as bright, they don’t often confuse bright with gifted.  However, even when parents suspect that their child may have unusual abilities, they are reluctant to publicly admit that the child might be gifted for fear of being taken as a braggart.  Giftedness is stigmatized in our society - it is less comfortable for a mother to say, “I have a gifted child,” than it is for her to say, “I have a disabled child.”  It is important to allow these parents a voice, for parent advocacy has been shown to be critical for gifted children’s emotional and academic growth.

MYTH #5

"Singling out the gifted will cause them to become elitist."

It has been shown that in actuality more elitism is fostered by keeping gifted children with their non-gifted age-mates than by grouping them with one another (Silverman, 1992).  The gifted child gets a warped idea of his place in the world when he is always the best performer.  For many students, placement in classes for the gifted is the first time they come across anyone as capable as themselves (Hollingworth, 1931).  They soon learn that there will always be someone smarter in some areas, and this breeds humility, not arrogance.

MYTH #6

"Provisions for the gifted are basically undemocratic."

The misconception is that gifted children only come from affluent families, so providing for the gifted would be giving more privileges to the privileged.  However, giftedness cuts across all socio-economic, ethnic and national groups (Dickinson, 1970; Marland, 1972).  In every culture, there are developmentally advanced children.  Though the percentage of gifted students among the upper classes may be higher (due to clearer identification processes), a much greater number of gifted children come from the lower classes, because the poor far outnumber the rich (Zigler & Farber, 1985).  Therefore, when provisions are denied to the gifted on the basis that they are "elitist," it is the poor who suffer the most.  The Knox School is committed to using a sound identification process in determining the student population – multiple assessment procedures will be used to determine placement and every effort made to include children who are frequently overlooked including, but not limited to, underrepresented socio-economic groups and academic “underachievers”.

 

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