Last updated on June 10, 2020
Another “giftedness doesn’t matter” blog post has surfaced, this time on HuffPo, and until this morning I wasn’t sure I had the energy or stamina to respond. Eleven years of shouting into the gale-force wind that is the willfully ignorant and you get a bit tired, with a sore throat (and frustrated psyche) that no amount of scotch can soothe. I’m tired of it. I can see, quite vividly, why parents of gifted kids fall off the advocacy radar when their kids are older. They’re exhausted from the battles, they’re sick of the willfully ignorant, and they just want their lives back. I get it. Boy howdy, do I get it. But before I tumble into that “screw it, I’m done, I want my own life” abyss, I have some questions I’d like the willfully ignorant to attempt to answer:
WHY DOES MY CHILD’S GIFTEDNESS BOTHER YOU SO?
How do my twice-exceptional sons, my gifted household, threaten you? How? Please, I really do want to know, because I cannot see it and I am trying. It’s not as though my boys are breaking into your house at night, tying you up, and talking at you about quantum physics, programming languages, and computer servers. They save that for me.
Are you alarmed by children who have a thirst for knowledge that is rarely quenched by the traditional school system? Does it keep you awake at night in horror that humans are all wired differently, and thus there are children who are quicker and deeper learners, who advance far faster than their age peers? Is it disturbing to you that a young child might be able to read and reason like an adult? Do you worry that giftedness is not what you have been led your whole life to believe?
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid of giftedness?
Think about that, really think.
If you do not have a gifted child at home, why are you so dismissive of the experiences of the families who do? It’s no skin off your nose. Why is it necessary to belittle and demean parents and children who are struggling with wiring that is significantly different from the status quo? Do you feel better about yourself when you do? Is it a way to feel superior to those you quietly believe are superior to you? Knock ’em down a peg, cut those tall poppies down? My family and I are superior to no one, we are just different.
It’s not as though gifted programs in schools are sucking away precious resources. Last I checked (five minutes ago) there is no federal mandate for gifted education, so it gets bumped down to the states and school districts to fund. More often than not it’s not funded at all. My home state of Illinois has zero dollars allocated to gifted ed. No identification or services mandate, no required training for teachers, no budget, no policies, no nuttin’. Does that seem right to you? That the needs of children…and I am talking about children here, not their parents who are too often seen as humblebragging…who are wired differently and require academic accommodations different from the norm, are left to the whims of a local school district? Would it be ok with you if it were developmentally or intellectually delayed children? Because we’re talking about the mirror images of the bell curve here. Kids on the far right of the curve require academic interventions every bit as intense and personal as those on the other side. Yes, really.
Or are you afraid that you’ll have to teach your own children that everyone is wired differently? Yes, we as humanity have so much in common, but take a long, hard look. Deep down you also know that we as humanity have inherent differences that are not attributable to hard work, mindset, and grit. How does cutting down my tall poppy make parenting yours easier?
I’m going to repeat that again for the folks in the back:
HOW DOES CUTTING DOWN MY TALL POPPY MAKE PARENTING YOURS EASIER?
What do you hope to accomplish? What is your end goal? Why is it necessary? You’re not harming your child with your willful ignorance, but you sure as hell are harming mine. You may not think so, but by chattering on about “all kids are gifted” (which they most certainly are not), or “giftedness doesn’t matter” or “giftedness is just parents thinking they have a special snowflake,” you are perpetuating the myth that these differently-wired kids will be just fine on their own. That cream always rises to the top. That early ripen, early rot. They will not be just fine on their own. SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) was founded after the suicide of a gifted young man. I’ve seen many kids and adults who were thought to be “just fine” struggle mightily throughout their lives, and last week I was unable to travel to the memorial service for one of them, a friend who’d had enough of the struggle. Because gifted doesn’t mean you have it easy, it means you have it different, and that difference needs to be acknowledged and supported, and not ignored or patronized or mocked.
So. Once again I have to ask why. Why is it important to you, those of you who remain willfully ignorant about giftedness and its impact on lives, why is it important to you to remain so willfully ignorant? To ignore and dismiss the experiences of those who live this life?
Why does the giftedness in my family disturb you so?