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The willful ignorance of giftedness
The willful ignorance of giftedness

The willful ignorance of giftedness

The Willful Ignorance of GiftednessThe summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college I had the pleasure of a tonsillectomy. It was necessary really; after ten years of begging doctors who insisted I didn’t need one, it took contracting mono the previous spring to convince an ENT to do a little snippy snippy on my throat. Nothing like being told, “Here! Take this Prednisone so your throat doesn’t swell shut while you sleep!” My poor roommate. It was hotter’n hell that summer, and our house didn’t have air conditioning, something I remind my sons of every freaking summer. I spent two weeks…yes, that was the number two followed by the words weeks…on the sofa bed recuperating. When you have four…yes, that was the number four…tonsils removed, recovery tends to be a bit extreme. I couldn’t swallow because then I’d gag on my hangy-down-thing, which resembled nothing so much as a grape. You’re welcome for that mental image. It was hot, I was miserable, and I had little patience with anything.

This is a long winded way of saying that I’m flashing back to that summer, lo those 20 years ago, because I seem to have contracted some miserable Back to School Plague this week. I am hot, I am miserable, and I have little patience with anything. Only now I have the pleasure of homeschooling my uber-intense twice-exceptional son while ill. I just lurve discussing the origins of the universe through a pounding headache and multiple deadlines.

Early this morning, before I’d had a cup of coffee or even recognized that I had left my bed and was standing in the kitchen wondering just what the hell I was doing there, Tom patted the iPad and said softly, “Sweetie, when you’re feeling up to it, there’s something on CNN that you really need to read.” He and I need to have a little conversation on levels of CNN importance, because I think it was only my sleep-deprived state that kept me from flying right into a holy crap it’s another September 11th code red level of panic. Thankfully the world was still spinning. He wanted me to read an opinion post by a single mom about her gifted daughter, a wonderful, lovely post. For the first time in ages, I read about giftedness in a mainstream publication, and it wasn’t spewing hate and ignorance about my sons and their wiring.

And then this afternoon, against my better judgment, I read the comments.

Note to self: stop reading comments. That’s where the trolls live, and they’re not there to collect a toll so you can cross the bridge, no no no…they’re there to spew hate and ignorance and make themselves feel better.

I got about a dozen comments down before I realized that if I kept throwing up in my mouth a little with every one I was going to have a volume problem sooner rather than later. There were a few incredibly coherent comments, all on the side of “giftedness is wiring and gifted programs are academic interventions,” but for the most part the comments were atrocious.

And it occurred to me, in my ibuprofen-popping state, that there is one clear reason for this.

People are willfully ignorant of giftedness. As in, they want to be ignorant of it and will go out of their way to convince themselves that they do not need nor want to be corrected. Because if they cracked open their minds just a little, to perhaps even consider the possibility of another point of view, they might have to confront the possibility that (gasp! ohs noes!) they could be wrong.

It’s the willful ignorance that bothers me. General ignorance doesn’t, it just means you don’t (yet) know. But standing on a street corner, refusing to open your eyes, and screaming that the sky could not possibly be blue because behind your eyelids you see black….AGH! Willful ignorance.

I wish there was a gifted community somewhere, preferably Napa Valley, where the families of gifted and twice-exceptional kids could say screw you to willful ignorance and go live their lives. Where learning was life-long, self-paced, and multi-aged. Where ideas could flow freely and ignorance was an opportunity to go learn something new. Where there was a tap to the wine barrels in the cellar.

I’m so tired of this. I’m tired of being accused of bad parenting, of elitism, of bragging. I’m tired of being on high alert all the time, of putting my life and what’s left of any possibility of a career on hold for my son’s educational needs, of the guilt from yearning for a different life because this one…

Willful ignorance, people. That’s what it comes down to. And that’s more difficult to fight than any issue our kids present us. Chandra Moseley, I don’t know you but wish we could have met before I moved from Colorado last year. I feel your pain, babe. I’m on your team.


  1. I started reading the comments. Then I had to stop because they were making my headache worse. It makes me more tired than I really am. Add in ADHD and then there are two huge issues which people don’t get, don’t understand, do not want to understand and purposefully go out of their way to spread *mis*information on.

    I usually don’t have the energy left after homeschooling my EG/2e son and EG daughter to try and right wrongs.

    But places like #gtchat and your blog (and maybe mine) are places that like minds and parents going through similar issues can join together – and thank goodness for those!

    Keep fighting the good fight Jen 🙂

  2. I am a newby to the gifted scene (5 yo son tested in March and scored well above the average). I’m still weeding my way through 2E and trying to make sense of all of this! I, too, made the mistake of reading the comments in that article and even I could tell that obviously the negative commenters have never parented a gifted child! Thank you for putting the truth out there and helping overwhelmed moms like me!!

  3. Cassidy

    I saw one comment and told myself, don’t read anymore just don’t. I agree Jen, ignorance throws more at than our kids ever could. And if you find that place in napa valley, please let me know!!!

  4. Thank you for this! I read the comments when there were only about 25 of them and the majority were “unkind” to say the least.

    I, too, think it would be awesome to have a place where our gifted kids can just be themselves. Although, there would have to be some type of qualification b/c I know a few parents of high ability kids who are so competitive it make me ill. And, well, then there are those poor “gifted kids” who really aren’t but their parents pushed the school to put them in the program and the kid is struggling.

    Nice to meet you and I look forward to reading more, and possibly being encouraged to write more about my high ability daughter.

    ~ Sara

  5. appyeyes

    The comments were so bad I couldn’t stop reading because it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I thought after a while that they must be joking, b/c no one could possibly be that willfully ignorant, but, sigh, ‘fraid not…

  6. I’d say willful ignorance is the cause behind most/all? social ills. ‘If I don’t want to consider that there are times abortion might be acceptable then I can’t think about the gray areas concerning rape, so I will simply believe that rape (1) seldom legitimately happens and (2) that it seldom causes pregnancies.’

    Now, on a more cheerful note, I just got this email to pass along. My kids are doing pretty well in public school, so I’m not looking for options right now, but WOW!

    The Sudbury School of Atlanta is opening in Avondale! It is a new and affordable K-12 school where students can read, paint, run, jump, and explore at their choosing. No sticker rewards, no grades, no tests, no time-outs. Just the pure love of learning. There are even 3 and 4 day options for homeschool families. It is also one of the most affordable independent schools around. 3-day tuition per month is $391, 5-day is $651/month and you can enroll anytime during the year! Next info session is this Sunday, Aug 26 at 3pm. Please help spread the word that the Sudbury School of Atlanta is opening! http://sudburyschoolofatlanta.org

    We want a strong launch for our inaugural year and we need your help to make that happen. All the latest enrollment information is on our web site, sudburyschoolofatlanta.org.

    1. Jen

      Ohhh, don’t EVEN get me started on that topic, I will blow and it will be ugly. Trying soooo hard to stay away from politics this year for my own sanity.
      That said, I’d give my left arm for a Sudbury School locally. There is one, but it’s a solid 90 minutes south of here. 🙁

  7. Mom of gifted

    What I believe changes people’s minds is “seeing is believing”. Most people have not personally experienced a gifted child so really don’t understand them and when you tell people what your child is like they don’t believe you. They have to see it for themselves. When and if they do, then their minds are opened. Educators who witnessed my son’s abilities were then able to act upon his needs. It’s just hard to understand situations that you have never personally experienced.

    1. Jen

      Sometimes even those who see it don’t believe it, or don’t believe the parents who see more of it. It’s like they need to be beaten over the head repeatedly until it becomes real.

  8. Kid Chauffeur

    Yep, I made the same mistake too, knowing full well trolls would be lurking. I’m totally with you- there are many times when I envy my friends with slightly above average kids who can function at a regular school. Having a 2e kid is the biggest challenge I have ever encountered in my life. Some days I just wish things would go over his head like other kids so he wouldn’t be so stressed over the littlest thing. I just have to remind myself that he doesn’t yet have the life experience to fully understand everything, hence the constant questions, debate, and even arguing.

  9. Theresa

    You and I spoke about my eldest child and how the school failed her when what she really needed was to be challenged beyond grade level norms.

    If I can play Devil’s Advocate, people are struggling with the word “gifted,” and how it now applies to students with learning problems and “gifts’ that are not necessarily seen. Make sense?

    There is also a belief that ‘the bad kid who just isn’t motivated because his or her parents just don’t parent well’ IS the child you are fighting for, because for years THAT is what parents were told.

    And maybe all I am hoping is to take the sting away, based on the fact that I had NO CLUE what the current/new definition of gifted was….based on the fact that after talking to a you a mere months ago after knowing you for years, I realized that my daughter had been failed…not that she had failed herself, or that I had failed her.

    Am I now on your poopy list, or did I help explain that people are not trying to be mean, they just do not understand. And isn’t that the job of every mom in your corner??

    Love you.

    1. Jen

      No, people don’t understand. And I don’t mind that they don’t understand, it’s when they won’t hear what parents who DO know try to tell them that drives me batshit crazy. So…define learning problems…they take all forms. The kid daydreaming and not paying attention? Might be ADD, or it could be a child so incredibly bored by being taught something he learned several years ago that he checked out. The kid failing math speed tests? Might be that he doesn’t know the facts, or it might be that he has a much slower processing speed and his brain freezes when forced to work that fast. (Analogy: I sure as hell know how to play Bejeweled Blitz, but I can feel my brain freeze when I try to play. Being timed…I can hardly see the patterns)
      Gifted doesn’t necessarily apply to students with learning problems, but gifted kids can have learning problems. But because gifted can look one way and people think it’s another, it can be missed.
      Please don’t beat yourself up over L.

  10. Beth

    Amen! 2 gifted sons. one is an over achiever and one an under achiever. The under achiever has an anxiety disorder, executive functions issues and presents like a high achieving asbergers (sp?) child. Very frustrating. Well meaning people who choose to ignore the real issues. That don’t understand having the brain of a genius but being frightened of failure or rejection. And then have those same people act as if his issues are in fact a failure. Some days it’s only the grace of God that Keeps me out of jail! Thank you for understanding a life on hold to care for a child who may never be “normal.”

  11. MommaJ

    I. So. Agree! Found out the other day that a neighbor, whom I thought was a friend, apparently gets irritated when I talk about my oldest being gifted. Why? Because she thinks I’m saying her kids aren’t smart. Dude. They aren’t as smart as my kid … but I doubt you’d trade me for that if you had to deal with all the side “benefits” of giftedness. Apparently she closed her ears when I shared those challenges. What. Ev. Er. BTW, you rock.

  12. Tara

    I just gave that “I’m tired speech” today. Navigating the giftedness to groups of teachers that are poorly trained (if at all) in the areas of giftedness is exhausting. Its exhausting finding the time to locate appropriate reading materials. Its exhausting navigating the lack of executive functioning. Its exhausting to contantly explain the overexcitabilities. And then, don’t get me started on complicating it even more on the 2E issues … okay I feel a bit better. I hope you do too 🙂

  13. Kim

    Thanks for the link, it made me face up to explaining to my new boyfriend, who is rational, functional and has the secret password to “normal” behavior, what this 2-E thing is. Thank goodness we live a time zone apart, so it can sink in. Poor guy!
    Dear Unsuspecting New Boyfriend,

    Imagine, if you will, that you are in a Ferrari–take a moment to run your hands over the sculpted dashboard, acquaint yourself with the cockpit, adjust the mirrors and settle into the seat that cradles your butt with an iron grip. Seat belt on? Let’s take her for a spin.

    Your first destination is Point Zenith, it is atop the highest peak overlooking a quaint village. There are 26 check points along the way, to guide you through the labrynthine streets of the village and up to Zenith. The other cars are lined up at the starting gate, and there’s the flag–go!

    You touch your foot to the pedal and “poof” you’re at point Zenith. You have no idea how you got there. You look around, and you see the other cars snaking their way through the checkpoints. A couple of cars are leading the pack and are approaching checkpoint Delta, several cars are clustered at checkpoint Beta, and the majority of cars are bottlenecked at the first checkpoint Alpha. A few stragglers are chugging along at the rear, and one car is stalled at the starting gate.

    The race judge on Zenith tells you to go back and go through all the checkpoints. “Why?” you ask. The reason for checkpoints is to guide the drivers to point Zenith. You’re already here.

    “But, the rules state you must proceed through the checkpoints in order to get to Zenith,” says the judge.

    The spirit of the rules is to direct drivers from the starting gate to the desired destination, Point Zenith, but they have suddenly become reasons unto themselves. You know that makes no sense. But your arguement goes no where with the judge.

    So here you sit idling, in a magic Ferrari, full tank of gas, that will instantly take you to your second destination, “Luna”, but the judge has told you to go back and pass through all the check points. This high performance car isn’t designed to operate in first gear and as you head back down the hill it sputters, and bucks, and occasionally lurches forward nearly causing you to collide with cars coming in your direction, and then it jumps past some check points, and you have to circle around to hit them. Now the checkpoints are out of order and you have lost track of which ones you still need to visit. Finally, after making sure you’ve got them all at least once, you’re back down at the starting gate.

    By now, you’re exhausted, angry and frustrated. Everyone else is either at Zenith or getting there. You touch the gas pedal and “poof” you’re at “Sol” one stop past “Luna.” Oh shit! How did that happen?

    This is my life. This is my brain. I don’t know if I can explain to you how I magically know things or can do things. When I can or do, I feel as if I haven’t earned them and don’t deserve them. On the other hand, when I try to conform and do things the way they should be done, I am utterly lost and confused.

    Part of me lives in despair, because I’ve never known what to do with this fucking Ferrari. And to put sugar in the tank, because I don’t get to Zenith or Luna or Sol the conventional way, or even in a way I completely understand, I can be standing on it and think I’m lost, or can be lost and have no idea how to get unlost, because there are not standard checkpoints when you go my way.

    All of this is allegorical, of course, but it’s the best way I know how to describe the confusion that is my life.

    The condition I have is called being “Twice Exceptional” usually abbreviated as “2-E”, and because God has a sense of humor, my son has it too. The simplest definition is that we’re gifted idiots. There is no IQ score for us because part of our brains are Einsteins and other parts are practically dead they’re so dysfunctional. An average IQ is 100 — a standard deviation is 15 points in either direction. If you are two or more standard deviations below 100 you are learning disabled. If you are two or more standard deviations above 100 you are considered gifted.

    But what if you are three, four or, in DS’s case, NINE standard deviations apart from yourself? That is our world.

    Please ask questions!!! Because this manifests itself daily in our lives.

    Love, me

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