This is the story of two young men. Age peers, but there the similarities diverged, much like the path in the woods. This is the story of Goofus and Gallant.
Gallant was a fine young chap, admired by his peers and adored by adults. He was the best at nearly everything he tried, and actively worked to be so. He seemed to effortlessly balance advanced classes, leadership roles, volunteer work, paid employment, and anything else expected of him. When participating in class, he could advance the discussion with a well-considered idea on the topic. He would have appropriate answers to the teachers’ questions, usually replying in detail. Gallant absorbed information, usually mastered new concepts in a half-dozen or so repetitions, and enjoyed the view from the top of the group. Getting As in class was important to him, and he was generally pleased with his success in school. He had many friends, usually in his grade, and appreciated the complex humor they all enjoyed. Overall, Gallant was the very model of successful young man, and his future was very bright.
Goofus was quite different from his classmate. Teachers tried, but they had a hard time understanding the young man in front of them. He was obviously quite bright, but didn’t seem to work hard enough for all he knew, and if he were so smart, why couldn’t he <fill in the blank>. When he was interested in something, he dove in deeply and completely, but if were a subject in which he had no interest, well…Goofus had no interest in “playing the game.” He drove teachers ’round the bend with profound questions they never saw coming (and usually left them gobsmacked), and class discussions with him could easily go off the rails when he shared his complex and abstract ideas on the topic at hand. His quirky and abstract humor was legendary, both for it’s ability to draw from multiple disciplines and because most of his classmates didn’t get it. He would answer questions with a depth and perception beyond his age, mainly orally; when answers were required in writing he struggled mightily to share his thoughts, almost as if there were a logjam between his mind and the blank page. When learning something new, Goofus only needed a few repetitions to have mastered it, spending the remaining time lost in his head, playing with the information to see what else it could teach him or inventing something entirely new. He had few friends at school, but out in the real world had friends of all ages through his favorite intellectual activities. Goofus wasn’t motivated by grades (though he certainly heard a lot about their importance from his parents), but was far more self-critical about his learning than most of his peers; he knew how much he didn’t know and it bothered him. Overall, Goofus was the focus of a lot of concern, and the adults in his life just hoped he could somehow be successful in his own way.
Goofus and Gallant.
Who is the gifted young man, and who the high-achieving?
Gifted and high-achieving are not one and the same, despite what you might read or hear or see. Yes, they absolutely can overlap, but the Venn diagram of the two is not a complete circle; more like a sliver of a really rich dessert. It’s just so much easier to see high-achieving. I mean, it’s right there! You can’t miss it when you see a student ranked at the top in so many ways. But that’s mainly outer success, a work ethic, self-discipline. Giftedness? My god, so different. I’ve said it so many times I’m sick of myself: gifted is wiring, how an individual observes, interprets, and responds to the outside world. As I wrote in that post I know you didn’t click through to read:
People? What are we doing to our best and brightest? I mourn this young man because he is…he is the child we’re raising now. Every time I read Perlstein’s observation of his friend, “he always seemed too sensitive for this world we happen to live in,” my heart breaks anew for our gifted sons and daughters. They are not gifted because they can do higher level math, or write complex computer code, or read and understand and discuss Chaucer. They are gifted because that is who they are. They are not, I repeat NOT, the product of their talents. Giftedness is not always a gift; too often it is a burden. To carry that burden alone, seeing and tasting and feeling the world a different way, while being lauded only for what you produce, for what you give to the world…
Gifted children and adults are not gifted for what they do, they just are. And it is dangerous and negligent to forget that. To focus solely on talents and eminence reduces a person’s very being down to “what have you done for me (society) lately,” and “you’re only gifted if what you produce is worthwhile (to society).” No. I demand more than this. I demand more than this for my son, for your son, for all of our gifted children struggling in this world. Struggling against poor educational fit, against bullying, against a society that thinks these children are not gifted unless they produce and produce in volume. Gifted is. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Goofus and Gallant.
Gifted and high-achieving.
Hidden in plain sight, at the top for all to see.
One is not better than the other.
Today’s post is part of January’s GHF blog hop. I encourage you to visit the other writers.