Our perspective on giftedness and talent has evolved! The old, or 1980s view: 1) simply categorized people as gifted or not gifted, 2) wrongly portrayed giftedness as a stable characteristic, and 3) sought more tomeasure giftedness and talent than to develop it.
Today, the gifted education field has begun to speak more of talent development rather than the gifted and talented. Here’s what Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis say about giftedness in their important book,Light Up Your Child’s Mind:
“The traditional approach to the study of gifted children might lead one to believe that giftedness is magically bestowed on a child, a golden chromosome she does or does not have . . . . To the contrary, studies show that giftedness is not an absolute or static state of being but a dynamic condition that can occur if an appropriate interaction takes place between a child and a particular area of human endeavor . . . . [T]he coming together of three attributes is what provides the fertile ground for the development of gifted behaviors. Those three attributes are above-average ability, task commitment, and creativity.”
What can schools and parents do to encourage gifted behavior? “Interests matter,” say Renzulli and Reis. “In fact, so often when a child is given the chance and encouragement to pursue his interest in a focused and self-determined way, to stretch and challenge himself to do his best work, he pulls himself up to a higher standard.” Piaget once defined the principal goal of education as “creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.” Fair enough, but for a child to pursue an interest in a focused and self-determined way, or to “do new things” clearly requires skills that go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. What are these skills? According to Renzulli and Reis, they include an ability to:
-analyze and select from various sources of information;
-approach the unpredictable with confidence;
-take appropriate chances—“safe risks”—in uncharted waters;
-confront, clarify, and act on situations imaginatively and constructively;
-apply the world’s knowledge—today instantly accessible by logging on to the Internet—in ways that promote critical thinking, infectious enthusiasm, self-motivation, and genuine problem solving; and
-cooperate with others while remaining true to an emerging personal system of attitudes, beliefs, and values.
We at Feynman School are looking forward to seeing what diverse interests our students bring to school this year, and helping them pursue them as far as they can go. Wishing everyone a wonderful 2013-2014 school year.