Sething It All Wrong 15

Seth Godin has a trippy blog and a few other sites. He has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages. I’ve been reading Linchpin and quite enjoying some of the messages he offers about being an artist at whatever you do.

Anyway, all was well and good until he posted this little beauty

Actually, it goes the other way
Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.

Let’s ignore the obvious flaws in the logic that suggest that if I develop a cocaine habit I am, in fact, gifted and cut straight to the chase.

This is the second time in a month that someone of note (one in Ireland, the other, the US) has used the term ‘gifted’ without actually knowing (or appearing to know) anything about what it actually means.

So, once more around the mulberry bush…

All children are born with ‘gifts’ (even if their only gift is that they were born)

‘Gifted’ means a child has the ability to perform at a very high level in one or more areas of endeavour (physical, intellectual, artistic, musical etc) and they have certain personality characteristics that are common to other ‘gifted’ children though vary in extent but which are different from the rest of the population. (this is my working definition).

‘Talented’ means an individual has practiced SO much, they are competent or even excel at a particular endeavour.

Can a person who is not born gifted but becomes talented ever become gifted. No.

Can a person who is born gifted ever become talented. Yes – but they have to work.

If a person who is born gifted but doesn’t work and so doesn’t become talented, can they lose their giftedness. Nope – but it can become harder to become talented.

Can a person who is not born gifted but who gets lots of stimulation ever become so talented that they appear gifted? Yes – but only to an untrained eye. This maybe why high achievers are sometimes mistaken by teachers for being gifted. Joan Freeman writes about how children of average ability from middle class backgrounds often achieve better than gifted children from working class backgrounds.

Can a person be born talented? Babies and toddlers are talented at being babies and toddlers  We expect them to be able to do all the things that vast research on the development of babies tells us babies should be able to do – 1 month – lift their head when lying on a tummy, 2 months – gurgles and make cute baby sounds and so on. New parents are especially ‘talented’ a freaking out if their child misses some of these ‘milestones’ (usually failing to see they are averages).

Beyond 3 years of age, and so long as everything seems in place, we let go a little of our concern over milestones. We don’t forget them completely them. What we tend to ignore is the things that the literature and parenting books don’t tell you.

Nothing will tell you that if your child teaches themselves to read at 2 years of age (no mummy flashcards involved) they may be gifted. Nothing tells you that if your child only sleeps 5 hours  yet is still full of energy and there is no medical reason why they just do not sleep 10 hours like every other normal baby, that they may be gifted. Nothing tells you that if your 6 year old knows more about the origins of World War I and II than the average Leaving Certificate student (18 years of age) that they may be gifted. And nothing prepares you for what lies ahead when your 8 year old is working out algebra and likes it.

Certainly, children who can perform intellectually above their age-peers have learned the material that is evidence of that performance. You can call that talent. What is missing is identifying why they were able to do this in the first instance. Most 6 year-olds have no interest in World War I, assuming they have even heard of it. Most 8 year- olds just.should.not.know.algebra. ! (if you know what I mean!). This, you can call ‘gifted’.

And it is not that they have just learned some information like an unthinking automaton, but that they have a deep comprehension of what they have learned and that they can transfer that learning to other areas of interest.

These children are born gifted; if they receive the appropriate ability-level education, they become talented earlier. If they don’t, a whole world of problems develop that people, who often don’t ‘get’ gifted have to try solve.

If gifted was a gift, you imagine you could send it back

Wouldn’t it be great (and easier) if people just knew what gifted was?

 ..I didn’t cover everything; here are some people Seth could learn from

Life with Intensity
Red, White and Grew
Watch Out For Gifted People
Building Wing Span
Laughing at Chaos
Kate Arms-Roberts
Sprite’s Site
Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher
Lisa Rivero at Psychology Today



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