Disagreeing with Shakespeare

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Gift, Box - Free images on Pixabay

What’s the alternative to gift?

Rose Red | Free Stock Photo | A red rose | # 17731

Rotten Banana


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet….” Maybe, but none would smell it if you called it a rotten banana instead of a rose. I’m just suggesting that the Bard may not have hit the nail on the head on this one.

Let me explain. We persistently use the term “gifted” to mean, as our State Plan for the Education of Gifted and Talented says it:

 a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment

What’s the alternative to that? Here are some possibilities: not gifted; ungifted; without gifts; giftless; impoverished; anti-gifted; ordinary; unremarkable? Are any of those words you would like used to describe your child? No! We think of them as insults. But when we talk about giftedness, we talk as though being gifted is being superior, elite, privileged, and above.

Why are we doing this?

If we don’t change our language, we won’t change our mindset. Gifted education exactly parallels special education. When kids have a learning difference that is such that their needs will not be met without intervention, we identify and place them in a service to help meet those needs. We would never–and should never!–refer to children receiving special education services as inferior, unimportant, or dregs. WHY are we doing the reverse to “gifted” children?

Now, I realize that’s a lot of whining without a solution. Oh, I have solutions! What if we changed the term gifted to “cognitive difference.” (I actually like “cognitive deviant,” but my colleagues shot that one down.) Would people brag about it then? “Guess what, Mrs. Jones. MY child is in the Cognitively Different Program at his school. Aren’t you jealous?” It would be a lot harder sell.

So, Shakespeare, I respectfully disagree. There’s a lot in a name. Portraits of Shakespeare - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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