[personal profile] philobiblius
I have touched upon the label war off and on for many years, here and elsewhere. I strongly favor keeping the word we have for children of high potential: gifted.

I do not say this because I like the word - I don't. Nor do I say it because I like labeling children - I don't. I say it because labeling seems to be the only way to get services and losing the label gifted seems likely to make getting those services no easier and likely harder.

This is what I wrote in 2007:
One of the most commonly mentioned drawbacks concerns what would happen if your child is labeled gifted by the school. Depending on the speaker at the time, you may end up with a conceited and unpleasant child, one who thinks that s/he is better than the others in class, a child who gets picked on and bullied for the label, or even a child who is doomed to failure due to the excessive pressure placed on the child’s shoulders.

I have to admit, your child may be conceited. Your child may think s/he is better than the others in class. Your child may get picked on or be bullied. And your child may suffer from the feeling of excessive pressure on his or her shoulders.

None of this is particularly connected to the use of the term gifted by the schools.

Conceit: If you consistently know more than others around you, can answer questions they cannot, read books that they find too difficult, or use words that they do not understand, then there is a distinct chance that you may become conceited.

Better: When the teacher shows your work off, telling everybody to follow your example, when you are chosen for competitions, when you are the only student designated to tutor others during class, then you may well find yourself believing that you are the best student in the class.

Bullied: Should other kids notice that you talk funny, dress funny, act funny, look funny, or anything else different from them, then there is a clear possibility that you will be bullied. If you are used by other kids’ parents as an example, they may well resent you and bullying may follow.

Pressured: How you see the world and its troubles, and what you perceive as a response to those problems can cause some pressure. The belief that you need to do something about it will put pressure on your shoulders every time.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the gifted label causes none of that. Children have been conceited since before the word gifted came into the language. Similarly, they have been singled out for their accomplishments when compared to classmates, been bullied for being different, and have felt huge pressure to change the world – all without ever being called gifted by the schools, their parents, or anybody else.
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As is my wont, I wish to harken back to history - to the period in which Guy Montrose Whipple led our field from one term to another:
First,what number of children in an ordinary school system can be termed supernormal children? Evidently the answer to this question must be: it depends on what you mean by "supernormal." I prefer not to use the term "supernormal" at all.In the minds of many persons the term "supernormal" carries a vague implication also of the abnormal. To be supernormal means that you are somehow outside the realm of the normal (outside of the healthy or desirable). A supernormal child is a freak, a child prodigy, an unwholesome hydrocephalic creature, an anemic, hothouse product whose youthful precocity is no whit more striking than his subsequent decline into mediocrity, if not into eccentricity or downright insanity. But the "gifted children"(which appears to be a better designation) of whom we are speaking are wholesome, competent children with sound bodies, lively ambitions -- whose future, when properly trained, only fulfills the promise of early years. (9/11/1920)


The modern Chinese still use "supernormal," with some claims that it does not touch on the nature vs. nurture debate. We clearly don't use that term, or at least not when it comes to children.

What other words might we use, if not "gifted" or "supernormal?"

"Exceptional" and "Special" are in use already. "Genius" is both wrong and worse than gifted. "Superior" doesn't seem to cut it. "Highly intelligent" might work for some purposes, but in a world of Multiple Intelligences or even Marland's 1972 definition of gifted, there would seem to be far more to the term "gifted" than intelligence of any height includes.

"Academically advanced" suffers from that problem and also precludes the inclusion of underachievers - while "academically advanced underachiever" makes sense to me, I suspect I am in the minority.

What do you think of "precocious?" If kids hate the gifted label (and some do), how do you suppose they will like "precocious?" Clever, smart, brilliant... none of those would be any more accepted, yet none of them covers the ground fully.

Superman!? Maybe not.

High potential.

I could live with that - it is wordier, but in some ways clearer.

But... imagine the reception the "High Potential Students" program would get from parents - "Are you saying my child does not have high potential?!"

This, then, is the crux of the matter.

We need a term that is not domain specific, but which can be applied to individual domains.

We need a term that is inclusive of non-academic realms.

We need a non-contentious term. (Not happening!)

I suggest we try the word "gifted."

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”). To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm
 photo Hoagies_Blog_Hop-G-word.jpg

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Some links to my prior entries somewhat on the topic:
http://philobiblius.dreamwidth.org/1634.html
http://philobiblius.dreamwidth.org/5861.html
http://philobiblius.dreamwidth.org/7199.html
http://philobiblius.dreamwidth.org/7439.html
http://philobiblius.dreamwidth.org/9742.html

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