Four Of The Most Frequent Questions About Gifted Children (Part III: Is There a Contradiction Between Materializing The Child’s Giftedness And Letting The Child Be a Child?)
A few weeks ago I was invited to the “Committee for Children’s Rights” of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to discuss the subject of “Characteristics of the [Israeli] examinations for giftedness identification and the ‘industry’ of preparation for them” (The protocol of this meeting which was released to the press can be found in http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/committees/Children/News/Pages/mada71117.aspx). In addition to the head of the committee, MP [=Member of Parliament] Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton from Kulanu (Hebrew: כולנו, literally: All of Us), a centrist political party led by Moshe Kahlon that focuses on economic and cost-of-living issues. The only one other MP present was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Uri Maklev, MP for the Haredi party Degel HaTorah, which together with Agudat Yisrael forms the United Torah Judaism list. It is quite interesting that the only MP who took enough interest in gifted children was Haredi, while Haredi, namely Ultra-Orthodox children, neither participate in the identification-for-giftedness process in Israel nor get any special education for the gifted… Dr. Dr. Shasha-Biton opened the discussion saying: What do I expect from a grade 2 child? Do his parents have to demand that he gives up his childhood and starts memorizing countries’ capitals, that he learns the multiplication table two years before his peers? That he gives up playing, a necessary stage of learning? [ibid. My translation form Hebrew – H.D.] It is amazing that one of the very first questions raised by the educator Dr. Shasha-Biton was whether the title “gifted” and “taking the child away from his ‘normal’ environment, and ‘putting’ him where everybody is gifted does not ‘harm’ his everyday childhood activities”. This question, asked by an expert educator shows that there is still is still a common belief about the “contradiction between learning and playing, reading and ‘being a child’, achieving highly and enjoying free activities, friends, sports, and the like”. Another question that was raised by Dr. Shasha-Biton was about the age when identification of giftedness is done in Israel: it is either in grade 2 or 3, which means for children 7-9-year old. Shasha-Biton mentioned the phenomenon of late bloomers, but also added that this age might be too early, as “the child in still very young”. Both remarks demonstrate the fact that almost everything that has to do with giftedness still belongs to the domain of “thinking”, “assuming” and “believing” – as was the case about 100 years ago, in 1916, when the study of giftedness started with the longitudinal studies of the late Dr. Louis Terman. It should be noted that the systematic study of psychology started but a few years earlier, with the first publications of Dr. Sigmund Freud, the father pf psychoanalysis, but while psychology has gone a very long way since – its “poor relative”, psychology of the gifted, has remained in the dark. Though millions of scientific works – books and journal articles in this scientific field have been published, many – too many educators ignore them, and still act as if giftedness has been JUST a matter of “learning fast”, “high IQ”, or “a special gift in academic of artistic area”. Had each educator read even one published research about psychology of giftedness, issues such as “harming the child’s childhood” or “is 8 not too young for being identified as gifted” would not have been raised. Every child needs stimulation; all children are born curious, wish to learn, to broaden their horizons. Gifted children need many more available fields of in interest, activities and challenges, and are usually much more intense, energetic, willing to absorb than their “regular” peers. Giving them what they need does not mean that they are privileged; they are entitled to learn in school just like everybody else, and if school is boring – they should get better education that suits their needs rather than “wait a little longer”. Waiting results, in almost all cases, either by “killing the child’s curiosity” or wish to learn. In other cases – boredom is the main reason of behavioral problems of gifted children. So dear Dr. Shasah-Biton and many other politicians, educators and policy-makers: it is time either to read about giftedness – both its psychology and pedagogy, and listen to the experts in this field. If you find it hard – please, try to listen at least to parents of gifted children,
Ms. Meital Sagi, The coalition for gifted children: We established this organization because many parents of gifted children felt that their children do not get an answer to their needs in the existing system. They are born with special needs; school grades do not interest them; they have [special] social needs and many sensitivities and they do not get an answer at any [educational] stage. The only place where they can have an opportunity to speak the same language as their peers is once a week, in the enrichment program, but they get no emotional support [there]. [ibid, my translation – H.D.]
It is high time programs for the gifted will stop dealing with theoretical questions that do not change the situation, and start train both psychologists and teachers in psychology and didactics of giftedness for those already identified as gifted rather than waste time asking whether a certain child is “indeed” gifted or a certain program is “including everybody it should”.
Hanna David received her PhD, "magna cum laude", from Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München and was a college lecturer in Psychology and literature. Dr. Dav
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