While reading an article by Valerie Strauss in the September 6, 2017 Washington Post entitled The Fundamental Things We Aren't Teaching Our Kids, I began thinking a lot about the gifted perspective, and what we might be missing as we teach and parent gifted kids.
Gifted kids often do well academically, and many of them express that their parents and teachers expect them to do well, too. Many gifted kids may even secretly believe that their academic prowess is a measure of their innate worth as a human being. They understand that the adults in their lives want them to be happy, but may not understand that the heavy emphasis on one’s personal academic achievement is only part of the picture, and a recent development, as well -- a valuing of the “me” over the “we”. In the words of the author, “The current narrow focus on success has not been the norm. In fact, throughout most of our history, the primary charge for parents (and grandparents) was to raise good community members and responsible citizens. Similarly, until the last century, the chief mission of most schools and colleges in this country has not been promoting academic achievement, but forming individuals who are respectful, responsible citizens.” (On a side note -- many educators attest that the narrowing of the curriculum in today’s schools -- often eliminating or reducing social studies curricula -- may have diminished the understanding of what it means to be a responsible citizen.)
The author goes on to state that, “For decades, we have neglected to do something fundamental for any healthy society — raise children who prioritize leading an ethical life, including caring for others and for the common good.” An ethical life is a life filled with compassion and action, a life filled with “doing good”.
Though past and current events are rife with examples of man’s inhumanity to man, recent events such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma also illustrate the beauty and importance in caring for others, and for the common good. I am heartened by these developments, and see them as perfect teaching examples -- a channeling of Mr. Rogers “Look for the Helpers,” if you will. Gifted children are often acutely sensitive to “Weltschmerz” (world pain), and struggle with complex and deep emotional reactions to cruelty, inaction, pain, and injustice in our world, which can leave them feeling hopeless and helpless. But parents and educators can help. Raising compassionate and confident children requires time, effort, practice, and patience, and many parents and experts have reported that these strategies work:
As always, I hope that this foray into other ideas, and then linking them to the gifted perspective, has made you think. I welcome hearing from you!
Past President, WATG
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.