Gifted. I’ve grown to hate that word. Especially what it implies. Is there really someone handing out talents wrapped up with ribbons to newborn babies, then withholding some from the next one, saying, “Nuh uh, only some people get this”? Of course not. There’s no gift involved. If giftedness does indeed exist, it’s a product of genetics, environment, and personality, not some heavenly beneficiary.
If I sound like some bitter person railing against the ‘nerds’, I’m not. I’m one of the ‘gifted’ students myself, to my chagrin. At least, a bunch of tests I suffered through when I was little say I am.
Contrary to what people say, being ‘gifted’ isn’t much of a gift. At times it can be more of a curse. Because I was ‘gifted’, I was sent to special classes, separated from other students. I felt different, marked. I had issues socializing with non-‘gifted’ children, although I don’t know how much of that was just my personality, to be honest. Anyway, people built this image of me and other ‘gifted’ kids as geniuses who could do no wrong. At school, we weren’t real people to them. And here’s the thing – I don’t think anyone’s gifted. Or maybe everyone is. I’ve not seen that many signs that I’m any smarter than the average person. At least not very. I think gifted students are placed on this pedestal, made bigger than they really are, when really it’s more a factor of their ambition and how hard they’re willing to work. I spend more time on schoolwork than my peers, so I get better grades. Does this mean I’m any smarter? Not really.
Not long ago, a counselor called me and three others into her office. “Do you know why you’re here?” she asked.
We shook our heads.
“You’re all gifted,” she told us.
“Isn’t everyone in our class?” I asked.
“No,” she answered, seeming surprised at the question.
This startled me. If you’re more than halfway through the junior year of the IB program and still alive, functioning, and turning in homework, you’re pretty special in my book. But here the four of us were. Different, apparently, singled out by test scores that really don’t mean anything.
The fact is, ‘gifted’ is just another label that divides us. Like ‘jock’. Like ‘popular’. Like ‘troubled’. People take one aspect of our personality and magnify it, make it all we are. And what’s worse is this is some of the earliest labeling we encounter. I was probably six when my IQ test said I was ‘special’. Shouldn’t we be trying to instill connections in children at six years instead of dividing them?
Different people like and work harder at different things, it’s true. Maybe there is some natural talent involved. But no-one handed me a box when I was born. Instead, testers tried to shove me into one. It’s time to stop dividing us, labeling us practically before we can talk. We don’t need to tell some kids that they’re more likely to succeed, while basically sending a message to the others that they’re not good enough. Children are under enough pressure these days, all right? Let us find our own ways. Because everyone is capable of doing amazing things, not just some of us. Not just the ones that fill the right bubbles or reach the right number of points on some test chock full of acronyms. Everyone is gifted. Which means no one is.
And that’s a good thing.