Putting the “I” in Gifted

young woman studying on laptop

A child who excels in an area such as math or music – or who is just all-around good at everything they attempt – is often simply called, with a knowing look exchanged between adults, “gifted.” These kids get openly designated as such and put into special classes and programs that allow their special skills to flourish.

My own flirtation with being called academically gifted happened in elementary school, when I was chosen to participate in a small group of kids who got to leave regular classes for a few hours a week to learn about more advanced subjects. I asked my mom about this recently and she has no recollection of it. Looking back, I am left to assume that since nothing further came of it, it was determined that I was not, in fact, gifted after all, and was left to settle back into life as a regular kid. (Luckily, my ego remains healthily intact.)

It makes sense to identify children’s exceptional skills and allow them to devote more time to develop them. Still, classifying some as “gifted” but not others has always struck me as an unintended insult to the latter group. Even the word has a certain connotation; the idea of a gift is something every kid wants. If other kids got some mysterious, unattainable present and they didn’t, they must have done something wrong.

A book released this year, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman, explores the idea that traditional measures of intelligence can miss an awful lot. The author himself had to repeat third grade after a low IQ test – but due to a particularly supportive teacher, he was considered “gifted” by the time he hit high school.

As beacons for adult learners giving themselves a chance to succeed academically, online colleges in particular are full of success stories of people who were told they were anything but gifted as children, yet went on to earn honors in college. Ashford University is no exception. Despite being on academic probation as a high school freshman, Meredith Costa graduated from Ashford with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science and was recently accepted into prestigious Ivy League university Columbia for grad school. Jennifer Tustin was once a high school dropout who is now earning her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications with a spot on the Dean’s List and membership in two honor societies. And despite having severe dyslexia, Hal McPherson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Management at Ashford and is back pursuing a Master of Arts in Organizational Management. He, too, earned a spot on the Dean’s list.

As Kaufman’s book and these people prove, being told you are gifted is great – but, as children should be encouraged and adults reminded of, we can gift ourselves just as well simply by believing in our own abilities.


Written By: Lorelei Plotczyk
Lorelei is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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