What Seth Godin Doesn’t Understand about Gifted People : Goes the other way? I think not!

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When Seth Godin writes something people take notice. He is an entrepreneur, founder of ventures such as Yoyodyne and Squidoo and the author of bestsellers such as Linchpin and Purple cow. He has 184,000+ likes on his Facebook page and 246,500+ followers on Twitter.

So when he wrote this blog post at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/02/goestheotherway.html it caused consternation to many parents, teachers, service providers and advocates in the field of gifted education.

Here is the post in its entirety:

Actually, it goes the other way

Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.

It also caused consternation among the characters at Sprite’s Site.

I found Intellectual Dabrowski setting up experiments to test Seth Godin’s assertion.
He had called in the Psych-owl-ogist https://spritessite.wordpress.com/tag/psych-owl-ogist/  to provide background information and Myth Buster Columbus Cheetah to help sort facts from common misunderstandings.

“I have explained various aspects of giftedness” said the Psych-owl-ogist.
Here  https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/the-psych-owl-ogist-2/

Here https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-psych-owl-ogist-3/

And here https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-psych-owl-ogist-6/

I have discussed Prof Francoys Gagne’s DMGT model and how the various catalysts influence the development of innate giftedness into fully developed talent.
But you need to note that the talents are being developed from already existing giftedness.
Note that the arrow in the diagram points only in one direction!

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There is much emphasis today on talent development and that is good.
But talent must not be confused with giftedness.
Giftedness as the Columbus Group definition says is ‘asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm’.
Yes, there is evidence of plasticity of the brain and renewing or changing of neural pathways but becoming proficient at something will not by itself create that initial state of asynchronous development and heightened intensity.
Making good choices, developing good habits, practice and persistence are great character attributes for mastering a talent and should be encouraged.

But the problem I have is with the linking of giftedness to achievement and also the assertion that everyone is/can be gifted. Yes, everyone has areas of ability. Yes, everyone has talents which should be developed and encouraged. Yes everyone is of equal worth as a human being!!!

But no, everyone is not naturally academically gifted. As the film The Incredibles points out “If everyone is special – then no-one is” And if nobody is gifted then we do not need to make any special provisions for their education.
And as Columbus Cheetah says “All cheetahs are animals but very few animals are cheetahs!”

“So Columbus Cheetah and I have designed an experiment” said Intellectual Dabrowski “We know cheetahs are perfectly designed to run fast. They have the long legs, flexible arched spine and enlarged chest, nostrils and lungs.
If Seth Godin is correct we can give Caramel Cat and the Tortoise all the attributes of a cheetah through choice, habits and talent development.
Choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
Columbus Cheetah has painted cheetah spots on Caramel Cat and the Tortoise and will be conducting a rigorous regime of training (including concentrated flash carding) and practice, practice, practice in an attempt to produce a cheetah performance and thereby cause an alteration in the very anatomy and physiology of Caramel Cat and the Tortoise.”

“And why are the Pair O’Noids  here?” I asked

“Probably because they recognise Seth Godin as someone with much power to influence public opinion and are concerned that he may add to the myths surrounding giftedness that advocates are already trying to counter.
Also the phrase ‘Talents are labeled gifts’ probably reminds them of the Newspeak of Orwell’s 1984 and the changing chants in Animal Farm
They probably wonder whether Seth was testing public reaction and the reactions of various groups or trying to change opinion when he posted” said Intellectual

Seth Godin’s post was discussed on the Twitter Irish gifted  #gtie chat The transcript can be read here http://www.tweetdoc.org/View/65121/Gifted-vs-High-Achiever

Other blog posts written in reply to Seth’s post can be read here

Pamela Price Red, White & GrewTM
http://redwhiteandgrew.com/2013/02/23/what-seth-godin-doesnt-get-about-gifted/

Susanne Thomas Building Wing Span
http://buildingwingspan.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/what-seth-godin-doesnt-understand-about.html

Sara Wilson Watch Out for Gifted People
http://watchoutforgiftedpeople.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/id-for-love-you-to-be-right-seth-but.html

Mona Eby Chicks Life with intensity
http://lifewithintensity.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/gifted-is-about-starting-point.html

Peter Lydon Gifted and Talented Ireland
http://giftedandtalented.ie/index.php/2013/02/24/sething-it-all-wrong/

Kate Arms-Roberts
http://www.katearmsroberts.com/seth-godin-pissed-my-friends-off-and-he-was-wrong-too/

Jen Torbeck Merrill Laughing at Chaos
http://laughingatchaos.com/2013/02/25/actually-mr-godin-we-are-born-this-way/

Jeff Shoemaker Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher
http://ramblingsofagiftedteacher.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/seth-just-doesnt-get-it/

Kim Modolfsky The Maker Mom
http://www.themakermom.com/2013/02/understanding-gifted-kids.html 

Lisa Rivero writing a post for Psychology Today
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201302/actually-it-goes-both-ways

This post has been nominated as one of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Rapid Responses to the topic “All children are gifted” To read more responses to this topic see
http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/resources/parent-and-professional-resources/articles/are-all-children-gifted/

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Advocacy 2

Intellectual Dabrowski greeted me at the entrance to Sprite’s Site with the phone in his mouth and a determined expression in his eyes.
“You need to phone the school now and make an appointment to meet them and discuss Sprite’s education plan!” he said.
I realised with surprise that a month had passed since our previous discussion about the topic!

“But I have not finished reading Derrin Cramer’s new book Beginner’s Guide to Life on the Bright Side yet” I said.

And now I also want to read Jen Merrill’s book If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional  http://www.laughingatchaos.com/i-wrote-a-book/ which can be bought from Amazon at

 http://www.amazon.com/This-Gift-Can-Send-Back/dp/0615648789/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1343960784&sr=8-6&keywords=jen+merrill

“Then make the appointment for three days time and get reading!” ordered Intellectual.

(‘It’s that bossy attitude which has delayed your start as a Read to Me Dog in a classroom or library’ I thought)

“I want to co-operate with the school to get the best possible solutions for Sprite.  And I do not want the school to think I am one of THOSE parents!” I told Intellectual.
“So tomorrow I am going to participate in the Global #gtchat powered by TAGT first annual back-to-school chat, “Collaboration, Not Confrontation: Parents and Teachers Working Together.” Special guest panel includes TAGT members Dr. Lynette Breedlove, Angie French and David Sebek and later I will join the follow-up session to discuss the lessons learned. And then I can read through the transcript later at http://www.txgifted.org/gtchat-transcripts

“OK” grumbled Intellectual “but just don’t put it off for too long – the provisions that are in place at the moment are beginning to look a bit frayed and worn thin!”