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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The NAGC’s ‘Bold Move’

This week the #gtchat session will focus on the implications of the NAGC’s decision to emphasise Talent Development rather than Giftedness

I noticed that, in preparation, Sprite had printed out a blog post by Lisa Conrad on her Gifted Parenting Support blog
The NAGC’s bold step and what it means for your gifted child http://giftedparentingsupport.blogspot.com/2011/11/nagcs-bold-step-and-what-it-means-for.html
It begins ” In her inaugural message to NAGC members, ‘Taking a Bold Step’, Olszewski-Kubilius states, “I suggest that we take a bold step and consider making talent development, rather than giftedness, the major unifying concept of our field and most importantly, the basis for our practice.” Critics were quick to contend that this was a bold statement for the new president of an organization which is considered to be all about giftedness rather than talent development; even going so far as to suggest it change its name.
Nothing less than a firestorm has erupted in online gifted communities”

As usual the Dabrowski Dogs and Columbus Cheetah had gathered around to read  the article and discuss it with her.

This is the conversation I overheard:

Sprite: What does this mean?

Imaginational: I think it means that they want to broaden their definitions so that more students will have their talents recognised and developed so that they can achieve highly in different areas.

Psycho Motor: Sounds good to me – they might recognise bouncing as a talent!

Sensual (scratching his head) I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right to me somehow.

Intellectual: Well it depends on your definitions of giftedness and talent, levels of giftedness, potential vs. achievement, nature vs. nurture and which development programs you are considering.
(Here Intellectual embarked on a lengthy discourse about definitions of giftedness etc, etc, etc… which could best be understood by visiting  Hoagies Gifted Education Page http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/ or Gifted Phoenix’s blog posts What are the key issues in Global Gifted and Talented Education? at http://giftedphoenix.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/hello-world-2/ and http://giftedphoenix.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/second-life-workshop-a-global-perspective-on-gifted-education/  )

Columbus Cheetah:  I am not sure what it all means. It is OK if it means they will keep Cheetah Programs and also have Fish Programs and Turtle Programs; but I hope it does not mean that Cheetah Programs will turn into Big Cat Programs, then into Feline Programs and end up as Animal Programs.

While Columbus Cheetah was saying this Imaginational was imagining the possible implications for Sprite considering that she is Twice Exceptional – identified as exceptionally gifted but with learning differences and disabilities which make it harder for her to demonstrate achievement and make her studies an exhausting experience for her.

Sprite: But what will it mean for me? Will I still be in The Program? People say I am in The Program because I am smart. Some of the kids in The Program are scary smart but I can keep up with them while we are just discussing and debating but not when we have to write about it. The tests said I was gifted but my work doesn’t look as if I am and I don’t think I have any talents to develop.

Emotional: You play the guitar.

Sprite: Yes, but that is only a hobby for fun. I am not a concert musician or anything.

Emotional: And you have great empathy and concern for the environment and people and animals and you have a good vocabulary and a quirky sense of humour and…

Intellectual: Don’t get worked up about it yet. They are going to discuss it on #gtchat http://www.ingeniosus.net/gtchat this week. We might find out then what it all means and how it will affect you.