Does Giftedness Matter?

Scott Barry Kaufman in Scientific American:

GiftThe thing is, the whole concept of giftedness was, from the very beginning of its inception, tied to educational outcomes. When Lewis Terman invented the concept*, he made giftedness synonymous with high IQ scores (on his own test, of course), and linked it to high achievement (genius). What seems to be going on here (and I document this trend in my book Ungifted), is that a sizable proportion of the gifted and talented community– mostly clinicians who actually work with such children on a daily basis– fundamentally conceptualize giftedness as something very different than high achievement, and often also very different from high cognitive ability. Now, don't get me wrong: I could get behind this newer conceptualization of giftedness. What this particular segment of the gifted and talented community seem to be describing as giftedness– exquisite sensitivity to the environment— certainly is a particular dimension of human variation that is important, and most certainly has substantial variation, like the rest of human personality differences.

But here's the thing: I think in order for this new conceptualization of giftedness to be tractable, it should have more clearly delineated properties, better measurement, and it should also be more clearly tied to particular educational interventions. What can you specifically do to support children who “experience the world intensely”? How do you identify that unique population in the first place, independent of IQ tests, academic achievement, and other very non-experiencing-oriented assessments? From a scientist's point of view, and even from a pragmatists point of view, I don't know what to do with this new definition of giftedness. How do you know what other people really feel, or how intensely they feel it? You know your own qualia, and that's it.

More here.

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