Myths About Gifted Students

Myth 1: Gifted students should be with students their own age.

Truth: Gifted students need opportunities to be together with their intellectual peers, no matter what their age difference.

Myth 2: Gifted students should be in same-age heterogeneous classes.

Truth: Research that supports this claim is virtualy nonexistant.  Imagine all of the opportunities students have to interact with other people outside of school.  Church, sports, clubs, meals, camps…[why should school be any different?  A very wise 16 year old young man once told me “school and parents should be preparing kids for real life and a lot of what they think is right isn’t accomplishing that.”] Sacrificing learning and creating frustration based on the myth of needing same-age heterogeneous classes is unethical.

Myth 3: Gifted students should be perfectly well-rounded.

Truth: Much of the research on successful gifted adults has revealed that they spent considerable amounts of time, often alone, working in their areas of passion as children. We should encourage and nurture other interests in the child rather than send the message that they are unacceptable as they are.

Myth 4: Being gifted is something you are just born with.

Truth: Talent development takes hard work and some failure.  Not everything comes easily to gifted students.  They need to learn study skills, test taking strategies, and the rewards of self-discipline.

Myth 5: Everyone [in the field of gifted education] is an expert on [all facets of] giftedness.

Truth: The field of gifted studies is quite small, often yielding professionals in the field who are called on to be experts in numerous areas.  Many in the field were once gifted students themselves and that supposedly makes us familiar with gifted students’ lives, but times have changed, information has changed, and we truly have no idea, unless we listen to the gifted students of today. We need to broaden the field of gifted study so that students can be better served by those who specialize in the study of their needs, rather than relying on a model that requires its experts to know a little about everything associated with the field.

Myth 6: Adults know what gifted students experience.

Truth: Times have changed.  We have to listen to our kids.

Myth 7: Being too smart in school is a problem…

Truth: Sadly, the anti-intellectual culture of schools reflects our society’s underevaluation of high levels of achievement and the often mentioned, intuitively based association of high levels of intellectual ability with low levels of morality. The consequence of this myth is nurturing incredibly high percentages of underachievers.  Many American students with gifts and talents have developed social coping strategies that take up time and energy, limit their opportunities, cause them to make bad decisions, retard their learning, and threaten their lives. These behaviors and beliefs make perfect sense when one perceives the mixed messages about being gifted in their school’s social milieu.  We must provide support for these children as they navigate the anti-intellectual contexts in which they spend much of their time.

Myth 8: All kids are gifted/no kids are gifted.

Truth: Being gifted eventually has to be in something.  While all kids are great, terrific, valuable, and depending on your beliefs, perhaps even a gift from God, they are not all gifted in the way the term is used in the field.  Giftedness is not an annointment of value.  Someone who shows extraordinary ability for high levels of performance when young and who has been provided appropriate opportunities to demonstrate talent development that exceeds normal levels of performance is gifted.

If we challenge these myths with examples of good research, provide appropriate counseling, and create learning environments where students with gifts and talents can thrive, then many of these myths can be eliminated.

adapted and quoted from Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Kids: Understanding and Guiding Their Development by Tracy L. Cross, Ph.D. The Nations Leading Authority on the Psychology of Gifted Children