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Aren’t All Children Gifted?

Many people believe that all children are gifted.  This, in turn, becomes a reason not to invest in gifted education.

The misbelief that all children are gifted involves several issues:

1)    Equity vs. excellence – Achieving quality education for all (equity) and achieving high standards in education (excellence) are erroneously viewed as opposite, irreconcilable goals.  Educational resources are viewed as a fixed quantum, from which any investment in gifted education must necessarily be subtracted.  This is simply not true. [Gifted education: Enriching the Classroom]  Just as special education does not ‘take away’ resources from mainstream education, gifted education can not only be part of mainstream education, but can enrich it, as well.

2)    Multiple intelligences – Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has increasingly found proponents across the world.  His theory is often mis-interpreted and mis-applied to claim that ‘all children are gifted in some way.’  Gardner himself objected to the use of his theory in this way.  While it is important to acknowledge and nurture the full spectrum of abilities – including abilities that do not show up on conventional school exams or intelligence tests – this does not mean that all children are gifted.  If you remember giftedness is defined as performance or potential within the top 3% of the age-group – the claim that all children fall within this category in one field or the other simply does not make sense.  The Multiple Intelligence theory highlights the importance of exposing children to a variety of different materials, and giving them the opportunity to express themselves in different modalities.  It does not support the claim that all children are gifted.

Intelligence tests are flawed – This is another popular argument put forward by individuals who believe that all children are gifted.  A large and growing body of research suggests that intelligence tests do in fact measure what they are supposed to: quantitative and verbal reasoning ability.  These broad abilities not only correlate highly with academic success, but are also predictive of success in a range of other outcomes including higher education and career achievement.  At the same time, conventional intelligence tests have drawbacks including in some cases a heavy reliance on verbal or culture-specific content.  As well, a single test-score does not provide sufficient information about a child’s abilities.  It is important to develop instruments that are context-appropriate and culture-fair.  Find out more about the NIAS Gifted Education assessment method here.