Previously I have blogged about the paradox of us and them, and how this skews perspectives, often resulting in a lack of understanding and inclusion of our gifted learners. Today I would like to extend on this further, delving more deeply into the notion of identity and culture, offering a way to overcome the persistent viewpoint of division which is so obvious through the prevalent myths surrounding the concept of giftedness, and by association, gifted education - and not just here in New Zealand.
I propose, in line with Call’s (n.d.) notion of gifted identity, that we broaden our conception of cultures within our learning spaces, explicitly exploring with our young people, the concept of identity; what it is and how this ties into the notion of culture, and how giftedness is one possible identity with which to relate. It is, I am vehemently adamant, our place to nurture identity development in an overt and affirming way which is inclusive of cultural groups in the broadest sense - this means gifted culture too. As Arnett emphasises (as cited in Gobbo and Shmulsky, 2016, p. 1), “identity, one's definition of the self, is a cornerstone of wellness”, making this a critical feature of ethical care in education (and within the health sector).
Further to this, I submit that we need to support learners with a gifted identity to recognise that they are part of a wider culture. While some may argue otherwise, it stands to reason that “groups that are marginalized in society share distinctive features of identity development as they define themselves amidst a broader culture” (Mio, Barker & Tumambing, as cited in Gobbo and Shmulsky, 2016, p. 1). It is therefore, also our responsibility as ethical practitioners to support learners “to recognize why they are members of the gifted culture and what they are going to* experience as members of this cultural group ... to allow students to retain the attributes of their ... diversity while helping them to see the commonalities of the potential they share with other students” (Kaplan, 2011, p. 65). There are great examples of this being done in practice already, for example the personal development content strand within the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education’s curriculm.
However, there is an important caveat to this. Armstrong-Willcocks (M. Armstrong-Willcocks, personal communication, July 16, 2019) brings to our attention the role of insider and outsider perspectives as it relates to identity development in the gifted, drawing parallels with varied viewpoints in relation to those on the Autism spectrum. This aligns with Call’s (n.d.) invitation to recognise that it is only the learner’s themselves that can decide whether they deem their giftedness to be an aspect of self which is congruent with their developing sense of identity (see Table 1). It is really important that we do not lay identities on our young people and their families and whānau, but rather facilitate a self-determining process of relatedness through shared dialogue, expressed values, and role-modeling.
* or may
Table 1: Gifted Label vs Gifted Identity (Call, n.d.