Diversity – a word often used with reference to gifted learners.
Yes – but what does it mean in practice – in day to day living?
When you are a little gifted child, you probably don’t yet know the word “diverse”. But you do know the word “different”. And for you, that’s a word that can all too often mean “I don’t belong”. Half the time the other kids just don’t seem to understand what you’re talking about, they laugh at really silly things and don’t see what’s really funny, they like boring games and won’t join in yours, and on top of all that, the teacher keeps asking you to do things you already know and doesn’t seem to like you asking questions. Being different, it seems, is just not a good thing to be. It’s difficult to feel positive about the things that make you ”different”. So is diversity really and inevitably a handicap, a sort of punishment inflicted on a child for being “diverse”?
Our schools today put an emphasis on “inclusive education” and talk a great deal about “celebrating diversity”, and that’s a surely a good thing. But somehow gifted children seem to get left out of the definition. Inclusion for different cultures, inclusion for disabilities, now inclusion for differently gendered youngsters. But for gifted children? The cartoon sums up the message too many of our gifted little ones get from their early years onwards.
And yet we bigger people know that the diversity embodied in giftedness is the source of humanity’s greatest accomplishments in art, in literature, in science, in philosophy, in medicine, in religious understanding, in technology, in humanitarian action, in every realm of human endeavour you care to name. Gifted insights and imagination transform the ordinary, yield new perceptions, bring empathy and compassion, and stir to action. Yet little gifted people, with the potential to grow into humanity’s needed leaders at every level in our social structure, can so easily wither in the bud if we let diversity mean “I don’t belong”.
The University of Oregon has this definition of diversity:
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. ... It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.
Embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity – can we take this message into our schools, into their vision statements, into their gifted policies – and into the daily lives of each little gifted child?
- Dr Rosemary Cathcart, Director, REACH Education, www.giftedreach.org.nz
Posted as part of the 2017 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour #NZGAW, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.