Giftedness is not an Unwrapped Present

Girl Unwrapping Gift
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"Every child is gifted; they just unwrap their gifts at different times." That statement sounds wonderful and makes most people feel good. It also seems to make perfect sense - as long as you don't think about it too deeply. And that's the problem with this statement and others like it. They appeal to our emotions and don't invite us to think about what the statement actually means. This one tells us nothing about what giftedness is or what it means to be gifted.

Unwrapping Gifts

What exactly does it mean to say that children unwrap their gifts? What is a "gift"? The statement "Every child is gifted; they just unwrap their gifts at different times" is something of a play on words, or to be less generous, it is a logic fallacy. It equates "giftedness" with "a gift," but the "gift" in the word "giftedness" isn't the same thing and it certainly isn't a present that requires unwrapping.

To be fair, the term "giftedness" did evolve from the idea that some people had a special "gift" in some field or another. For example, an especially talented musician, like Mozart, was seen to have a gift, and would be called a gifted musician. However, we have come a long way in understanding what is called "giftedness" since those early days of referring to "gifts."

Even if we were to agree that to be gifted, one has to have a gift, it would not follow that such a gift is like a present one receives for a birthday, a present that is nicely wrapped with beautiful paper and ribbon, a present that is just waiting for the owner to unwrap it.

Different Times

Since being gifted does not mean being given a present that needs to be unwrapped, the time frame for unwrapping it is irrelevant. However, if we want to entertain the idea that giftedness shows up at different times in a child's development, we can do that. The fact is that signs of giftedness show up as early as infancy (and surely the infant didn't unwrap anything).

Whether giftedness is recognized depends more on the beholder than on the gifted child, and what the beholder recognizes depends in large part on how that person defines "gifted." For instance, many people believe that in order to be considered gifted, a child must achieve. It is not enough to have potential. In other words, it makes no difference how high a child's IQ is or how much potential a child has. If he doesn't perform or achieve, he simply isn't gifted. It might make sense in this case, to say that giftedness shows up at different times.

Think about that for a minute, though. The potential is always there. Even when a child is a late bloomer and doesn't achieve until later in life, the potential was there. It makes much more sense to talk about late bloomers and question why the potential didn't translate earlier into achievement. More importantly for the statement about all children being gifted but unwrapping their gift at different times, some children never achieve, regardless of potential.

That alone would suggest that all children are most definitely not gifted.

All Children Are Not Gifted

Whether we look at achievement or potential, it is simply not true that all children are gifted. Children do not all perform well or achieve great things, regardless of how old they are. Children do not all have the same potential. If they did, we wouldn't be so invested in testing and providing special services for children who need extra help. Some children with high potential will achieve great things - and some won't. Does that mean that those who don't lost their potential? Were they unable to unwrap their gift?

Closing Thoughts

Consider again the statement "Every child is gifted; they just unwrap their gifts at different times." When you move past the cliched thinking that sounds so good, you begin to see how meaningless the statement is. It's actually worse than meaningless. It appeals to emotions, which then prevents us from thinking rationally about the concept of giftedness. And when we can't think rationally about giftedness, we can't think about how to provide what our gifted children need.

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