Twenty years ago the field of gifted education was beginning to define giftedness very specifically as achievement—as doing rather than being. One of the leaders in the nation’s gifted community was claiming at that time that schools “created” giftedness and that children who were not achieving academically were clearly not gifted (and therefore should not be taking up the limited numbers of “seats” in gifted programs). Dismayed by the narrowness and external focus of this definition, a group of us whose experience with the gifted had shown us that unusual intelligence was an internal aspect of the child, apparent well before the start of school, gathered to discuss how we might help to refocus attention on this way of understanding the gifted population.
Out of our meeting in Columbus, Ohio in the summer of 1991 came the definition of giftedness as asynchronous development that was quickly recognized and adopted by many teachers, parents and counselors throughout the country and around the globe. A phenomenological view of unusual intelligence, it provided a way of comprehending both the potential for extraordinary achievement and the struggles the gifted face in being out of sync both internally and with the expectations of the broader culture.
Last year at the national conference of the National Association for Gifted Children (just a few months more than 20 years after that first Columbus Group meeting) the suggestion was made in the presidential address that the field of gifted education should unify its disparate viewpoints by adopting Talent Development, with its clear attention to the issue of extraordinary achievement, as the single driver of both this field’s educational programming and its research. So it was that members of the Columbus Group, that has continued to meet throughout these two decades, decided it was an important time to put out a book to remind the field of the critical “other side” (the inside) of giftedness, which is part of the gifted individual’s experience whether in or out of school, whether achieving in the eyes of the world at any given moment or not!
So, we’re thrilled that the book (conceived only a year ago, and with chapters from 14 experts on the needs of gifted and highly gifted individuals) is to be available online from Royal Fireworks Press (http://rfwp.com) as of today
(though at 1pm EST it wasn’t yet up on the website). Dedicated to the memory of Annemarie Roeper, the book includes her last writing about the population of children to whom she devoted her life.
We had hoped to have the actual books at NAGC this week, but weather (a modest incursion of Hurricane Sandy on its way to devastating the North East) intervened and stopped electricity to the presses.
Prepublication discount! The list price of the book is $30 but for online orders this week (through November 18th) the price is $25.
Included in the book are chapters on the historical foundations of the definition, methods of identification, characteristics of asynchronous development, understanding individual needs, gifted adults, counseling, parenting and family issues, and educational options from a group of authors, each of whom has decades of experience working with, researching, and writing about “off the charts” kids and families.
On a personal note: the other thing that happened last year at NAGC that particularly motivated me when the idea for the book was being considered occurred at my presentation for the Counseling and Guidance network called “The Asynchronous Cheetah.” (My cheetah metaphor was developed originally for a keynote at the Hollingworth Conference for the Highly Gifted in 1992—the same year the first article about asynchronous development was published in Understanding Our Gifted.) When I mentioned the Columbus Group during that presentation, an attendee raised her hand and informed me that when she had been doing some research on asynchronous development for her graduate degree in gifted education, her professor had informed her that the Columbus Group didn’t exist. “It’s a fiction,” he told her.
Laughing at that representation, I explained that not only was the Columbus Group not a fiction, but it had actually met the evening before in the conference hotel.
It’s quite true that I’m a fiction writer, and I’m really fond of fiction and the fundamental truths that are often explored in the pages of a novel. But I prefer not to think of myself as fictional. So–for those who may be interested in the Columbus Group’s “true story” and the reason a leading figure in gifted education could make the assumption that it wasn’t real (as a group, we have flown quite purposely under the radar all these years) I wrote an introductory chapter giving the “true story” of that 1991 meeting and the definition that grew out of it. So if you’ve ever tried to find out more than what could be gleaned from the usual citation of the “unpublished transcript” of that meeting, you can learn why you couldn’t. There are hours of audio tape from that meeting, but no plans to publish the transcript!
Tomorrow I’ll be off to Denver for NAGC 2012 and hope to see some of you there.