Why the Deep End?

18 Apr

In the tsunami of information that pours into our electronic devices every day, there are an astonishing number of articles, discussion groups, blogs, internet sites and social networking pages devoted to gifted children–their characteristics, their education, their psychology, their social and emotional needs, their quirks, passions, possible disabilities, and the threats they face if they are not understood and supported.

So why add this blog?  Because sometimes even we who deal with mermaids (see the “ABOUT” page) can get caught in the shallows.  This blog intends to help whoever wishes to visit or follow it with me to discover or remember that, as Julie Cortez has said on the linked Facebook page, “the deep end is deeper than we know.”  It will also suggest that–if we can maintain a sense of wonder and joy–there is much treasure in its depths.

Quick History

For 30 years I’ve spent a sizeable portion of my life focusing on the gifted, writing about their needs, consulting with parents and schools, speaking at conferences–originally because I found myself in the position of parenting a child who was difficult, if not impossible to educate appropriately in what would have been called a normal school classroom, at a time when there were few if any alternatives.  The first “page” I’ve created here is an update of the “Open Letter” Jim Webb, Betty Meckstroth and I included in our 1982 book Guiding the Gifted Child that pretty well covers my early experience with my son, as well as some of the experiences of a dear friend whose son was even less able to fit into the American educational system.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a population of children for whom school as we know it (especially in the early years) is not so much a place of learning as an intense daily, multi-year obstacle course for their minds to survive.  For very personal reasons, I care about that.  And, along with many able colleagues,  I did my best all those years to try to change it.

With remarkably little success.

In 1992 I gave a talk at the Hollingworth Conference for the Highly Gifted, called “Is It a Cheetah?” It used a metaphor that I hoped would allow people to understand that schools must consider providing gifted children with an appropriately individualized education just as zoos do their best to provide each species of animal with the particular environment and diet it needs.  The article I wrote from that speech a few years later (which I encouraged people to reprint and distribute) became known around the world and remains my most well-known piece of writing about the gifted.  It can be found here.

Many people did understand the metaphor, of course.  And many say they were helped by it.  Still, most of our cheetahs are still caged.

Where I Am Now and What I Hope to Share Here 

2012.  While technology has opened new vistas and homeschooling provides alternatives for many families, little has changed in the American educational system for kids whose minds outpace the structures and timelines of the typical school environment.  More distressing to me is that in the gifted field the eternal conflict between those who see giftedness as achievement and those (like myself) who experience it as differential (asynchronous) development has escalated to the point that some are now advocating giving up the very idea of the “gifted child” altogether.  As if by calling cheetahs “cats” we might find it easier to fit them in and meet their needs among lions.

I’m an elder now, and my perspective has changed.  I have learned at last that it is impossible to force others (both individuals and systems) either to share my point of view, or to change what they do.  Change, I see now, is either precipitated by catastrophe or comes more gently from within.  I’ve encountered the spiritual concepts of nonresistence, of focusing on being rather than solely on doing.  And I’ve discovered and come to revel in the fact (which I spoke about in a mini-keynote at NAGC in 2006) that there is much more to mind than reason, logic and left-hemisphere-ruled intellect.

Mind, like the deep end, is much deeper than we know.  So while this blog might overlap in some cases with the many others out there, it will, I hope, provide a still, small voice that is different.  Back in the days of the Hollingworth Conferences for the Highly Gifted, it was said by some that I was “too far out.”  Oddly, while I am much farther out by now, the change has come from going farther “in.”

I invite you to join me here in the mixed metaphor world of cheetahs and mermaids, and to share a conversation focused on possibilities.

One Response to “Why the Deep End?”

  1. Wendy Wakefield Ferrin April 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    You are an angel leading with a lantern as bright as a star. I kept my two alive by sending them to what my daughter called “nerd camp.” There is safety in numbers and sanity in being normal, even if only for a week in the summer. Like getting a booster shot. I just found my adult nerd camp and got not only a booster shot, but mirrors and practice to stay awake. Looking forward to this blog. Thank you for so much gifting.

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