6 - Permission to Be Gifted: How Conceptions of Giftedness Can Change Lives  pp. 80-97

Permission to Be Gifted: How Conceptions of Giftedness Can Change Lives

By Joan Freeman

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No conception of giftedness or talent works in a cultural vacuum, which is why an international overview in this area of human development can cut across many assumptions (Freeman, 1998). A cross-cultural view picks up a wide variety of international templates for the identification and education of the gifted and talented, which are sometimes entirely opposing. The wider view can demonstrate unrecognized stereotyping and expectations, and illustrate the often serious effects of social influences on opportunities for the development of high-level potential and its promotion throughout life. Although cultural nuances are complex and their dynamics difficult to define, it is clear that excellence can come from widely differing special educational provision or from no special educational provision at all. Whatever the cultural conceptions of giftedness, they are influential in their actualization, in the acceptability of both the individual and the abilities, that is, who may be gifted and who may not, and in which abilities may be considered as gifts and which may not.

Context is all in the identification of giftedness because “gifted” is an adjective, a description, so the recognition of individuals who are seen as meriting that term depends on comparisons. Even in the same town, for instance, a child in a competitive-entry school may be seen as of only modest ability, although he or she could be admired as gifted in a nonselective school. How individuals react to their classification as gifted is also dependent on personality and home support.