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Are early verbal skills a reflection of culture? (RE: giftedness) - Page 2

post #21 of 118
Kincaid, I'm a little confused. You are opposed to using verbal ability as a guide for IDing giftedness, because you think there may be a cultural bias there. I can accept that. Then wouldn't gross motor skills be a less culturally biased means of identification? But you find that objectionable too.

I get the idea that what you are really taking issue with is identifying young children (say, under 5-8?) as "gifted." It sounds like you see this as a symptom of the American obsession with competition and achievement, and that you think parents who believe their young children to be gifted are just falling into this trap. Am I wrong?
post #22 of 118
Thread Starter 
Loraxc,
I definately think giftedness "exists". Remember, I grew up in the Duke University gifted tracking program (where we were pulled out from across the US to take the ACT and college courses). There are absolutely some kids who have amazing mental ability.

What I view as puzzling are "identifiers" of giftedness to evaluate and label kids when they are only old enough to toddle and talk. Some are even younger than age two. I really wonder what the sense of urgency could be to indentify a child that young. So they can get more "enrichment"? I am just very puzzled and think these attempts to identify so early lead to people using very flimsy, culturally biased "indicators" - like word count.

Anyway, I'd prefer to stay away from the topic of the other post and focus on this question of cultural bias
post #23 of 118
Kincaid, what would you propose as universal, cultural-influence-free indicators of giftedness (or "amazing mental ability," if you prefer)? Just curious. (Not being snarky here.)

Lots of things are culturally biased. Some cultures consider green and blue the same color and use the same word for each. So if a white, middle class, North American child knows the words for blue and green at say, age 12 months, is that culturally biased as well? (Seems so to me.) Does it mean the child isn't gifted because he's using a culturally biased set of color identifiers? Are we teaching our kids to be culturally biased by teaching them separate words for blue and green? How about a 12 month old Himba child who knows a bunch of things about cows that an American child would never even learn, but can't tell orange from pink? Is he more or less gifted?

I would say that it doesn't matter that what the kid knows is "culturally biased." That's irrelevant. What's relevant is the fact that he has stored the information and can express it with meaning significantly earlier than his same-age peers. THAT is what makes him gifted.

The reason we see "culturally biased" information as identifiers on lists is because that information is relevant to our culture. Perhaps broad exposure to letters, numbers, colors, etc, is limited to white middle class U.S. culture. I don't know. Maybe in the black culture you are familiar with and have referred to in one of your posts, something else would be a better indicator. (Any ideas?) Maybe each subculture should have its own list. But the indicator lists I have seen do work well (i.e. accurately identify gifted children) for some segment of the population, so they are not completely useless as you seem to be insinuating.

Again, it's not simply the acquisition of the information on the lists that is important to the parent reading them--the indicator lists are important because a frazzled parent to a gifted child can look at the list and say at last "Aha, I'm not crazy and neither is my child; other children out there know these things and there is a reason they know them. My child is not alone and neither am I."
post #24 of 118
I imagine some of you have seen this article, but I thought it was interesting, because it discusses exactly what is being discussed - i.e. socio-cultural relevance, society's treatment of the gifted, different types of intelligences, and the myth of accurate gifted testing in the first place (which typically rewards a very certain type of gift)...

The Prodigy Puzzle
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/ma...ef1145&ei=5070

(free registration required)
post #25 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by mommytolittlelilly

On a tangent here, but I think it's an interesting contradiction of our (U.S.) society that we do place so much emphasis on early verbal and reading skills as a marker for "giftedness," when as a whole, intelligence is often ridiculed and spurned. See the success of Dubya vs. Al Gore, for instance.
I think about this all the time. No wonder US schools suck. Americans are highly distrustful of the desire to learn and don't like people who are smart, educated, etc.

Hence a truly "smart" preson learns to act stupid, and hence succeed. Think Jessica Simpson.
post #26 of 118
Not sure how helpful this will be... but just in case... I saw a show not too long ago in which researchers were evaluating different children in relation to how they are parented. The gd-ish type parents weren't apt to force their children to do things. So... when a researcher comes and starts to tell the child what to do, even in a game, the child is less likely to respond. Well, that is my take on it. The researchers concluded that a gd-ish approach to parenting was damaging for the children! Peugh. Sorry that I can't give any details about the name of the show. I can't remember it. Though not explicitly, they identified intelligence with "follows orders" at the earliest age possible.

A lot of what children do and when is based on our expectations, prodding, what they are exposed to (e.g., how is a child to hold a crayon or scribble at 7 months if not given one until well after s/he is 1?) and so on. I think that some or even a lot of what identifies children as gifted can be a result of this type of thing. I also think that children who are coerced to excel in school (or pushed or rewarded for doing it -- perhaps these all amount to the same) to a greater degree than most are far more likely to be considered at least mildly or moderately gifted. In a family that doesn't place this type of strain, the child may focus on what is comfortable or enjoyable for her or him than on what is apt to impress teachers, and is less likely to feel pressured to do whatever needs to be done to get an A or to get a spot in an enrichment class.

I'd like to link a person's overall happiness as an adult with their intelligence, as well as their empathy for others. Maybe I'd just rather we talk about people who live well and those who live in stressful, unpleasant ways. Anyway, there is probably a reason for giftedness talk, though certainly not to the extent that it is talked about.

What about the fact (or at least apparent fact) that girls tend to start talking earlier than boys? I've read that more girls are above average, but when one gets into the genius category more boys fit into it than girls. I have no idea if this is bunk or not... Just wondering.

This whole discussion makes me feel so uncomfortable, yet at the same time I find it interesting. It's hard to pinpoint why.
post #27 of 118
Quote:
How about a 12 month old Himba child who knows a bunch of things about cows that an American child would never even learn, but can't tell orange from pink? Is he more or less gifted?
I think things such as this are in fact the whole point. A boy who grows up on a farm has a requirement for learning different skills than a boy who does not grow up on a farm. These skills are probably highly valued in his community and he may be considered a gifted person if he is more successful with the skills than the average. But he most likely learned them of requirement, not of genuine interest.

Likewise, a boy that is brought up more "priveledged" with more opportunities for education will learn different things than the boy on the farm. This boy may be taught that abstract intelligence is more important than that of requirement. Who is more gifted? How do you measure? What are the common factors that they share that are compared when determining who is more intelligent? Is it the time frame that they successfully develop competency with a skill? Is it their vocabulary or their poise? Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not general practice to determine IQ according to the scores of peers? Meaning, these two boys can't be compared, because their life experiences don't offer enough similarities? I really don't know... I've never been tested. If this was true though, than I wouldn't like to be tested now. I consider myself rather bright, but I am not in college as many of my peers are, so would it be fair to test me on a scale that compares me to peers?

There are biases, that's for sure. A bias that I have is that I subconsciously consider good grammar and placing an importance on spelling to be a sign of intelligence. I know that it is NOT always the most telling factor, but neverless I have picked this bias up somehow and unfortunately do use it to judge.... Feel free to pick apart this post to find errors
post #28 of 118
http://www.cortland.edu/psych/mi/eight.html

This si just one sight of many on the subject if you do a google search.

As I stated in another thread, I don't feel language skills are nessecarily a sign of giftedness unless your child is gifted in ther area of language I think the public system misses alot of "giftedness" because they do no test in the right areas for each child.
post #29 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingspaghettimama
I found this piece to be problematic for a number of reasons. [Not to mention the condescending tone; the cracks about how the Davidson Institute picked personable representatives distinctly left the feel they chose to hide the "freaks" back home.] These are my three strongest objections to the content:

1. It assumes parents of gifted kids have the means, knowledge and desire to expose their children to the out of school activities listed. Given the underrepresentation of poor and minority students identified for GT programs (setting aside the question of their efficacy... yes these programs would benefit from better design), I think it's safe to say that these underrepresented children would not be the ones benefitting from these competitions and activities. Saturday Academy in Portland is not cheap, nor are OMSI or Zoo classes. Science and engineering contests require funds for materials. Ditto for art and music. The author is extolling a sytem in which it is primarily the white, middle and upper class gifted children are most likely to benefit.

2. It assumes the primary reason for clustered and accelerated education is academic. While I'm certainly in favour of everyone being allowed to work at their own ability level, highly gifted children can benefit just from knowing there are others out there like them. Additionally, there are issues (including perfectionism and asynchronous development) that commonly arise with gifted kids that are every bit as important to deal with as acceleration.

3. It assumes that parents believe it is the duty or destiny of their gifted children to benefit humankind in some significant way. Most of us just want our children to grow up to be good people, well adjusted socially (to the greatest extent possible) and happy. Just like every other parent. Giftedness is not as simple and stereotypical an issue as just doing well in school and so getting taunted by peers. Giftedness and acedemic "success" are not the same thing (but yes, there is a, perhaps substantial, subset of highly gifted kids who buy into the system get good grades... most with little or no effort).

That said, powerful anti-intellectual currents do exist in the United States. While the current President has taken this to extremes with his rejection of academic though across disciplines (most notably science), the tendency goes right back to the roots of the country in (some of ) the founders' rejection of the intellectualism of Europe.

Back to the OP.

Should I then not dare to consider my daughter to be gifted because she is the product of a white, middle class, generic North American culture? Does iniquity mean that no one should benefit? Or everyone? Should I have kept books away from her so she wouldn't learn to read before school age? Should I use simpler words when talking to her so she doesn't benefit from an enriched vocabulary in the household? Of course not. The suggestion that there are other people who are not identified early for cultural, socio-economic or other reasons shouldn't be a basis to take down those who can be. We should be attacking the system (both identification and weak GT programs), not the kids. As for older kids, let me be clear again... IMHO, the ideal school system would be one that lets all kids work to their ability in all subjects. The idea that all 6yo's should be just learning to read and add is ridiculous.
post #30 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunRayeMomi

Likewise, a boy that is brought up more "priveledged" with more opportunities for education ...

There are biases, that's for sure. A bias that I have is that I subconsciously consider good grammar and placing an importance on spelling to be a sign of intelligence. I know that it is NOT always the most telling factor, but neverless I have picked this bias up somehow and unfortunately do use it to judge.... Feel free to pick apart this post to find errors
Well, you spelled privileged wrong, for starters.

I'm totally picking on you. Don't hate on me. I couldn't resist! I'm an older sibling! Maybe you did it on purpose!
post #31 of 118
The NYTimes article had problems (audience is mostly uppity and affluent so perspective of newspaper follows suit).

However, I guess I do agree that that we have defined acheivement rather narrowly in this country - acadeic success, university degrees, traditional professions (a definition that owes much to our ideals of metrocricy) that we have a hard time imagining that child giftedness as anything except what will transfer into academic achivement, degrees (the earlier and the more the better) and professional success.

I remember a smart kid profiled by my local TV station years ago. Asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied "a doctor and a lawyer." He (and mostly likely his parents and school) couldn't imagine what to do with his giftedness except to rack up BOTH of the most prestegious (salary-wise) professional degrees our society offers.

I also worry about the whole sooner is better thing. It is part of our American mentality to believe that beginning to talk at 18 moths is somehow better than beginning to talk at 24 months. Of course we know that early talking doesn't correlate with future academic/professional success, and yet we secretly hope for early tealkers. Nevermind that we know that giftedness doesn't correlate with adult happiness (the end goal here, right), and yet we hope for gifted children.

If we are responding to our children as we should, stimulating and challenging and supporting them based on their needs and desires, than "when" isn't an issue. Gifted or not isn't an issue. Joy and happiness at our growing children and their burgeoning abilities and talents and drives should be more than enough to guide us in helping them thrive.

I guess it does become an issue when they hit school (if you don't homeschool).

And I agree like peers are a good thing (so gifted kids, if we could ever accurately identfy them, they don't feel weird or different or bored). But now I am remembering "The Louisinana School" -where truely gifted kids from my district went. I knew a lot of those kids in college, and they were pretty messed up. Maybe it was just the school (and/or maybe these kind of programs are better now), but those kids had been told they were "special," and they absolutely couldn't cope with college work perhaps because of fear of disapointing their potential or perhaps because they believed they were too good for the work (college work is often boring and unchallenging). Many dropped out.

All of it is very interesting because it goes to the heart of what we value (some of it irrationally). I, for one, value academia and have a hard time registering success unless it is certified by univeristy degrees. And yet I have never been particualrly happy in acadmia - it has always seemed hollow and meanlingless and egomosterous to me.

This stuff is so deep inside us.
post #32 of 118
My eldest DD was a very, very precocious talker, actually she was very early for all her milestones as a baby and toddler and I honestly thought I had a genius on my hands. Wrong! She is now a very average student and has been since she started school.
post #33 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamawanabe
Of course we know that early talking doesn't correlate with future academic/professional success, and yet we secretly hope for early tealkers. Nevermind that we know that giftedness doesn't correlate with adult happiness (the end goal here, right), and yet we hope for gifted children.
There are a lot of qualities people generally admire and hope for in their kids that don't necessarily lead to adult success or happiness - kindness, sense of humor, creativity. So I don't think it's so silly for people to think it might be a good thing for their children to be intellectually gifted, even if it doesn't guarantee happiness.

Quote:
If we are responding to our children as we should, stimulating and challenging and supporting them based on their needs and desires, than "when" isn't an issue. Gifted or not isn't an issue.
I think this is absolutely true. But I also think that, when you're trying to figure out what your children's needs and desires are, and how to respond to them, it can be hard not to be influenced by what you see most other people around you doing, what you read about when kids are developmentally ready to do this or that, how and what you remember being taught when you were a kid. Seeing your kid as gifted can make it easier to ignore all that and realize that what everyone else is doing with their kids might not make sense for yours.
post #34 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by shell024
A lot of times it seems like parents are in too much of a habit of "rushing" nowadays, and it rubs off on the kids. Like "maybe if they would just hurry up and be independent, I could get some things done" : When people comment on how much ds is "talking" already, holding his head up, very alert and listens, etc etc etc... like he is "gifted", it kind of bugs me.
So, it's possible that I rushed my kid into using the words "condensation" and "esophagus" in his casual conversation before the age of 18 months old?
post #35 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kincaid
Some are even younger than age two. I really wonder what the sense of urgency could be to indentify a child that young. So they can get more "enrichment"?
For me, it was an effort to understand some of the more complex and less wonderful qualities that often accompany giftedness. Here was my ds as a baby: He didn't sleep. He was super intense. The slightest noise or change in lighting (ie sun going behind the clouds) captivated him and through him off track completely. If there was a conversation amongst adults, his eyes and ears were glued- and no one could get a word in without his remarks (before he was a year and a half). Regardless of the topic, he had relevant ideas. He could spend hours sorting buttons, first by shape, then by size, then by color. Many of the traits that often come along with giftedness seem to overlap with ADHD, Aspergers Syndrome, and others. Identifying him as gifted kind of gave me reason for all of these behaviors. Now, some people find labels of ay sort to be deplorable, but I happen to take comfort in them, at least where my own kids and students are concerned. Understanding that a set of attributes belong to a particular condition helps me figure out how best to deal with those qualities in my children.
post #36 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by uccomama
My eldest DD was a very, very precocious talker, actually she was very early for all her milestones as a baby and toddler and I honestly thought I had a genius on my hands. Wrong! She is now a very average student and has been since she started school.
Success in school does not equate to giftedness, and the converse is true as well. Gifted children often are not the ones with the highest grades, or the ones who most love school. Think about your dd. Are you sure she isn't a genius? Don't base your judgment on school performance alone.
post #37 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by teachma
Success in school does not equate to giftedness, and the converse is true as well. Gifted children often are not the ones with the highest grades, or the ones who most love school. Think about your dd. Are you sure she isn't a genius? Don't base your judgment on school performance alone.
Yes, I am sure she isn't a genius! She is just an average kid still finding her way in this world. But we love her anyway!
post #38 of 118
This is a casual observation but I have several friends whose chidlren were extremely verbally gifted at an early age. Others were positively speechless. and they did not seem as smart as the others. We all assumed the ones who could recite thier numbers, alphabet and cared about colors were super gifted. Perhaps they just enjoyed the praise and attention thier verbal skills got them. they are no doubt smart but by the age of 5 or 6 everything had evened out and they age at which children spoke seems to have had no bareing on how smart they were. One of the most verbal kids actually does the poorest accademically now (although of all the children she is the only one in ps so being educated differently may be why she is in a different place than the other kids). The verbal ones just excelled in this one area. One child was extremely gifted but it wasn't her verbal skills that gave her away. She knows scary amounts of stuff that no one told her about. She also has some sriouse weak areas that they are having to seek outside help with (OT - she has huge gross motor skill problems. her brain is so busy with what it is doing, things that are automatic, like sitting up and staying up, are not so much automatic for her)

And I don't know about culturally. All of the kids I have personal experiance were white. Economically we were all over the place but they all came from 2 parent families with more or less stay at home moms. and most were first children some second.
post #39 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by teachma
Success in school does not equate to giftedness, and the converse is true as well. Gifted children often are not the ones with the highest grades, or the ones who most love school.
I very much agree with this!! My dh has a genius IQ, went to M.I.T. and is now a university professor of computer science and math and he often flunked the classes he thought were boring in high school. He is undoubtedly the smartest person I've ever met. He sought knowledge in his gifted area, and ignored the rest.

Anyway, I think in general that giftedness comes in all sorts of guises - anything from being gifted with words, to being gifted with numbers, to being gifted with people, to being gifted with flower arranging or growing a garden. I think the world would be a better place if we let our kids find their own gifts and then help them grow in them... rather than trying everything we can to get our kids labeled. IMHO, if a kid is intellectually gifted, the evironment (cultural or otherwise) matters little because a truly gifted child will always find their ways to learn and expand their minds no matter what.
post #40 of 118
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kincaid
So in a playgroup with white kids, asian kids, and african-american kids... how reliable are "early verbal skills" as an indicator of higher intelligence?

Anyone besides me think this is VERY biased toward white middle class kids? How can this be a reliable indicator of "giftedness" if on the other hand we know it to be culturally based?
Do we know for a fact that white middle-class American children are speaking significantly earlier and with more complexity than other groups or are we just speculating here? I'm white, American and middle-class. I did all the "right" things: talked to my child like he was an adult, explained lots of things to him, etc. He didn't talk until he was 22 months old. It's just how his brained was wired. I'd have to see hard evidence that there's a significant difference in verbal development between the groups we are talking about before I consider a cultural angle to this.

Also, as CB said before, it's important to note how much of a deviation it is from the norm. Catching up and evening out and all that occurs within reason. But if we're looking at significant deviation from the norm, then yeah, it's hard to dismiss that.

Other random stuff, as it relates to things in this thread:
--checklists
Those lists can be very useful, I think, as an after-thought. I mean, if the parent already has a good "big picture" view of what's going with the child, the checklist might confirm a few things OR if the parent has little contact with other children, the checklist might give an idea of what to expect. But I think that, like lots of things, the checklists can be misused by parents who are looking for tiny advancements anywhere they can find them. Like, if you go on an advanced baby list elsewhere, you sometimes find people talking about how their baby sat up unassisted at 5 months or rolled over a bit early and they now think their baby is advanced. It lacks a big picture feel, because it's then just a random collection of slightly advanced milestones. Giftedness, IMO, is a larger and more abstract thing and the milestones are often an awkward way of showing that. Also, I believe the thought with the checklists and "giftedness" is that the child should meet most of the things "ahead" or most things in a particular area. YK, if your child sits alone at 5 months and draws a circle a few months early, that's not really saying anything.

Uh oh, I had more to say, but dh is done getting ready for bed and I have to go too. I will read more tomorrow on this thread and collect my thoughts a bit better. Before I go, I wanted to say that it's not just Einstein who spoke late. There's a big list of esteemed individuals who spoke very late, most of them musicians and mathematicians. I can post their names if anyone is interested. I was interested, because my son spoke so late, but he had strong spatial and symbolic skills.

Ok, off to bed!
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