Monday, July 13, 2015

It just keeps turning up.

Oh, the "All kids are gifted" meme. It's like a bad penny. It just keeps coming back. I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, or when it became appropriate to co-opt medical diagnoses for feel-good purposes, but there it is. This week has been worse for it than most. This week, I got an emailed notification of a new comment on a blog. I'd been back-of-mind dealing with the "all kids are gifted" trope to begin with, and one specific comment threw me for a loop.
It was fairly innocuous as far as comments go. I suspect the comment's author was trying to be helpful, and as far as I could grok from the wording, and the actual content of the comment, the author has a high achieving child, but not one with the wiring specific to gifted children. There were two issues I took with the comment - first being that whole "all kids are gifted, just in their own way!" stuff, but then a second half of the comment absolutely floored me. The author outright stated that perhaps some of our gifted children bring their ill treatment, teasing, mocking, bullying upon themselves. By being so different, by thinking they're gifted, they are, in effect, asking for it.

Excuse me? Here's where I start having some massive issues. You see, Mad Natter wasn't yet three when we realized something was unusual about him. Skeeve and I had already been hearing for months that there was something "wrong" about him. That we should be disciplining him (read: punishing him), that we were lax parents, that no child would do these things if their parents had enforced rules from the start. People treated him differently, because he was different from other children. So, he somehow asked for that, despite his still announcing his presence as "I'n Sanyo!" (quite obviously, his given name is not that of an electronics company, no matter how tech-loving we are) A child still unable to pronounce half his words properly, with a bitty baby voice, was asking to be treated as a social misfit?  

Or maybe it was at Mad Science classes. We signed him up for the homeschool program's test run. We brought him, he was just ahead of his sixth birthday, the absolute minimum age for the program. He was treated poorly there, too. He didn't raise his hand "properly." He shouted out too often, he volunteered information when it was unnecessary, he didn't sit still, and he didn't sit "criss-cross-applesauce" like the other children. Barring his ADHD and his sensory issues, this still leaves a little boy who really wants to participate... but is left out. He would be reprimanded for his lack of hand-raising, and then no matter how nicely he'd sit and raise his hand for the rest of the class, he wouldn't be called on. Not once. And then, when he got frustrated with being ignored, he'd call out answers, and be reprimanded for that, too. But, you know, he was asking for it. 

At the end of that class, he was the first to receive his certificate of completion, and every child but one in the class groaned and complained and muttered, "why him?" when his name was called. But I suppose he asked for that, too. And he asked for the boys to jump on him - with intent to hurt him - at a playplace, too. And to punch him with a closed fist? He asked for that, too, right? Brought it on himself by being so... gifted?

We would never suggest that any other child who was different from the norm brought their bullying on themselves. It would be appalling to suggest that the child in a wheelchair brought her taunting upon herself. That the blind child was asking to be made fun of. That the autistic child deserved to be picked on because they were so convinced they were "special."

It's not the parents of gifted children making the problem. It's not them explaining to their children that they are different from others, and their difference has a name. It's not talking to children about what it means to be gifted. It's not teaching a child how to work with what they've got. It's external influences, who believe that gifted is a value judgement rather than a wiring issue, that bring this issue on. It's people who believe that the gifted are special and haughty that perpetuate the stereotype and bring this stuff down on our children. Because believe me, there is no child in the world that is asking to be treated the way we as a society treat our gifted children.