Author Archives: Gifted Ireland

About Gifted Ireland

Gifted Ireland was established in May 2013 by a group of parents of gifted children in Ireland. Our aim is to pool our talents and experience to help other parents find support and advice in their local communities, to develop a strong and unified voice of advocacy on behalf of our children, to help and support those involved in the care and education of our children and to raise awareness of the unique social, emotional and academic needs of gifted children and adults. We are an entirely voluntary group and always open to new members and to collaboration with others who share an interest in giftedness.

Dr. Clementine Beauvais: Pushy Parents and Gifted Children

Dr Clementine Beauvais

Behind every ‘gifted’ child is a pushy parent, says Cambridge academic Dr Clementine Beauvais

Dr. Clementine Beauvais is an “education researcher” and children’s author based in Cambridge in the UK. Recently, she was interviewed by journalist Emma Higginbotham about her latest research project in advance of a public talk which is part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. Clementine’s talk is titled: “Gifted children – or pushy parents? ‘Prodigious parenting’ from Leopold Mozart to Mozart for babies”. The premise of her talk is to open discussion and dialogue on the social construct of gifted children and their (possibly) pushy parents, examining how modern literature perceives the role of parental involvement in the achievements of gifted or highly able children. In looking at how these parents and children are perceived, she suggests, we may examine our own attitudes to education and parenting issues.

As anyone with any experience of gifted education or research will recognise, putting the terms ‘gifted’ and ‘pushy parents’ together is a hot-button issue. Journalists too know that to gain attention for their work they need good headlines to pull readers in, and Ms. Higginbotham does just that. “Behind every ‘gifted’ child is a pushy parent” says Cambridge academic Dr. Clementine Beauvais”, her piece is headlined. Pithy and absolutist, it has the word gifted in quotation marks and the authoritative stamp of an Oxbridge academic, no less. The perfect storm was bound to erupt.

And it did. From experts in the field of giftedness and intelligence research to outraged parents, the commentators were quick to protest this lazy myth that they have seen trotted out so many times. Comments on the article and on Clementine’s blog were expansive and challenging. Some suggested that she should do some basic research into giftedness before using her academic position to undermine the field. Many took issue with her use of quotation marks around the term gifted, and her assertion that giftedness is merely a social construct. An interesting debate ensued on her blog, and seemed to take her a little by surprise.

Of course there are pushy parents. We have all seen them in action, making sure their child is front and centre or top of every queue until the child has internalised the message and can maneuver herself into prime position with every fresh opportunity. Ability or giftedness has nothing to do with this style of parenting, they just see the world as a competitive place where resources are scarce. Their children are not going to wait their turn for their share, they are going to go out and take it before someone else does. By pushing their children they give them what they see as the skills and confidence to do so. Parents of gifted children do not have a monopoly on this strategy, but as pushy parents often produce high achieving children, giftedness is regularly conflated with the behaviour. So, the article headline and throwaway comments notwithstanding, what is Clementine Beauvais’s angle?

Commenting on her blog, some offered scholarly advice to investigate giftedness from some reliable sources before delving any further into her research. Some berated her for what they saw as a negation of their own experience of parenting a highly able child. Most were critical and a few were dismissive. Some of her own replies shed a little more light on her focus. She explains that her research is about “representations of gifted children in literature and culture (including the discourses of scientific and educational research)”. Her first post on the subject summarizes what she sees as the current discourse on gifted children. She writes that:

“So part of my project involves looking at texts – from the scientific literature, from educational manuals, from non-fiction, from literature, from policy documents etc – which either reinforce or attempt to deconstruct these popular understandings of giftedness.”

Her second asks if adult focus on childhood happiness informs perceptions of giftedness. It also touches on the history behind modern childhood, a relatively recent development which has lengthened the time our children spend dependent on us and in education. While this is all very interesting, researching gifted children from all the angles she mentions would be an enormous task. Looking at the construct of giftedness from cultural, literary, scientific and educational perspectives? In just three years? Many eminent academics have spent entire careers researching giftedness and intelligence differences in just one of these fields. Several recent papers and books might address some of the issues Clementine would like to examine. The ones that come immediately to mind are David Yun Dai and Joseph Renzulli’s 2008 paper “Snowflakes, Living Systems and the Mystery of Giftedness” (behind paywall) as well as Dai’s book “The Nature and Nurture of Giftedness”. She might also want to take a look at Scott Barry Kaufman’s fascinating book “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” and “Explorations in Giftedness” by Sternberg, Jarvin and Grigorenko. In fact anything by Robert Sternberg is worth reading from an academic perspective. But if Clementine is going to do her subject justice, she has a lot of reading ahead of her!

Nevertheless, examining giftedness from a sociologist’s viewpoint is a worthy endeavour. Stepping outside our own definitions and looking at what people think, as expressed in language, literature and culture is a fine research topic. Done well, it would be of great benefit to those who work  (or parent) in the field of giftedness or intelligence research. Linguistic and cultural narratives tell us a lot about where we must start in designing an education system which would cater to all. We may have to take a step backward, into an examination of how we came to be perceived as pushy or gifted, in order to move forward. Clementine’s research focus may make some gifted advocates uncomfortable, but it may also serve a very pertinent purpose.

Those of us who deal every day with giftedness, gifted behaviour and intelligence differences need to be mindful of how we react to the myths and stereotypes. It goes without saying that we should challenge them but perhaps we can do so without feeding the myths on the flip side. There is plenty of rigorous, peer-reviewed academic research which supports what we experience in our everyday lives. By placing our lived experiences of these issues in the context of research we could have a more powerful answer to the types of lazy journalism we encountered this week.

But I can’t shake the feeling that we have all walked ourselves into being part of Clementine’s big laboratory!

References

Dai, D. Y. (2010). The Nature and Nurture of Giftedness: A New Framework for Understanding Gifted Education. Education & Psychology of the Gifted Series. Teachers College Press. 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027.

Dai, D. Y., & Renzulli, J. S. (2008). Snowflakes, living systems, and the mystery of giftedness. Gifted Child Quarterly, 52(2), 114-130.

Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Ungifted: intelligence redefined. Perseus Books Group.

Sternberg, R. J., Jarvin, L., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2010). Explorations in giftedness. Cambridge University Press.

CTYI Conference 2014

Understanding Gifted ChildrenIn Ireland we do not formally recognise gifted students within our education system. Most teachers qualify having had little or no training in teaching gifted students and, unlike many other countries, we have no specialist teachers in the field. This weekend’s conference at CTYI, DCU provided a rare opportunity to learn from true experts as several such speakers were flown in from around the globe to share their wisdom and insights. As usual, the vast bulk of the audience was made up of parents who, while soaking up the information with great interest and enthusiasm, were wishing their children’s teachers were there to hear the same.

These speakers were highly regarded international academic experts but each and every one of them was down-to-earth, engaging, entertaining and more than happy to answer questions and to chat to anyone during coffee or over lunch. A huge thanks to CTYI for organising such an interesting and uplifting day.

We believe the presentations will be posted on the CTYI website soon and we may cover some of them individually in due course but, for now, here is a rundown on who and what you missed!

Student Perceptions of High-Achieving Classmates

Albert ZieglerProf Albert Ziegler is Professor of Educational Psychology and Chair for Educational Psychology and Research on Excellence at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He has published approx. 300 books, chapters and articles in the fields of talent development, excellence, educational psychology and cognitive psychology. He is also Secretary-General of the International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE)  Editor-in-Chief of Talent Development & Excellence.

Spatial Skills, Learning and Academic Achievement: A Scientific Perspective

Amy SheltonProf Amy Shelton   is Director of Research at CTY and Professor at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. She has PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Vanderbilt University and  is a postdoctoral fellow of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.

Working Together to Support Your Highly Able Child At School

Niamh StackDr Niamh Stack  is a Senior University Teacher in Developmental Pyschology in the School of Psychology at Glasgow Unversity and Development Officer for the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP), providing CPD to teachers focused on gifted development. She is actively engaged in research activities related to gifted and talented education.

 

Dr MargMargaret Sutherlandaret Sutherland   is a Senior Lecturer in Additional Support Needs and is Programme Leader for the Masters in Inclusive Education  and the Certificate/Diploma/Masters in Inclusive Education at Glasgow University.  She is also Director of the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP) and a member of the General Committee of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) http://www.echa.info/about-echa . She has written several books and papers in the field of gifted education and given keynote talks at  national and international conferences.

 To Accelerate or No to Accelerate, Is That The Question?

Lianne HoogeveenDr Lianne Hoogeveen is a Developmental Psychologist and Head of the Centre for the Study of Giftedness at Raboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.  She is involved in post-academic education for psychologists and teachers and in individual counseling of gifted children, youngsters and adults. She is a Board member of ECHA.

 The Role of Networking in the Life of Talented Kids

Csilla FuszekCsilla Fuszek Is Director of the European Talent Centre in Budapest, Hungary. With a background in teaching, Csilla Fuszek has focused and become specialized in the field of gifted and talented education. She has worked as a managing director of nationwide talent development programs aimed to promote equal opportunities to the disadvantaged and was the managing director of the Csányi Foundation which is one of the biggest civil education foundations focusing on talent support in Hungary. She has been a lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University since 2008 and since 2009 she has been working for the Association of Hungarian Talent Support Organizations. csilla.fuszek@talentcentrebudapest.eu

 Gifted Adolescents’ Resistance to Report Cyberbullying

Regina ConnollyProf Regina Connolly Director of the MSc in Electronic Commerce degree programme at Dublin City University Business School and has responsibility for postgraduate courses in Information Systems. Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Internet Commerce.

 Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Children

Tracy CrossProf Tracy Cross Jody and Layton Smith Professor of Psychology and Gifted Education, Executive Director, Centre for Gifted Education, College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA  . He has published well over 150 articles and book chapters, and four books. He has been the editor of five journals in the field of gifted education (Gifted Child Quarterly, Roeper Review, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, and Research Briefs), and is the current editor of the Journal for the Education of the Gifted.

 Perceptions and Practices: Gifted Education in Ireland

Jennifer CrossDr Jennifer Cross  is an Educational Psychologist and Research Assistant Professor at the College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA. Her research focuses on the social environment of schools and the development of attitudes, particularly those regarding social structures. She has presented at numerous local, national, and international conferences, and published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Roeper Review, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

Happy Easter!

Happy EasterWe hope you got plenty of lovely Easter eggs today and are enjoying the school break. If you are looking for something to do with your family later in the week, why not join one of our Gifted Advocacy and Support groups for an outing. They are always happy to welcome new faces!

Monday 21st April: The Dublin North support group invites you to join them for a guided walk along the seafront in Clontarf to mark the Battle of Clontarf Millenium Commemorations. Details here.

Saturday 26th April: The Kildare group invites you to join them for an outing to Emo Court in Co. Laois. Details here.

 

Celebrating Ireland & The Irish

This video pays great tribute to many Irish people and the wonderful things they have achieved in various fields, on an international stage.

Ireland and the Irish are well known for ‘tall poppy syndrome’ or, as we call it here, ‘begrudgery’. Over at Gifted Ireland HQ we join in the celebration of these wonderful achievements and the joy that these artists, sportspeople, scientists and writers have brought to many thousands of people worldwide. Seeing this video do the rounds on social media this weekend, has reminded us how much the people of this tiny country have to offer and has galvanised us in our quest to have the budding talent of our young people acknowledged and nurtured.

For centuries, gifted and talented people in Ireland have achieved great things in the face of many hurdles, economic, political and intellectual. We need an education system that recognises the intellectual potential of  the children it serves and which celebrates excellence so that our current generation of gifted young people can go on to inspire the next.

Happy St Patrick’s Day to all our friends around the globe!

Shamrock