Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why You are Gifted, Part I

What does it mean to be gifted? The word itself suggests being given something. However, in the academic world, it is a label imposed upon those whose academic achievement seems to indicate intellectual superiority to one’s peers. I was included in a school “honors” program for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school. Many students are inducted into such programs in early elementary school.

The overall idea behind these programs is that these high functioning students need higher levels of intellectual stimulation in order to continue to grow. Without a higher level of stimulation, the logic is that we run the risk of stunting the students’ growth or increasing behavior problems related to boredom. The unfortunate implied message to the students is that some students have been endowed by genetics as superior. It is often perceived that genetics is the giver of the gift.

As an educational researcher and professional, I have found that there is much more to the puzzle of being “gifted” than genetic endowment. Although there is a requisite level of genetic endowment, the genetic piece is more about the absence of genetic abnormalities. The biggest pieces of the puzzle are outside of genetics. Factors such as poverty, family situation, parenting styles, and teachers have a huge impact on a students’ level of achievement.

So what does this have to do with the Shema and loving God with your strength? The implication is that your strength is not from you. Even the genetic gifts you have would not be useful without other factors allowing them to be utilized. Any strength that you have has been gifted to you from God, who is the creator of all things. If we understand that God has given our strength to us through a combination of genetics and life circumstances, then the next step is to return that strength in his service. To be continued…

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