Two Very Different Perspectives on Giftedness and Gifted Education

 

Regular readers will recall a recent two-part post rather provocatively titled ‘Are All Children Gifted’. The second part contained a section about the doctoral thesis prepared by Barry Hymer, now Professor of Psychology in Education at the University of Cumbria.

Over recent weeks, Barry and I have been engaged in a stimulating and challenging debate about that section and the differences in our respective understanding of giftedness and gifted education.

We decided that this would make interesting copy, and Barry has very kindly offered to edit the text for submission to our chosen educational publications.

In the first instance, however, we agreed that I should publish the full version as a blog post, so that there is a complete and freely available record which readers may respond to if they choose, via the comments facility below.

So, if you have strong views about what follows, tell us what you think and why you think so. It would help me – and hopefully other readers – to reflect on the fresh perspectives that you will bring to this debate, which strikes to the very heart of gifted education.

BH 25 JANUARY 2012

Hi Tim – Enjoyed (as always) your typically thought-provoking blog, but felt I really ought to make a brief response to your reading of my ‘social-constructivist’ take on giftedness!  Please forgive the relative brevity:

1.  A social-constructivist position is by no means incompatible with a profound respect for what you describe as “empirical research” (by which I assume you mean research conceived within the positivist tradition and quantitative methodologies – but I should add that qualitative research can also lead to empirical evidence).  I have always valued research evidence (hence my suspicion for and concern over the theoretical model within which the ‘English model’ of giftedness was conceived – Michael Barber conceded at the time that it was built on social policy considerations, not social science), and draw widely on this in the field of giftedness, as in other areas of learning.  I am a well-known enthusiast of Carol Dweck’s research, for instance, and no-one has yet regarded her as being empirical-lite!  And I regularly deliver INSET about what meta-studies have to offer the field of education (Wang, Hattie, Marzano, Coffield, Higgins, etc) – and these data offer real challenges to popular (mal)practices – e.g. homework in primary schools, learning styles approaches, gifted cohorts, etc).  In short: an alignment with social-constructivist thinking doesn’t require one to live in an empirical vacuum!

2. My thinking in 2002 is not my thinking in 2012, or even in 2006/7 – as detailed in my doctoral thesis!  For instance, the definition of giftedness that I used in my 2002 book (which you refer to) isn’t the one I use in my 2009 Pocketbook.  And the enthusiasm for research within the positivist tradition that characterised my early adulthood is now tempered by a great respect for research paradigms that are simultaneously more cautious in their claims and more ambitious in their scope.  Indeed, if my thinking had remained static within this period, you would have great reason to be sceptical!  (I remain proud, however, of my prediction in my 2002 book that the then-emergent NAGTY experiment was doomed!)

3. I never have claimed that “all children are gifted” – even in my 2002 book.  The word is too fuzzy to make such a claim.  Read that (relative) definition more closely and you will see that children’s environmental circumstances will, in this context (as in all others), play an inevitable role in the emergence of giftedness.  In fact I’ve always contested the claim that all children are gifted.  That said, neither have I ever claimed that some children could never be gifted – anyone would be daft to do that (like the person who advised the young Oscar Pistorius to avoid sprinting as a career-choice!).

4. Similarly, where do you find evidence of my “denial of any heritable dimension”?  This is especially mystifying.  It’s as daft as going for a 40:60 genes-environment ratio (or any other ratio) in the “nature-nurture” debate!  Most contemporary psychologists believe this to be a sterile and deeply-flawed conceptualisation anyway: we can no longer believe in a 20th-century notion of genes somehow overlayed by environment (G+E) in an age when all the evidence is that genes interact with the environment (and vice versa) from the moment of conception – i.e. it’s GxE, rendering the nature-nurture framework good for its author’s time (Galton) – but hardly the 21st century.

I do welcome your (and anyone else’s) critiquing of my thinking – it’s how I grow – but the best scholarship involves a close and careful interrogation of the best of someone’s else’s thinking, not a decontextualised analysis of inadvertently misunderstood elements.

In friendship!

Barry

 

TD RESPONSE 25 JANUARY 2012 – BH RESPONSE 25 JANUARY 2012

Hi Barry

I’m glad you took the critique in the spirit in which it was intended. The text was based entirely on what I found (and what I didn’t find) in your doctoral thesis. I haven’t read your other books.

I drew the ‘all children are gifted’ inference from your definition:

‘A gifted or talented student is regarded as one who has:

    • experienced a degree of facilitated self-reflection on his or her pattern of learning strengths and preferences, and:
    • identified his or her area(s) of greatest strength(s) within the framework of an enriched or extended learning environment.’

which could in principle apply to everyone – especially given your own comment upon how it could be applied in practice:

‘There was the potential…for 100% of a school’s roll to be identified as gifted or talented – but only through the rejection of a norm-referenced, comparative understanding of the term, in which a child is gifted because she is objectively “better,” “brighter,” “more successful” than another, in any given domain…Instead, there is the potential for the term to be conceived in ontogenetic terms, in which a child (any child) is seen to have a gift in a domain, because relative to her other interests, aptitudes or performances, this domain emerges as a relative strength or focus of energies.’

I take that to mean that, if the measure of giftedness is taken to be a person being better at some thing(s) than others, rather than being better than (most) other people at those things, then it can apply to pretty much everyone.  We’re still talking my 2001/2002 definition here, and yes, hypothetically it could – but in practice it won’t – not all children will have access to an enriched and extended learning environment (especially when this is restricted to 5-10% of the school population!), but my energies over the past 15 years have been in the direction of making it so!  And even if by some magic every child did have access to this ideally enriched, extending and reflection-rich learning environment, every child would only be gifted within the province of this intra-individual definition.  (I’ve never been much interested in norm-referenced rankings of ‘the gifted’).  I remain surprised, therefore, that you see this as evidence for a belief that I subscribe to the view that ‘all children are gifted’ – since your critique seems to come from within a model of giftedness (in which some children ‘are’ and some children ‘aren’t’) to which I do not subscribe – mostly because I’m more interested in the development of talent, not in the identification of those from whom talent might be expected, and those from whom it might not.

I looked in vain for a clear and unambiguous statement elsewhere in your thesis that this did not apply to your later thinking, as encapsulated in the notion of ‘generative transformational giftedness’ but I couldn’t find one.  As above – since I saw (and see) no evidence that this did apply to my earlier thinking, I saw no reason to refute it!  My thinking certainly has moved on in that period though, as I sensed that that early definition, whilst having substantial moral traction and a certain educational veracity too, isn’t where I wanted to invest much space or energies.   If you can point me to the words I will gladly eat humble pie. The same goes for any clear statement in the thesis that heritability remains a factor in ‘generative transformational giftedness’. Since these two things seemed to be absent, I drew the obvious inference.  Again, my thesis was never intended to be a vehicle for creating a nailed-down definition of ‘giftedness’, but a description and analysis of my own travelling in the field – which en passant led to the emergence of a model for gift-creation (NB, not identification).  Nor did I feel the need to attribute any proportion of influence on giftedness to genetics – not because I think children are tabula rasa on whom the environment writes the script (I don’t), but because as an educator I can’t affect children’s genes.  In fact I don’t know anyone who can.  Of course genes matter, but all the weight of gene-studies (particularly via twin studies) suggests is that there is, on average, a statistically detectable genetic influence on intelligence in the region of 60% – but the variability is huge, depending on a multiplicity of factors (which group?, when measured?, how?, etc).  In fact Turkheimer (2003) found that the heritability of intelligence was near 0%: a neat model of genes overlayed by environment is way too simple to describe the dynamic interaction between genes and environment during development.  Both have an influence ONLY in interaction with each other, not independently AT ALL.  Whatever figure emerges applies ONLY to groups (and to that specific group) – not to any one individual within that group.  Of course this is how statistics work.  In other words, twin studies and the like tell us nothing at all about anyone’s individual potential – hence my lack of serious engagement in this issue as an educator.

I entirely accept the point that the relationship between genes and environment is complex (and say so) but I still maintain, on the basis of what I’ve read, that there is broad consensus that both are significant (agreed!), so that each might typically account for 40-60% of causation (acknowledging of course the serious health warnings attached to such an estimate). It isn’t a proper answer to say, as you seem to, that it’s all too complicated to allow of any attempt at quantification whatsoever.  Sorry – it is – see above!  Statistics are powerful tools, but in the words of the old saw, when all one has is a hammer, everything one sees begins to look like a nail ….

But this is all second order stuff. My bigger and far more important point is that Borland’s line is fundamentally right – why bother squabbling endlessly over definitions and causation, when the much more important issue is how to make education more responsive to the needs of such learners.  (Which learners??!!  Is this a slip of the finger, given what you’ve just said?  Borland has no specific demographic in mind, for the reasons you transcribed earlier.)  But absolutely Tim – if by “such” you really meant “all”, on this we are as one, like Torville & Dean, like steak and kidney, like rhubarb and custard, like (alas) Nick and Dave.  Hence my reason for positioning myself firmly on the peripheries of the “G&T movement” over the last 15 years – much as I admire many of the members of it and the work that they do (I include you in this).  And I’m aware that positions which involve some nuance are easily labelled as either dismissive of the entire field, or intellectually incoherent.  This is a risk I’m happy to take, since nuance is for me an inevitable consequence of careful scholarship, and greatly preferable to the alternatives (there be monsters).

Your study left me feeling despondent at the ultimate futility of the process you described within it, for I could see no practical benefit for the learner from all that carefully-wrought intellectual positioning. I’m no scholar, as I’ll be the first to admit,but I worry deeply that much of the scholarship I encounter in this field is fundamentally feeding itself, rather than making a real difference to the quality of education in our schools.  You may have a point here, as I suspect the academic community hasn’t always been very adroit in relating research to practitioners’ needs, but this is the very reason why my academic focus in recent years has shifted towards practitioner-led research, and supporting teachers and other educators in researching their own practice – and drawing on the best of traditional research evidence in the process.  It is in seeing how this reflective practice transforms classrooms and the opportunities for children that I feel so energised, joyful and enthusiastic.  Far from seeing research as futile, when research involves a light-footed interplay between theory and practice, the outworkings are hugely practical, and impact on thousands of lives.

I was particularly angered by the position taken by the National Curriculum Review Expert Panel, who appear to have ducked the issue of able pupils’ progression (even though it was clearly part of their remit) because they couldn’t make it fit with their ideological position.  Just a thought, and without passing any comment on the report as a whole: is it possible that they take the evidence-led (not ‘ideological’) view that concepts like ability, giftedness and talent are fluid, not fixed?  In that case, their ‘omission’ is entirely consistent with a focus on all pupils’ progression.

If I’ve been unfair to you it was because, having read your thesis, I felt that the same criticism could arguably be laid at your door, in relation to that single piece of work I hasten to add.  I realize that I may not yet have convinced you otherwise, but I would ask you to consider reading some of my work directed at practitioners – and perhaps some of the thoughts communicated by teachers who’ve experienced my inservice sessions – I receive very few accusations of introspective onanism – and I’m far too torn by conflicting pulls to be seen as ideologically consistent (though I might reasonably aspire to some moral and intellectual consistency)!  And the non-deterministic model that emerged from my thesis is now used as the ‘G&T’ framework for very many teachers across the UK and beyond – the G&T Pocketbook wouldn’t have become a bestseller by marketing alone.  That said, I continue to admire (as I’ve always done) your manifestly authentic engagement in the field – qualities which you displayed throughout your tenure with the DCSF, and which you continue to demonstrate in your current role as the most active, curious and critically-focused G&T blogger on the web – and you describe yourself as “no scholar”?  I take issue with that as much as any other.

It would be good if we could publish this exchange on the blog. Are you content for me to do so?  Quite content.

Thanks and best wishes  Ditto.

Some Fish by Gifted Phoenix

TD RESPONSE 28 FEBRUARY 2012 – BH RESPONSE 4 MARCH 2012

Hi Barry

Sorry that it’s taken so long for me to return to our dialogue.

Given the time that’s elapsed – and given that we’re both agreed that we’d like to publish this – I thought I should try to develop my response to each of the arguments you’ve advanced in your two previous emails.

I’m hopeful that, in the light of your subsequent reply, we might conclude by capturing the points on which we agree and those on which we still disagree?

An excellent idea Tim, and potentially very interesting to readers…Anyway, here are my responses to the thought-full points you make in reply to our previous exchanges:

The compatibility between a social-constructivist position and empirical research

It will be no surprise to you that I still don’t really understand the relationship between social constructivism and empirical research. I suspect that the answer is complex and won’t lend itself to brevity!  Social constructivism is a paradigmatic worldview of a qualitative researcher; it’s not a methodology or form of research in itself.  Because it is predicated on the notion that knowledge is socially constructed and can’t relate to any outward, pre-existent ‘reality’ (which doesn’t exist ‘out there’), it lends itself to such qualitative research tools as action research, unstructured interviews, case-studies etc.  Whilst social-constructivists do do empirical research, it does require a particular view of what ‘empirical’ might mean: it’s not the empiricism of Locke (all knowledge comes direct from sensory experience) or the logical positivists with their close associations with mathematical definitions of proof.  Indeed it requires a redefinition of the boundaries between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ since there can be nothing that exists ‘objectively’ – i.e. independently of the world ideas – which have in turn to be socially constructed.  I’m aware these might seem like over-subtle and ‘magical’ descriptions, but they relate to what follows below – bear with me:

What exactly is it that determines whether you are personally convinced by any given piece of research and, perhaps more to the point, whether you believe that those attending your INSET sessions should be convinced? Two answers here, but I suspect that only one will come close to convincing you!:  1. Whether the research study is well-designed, well-executed and well-interpreted, and that it contributes something useful to our understanding of something that we regard as important and worthy of study.  2.  That it tells a good story.  There are many factors that have to be taken into account in deciding whether a piece of research meets these criteria (and here I mean the criteria for both answer 1. and 2.), and these will to some extent be a feature of the tradition within which the research is couched.  Things like sample size, internal and external validity, appropriate use of statistical tools, access to experimental and control groups, etc are all important in research couched within a positivist tradition (which draws mostly on quantitative research).   This is because positivists believe that people’s behaviour can be studied in much the same way that we study the physical world and that the ‘reality’ of that which is studied exists independently of the human observer.  Their studies are designed to focus only on the feature under investigation, to the exclusion of all else.  This isn’t necessarily to say that they’d deny the importance of other factors, but simply that, “This isn’t what we were studying here”.  Once it’s been (well) designed, the research therefore follows a set and highly technical path, with no distracting detours.

By contrast, naturalistic research (mostly but not exclusively qualitative) eschews laboratory-type studies for explorations in medias res (in the middle of things).  These researchers believe that when we study ragged, complex, inconsistent things like people we can at best aspire to comment on probabilistic relationships between actions and consequences, but we can never assume deterministic relationships between causes and effects.  They too aim for rigour and robustness in their enquiries, but if humans at least partially construct their own realities in their engagements with others, they will be less impressed by numbers, data, confidence intervals, effect sizes and generalisability than by the answers they and their readers provide to questions such as these: is this a plausible account?  Is it a rich account?  Does it make sense in the context of the study, and of other studies in the field?  Does it invite alternative accounts?  Does it lead to new insights and ways of conceptualising the issue/s studied?

What is it about Dweck’s research, other than that it tends to support your own preferred position? Why do you particularly value meta-studies, when one might reasonably argue that the aggregation of research findings within them makes them inherently more unreliable, on the grounds – presumably regarded sympathetically from a social-constructivist viewpoint – that context is everything?

Great questions, and very incisive!  It is true that Dweck’s research and the studies that tend to get lumped into meta-studies (and syntheses of meta-studies) tend to be couched in the world of quantitative research and generalisable truth-claims.  It is true too that as a social constructivist I am sceptical of some of the claims made in such research.  Whilst such studies are often received warmly by politicians (and, dare I say it, civil servants) seeking ‘bottom-line’ evidence about value for money, they are fraught with dangers.  Here are just a few (openly acknowledged by their creators, like Hattie): 1. they rarely include social background/poverty effects, even when these are way more important than the things that are included.  2. The studies are not equally valid – they’re a VERY mixed bag.  3. They’re often limited to one dimension of schooling – achievement – whereas there are many alternative candidates – long-term love of learning, citizenship skills, etc.  4. Findings from laboratory studies may transfer poorly to the contexts of actual classrooms – or not at all.  5. Correlation is not causation: to move from ‘this is significant’ to ‘so this is what teachers should do’ is to ignore this warning.  6.  Perhaps most importantly of all, meta-studies have nothing at all to say about what the purpose of education actually is – which is a profoundly normative question, invoking the notion of values.

That said and notwithstanding these and other theoretical and technical reservations, insofar as quantitative research does provide us with evidence (of a particular sort), we should be minded to pay attention to it.  All of it, NOT just that which tends to support my own position.  It’s because there is no credible counter-evidence to Dweck’s research that I am struck by it and call upon the G&T field to take it into account.  I am aware, however, that in my INSET sessions, which are necessarily time-precious, I usually neglect to give any significant time to critiquing the paradigm in which this research is based and as a result may give the impression that I think Dweck is the last word on the subject.  Much as I admire her work, as a social constructivist I actually have some serious reservations about this paradigm, and I don’t believe in ‘last word’ research – like all scientists, social scientists can talk only of current best thinking in the light of currently best available evidence.  Dewey said it best: “Evidence does not supply us with rules for action but only with hypotheses for intelligent problem solving, and for making inquiries about our ends in education.”

You refer in your subsequent paragraph to: ‘a great respect for research paradigms – outside the positivist tradition – that are simultaneously more cautious in their claims and more ambitious in their scope’. Which paradigms are these? Qualitative paradigms, like social constructivism, critical theory, structuralism, post-structuralism and even (deep breath) postmodernism.  How do the authors of such research expect that we, its consumers, should respond to it? With an open and critical mind – like anything else.

My very basic notion of social-constructivism is that the value of research depends critically on the interaction between the individual ‘consumer’ and the research, which amounts to what I called ‘cherry picking’ in my post. So it is not the methodological rigour of the research – and whether it stands up to peer scrutiny – that determines its worth, but whether it helps you as an individual to a greater personal understanding of the issue with which you personally are wrestling. It might be methodologically ropey, but as long as that’s not important to you, it might still be highly significant. Am I wrong?  I hope so!  I’m all for an individual reaching a greater personal understanding of an issue with which she is wrestling, but methodological rigour is profoundly important in all paradigms of research.  What is critical here is the individual’s own ontological and epistemological stance: what is real?  What counts as evidence?  And what is the relationship between the knower and the known?  It is highly unlikely, for instance, that a social constructivist will believe that multilevel analyses of relationships between nested variables will reveal much that is useful about the nature of these relationships.  Similarly, a positivistically-minded person (whether she knows she is or not) is unlikely to be impressed by an interpretative-phenomenological study that reveals rich insights but no hard conclusions about “what works”.  Both studies will therefore need to be critiqued from within the tradition in which they are couched – and by their own criteria of what is methodologically sound and robust.  To do otherwise is like asking Richard Dawkins which of the gospels best approximates to the truth of Jesus’ relationship to God.

I yearn towards a clearer understanding but, given my more positivist perspective, I fear the logic drags one inexorably towards the final unhelpful position articulated by Yun Dai which I quoted in my post: ‘All forms of knowledge are nothing but devices of social control, of gaining economic advantages, or simply a language game’.  Postmodernism can have a certain pessimistic bleakness about it, I admit!

Your thinking in 2002 is not my thinking in 2012, or even in 2006/07

It would be uncharitable of me not to allow you the possibility of developing your thinking, or even of changing your mind, since I certainly cannot claim a consistent position between 1996 (when I first got involved) and now.  Thank you.

I would maintain, however,  that your thesis does not explain very clearly the relationship between your 2002 position and your 2007 position, at least not in terms that I could clearly understand.  That will be the fault of my writing then, as that was one of its intentions.

I’m very happy to credit your foresight in predicting the demise of NAGTY, although I can’t pretend that the decision was informed by any reference to your arguments as to why that would be a good thing.  Of that I have no doubt!  NAGTY was conceived explicitly on the understanding that it was a good thing!  Even when shaky theoretical foundations get exposed by the buffetings of life we don’t always blame the foundations – we think the walls were badly built.  As the Pulitzer-award-winning writer Upton Sinclair once remarked, “It’s difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on their not understanding it.”  I use this quotation without implying any reference to you (I have always seen you as someone very keen to understand things – even when they do challenge your foundations.  Your career decisions reflect this integrity).  I’m thinking more of other NAGTY architects and first inhabitants, and the revisionist histories that followed after the fall.

You have never claimed that all children are gifted

The 2002 definition accepts the ‘inevitable role’ played by children’s environmental circumstances in ‘the emergence of giftedness’ (these quotes are from your response, not your thesis). But the principles you cite in the thesis include:

‘The school has an important role in helping every child to identify his or her gift/s or talent/s’.

Did you mean ‘every child’s gifts or talents’ as a convenient shorthand, similar to that which I describe in the first part of my post, or is this to be taken at face value as a statement that every child does indeed have gifts or talents?  Yes, the latter, but within the terms of that definition (relative strengths, rather than objective strengths).  Even then I did not argue that all children are gifted or talented within the dominant and traditional understanding of that term.

As you point out, the definition does refer to self-identification: ‘within the framework of an enriched or extended learning environment’

But there is also the subsequent commentary I quoted in our previous exchange:

‘There was the potential…for 100% of a school’s roll to be identified as gifted or talented – but only through the rejection of a norm-referenced, comparative understanding of the term, in which a child is gifted because she is objectively “better,” “brighter,” “more successful” than another, in any given domain…Instead, there is the potential for the term to be conceived in ontogenetic terms, in which a child (any child) is seen to have a gift in a domain, because relative to her other interests, aptitudes or performances, this domain emerges as a relative strength or focus of energies.’

The references here to ‘100% of a school’s role’ and ‘any child’ could certainly be taken as allowing for the possibility – indeed desirability – of realising universal giftedness,  albeit dependent on universal access to the appropriate learning environment. I had understood your work in Barrow EAZ to be focused on generating precisely those conditions and end result? Yes, quite true, and I’d still hold that to be a noble educational aspiration.

Your thesis says you were happy that your 2002 definition ‘avoided, we felt, a woolly “All children are gifted, so let’s not talk further about it” response’. But the subsequent paragraphs, especially the section I have quoted above, led me to assume that you were not rejecting an ‘all children are gifted’ stance per se, but were only taking exception to a ‘woolly’ response that failed to explain why that was the case?  I wasn’t rejecting the stance of believing all children could be gifted according to that definition – but again I must draw your attention to that definition, and how specific it is in its construction – it’s a hundred miles removed from the traditional understanding of giftedness, which posits (falsely) some relatively clear, objective, unambiguous, widely-accepted and culturally all-embracing understanding of the term – in which some kids ‘just are’ gifted and some kids aren’t.  It’s a scepticism entirely consistent with social-constructivism, for the reasons provided earlier.

You say in your commentary that it would be ‘daft’ to claim that ‘some children could never be gifted’, but I think that depends on one’s understanding of the term, and to what extent one is prepared to include extreme circumstances. Agreed. Of course, if giftedness is solely a matter of a person being better at something than he is at others, then it would be daft to make such an assumption. But if relativity to others is part of the equation, then I think this is a more legitimate position, even though the relevant heritable dispositions may be quite widely distributed.  I’d even take issue with this position, because the notion of ‘heritable dispositions’ isn’t independently valid to me, except in its inseparable (hence, hardly independent) interaction with environmental, attitudinal and related non-hereditary factors.  We don’t have a great track-record of predicting outstanding achievements on the grounds of early evidence of natural ability (think Edison, Einstein, and innumerable stellar achievers in every domain of human achievement).  So if a label like giftedness doesn’t have a predictive function, what useful function does it have – merely to describe some people as ‘gifted’ in retrospect?  There doesn’t seem to be much that’s educationally interesting there ….

Where do you find evidence of my denial of any heritable dimension?

I agree that you don’t deny a heritable dimension but, as far as I can see, you fail to acknowledge any heritable dimension in your 2002 definition.  Your thesis says:

‘Looking back on this period, I recognise that these ambitions were only partly realized, and our attempts to liberalise conceptions of giftedness were nonetheless framed within a traditional psychological epistemology: the complexity would embrace, for instance, both within-child factors (e.g. inherited or acquired predispositions, aptitudes and intelligences, learning dispositions) as well as situational and motivational factors (e.g. levels of opportunity, encouragement and learning challenge).’

But, despite this, I could find no acknowledgement of within child factors in the definition itself:

‘A gifted or talented student is regarded as one who has:

(i)            experienced a degree of facilitated self-reflection on his or her pattern of learning strengths and preferences, and:

(ii)          identified his or her area(s) of greatest strength(s) within the framework of an enriched or extended learning environment.’

 There is none that is explicit, although arguably a pattern of strengths and weaknesses is likely to come from somewhere – i.e. the indivisible dance of genes and environment.  So I guess that someone desperate enough to find this somewhere, would find it here.  I also inferred that, when ‘looking back on this period’ from … the vantage point of … 2007, you were doing so from a position in which you had by then successfully escaped the bounds of ‘a traditional psychological epistemology’, including its emphasis on various ‘within-child factors’.

That’s because there is again no obvious reference to such factors within the nearest equivalent I could find to a definition of your 2007 position:

‘…just as individuals build their knowledge through language and social interaction, so can gifts be built, created or made – rather than identified, discovered or found. This will in large measure be dependent on the social and relational element at the heart (in more than one sense) of generative transformational giftedness – as socio-cognitive processes emerge through the activating and development of higher-order thinking skills, which in turn arise from the relationships a person sustains with his or her social environments.’

I acknowledge the construction ‘can…rather than’ allows for the possibility that giftedness still can sometimes be ‘identified, discovered or found’ (If that’s a possible reading, I shouldn’t have used the word ‘can’!  I don’t believe it’s EVER “found” as a sort of free-floating potentiality, and if we think it has then we’ve underestimated or failed to acknowledge the role of that child’s wider linguistic, social and intellectual environment in contributing to the development of that skill – via GxE.  You can see that in this area I am conceding very little!) but I could find no other evidence to support an expectation on your part that typically it would do so.

Again, as previously mentioned, that thesis did not set out to define giftedness explicitly, but it did (as one part) attempt to set out the conditions in which giftedness can emerge.  As a social constructivist, I don’t believe that “natural cognitive capacity” exists as some pre-formed, objective and real “thing” that might be attributed to some invisible factor like genes, so it would be odd indeed if I pretended that it did.

This brings us back to the statement in the first part of my post that:

‘Consequently, heritability and environment are both significant determinants of ability. In some cases, environmental benefits will compensate for limited heritability and, in others, the opposite will be true. It follows that someone with limited heritable ability can compensate through learned skills and effort – and someone blessed with heritable riches may need to try less hard. But these two factors are not always easy to unravel (eg effort cannot be regarded solely as a product of environment, unaffected by heritable dispositions).  You could also argue this the other way – that heritable dispositions can hardly be seen to be unaffected by such things as effort, opportunity, etc.! Typically though, heritability and environment are relatively balanced: we might expect each to account for some 40-60% of the causation of ability, though there will be exceptions.’

I like your statement that the relationship between genes and environment is more GxE than G+E, which neatly conveys some of the complexity of the inter-relationship between them.

But I still don’t understand why that prevents one from offering a view on what the balance of evidence suggests is a typical weighting of the two factors, hedged about as it is with all kinds of health warnings that this cannot be applied reliably to each individual.  See my earlier reply – any “weighting” of factors aligns itself with a simple and false G+E understanding.  Once things are seen as necessarily acting in concert with each other, and those things are dynamic and complex to start with, then we’re dealing with an algorithm that hasn’t been invented yet (but GxE comes closer).

I readily admit that this conclusion may be little more than an acknowledgement that, if one reviewed all recent research on the topic, from the full range of different academic perspectives, one would find ‘outliers’ at either end of the spectrum, who argue that giftedness is predominantly (even exclusively) heritable or, conversely, predominantly (even exclusively) determined by environment.  Probably, but I wouldn’t position myself at either end – I’d suggest we needed to question the discrete integrity of the putative key players (heredity vs environment) in the first place.  To the extent that there is consensus, however, it does seem to converge around the relative balance described in my ratio. (Not really – see previous reply.) Presumably, a meta-analysis of the kind you use for INSET purposes would offer a ‘real challenge’ to those who would design gifted education policy on the basis of either of the two extreme views? (Sorry – I couldn’t resist that!)

Your comments on my comments

On the ‘all children are gifted’ inference

You admit that your 2002 definition of giftedness can hypothetically apply universally, to every child, provided they have access to an ‘enriched and extended learning environment’ and that you have been focused on securing that outcome.  (And don’t forget the other key factor – deep reflection.)

I recognise that this applies in relation to your ‘intra-individual definition’ in which people are deemed gifted solely by reference to themselves, rather than through relative comparison with others. The fact that you see no role for the relative in the process of establishing the incidence of giftedness is a fundamental difference between us, as I see it. Perhaps because ‘incidence’ (like ‘identification’, ‘discover’ and ‘find’) betrays an essentially fixed, stable concept of giftedness, whereas I see giftedness as fluid and dynamic.  When the context changes for a child, so does the giftedness.  We just need to see how a child might be ‘gifted’ with one teacher and ‘difficult’ or ‘ordinary’ with another to recognize this.  If we then take an ‘incidence’ perspective on this phenomenon then it requires us to argue that with the second teacher giftedness enters a latency or dormant stage!  In that case you may as well argue that every child is either gifted or latently gifted – if superior genes are the clincher, why don’t they do the clinching?!

It’s not so much that I believe some children ‘are’ and some ‘aren’t’ – it’s more accurate to say that I accept that some children will have heritable dispositions that will make giftedness – in a relative sense – significantly more likely for them than for others.  If I can include my essential GxE point, I think you just MIGHT be right here – this may well be a point of agreement – but our divergence is in what we do with this belief.  I would ask how you would EVER know who those children are?  Certainly not via the circular reasoning of “identification procedures”, however comprehensive they might be.  Even if we did full genome mapping of every child, geneticists have yet to identify the gifted gene – so what are we looking for by way of predictive power?  An emphasis on “some children with latent high potential vs some with latent low potential” is therefore a dangerous dead-end educationally.  And potential in what exactly?  Chess?  Javelin-throwing?  Maths?  Poetry?  Languages?  Cycling?  Or the “broad intellectual schema” on which these specific domains are underpinned?  Visual-spatial skills, athletic skills like eye-hand coordination, logical-mathematical skills (in early algebra?  Trig?  Arithmetic? …).  Now this already problematic conceptualisation becomes riven by questions of ethics and value: what skills do we value in our society?

To me this is a statement of the obvious. You seem to want to escape the evidence that some children are relatively advantaged genetically by refusing to make any kind of relative comparison, and you justify this on the grounds that you are more interested in developing talent than identifying it.  See above!

I take the same line on the translation of high ability into high achievement, regardless of how we define ability or achievement. It does not seem to me likely that, were we to be able to control properly for environmental differences (and how might we do that exactly?  Not in this life, and certainly not by giving some children access to distinct teaching and learning opportunities!  Giving the best quality learning opportunities in school only to the least-advantaged children might go some very limited way to controlling for environmental differences but I can’t see that winning favour in the Daily Mail or at NAGC AGMs!), all the children in a Year R classroom would have exactly the same prospect of achieving the same outcomes at age 16 or 18, for example. Similarly, it does not seem to me likely that, with the same environmental control in place, all those children would be equally likely to excel in, say, weightlifting or piano-playing, no matter how intensively they practised to acquire the necessary skills. Do you disagree? Not at all – for all manner of reasons – but I still wouldn’t be able to make accurate predictions about who would and who wouldn’t benefit most at the outset!  And they would all benefit somehow – however differentially!  Please don’t extend my argument to suppose that I believe that all children are gifted, or equally gifted, or equally predisposed to giftedness, or all equal in some other capacity, or should all be equal in every respect ….

On your definitions

You argue that your ‘thesis was never intended to be a vehicle for creating a nailed down definition of ‘giftedness’’. I accept that, but a central theme is the description of the process by which your 2002 definition was transformed into your 2007 conceptualisation of ‘generative-transformational giftedness’. It was not possible for me, as a reader, to understand exactly what you meant by the latter without understanding the role of heritability within it. The fact that you did not supply any clear explanation of the role of heritability left me no real alternative but to make inferences from the evidence I have cited above.

To argue, as you do, that this was because ‘as an educator I can’t affect children’s genes’ is an easy cop-out. As an educator, I can’t directly affect poverty, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to ‘narrow the gap’ between the achievement of disadvantaged and advantaged learners.  This is a good point and I accept it at a theoretical level, but it still doesn’t offer me a way of changing children’s genes or my practice as an educator.  And poverty is FAR more susceptible to concerted socio-political action than genes are.  So if you’re suggesting we both throw our weight behind movements in support of poverty-reduction, we’ve found another point of agreement.  That would, after all, be one way of significantly increasing the total capability pool (see my recent article on Nussbaum, Heckman, Sen et al in G&T update) – it’s about the opportunities available to people – not just to those we predict will benefit from them!

Your statement here ‘of course genes matter’ is welcome, but it would have helped to see that explained properly within your thesis, as essential context for both your 2002 position and your 2007 conceptualisation. I accept that:

  • There is huge variability in the genetic influence on intelligence (and giftedness?)
  • The interaction between genes and environment is complex and
  • There are statistical (and conceptual) issues about applying the general conclusion to any given individual

But I think we still differ over the reporting of this fact. I want to set it out as honestly as I can, with the health warnings explained as clearly as I can manage, but you seem to want to avoid any quantification whatsoever because it’s all so misleading and bound to be misunderstood by those who are insufficiently expert in the field.  Which is basically all of us – as a species!  You make another good point though, and that is, for me, that I should set out more explicitly and more regularly why a focus on genes is a red herring.  And this dialogue and opportunity for me to have my own thinking challenged has helped me immeasurably in this regard.  I’m not sure that’s the conclusion you would like me to draw, but it’s the one I’m led to.

I’m afraid I still maintain that merely saying ‘it’s complicated’ will not do at all.  Fair point.

What’s the point of dancing on the head of this pin?

I used the phrase ‘such learners’ because I didn’t want to reopen the question of which learners I meant, but I owe you an answer.

Whereas I think you see gifted education as (equally?) applicable to all learners, I see it as principally applicable to a subset (while recognising that there may be spin-off benefits for the whole school population). Specifying that subset is more difficult, but I believe it should be an evidence-driven process that involves comparison with others and with what is normally expected at a given age or stage of development,  rather than being confined solely to what an individual is best at. I also believe, as you know, that many learners are likely to move in and out of that subset over time. If that’s the case, surely what makes some people move out of that subset over time (loss of opportunity, motivation, application etc) are exactly the same factors that allow them to move into it?  And that’s why specifying that subset isn’t just difficult, it’s nonsensical.

I won’t say anything against practitioner-led research which draws ‘on the best of traditional research evidence in the process’, except that I would have the  reservations already expressed above if it turned out to be practitioner-led research in the social-constructivist tradition!  A great pity – you have just dismissed many of the greats of educational research and theory, not least Vygotsky and Bruner.

I also recognise that the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review was reflecting the view that ability is fluid rather than fixed. That itself is not problematic because I share that view. Another point of agreement then.  But holding such a position is not a justification for failing properly to address their remit to advise on support for the progression of able pupils.  It’s the only intellectually consistent approach to take!  They compounded the fault by recommending the removal of National Curriculum levels – the basis of our current methodology for supporting progression – without offering any clear advice about what, if anything, would replace them.  High quality formative assessment, quality feedback, a high challenge curriculum, deep as well as surface level learning etc. – all the things that are valued in all good research – including that couched within your preferred tradition!

Final comments

This is much, much longer than I intended it to be. I accept that, were I to read your other work, I would most probably find a more developed, rounded and contemporary treatment. I do hope so, but there’s no guarantee you’d be able to embrace it all.

But, if I were I to encounter teachers using it as ‘the G&T framework’ I would, frankly, tell them to read more widely! Yet another point of agreement – I don’t claim the final or even the best word on this subject – though it’s the best I can currently offer.  For part of my gripe has always been that too many educators are seeking an easy answer from a single authority, rather than drawing on a range of sources to inform decisions about what will work in their own particular context. Yes – and politicians, and civil servants.  And – while I’m not accusing you of this – too many of those authorities actively collude in this process, peddling their solution as the absolute and incontrovertible truth while totally disregarding alternative positions and, what is worse, marketing them aggressively for all they are worth.  There’s a fine line between aggressive marketing and active dissemination, but when you compare the relative resources allocated over the past 15 years in England to the aggressive marketing (or active dissemination) of things like NAGTY, EiC, G&T in the Nat Strats etc with the hopeful efforts of solitary practitioners and academics, it doesn’t seem like a very fair contest does it?  In fact it’s remarkable that people peddling arguments and ideas get any traction at all under these circumstances.  It says something for teachers’ receptivity to reasoned ideas, embedded in a strong values base, and communicated as clearly as possible, and their impressive resistance to doing things just because they’re told to

I’m grateful for your kind words about me personally. I respect you no less – and what I admire most about you is your honesty and capacity for self-reflection. It has often struck me that, were gifted educators as a breed to be imbued with more humility and less egotism, we would likely have made much more progress than we have managed over the past 20 years.  Thank you Tim, and this final sentence is one final point of agreement, though I will admit in my worst moments to having far less humility and selflessness than I aspire to at my best!

Another Fish by Gifted Phoenix

DRAWING THE STRANDS TOGETHER – WHERE WE AGREE AND WHERE WE DIFFER – 23 MARCH 2012

Hi Barry

Yet again it has taken me far too long to come back to this fascinating and challenging exchange of views – I have been struggling to convert numerous imperfectly translated sources into a convincing description of gifted education in South Korea.

There may be a parallel of sorts between that exercise and this one, in that I have also struggled to translate your explanations of social constructivism into terms that I can understand and assimilate. The fact that I have been trying to rationalise all this is, perhaps, indicative that I am trapped by my own positivist world-view. I am a monoglot. You, on the other hand, are bilingual and, moreover, I suspect that you are blessed with some of the convert’s missionary zeal!

I realise that the social-constructivist doctrine you describe is very attractive to me in the persona of a one-time student of English Literature. I find that, if I substitute novels or poetry for academic research, I am much more comfortable with such ideas. But when I try to fit them with my concept of the nature and purpose of educational research, the pieces of the jigsaw won’t fit properly together. It feels as if there has been an affront to logic. I hope that this is making sense…is slightly more than impressionistic nonsense.

I don’t think I can or should pursue further at this stage the questions posed by education research in the social-constructivist tradition, except to remark that I can foresee some difficult issues for adherents of evidence-based policy-making, as well as about the nature of ‘best practice’ and its transferability from one environment to another. That, in turn, calls into question some familiar aspects of contemporary education policy – for example, that it is possible to identify outstanding schools and that they can and should focus partly on helping less outstanding schools to improve…

I want to focus instead on the specifics of giftedness and gifted education, trying as far as possible to identify our points of broad agreement and those where we differ. I have tried my best to set this out below – but please feel free to disagree if you think I have misinterpreted you, or omitted any of the more significant elements.

An area of fundamental disagreement

It is clear that we hold (or at least you once held) fundamentally different ideas of the nature of giftedness, in that I understand you to see this entirely in terms of individuals being better at some things than they are at others (the relative) whereas I would also expect those individuals to be better than most of their peers at those things and/or better than external standards designed to capture normal expectations at a given age and stage of development (the comparative).

I want all learners to be the best that they can be, in their areas of strength as well as areas of relative weakness, but I also want them to be better than others too, especially if they are struggling against disadvantage and may be more likely to overcome it if selected in to some scarce or rationed opportunity through competition with their more advantaged peers.

I think our different positions on this fundamental issue rather colour the rest of this summary since, where we agree, we do so from the perspective of these substantively different concepts – so the agreement may be more tenuous than first appears. Nevertheless…

Areas of Broad Agreement

  • We agree that there is an extraordinarily complex mix of genes and environment at play in determining an individual’s relative abilities – and perhaps also their comparative strength? You call this ‘genes x environment’ and ‘the indivisible dance’ – I like the former but stop short of the latter (see below).
  •  We also agree that a learner’s ability is fluid. But I think you tend to attribute this to environmental factors – eg different teacher, different school – whereas I see it more as a function of learners’ non-linear progress and inconsistent pace of development: some will forge ahead for a time and need extra challenge and support during that period; some will stay ahead for much of their time in school; some will be ahead once and never again; some will be ahead on more than one occasion during their school careers.
  •  I think we both agree that giftedness doesn’t have a predictive value – ie we cannot determine on the basis of childhood ability who will be outstanding or expert in adulthood (however we define those terms) so there is no point in designing gifted education to support ‘expertise in development’. I think we both maintain, however, that there is personal and national advantage in maximising high achievement, which involves raising as many learners as possible to that level (however defined) and eradicating higher level underachievement, often attributable to a false assumption that individual learners need only achieve external thresholds, rather than striving to exceed them. I suspect you would want to express this in somewhat different terms.

Areas of Broad Disagreement

  • The foremost of these is dictated by our different paradigms of giftedness. Within your paradigm, I think I have encouraged you to concede that you believe all children may be gifted (or did so in the past), provided that they all benefit from a conducive environment (including support for deep reflection). I do not hold this view. I have said that I ‘accept that some children will have heritable dispositions that will make giftedness – in a relative sense – significantly more likely for them than for others’. You have conceded that this might be right – not forgetting the critical significance of environment of course – but I take you to be saying that we can never identify who these children are, because identification procedures involve ‘circular reasoning’. For me it is not important to identify just heritable dispositions. It is important to establish when learners need challenge and support because they are forging ahead of their peers, regardless of the mix of heritability and environment that has caused this.
  •  I’m not sure, but I think we also continue to differ on the question of whether we should attempt to explain the blend of genes and environment – at least in quantitative terms. You see this as the ‘indivisible dance’. You have said that you ‘should set out more explicitly and more regularly why a focus on genes is a red herring’ but that stops short of my position. I think I can best describe that as wanting to express the ‘production function’ that specifies all the inputs for a given level of output. I suspect that our respective choice of metaphor says rather a lot about our positions on this!
  •  Then there is also the stance adopted by the National Curriculum Expert Panel, which I have taken to task for failing to offer proper recommendations about progression for able pupils, despite having a remit to do so. You suggest that, having once accepted that ability is fluid, this is ‘the only intellectually consistent approach to take’. I might conceivably have accepted this argument had the Expert Panel made any effort to advance it, but this they did not do. In the absence of any convincing explanation to the contrary, I continue to believe that any personalised process based on formative assessment needs to have inbuilt some objective measures of the progress learners are expected to make across a key stage, with comparatively higher expectations for those capable of faster progress. There may be fluidity in the rate of progress at different places between these start and end points, but that does not undermine the need for explicit expectations about progress across the key stage as a whole.

I’m aware that some of this summary will likely set new hares running at a time when we are seeking to bring this dialogue to a close; also that there are several other points that I could – perhaps should – have included. But you have waited quite long enough – and it’s a warm sunny day and I yearn to be outside!

Since I had the first word, it’s only fair that I offer you the last!

PS. Barry chose not to offer a further contribution and we agreed to end our dialogue at this point.

 

GP

April 2012

 

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11 thoughts on “Two Very Different Perspectives on Giftedness and Gifted Education

  1. Two things stand out to me. Firstly, notwithstanding social-constructivism exists because there is a degree of validity to it, there seems to be a lot of Schrodinger’s Cat type-debate inherent here. ‘Gifted only exists because it is socially constructed’. But this is akin to saying there is no cat as opposed to determining whether the cat is alive or dead. There is a cat. Whether we chose to *call* it a ‘cat’ or something else is socially constructed but there is buckets of evidence to show that children are born with a thing we currently called ‘giftedness’; this is supported at least by varying levels of environmental influence between different social and economic groups i.e. it doesn’t matter how little the environmental input is, it is still clear that children are born with a ‘thing’ that allows the environmental factors to work and in a percentage of cases, environmental input (lack thereof) is not sufficient to explain the child’s *demonstrated* ability. Secondly, can a child, who we *later* discover to have an IQ (another social-constructivist’s dream!) of say, 60, become ‘gifted’ from having an enriched learning experience? Can they, for example, become a highly qualified and competent brain surgeon? No. Would I say never? At a pinch, no. But it would take so long as to make it pointless. One of the key points of giftedness, regardless of definition, is that gifted children learn much more rapidly and that this is a ‘born with it’ (versus ‘inherited’) trait.
    I have read Barry’s pocketbook and found it very interesting. The notion of mastery is obvious and is an approach that all teachers should adopt for all their students. However, even within the confines of a standardised curriculum, beyond a certain minimum, there is simply not enough time, *given students’ ability*, to ensure equal mastery of the material. ‘Gifted’ students can master must more quickly. Some lesser ability students will never master material no matter how much time and input the receive (it should’t stop us trying though!) and while it is all fine and good to say that they *should*, this is a standard that reality does not support.

  2. Firstly, I’d like to mention my disappointment that neither of the photographs of fish appears to include a red herring. If I have overlooked one, please let me know.

    I have a great deal of respect for the position that teachers should be involved in a constant search for each child’s strengths. To me, it is unethical, it is failing to appropriately value the child, not to do so. However, having worked in a fairly intense special needs environment, where a preverbal teen’s greatest strength may manifest in rocking in time with music, I only see this process as intersecting a little with “gifted and talented education”.

    If we accept a fluid notion of giftedness, it is still important to know who is gifted right now, so that they can sometimes be offered the opportunity to work with children of similar ability in the same domains. This is important for good teaching and for good learning. The extent to which teachers manage to be all things to all people is amazing, but not infinite. Grouping for learning supports targeted instruction and reduces teacher stress.

    Given the example of environmental influence in which a child was gifted in last year’s classroom with last year’s teacher, but whose gift seems to have gone into latency this year, it is also important to know who was gifted recently. Let’s break that “latency” if we can.

    I’d like to know more about the practices promoting deep student reflection that Barry advocates. There is no point in thinking it’s important for (potentially) every child if we don’t know how to get every child doing it. Student reflection is an interest of mine, but a lot of reflection that goes on in classrooms appears to have little effect on learning.

    On research, both Hattie and Dweck have research findings that are regularly questioned here in touchy-feely-qualitative-land. I first studied research in a positivist mould in the early 80’s within the health sciences. I studied educational research last year, and even though we technically covered positivist research, the qualitative flavour permeated the way positivist methods were explained. I strongly believe we need both in education. One aims at gathering scientific data while the other often gathers the collective insights of stakeholders. I guess you’re teaming positivist narrow certainty with qualitative tentative wisdom when you have both, and it’s certainly better than one or the other. Both forms of research in education often fall down in terms of longevity. We make a change, we research the results, and we ascribe the outcome to the specific change we have made, overlooking the fact that the teachers were excited to be doing something new and this affected student engagement. We fail to address whether the new teaching method will still be making a difference in five years time when it is old hat.

  3. Peter Lydon, you make inherently good sense of this debate. A “gift” is so called because it is ultimately an inherent ability and potential. It is the building block for talent development. Without the natural abilities, no amount of practice – especially if both the talented and untalented person practice all the time and have the best teachers – will make them turn out the same (Deborah Ruf, 2009).

    Everyone has a personal strength, something we do better than we do other things. Our personal strength is the high point in our personal ability spectrum. And each of us also has a personal weakness, the relative low point. We don’t confuse personal weaknesses with disabilities. Equally, we shouldn’t confuse personal strengths with gifts.

  4. Brilliant, incisive and well-research-based debate, as always. Love it! 🙂 Too many words, though, and I cannot find practical, pragmatic advice for busy staff in everyday classrooms, I’m afraid. XX

  5. The label of gifted perpetuates the opposite as well- not gifted. The goal in education should be for all to get what they need. The label may cause imposter syndrome, laziness etc… The labeling on one end causes the labeling on the other end. Learning disability- which is used as a crutch and many times “mis-diagnosed.”
    Find each students zone of proximal development and move from there- the brilliance in people will manifest itself.

  6. Also, on empirical evidence: (from:Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
    Let’s say you are a turkey. Ever since you were born, humans had always fed you, took care of you and ensured that you were healthy and fat. In all your long life of 1000 days, humans were always your friend. Therefore, you forecast that the next 1000 days will be like the average of the past 1000 days—great care under the hands of your human friends. Life has always been good and you see no reason for otherwise in the future.

    Then on the 1001st day of your life, it was the eve of Thanksgiving Day. By Thanksgiving Day, you had became a meal for humans.

  7. Mike

    I don’t deny the negative consequences of gifted labelling, but I think that the positive consequences – for example on the self-esteem of gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds who can lack confidence in their own abilities -are often underemphasised and undervalued.

    And sometimes it seems as though the opponents of labels are selective in their condemnation. In a UK context we regularly use a vast array of educational labels – SEN, disadvantaged, minority ethnic, children in care etc. – as well as gifted (or one of its variants).

    I’m prepared to accept that ‘gifted’ as a label should be dispensed with, but only if all the other labels are ditched at the same time.

    I regard gifted education as one part of personalised education for all learners, which is propelry a slightly different way of stating your final point – so I think we fundamentally agree on that.

    Best wishes

    GP

  8. I tweeted before I read this. I do want to get rid of all the labels. A friend of mine compared it to Munchausen by Proxy. We give them the disease and then we cure the symptoms. Our whole system needs to be changed..drastically. Listening to “gifted folks” talk, it sounds so pompous. I think the labeling does you more harm than good- even in the context we have. However, anyone that is striving for children is a good egg.

  9. Nassim Taleb makes the point that empirical evidence can’t be trusted. The Turkey sees humans as loving and caring creatures that take care of all the turkeys. Then, next thing you know the humans are eating the turkey.
    At the beginning of the above blog empirical evidence is mentioned- that is why I wrote that.
    Have a great week- and feel free to follow me on Twitter- I just started yesterday and have 4 followers of the spam variety :(.
    Also, I may keep responding to the gifted tweets that reek of pompousness to me, but remember: If you have two people that think exactly the same…you don’t need one of them.

  10. No problem Mike. It’s always good to have someone monitoring for excessive pomposity. I try to avoid it by always calling a spade a spade but sometimes, in striving to make posts more readable and interesting, I may blot my copybook.

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