“Everyone is Gifted” by Michael Clay Thompson

The keynote speech delivered at the Indiana Association for the Gifted 1998 Annual Conference by Michael Clay Thompson has been quoted numerous times on the Internet and elsewhere in answer to questions about giftedness. This is the original speech.

In a 1994 issue of the Roeper Review, Dierdre Lovecky described an interchange between a gifted second grader and his mother:

Mom: We have to eat and run.

Son: Like carnivorous pantyhose?

These are the times that try gifted educators’ souls. These are the times when gifted education is under attack as never before.

It is not unusual for gifted education to come under attack. Gifted education has frequently been the target of opposition and misunderstanding, such as the confounded idea that equity is threatened by the excellence of gifted education, when everyone knows that historically, excellent minds have always been in the vanguard of the demand for equity.

It is not unusual for gifted education to come under attack. Gifted education has frequently been the target of charges of elitism, by those who themselves glorified elite talents and accomplishments in every other form of human endeavor.

It is not unusual for gifted education to come under attack. Gifted education has had to struggle with serious problems of identification and process that have been criticized by well-intentioned and acute minds.

What is unusual, what tries our souls at this moment in the history of gifted education, is that gifted education is under intellectual attack, an intellectual attack aimed at its very foundation.

For perhaps the first time in many of our careers, we are hearing scholars and educators question whether gifted education is even valid, whether gifted children even exist. We are seeing the word gifted deleted from documents by leaders in gifted education. We are hearing that gifted education “used to be called” gifted education, but is called that no longer. We are hearing that our mission as gifted educators is no longer to educate gifted children, but to develop the talents of all children. Perhaps most amazingly, we are hearing that there is no such thing as intelligence; rather, there are multiple intelligences -more, apparently, than eight and an half – and that we should change our curricula and pedagogy to reflect each individual’s profile of intelligences.

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