Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Raising Gifted Children: The R-word and the N-word

I'm reading: Raising Gifted Children: The R-word and the N-wordTweet this!

I learned from new blog friend (and MomImpact member--w00t!) Ellen that today is the day to stop using the r-word (r-e-t-a-r-d-e-d). That reminded me a column I wrote in defense of quirky gifted children long ago on another blog.

{Pardon me while I wipe off the dust.}

I am normally one of those people who is so politically correct that she’s a bore. Don’t tell me a racist joke or one that makes fun of gays. Not funny. And don’t bother including a person’s the religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation in a story unless it’s somehow pertinent to the outcome. Just. Don’t.

However, if we are going to remove the R-word from the vernacular, I ask that we also please severely limit use of the N-word: nerd. And also the G-word: Geek.

These terms- nerd and geek- are often used to suggest bookish, high IQ types with their head in the clouds, no sense of fashion and just as few social skills. Why do we permit this stereotype?

I recall one mom writing that her child’s school had a “dress like a nerd day” during spirit week. Can you image the instant uproar if the school had suggested dress like a "retard" day? Or how about dress like a Jew day? What about dress like a butch lesbian day? I can’t imagine the administration would have let any of those fly. But, you know, go ahead and make fun of those gifted kids. They’re smart. They’ll get over it.

Or maybe as Candace noted in a comment on my recent post, maybe they’ll won't. They will drop out of school or do Lord knows what self-destructive acts. I’ve heard it said that gifted teenagers may not have a higher than normal suicide attempt rate, but evidence suggests that their “success” rate may be higher than the average population. {shudder}

So let's do away with the R-word, but let’s balance that out and do the same thing with the N- and G-words used to stereotypes kids on the other end of the learning spectrum.


Ellen said...

Kim, I love reading your posts because they're always so well written and convincing (with dashes of pointed humor). Bravo. You're so right—today's campaign is just about the r-word, but all those other words that box kids into stereotypes are offensive and awful as well. I will think twice about using the word "geek" from now on, too ("nerd," I never use).

happygal said...

That is such a great point. I couldn't agree more. In general, let's do away with mocking people for the sake of mocking them, and teaching our kids that is a fun thing to do.

Great post.

Kim said...

I agree that name calling in general should stop. I was called a nerd and geek for liking math and science. Now I embrace those terms. Now I wish I would have pursued things further. Now I wish I were smarter (nerdier and geekier). Now I KNOW to instill and nurture my children's self confidence so terms like that will not sway them from their passions. Thanks for the reminder.

Meowmie said...

I wish the schools I attended years ago had taken a stand against these words. Back then, it was against the students' norm to be a reader, to love books, etc. so it was OK to have kids calling other kids smart aleck (for example). Nerd was less common, which means I'm showing my age.

In terms of popularity in the school hierarchy (primary and secondary school), gifted children were outcast as much and sometimes a bit more than the children who had learning difficulties or who came from difficult family situations such as poverty, abuse, etc. Retard and spaz (for spastic) were common epithets for those with learning difficulties and oh boy, life must have been hard.

Gifted children quickly learned to hide any signs of smartness in the classroom, doubly so in the hostile playground. Even if the other students couldn't come up with a pithy expression, they could still steal books or bags, spread rumours, shun or beat.

Shari said...

It is a sad situation, isn't it? In today's education system, it's okay to have as many learning "issues" as possible. It's encouraged to use as many services as possible to make sure your children are "normal." Yet, smart kids are still outsiders -- as if there is something wrong with being smart.

The Crazy Suburban Mom said...

I love your passion :)

Anonymous said...

yeah I thought it was highly insensitive and very wierd they had that in my daughter's elementary school. I already have a beef that they call the school's plasma TV a "quality producer monitor" and the kids are "quality producers" -- so they come up with "nerd day"? we all know all of those labels with kids get started at this stage of the game. I should have complained -- heck, I may still thanks to your post!
Kari Osier