images of giftedness

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I’ve started watching West Wing again, this time with my oldest son. We’re only a few episodes in and one of the things that hits me in a different way this time around are the jokes about President Bartlet being too smart.

The second episode has the president using the phrase “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” and then asking the people in the room to tell him what it means. The deputy chief of staff attempts to translate it directly and then fumbling the chief of staff explains the meaning of the phrase as a whole. It struck me as unbelievable that everyone in the room didn’t know the phrase as a phrase, and that they had the one character stumbling over it because they wanted to show sympathy with those in the audience who don’t know it. A few minutes later there was a question made about when did the President lose the support of Texas and someone answered “when you learned to speak Latin.”ImagesofGiftedness

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that it aids me in trying to hide society’s anti-intellectualism from my children. My kids don’t have to dumb themselves down to fit in, at least not on a daily basis.

I grew up in a setting where people talk about politics all the time. We also talked about books, history, the news, science and anything else we could. This was pre-internet, so we didn’t have the steady stream of geeky news available, but we talked about the books we read and we all read lots. I’m glad to be able to pass this on to my children. I think the benefits outweigh the possibility they will someday feel incredibly uncool.

I figure President Bartlet is a decent place to start talking about giftedness, but I’m also thinking about a couple of books, neither of which use the term gifted, but both that have main characters who probably could be considered gifted. The two books are Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt, and Howards End by E. M. Forester.

Jackaroo is set in a quasi-European-middle-ages setting. The daughter of an innkeeper notices the injustice that exists around her and eventually decides to take some action on it. At one point in the book she is at a fairgrounds and she realizes she wouldn’t want to marry anyone who would not notice the dead body hanging on display. She won’t close her eyes to injustice and couldn’t marry someone who could.

In Howards End there are two sisters, both bright and thoughtful, who are both trying to find their place in society. It has been a while since I read the book, and I wanted to re-read it for this post but couldn’t. In it the sisters are in some ways outsiders, and one is able to learn to fit in and make peace with society a little better than the other.

To me those stories are about giftedness. The characters are not so obviously gifted as, for example, the character Sherlock portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch or President Bartlet in West Wing, but they illustrate the moral sensitivity, the willingness to question those around and to see things differently that is, I’ve read, common among many gifted people.  There is an article about that aspect of giftedness over at SENG.

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