With much theorizing and conjecture based upon little objectively determined data, there appears to be a new characteristic that is being assigned to profoundly gifted young people: Other Worldliness.
We are deeply concerned that this characteristic is harmful to the children. When gifted children are labeled "Angels," "The New Children," "Indigo Children," "Children of the New Millennium," or referred to as "Other Worldly," the implication is that high intellectual ability includes supernatural ability. Some professionals are claiming that these highly gifted young people are a "new breed" of children who have the power to save humanity in the new millennium. This is an extreme and unrealistic expectation to be placed upon a young child. We do not think that it is appropriate to tell any child privately and/or in the press, that he/she is one of the smartest people who has ever lived and is part of a new breed of children who will be responsible for saving the world. Isn't there enough pressure placed upon highly gifted children without making them responsible for all of humanity in the millennium?
It further alarms us that this assignment of "Other Worldliness" to highly gifted children is being advocated by one of the leading authorities on giftedness. Licensed professionals who are responsible for counseling and assessing gifted children have both the moral and professional obligation to empirically support their claims. This clearly has not been done to the satisfaction of any objective observer. We have not found any scientific or empirical evidence to validate the assertion that gifted children are "otherworldly angels" here to save the world.
There is empirical evidence to support the premise that some highly gifted children exhibit what is termed "spiritual intelligence." Because they tend to think more abstractly, identify connections between unlike things, and recognize complex patterns much earlier in life than their peers, many highly gifted children think more about philosophical concepts such as justice, love, truth, the existence of a supreme being, etc. Many of them develop a strong sense of empathy and humane sensitivity at a very young age. We also have observed this in the children we serve. However, we strongly disagree with extending this concept of "spiritual intelligence" to include other worldly powers and responsibilities to save humanity.
In supporting profoundly gifted children, we have seen first hand the unique challenges that these young people face. Too often it is assumed that because they are bright they can fend for themselves. Like all children, profoundly gifted children need to be nurtured to develop and grow. You don't do this by putting them on display and telling them they will save the world. You nurture them by loving and cherishing them for whom they are, not whom they are supposed to be.
"Touched by an angel," Denver Westword, September 6, 2001.
Children of the new millennium, P. M. H. Atwater, 1999.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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