Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Smart Girls in the 21st Century

“There are smart girls in every classroom whose capacity and desire to learn are overlooked and go unnoticed simply because they don’t fit their society’s image – and their particular school’s definition of giftedness.”

Parents of gifted children – and in this instance, gifted girls - bear the responsibility of parenting more intensely in very absolute terms by their own admission. Enter Smart Girls in the 21st Century Understanding Talented Girls and Women. Of the many of books I’ve read in the past several years on giftedness and parenting gifted children, this book by Barbara Kerr and Robyn McKay ranks in the top 10 of books I would recommend to parents.

Kerr and McKay bring a fresh perspective to decades-old debates regarding the definition of giftedness, academic achievement, talent development and a myriad of other divisive topics that weaken the foundation of the gifted community and jeopardize gifted advocacy as a whole within society.

Dr. Barbara Kerr

Smart Girls includes an historical review of what being smart means for women in our society, how things have changed in the 21st century, and the way forward. The book is well-researched and easy to read which is invaluable to parents in need of good information, but little time to find it. 

Dr. Robyn McKay

Just as the authors did not agree with other researchers and academics in the field, I did not always agree with their conclusions. This does not, however, diminish my view of their work. On the contrary, I appreciate their contribution to the field and the knowledge I gained from them.

It is a book that admittedly focuses on talent development. The authors state, “We have left out a few popular ideas about definitions of giftedness that include sensitivities, intensities, or overexcitabilities because these ideas have not yet been linked by research to academic achievement, high performance at work, or life satisfaction, which are the predictions in which we are interested. Sometimes a focus on oversensitivity or extreme intensity can cause us to pathologize giftedness, to make it seem as if strong, even maladaptive, reactions are a sign of giftedness rather than a sign of a very frustrated, bored or troubled child.” (21, 22)

Many books written today about being gifted or educating gifted children allude to the works of Terman or Hollingsworth and Smart Girls is no exception; but with a very different point of view. “Leta Hollingsworth became the first great advocate of gifted girls. While Terman in his works seemed to accept that eminence was simply too difficult for gifted women to achieve, given their household roles, Hollingsworth showed both by her writings and her life that extraordinary accomplishment was, and should be, possible for gifted girls.” (29)

Insights provided by Smart Girls’ authors Kerr and McKay make this book a must-have for parents. Success coupled with happiness is a much sought after formula and one that can be found here. Let me conclude with a favorite passage from the book in which we are told that recent studies show:

“Women often failed to fulfill their potential, not because of lesser abilities, but because of environmental factors, including less rigorous educations, less prestigious colleges, the absence of mentors, and the difficulties of combining family and career.” (22) 

It is time to address these issues and provide our smart girls with the strategies to succeed in the 21st century. 

Photo credits: Personal photos; Pixabay.